How important is unity for Christians today? What issues and circumstances should we divide over? In this discussion, Scott and Sean offer some biblical insights about unity in the church today. They discuss what issues we should "die on" and what issues we should seek unity over.

Episode Transcript

Sean McDowell: How important is church unity? What issues should Christians die on, so to speak, today? And what should they show charity on? Well, I'm joined by my friend, my colleague Scott Rae, to unpack some of these issues, which are super controversial. In our conversation, we're not gonna settle all this, are we? What's your goal as we talk about something that in itself is dividing the church today? How should we approach questions like this?

Scott Rae: Well, Sean, what I hoped we can accomplish in this discussion is to give our viewers and listeners some general guidelines for how to decide, how to decide where to draw a line in the sand, and what kinds of issues are worth dividing over. Because I think what the culture sees today is that we are losing charity, grace, sensitivity, understanding, listening in favor of drawing increasingly rigid lines in the sand and more of them than we've ever drawn in the past. So I wanna help people discern when to draw lines and when to allow for room to agree to disagree among our brothers and sisters of good faith.

Sean McDowell: Good stuff 'cause doesn't seem we're doing a great job at that within the church.

Scott Rae: No, I think we're failing miserably at the moment.

Sean McDowell: Sometimes we're failing to die on the right hills and sometimes we're dying on the wrong hills. Now it's interesting to ask the question how concerned should we be about church unity, because as I was thinking about this, this prayer Jesus has in John 17, verse 21, it says that, "They may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." Jesus, in this final prayer, seems to be saying, unity matters because this is our appeal to the world. People will judge God and his character by the unity or lack thereof within the church. That seems pretty good reason within itself.

Scott Rae: I think it's a very important reason, and it seems to me that Jesus and the apostles, I think, would be somewhat scandalized by the divisiveness and polarization that exists in the church today. Now that's not to say that it didn't exist in the first century too.

Sean McDowell It did. Read the New Testament [laughing].

Scott Rae: It did. I mean, read Ephesians.

Sean McDowell: Right.

Scott Rae: That was-

Sean McDowell: And Galatians.

Scott Rae: The mother of all racial conflicts, and Galatians was the mother of all religious conflicts about legalism. And Ephesians was about including gentiles within the body of Christ. Very divisive issues. But I think the lesson that we learned from those is that they came to a resolution based fundamentally on the things that they agreed on theologically, and they reasoned out from there.

Sean McDowell: Okay, good. Now one of the mantras we hear somewhat frequently today is people say things like, “Let's stop dividing over doctrine and just love people like Jesus did.” Now when I hear that, a couple things kept in mind, is one, is that itself is a doctrine. If you say we should just love like Jesus did and stop dividing about doctrine, they're putting forth a theological doctrine that they think we should follow. And ironically, presumably divide over if somebody won't get in line with their view of doctrine. So doctrine is inescapable.

Scott Rae: Yeah, they're actually doing something, I think, a little bit more than that too, is that they're actually weighting theological doctrines.

Sean McDowell: Good point, okay.

Scott Rae: They're weighting them. They're weighting the mandate to love over the mandate to keep sound doctrine, but scripture teaches both of those. And we're called to hold to both of those. And increasingly, those are being held in tension today. I don't think they were originally designed to be held in tension.

Sean McDowell: I think that's well said. I had a pastor who's far left to me say, he goes, "You know, I'm less concerned with theological distinctives, but just loving our neighbor like Jesus did." He said, "The greatest commandment is to follow Jesus." And I said, "Remember, he's writing to a Jewish audience who would have known the law well." He's saying apply it better, but we don't have that same backing today. So I think that's missed a lot when people say just love, but let me ask you this, are all doctrines equal? Seems to me that they're not. For example, you see Paul says not to quarrel on certain issues in Romans 14. Gives some freedom on a range of important issues, especially in that day when they're moving out of the Jewish background and the Jewish law, he gives remarkable freedom, but then in 1 Corinthians 15 says the gospel is of first importance. So it seems to me that doctrine is not all equal.

Scott Rae: Yeah, I think what Paul's describing in Romans 14 and 15 are what we've typically referred to as more neutral matters, where things that the Bible doesn't directly address and that therefore leaves open to a person's individual conscience. And we don't quarrel over matters that are left to people's individual conscience where the Bible is, I think the term I would use to describe it is the Bible is under-determinative on some things. Are all scriptures profitable? That's true. And the Bible is crystal clear about matters that relate to salvation, but the Bible's not always determinative just by citing chapter and verse or by citing a strand that runs throughout scripture on every issue that we bring to scripture today, because life in biblical times was totally different than life today. And direct application without taking those differences into account is often really hard to do.

