Christian Doctrines, Controversial?
There is a moment in life in which most people get to the realization of what they believe or not believe. When they have a more defined point of view toward religion, that is where by understanding of the bible, different inclinations toward denominationalism occur. I was raised in the Church of the Nazarene and I had some different thoughts of its teachings. However, as I got older, it became clearer the doctrines of my church and things that defined me as well as an individual. But talking about controversy on the church, of the many controversial doctrines, over which the church frequently debates and argue about, there are two that stand out to me. These are: the gift of speaking in tongues, God’s sovereign decision making, and whether the Old Testament is relevant anymore. One thing I need to say, though yes culture and human nature allow us to have an amalgam of denominations, I firmly believe that you don’t need to be fighting among denomination but rather working together to gain more people for the Kingdom.
For as long as me can remember, and coming from a Caribbean background (there is a lot of inclination for spiritual tongues in these regions) speaking in tongues has been a very controversial topic inside the Church of the Nazarene. Whenever a Nazarene is involved in any service in which people practice the speaking of tongues, it is most of the time associated with secrecy or a type of embarrassment. And I am not exactly sure why does this happen. I’ve talked to many different people about it and have gotten a great variety of responses. The reason this has a resonating effect on me is because the bible discusses speaking in tongues with profundity. As Christians, we are taught to use the bible as our guide. One of the passages that in a discussion of this topic that I had before it is found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 (NIV) and it reads:
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
The simple fact that the bible discusses speaking in tongues means it is something the Lord wants us to explore and learn about, He wants us to be curious and passionate about His word. The church teaches that the bible it is our manual. However, on almost every occasion that I have heard a Nazarene pastor speak on this passage, the part about speaking in tongues is omitted. I know that in these matters we all need to be cautious because is a spiritual matter and not everyone that speaks in tongues it is entirely consecrated; but, by disregarding tongues the way people of the Church of the Nazarene has done, the church, in a way, has disregarded a message from God on His word. It is a possibility that many Nazarenes or other Christians for that matter fear what they don’t understand. But as with most good things, there is a way to eliminate such fear, studying. In some other denominations, it’s exactly the opposite. For example, the Pentecostal Church (which is a great part of the believer population in my island after the Catholicism), is insisting about speaking in tongues. They speak about it in a totally different way as the Nazarenes and could have a diversity of effects on people. Again, if we go to the scriptures, in 1 Corinthians 14 (NIV), the bible speaks worship being intelligible, on the verses 27-28 of that chapter it reads:
“If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.”
And this seems to be a commonly misunderstood passage among the Pentecostals. When tongues are spoken in this Church, when often not interpreted could cause confusion and sometimes fear. In this spectrum, the Nazarenes and Pentecostal are possibly in a very different side of it. Whatever the case may be, we should be curious and being tuned with God to discover more, in a personal level, the speaking in tongues
The other controversial Christian doctrine that resonates to me is whether the Old Testament is relevant for us in actuality. This compendium of books it is a part of the bible and written by divine inspiration and that fact alone should give the Old Testament a certain level of relevance. I think that the main aspect for this controversy is about the rules in the Old Testament and if they are still applicable for us today. Some people argue that the rules are irrelevant since the New Covenant exist now when in the New Testament and replaced the Old Covenant. While that is very certain, those rules were stated in order to have a path on the way to Holiness. And the question is brought to the table, why would you want to omit such a mighty thing? The New Covenant does not mean that we can simply sin all the time (being conscious about it) and come back with no even an attempt to change. That where the Covenant of the Old Testament enters and help us to change ourselves and those around us and keep us all in tract.
Controversies are a part of human nature and the great diversity of cultures that exist cause a more varied way of seeing things, specially in religion. Like in Science, as long as not everything is known or have an explanation, there will be arguments over what is yet to be discover or understood. It can become harmful if we don’t look at all the controversies as attempts to discover the truth, specially among denominations. These controversies usually move people apart, rather than closer to one another as the bible states. As the body of Christ, we should be trying to avoid all of these situations and potentially problems. And finally, the church should, for once, let God’s spirit rule with its wisdom, leaving out the human way of thinking. If the church does that, then topics that are point of controversy now, might not create division in the future ever again.