Thinking Anglicans

Why do Christians disagree?

David Atkinson a former Bishop of Thetford has written an article, originally published in Ministry Today UK, 59, Autumn 2013. but now reproduced by Fulcrum.

Why do Christians disagree?

…So why do Christians disagree? On the legitimacy of divorce and right of remarriage, on abortion, on just war or pacifism, on usury, on contraception, on genetic engineering, on sexuality, on economic priorities, on response to climate change – to name just a few moral and political questions, not to mention doctrines of church, ministry, mission and eschatology.

At one level, of course, disagreements can arise simply because people have different experiences of life and come into contact with different facts about the world which can confront assumptions, challenge previously held views, or harden attitudes. For example, we could think of a woman who senses a call from God into the ordained ministry of the Church. She belongs to a church congregation that has always taken the view that the ordination of women is contrary to Scripture or tradition or to good ecumenical relationships. ‘However’, says someone in that congregation, ‘though I have always been against the ordination of women, because it is you I’m willing to change my mind.’ Or to give another example, we could think of a Christian man who has, for social and theological reasons, always been opposed to homosexual relationships but who gets to know a loving gay couple whose lives display the fruits of God’s Spirit, and who then finds himself forced by that fact to revisit his understanding Scripture or his inherited attitudes to gay people. Sometimes hard facts of experience compel a change of attitude or change of mind.

There is no such thing as uninterpreted experience, and there are other factors that can influence our understanding of ourselves and our interpretation of the facts of our experiences. Some of these other factors give us different ways into the question: why do Christians disagree? Here are five…

Do read it all.

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Father Ron Smith
6 years ago

One line of a great Christian hymn offers this fact:
“Experience will decide”

It seem that Bishop David Atkinson’s article on the bases of Christian disagreements in today’s world actually point to this reality. ‘Knowing’ a person, ‘en Christo’, is to encounter a reality – that has the power to convert dogma into understanding.

James Byron
James Byron
6 years ago

Excellent article, but we should be clear about what’s going on.

The po-mo rejection of “foundationalism” for a “network” conveniently shifts the goalposts and eliminates the problem of biblical inaccuracy. If the evidence deserts you, desert the evidence. Post modernism is repurposed to salvage a conservative belief system.

robert Ian williams
robert Ian williams
6 years ago

Our Lord foresaw that confusion nearly 2,000 years ago, and instituted the office of the confirmer of the brethren. Read about it in Luke ch 22 v 31-32.

Father Ron Smith
6 years ago

Yes, Robert, but Peter really needed to be sorted out, didn’t he? He didn’t always make good decisions

Revd Laurie Roberts
Revd Laurie Roberts
6 years ago

‘Our Lord foresaw that confusion nearly 2,000 years ago, and instituted the office of the’

Church of England Doctrine Commission !

with profuse apologies to robert ian

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
6 years ago

“Our Lord foresaw that confusion nearly 2,000 years ago…” Highly unlikely, so I disagree.

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