Sean McDowell: And Paul's really clear about gospel issues, like in Galatians 1:8 through 9, it says, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preach to you, let him be accursed." And then he repeats it and says, "As we've said before, so now I say again, if anyone has preached to you a gospel contrary to the one you have received, let him be a curse." So clearly there are weightier matters of the law. There's different punishments for different sins. So I don't, even scripture itself doesn't assume that all sins and/or all doctrines are equal and pushes to the gospels being at the heart of it.

Scott Rae: Yeah, I think that it's clear that, assuming we get the definition of the gospel correct, which are, or I would take, is those matters that are essential to salvation that if you deny those, you step outside the realm of Christian faith. And I think there are a handful handful of those

Sean McDowell: Sure.

: Like God's existence, the Deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement,

bodily resurrection.

Sean McDowell: Trinity.

Scott Rae: The Trinity.

Sean McDowell: Salvation by faith.

Scott Rae: Things like that.

Sean McDowell: Yeah. Right.

Scott Rae: That I think, that there's been sort of widespread unanimity on throughout the history of the church. Those, I think, are what Paul's describing as of first importance, because ultimately those determine our eternal destiny. The more secondary ones don't have a bearing on our eternal salvation, our eternal hope. And so I would make a distinction between those two. I wouldn't say that there, maybe, they're more important to salvation and to eternity. I'm not sure I'd say they're more important in a general sense but they are more important for what they stand for.

Sean McDowell: Fair enough. And you're right. You see this in 1 Corinthians 15.

You see it in 1 John where it's like those who are an anti-Christ who deny that Jesus came in the flesh, these are essentials, but by essentials, we mean tied to salvation directly.

Scott Rae: Right and this was the issue in Galatians, because these were additions to the essentials that were being made necessary for salvation, which I find sorta curious that, for centuries, the church has tolerated legalism when it was the thing in the first century that the apostles in the early church fought so hard against. Now that had to do with its Jewish background.

Sean McDowell: Sure.

: But we tolerate, I think, a form of legalism today in the church that the

apostles would've called anathema.

Sean McDowell: I think that's fair. Now we're gonna get into some practical ways to approach. And I think one is if I ground my identity in being a complementarian or an egalitarian, a Young Earther or an Old Earther, a Armenian or a Calvinist, then if that's my identity and somebody challenges that, I'm gonna get defensive and react in a way that's divisive. So of course the problem is not having convictions about those. You should be a Calvinist or Armenian, or somewhere in between based on what you think scripture teaches, but if that route kind of weeds its way into my identity, then at least a primary identity, then I'm gonna have less charity for people who don't see the age of the Earth or God's sovereignty in human free will the same, then they're compromised. I think that's one issue.

Scott Rae: I think that's one. I think there's a second one though that I might treat it maybe a little, try to be a little more charitable Sean McDowell: [laughing] Okay.

Scott Rae: than seeing it as part of my identity. I think the reason we get so passionate about some of these things we call secondary issues is because we see them as entailments of our being faithful to Christ and faithful to scripture. And we rightly take both those things seriously. Even though we would not say they're essential for salvation, we would say they're essential to our discipleship. And that matters, that counts for a lot. And so we see those as necessary entailments of living faithfully. And so when we have disagreements, I mean, it comes back, it is part of our identity, living faithfully to scripture is part of my identity. And so when I see somebody suggest that maybe the view I hold is not a correct entailment, or maybe not as necessary a connection to living faithfully to scripture, that it's in my identity too. Although not all entailments are created equal and I think some entailments are misguided and some are, I get it. Some are things that we're very passionate about. I understand the passion and I'm not sure it's all entirely related to who I am in my identity.

Sean McDowell: That's fair. I think it's also human nature. Looking at 1 Corinthians, I was baptized by Paul, baptized by Paul.

: That's right.

Sean McDowell: I'm in the sect of Peter, so human nature is to divide, which is why the book of Ephesians is almost all about unity and how important that is.

Scott Rae: Well, and I wonder, it seems to me that Jesus in John 17 was probably anticipating what the early church was gonna deal with, with the inclusion of gentile. We know in Luke's gospel, there are lots of hints of gentiles being included in this fear of the people of God. And it drove the Jews nuts. Whenever Jesus mentioned these prominent gentiles, he used them as illustrations in his stories, as parables, and those were some of the times when they got the most angry.

Sean McDowell: They did.

Scott Rae: So I mean, I wonder if John 17, it seems to me is...

Sean McDowell: Anticipating that.

Scott Rae: Yeah. Is a look forward.

Sean McDowell: So when we think about these issues, what's your philosophy? 'Cause I was thinking about mine is, for better or worse is to have as minimal issues to divide the church over as possible without compromising the gospel and without undermining the importance of secondary doctrines for the life of the church. So I want as minimal barriers as I can without losing the essentials, but also saying that what we call secondary issues, age of the earth, complementarianism, without saying those aren't important, 'cause they deal with how we interpret scripture and how we live out our faith.

Scott Rae: Yeah, and I think part of it too is that the Bible's crystal clear about matters of salvation. On other things, it's not as much. And part of that has to do, like I mentioned before, with these cultural differences. I mean, the Old Testament Israel, that was a completely foreign culture to what we know today. The Greco-Roman world, a totally foreign culture. And I think some of the good news in this is that we often don't appreciate how counter-cultural both the Old Testament law and the teaching of Jesus and the apostles were. I mean, they turned life upside down and where things that were standard in biblical times are

now unthinkable today. There's been a huge impact. And I wanna be careful that we don't expect for people to accept the biblical teaching on those issues that are not related to salvation as soon as they come to faith. I mean, it took a while for both of us to come to a place where we were mature enough to reason and work our way through some of these more complicated things. And it takes time, it takes wisdom, it takes maturity to be able to do that. So I'm not expecting that of everybody in the church, which I think may have something to do with that retort that says, I just wanna love like Jesus.

Sean McDowell: Right. Right.

Scott Rae: Just keep it simple.

Sean McDowell: So we're focused on the church in this conversation, but obviously we both teach at Biola and there are certain essentials that Biola, like the broader church, will divide over clearly. Like some you mentioned earlier.

Scott Rae: Right.

Sean McDowell: But there's some distinctives that we hold as a university that we're not saying those who don't hold it are outside of the faith, whether it's our view of-

Scott Rae: Yeah, we're not saying-

Sean McDowell: Origins, our view of the millennium, et cetera. So I can anticipate somebody saying, wait a minute, you're willing to divide, at Biola, you're saying the church should not. My first approach is there's a difference between a university that has positioned itself uniquely for a kind of impact that's just different from the church as a whole.

Scott Rae: Well, and I think it's also true that as a university, we have a theological tradition that goes back 100+ years. And that our founders thought through this pretty well. They decided, these are the things, yeah, it was driven by the cultural moment they were in, but they decided these are the things that, as a university, we wanna be committed to, and are committed to because we think they're important. We think they're distinctive. We think this is what the Bible teaches. We think it's clear enough. And this is who we are as a univ, this is part of what gives us our institutional identity. I don't think we're saying that everybody's gotta have the same institutional identity.

Sean McDowell: We're definitely not saying that.

Scott Rae: No, we're not. And part of the reason is because, for example, at the School of Theology, we hold a complementarian view and that's part of, it's what's in our catalogs today, but we don't require that for faculty in other parts of the university who are not teaching in the theological arenas. So even as a university, we allow some latitude on that particular issue. On others, we don't. And so part, I think it's okay for institutions to stake out ground which defines them as an institution. But Biola, no Christian university is the church. We don't baptize people. We don't give the sacraments. We don't do things at Biola that we would expect to be done in a local church because that's not who we are.

Sean McDowell: And by the way, having unity doesn't imply that there's not doctrinal differences across the church, right? It's not uniformity. It's unity amidst differences, and that's okay.

Scott Rae: Right.

Sean McDowell: So just like there's different denominations, right? And again, we're not the church, Biola can say we're within the broader mere Christianity, but here's our unique approach. Here's why, but we can still find ways to have unity with other universities, with others in the church, maybe a different background. So I don't think those distinctives say that we're not having unity. I just think we're approaching it within a certain historic position.

Scott Rae: Right, and I think how you hold those differences determines whether you have unity or not.

Sean McDowell: How, exact, I agree. 100%, yeah.

Scott Rae: So if you hold those graciously with good reasons, and I think it's okay to hold those passionately, and you can hold things passionately and graciously at the same time.

Sean McDowell: That's really the key, is how we hold those differences. So let's get into some of those controversial ones. And I see where this conversation goes, Scott. We can't talk about this without bringing up some of the controversial topics. So let's dive into a few of these. How 'bout the topic of, well, let's just take one, a theological one to start with, the millennium. Now Biola's been committed, historically, and is today, to a premillennial position that Christ is coming before the millennium. We hold that for reasons that we think best explain scripture, but also there's reasons that historically Biola's held, has said having that position is going to shape the way somebody interacts with culture. So given Biola's approach, it makes sense to hire people who are premillennialist. But we hold that with looser conviction, I would say, in terms of the broader body of Christ than we do that Jesus is God and salvation is by faith. Is that fair?

Scott Rae: I think that's true. We have great brothers and sisters who are all millennial and I think we have respect for their scholarship, they're faithful brothers and sisters. We have a difference about how we understand the millennium.

Sean McDowell: Sure.

Scott Rae: And I think they would hold us with the same view.

Sean McDowell: Fair enough

Scott Rae: They would hold us respectfully, they think we're wrong, okay? Which I can live with, because if I didn't think I was right, I wouldn't hold the position. So of course I think I'm right and a position that's diametrically opposed to it, I think is wrong. But that's, I mean, that's just an honest way of stating the disagreement that we have. Now I think there may be other issues where the application of scripture may be a little more challenging. Maybe all we get are broad general principles, like take immigration, for example.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: I don't think the scripture gives us specific policy prescriptions for what immigration law should be. I do think it gives us broad, general guidelines. I do think we can have debate about how those are applicable. And I think we can have debate about whether, how we weight certain principles, like obeying civil law versus loving your neighbor, Sean McDowell: Yep.

Scott Rae: I think we can weight those differently. And, I mean, I know some who put all the weight on obeying civil law and I know others who put no weight on that, because they believe it's an unjust law. So I think that that's an area where we can have, I think, a legitimate difference. And I think there's room for honest, open dialogue and conversation.

Sean McDowell: Within the church and the university.

Scott Rae: Within the church and the university both.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: On those.

Sean McDowell:Let me ask you one that's even, I dunno if it's more controversial, but I suspect your answer might be a little different, is about the topic of abortion. Now we could say that both immigration and abortion are questions of life, that we should care about all of life, but the act of abortion is to intentionally go in and support taking the life of a member of the human race. That's an issue that Biola has clearly said we're on the side of life. Do you think the larger church should divide over pro-life versus pro-choice or say let's set aside our convictions on abortion for the sake of unity?

Scott Rae: No, I don't, but let me nuance that.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: 'Cause I think there is an area where I think there might be room for a difference on the morality and the theology of abortion, I think the Bible's crystal clear about that.

Sean McDowell: Agreed.

Scott Rae: I think the Bible's very clear, we have a person from conception forward, with all that that implies, for abortion and other issues of life. Where I think there's room for discussion is what the law should be about that and how that should be enforced.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: Okay? Because what I wanna be careful of is that we don't assume that every biblical moral position ought to also be a matter for civil law.

Sean McDowell: Ok.

Scott Rae: 'Cause I don't think that's true. I don't think we should be criminalizing adultery,

Sean McDowell: Right.

Scott Rae: for example. I don't think we should, you shouldn't go to jail for telling a white lie to your wife. [Sean chuckling] Even though I think adulterySean McDowell: Does your wife agree?

Scott Rae: In truth telling, I don't know, maybe. She may have times she wants me to go to jail [laughing], but not for that. But I think we would, I mean, the mandate to tell the truth, the mandate to adultery, I think those are fairly similarly weighted. But the question of whether the law should enforce it or not, I think is a matter where we might be able to have some other conversation. Now my own view, and I think Biola reflects this, is that the right to life of the unborn is a

fundamental civil right.

Sean McDowell: Agreed.

Scott Rae: That the law ought to be protecting and is different than maybe what the law should be about consensual sexual relationships.

Sean McDowell: Okay. Fair enough. That, boy, that gets tough, because I sent out a social media post not long ago, and I was asking the question, should the church seek unity amidst difference on abortion or choose life? And the responses either way were really firm. And somebodyScott Rae: Not surprising.

Sean McDowell: Right, and I wasn't asking it to stir the pot. I actually was really curious. And a pastor responded and said something to the effect of, the question itself, if I read it right, seemed to bother him, 'cause it made a hybrid issue of just the life of the unborn and not other questions that deal with life. And I thought, fair point. In so far as it goes, so we say we're pro-life, that is conception until death, that's euthanasia. We should be pro-life when it comes to racial justice, gun control. And he said, "It's kind of pharisaical to say, let's take one issue and just die on that hill, but not care about all of life." I thought, that's fair. But then I started thinking about it, but there are weightier matters to the law. Like for example, when it comes to gun control, as divisive as this is, it's not like one party says we're in favor of school shootings and we're againstScott Rae: Let's hope not.

Sean McDowell: School shootings, right?

Scott Rae: Right.

Sean McDowell: And some people are gonna be upset that I even compare school shootings to abortion. But in principal, it's the taking of innocent life.

Scott Rae: Innocent life. That's right.

Sean McDowell: Vulnerable life, so there's that commonality with it. What it is when it comes to gun control is the questions are what policies work? In so far as somebody's a Bible-believing Christian, they wanna minimize the damage. But I just had a conversation this past weekend at a church with a former police officer in a state known for having a lot of people with guns who's like, the more people who have guns, the more we can protect life. Now whether he's right or wrong, that's a position many Christians hold. There's many Christians who hold a different view that says, no, we should have more restrictions. Both of those are a kind of pro-life position. And because life is at stake, we have to get it right. I get that. But that kind of difference among Christians to me is just fundamentally different than pro-life and pro-choice.

Scott Rae: I'd agree. And here's, I think what you have in the gun control debate is you have an overriding moral principle that everybody agrees on. But you have two wildly divergent views on how best to apply that to prevent gun violence.

Sean McDowell: Right.

Scott Rae: I mean, that's the goal.

Sean McDowell: Right.

Scott Rae: Comes out of that principle of a sanctity of innocent life. But stricter gun laws, less restrictive gun laws, we got two radically different policy prescriptions for what the law should be. And, see, I think the issue, the real fundamental issue of gun, I don't think is a moral issue. I think it's a prudential one.

Sean McDowell: Tell me the distinction-

Scott Rae: Of what policy is gonna best accomplish the moral principle that we all agree on.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: And it really, I think what it boils down to is which policy prescription has the best track record and the best probability of actually working? 'Cause I think so far our track record at reducing school shootings and things like that is not going well. Now what will change that, I think that's what's up for debate, but that's a debate that's down here at this level, not up here at the moral level.

Sean McDowell: Fair enough, these are distinctions that often get lost and we just divide very quickly without trying to see the world as somebody else does trying to be charitable towards their interpretation and then divide if necessary, but we tend to lead with division without working through some of these particulars carefully.

Scott Rae: Yeah, in fact, what's happened today is that the issue gets named, rationality goes out the window. [Sean laughs] Sean McDowell: Just all sides of the debate.

Scott Rae: And we resort to name calling right at the beginning. And so we don't even, I mean, it's hardly worthy of even calling it an ad hominem argument 'cause we resort to identifying and then name calling and then the volume just increases from there.

Sean McDowell: Let's talk about how we agree that churches should divide over essential issues. And you listed a few again earlier: Trinity, salvation by grace, by faith, et cetera. But part of the question is what makes something essential? And this is where it even takes some nuance. Gavin Ortlund has a really interesting book called "Finding the Right Hills to Die On" and he sums up, he says, "How clear is the Bible on this doctrine? What is the doctrine's importance to the gospel? What is the testimony of the historical church concerning this doctrine? What is the doctrine's effect upon the church today?" So if you just take something like the millennium arguably, and you take something like the Deity of Christ, there's one key passage on the millennium in Revelation 20 and a few others that we think is best explained in a premillennial interpretation, but we don't consider it an essential, because it's not as littered through scripture and tied to the gospel in the same way the Deity of Christ is. If Jesus is not God, our sins have not been paid for.

Scott Rae: Our faith is vain.

Sean McDowell: If we're wrong on the millennium, okay, consequences, implications scripturally, but you can obviously still be saved. So when it comes to the essentials, would you agree with that? Would you add anything to it about how we divide over these essentials and identify them?

Scott Rae: I think the criteria, I think, are helpful. One is how clear is the scripture on this? And I think this is where we have to be honest about this, because in my experience, the scripture is much clearer on the views that I hold than the ones that I don't. [Sean laughing] [Scott chuckles]

Sean McDowell: Fair enough.

Scott Rae: So I think we need to be a little bit careful of confirmation bias as being part of the lenses through which we read the scripture.

Sean McDowell: Which is why number three says, what is the testimony of the historical church concerning this doctrine? There's been debate about the millennium. There's been no debate within the church about the Deity of Christ. There's been heretics outside the church that have argued, but not from within.

Scott Rae Yeah. Once it was settled.

Sean McDowell: Yeah.

Scott Rae: It took 'em a while to figure it all out as they were wrestling through the doctrine of the Trinity, Sean McDowell: Right.

Scott Rae: but the Deity of Christ itself was never in question. It was how to work it out in terms of the Trinity. So I think that's right. And I would, I would look at the things, what did the early church proclaim as essential to salvation? Okay?

Sean McDowell: Right.

Scott Rae: It was that Christ was God, he took our place on the cross, and he rose from the dead. It's those three things. And that you must believe salvation by faith only. I think Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 talked about that essential deposit of truth

Sean McDowell: Yep.

Scott Rae: that he received and was passing on to others that Christ died for our sins, caused that of first importance. And that phrase by itself is, there's several other things that are implied by that that we've spelled out.

Sean McDowell: I think where it gets tricky is questions like the nature of marriage, because that's not in the Nicene Creeds, it's not in 1 Corinthians 15. And I think we could say one reason is because Jews and Christians have held unanimity about what it was supposed to be. It wasn't in debate that it was meant to be a sexed institution, it was permanent male and female. People failed to live it, but that was not in debate. And it also wasn't, a lot of these early doctrines were formulated based on the challenges that were coming from heretics at the time.

Scott Rae: Also true.

Sean McDowell: Now there's new challenges. So when it comes to something like say the nature of marriage, you're not gonna find it in the Creeds. And yet we have to go back to scripture and you see some of these criteria and you say, well, the testimony of the church on this has been unanimous. How clear is the Bible on this doctrine? I mean, I could walk through Bible begins with a wedding all the way through, it's a permanent sexed institution, one man, one woman for life. It's very clear. And it's tied to salvation in the sense, is if you go to 1 Corinthians 6, "Those who practice same sex sexual behavior will not inherit the kingdom of God." Now of course many other issues are placed in there. I'm not singling this out. This just happens to be a popular cultural one today. So when we look at these, what is the effect on the church today, of course, affirming and non-affirming are gonna debate that differently, but that's the fourth one. I think we could, I would argue that, not only has Biola taken a firm position on this, but churches can't avoid it. If you say, well, we're accepting both. Then you've said, marriage is not-

Scott Rae: That's correct.

Sean McDowell: A man and a woman, which is the primary illustration or metaphor that God uses Ephesians 5.

Scott Rae: In Ephesian 5. That's right.

Sean McDowell: To show his love for the church. So I would argue that is an issue churches should divide over. Now with that said, we still have to nuance, because I've been asked by people, "What happens if I'm in a church that's going affirming? Should I leave?" I'm gonna say, well, even that is somewhat complicated, because I've known a lot of people who've said, well, I wanna make a difference from the inside. I have relationships. So that's where I don't wanna say everybody should leave and be too black and white, but clearly a church teaching that has left the theological farm, so to speak, and is teaching false ideas that are tied to the gospel.

Scott Rae: Yeah, and I think, in 1 Corinthians 5, the Corinthian church did divide over matters of sexuality. Now it's technically not marriage per se, and the definition of it per se.

Sean McDowell: True.

Scott Rae: But in the Greco-Roman world, marriage and sexuality were, I mean, they were bound up together and what the New Testament did was affirmed this very unnatural thing through, historically, of permanent monogamy. And what it changed was all of the various options outside of marriage for men essentially to pursue extra-marital sexual relations. And so they did, the Corinthian church did divide over the way men were pursuing their sexual gratification outside of the bounds of marriage. So to say that our matters of marriage and sexuality are not hills to die on, I think, is contrary to what took place in 1 Corinthians 5.

Sean McDowell: And every vice list includes sexual immorality. So I think that's fair. We got a couple quick questions. To me, it seems when we approach other, how would we approach other self-proclaimed Christians who deny an essential doctrine? To me, it would be they're self-proclaimed Christian, but they've left, they're no longer a Christian. Now that means, I can't judge somebody's heart. That's between God and that person. But in some sense, this person is now an outsider and we gotta be very careful in how we interact with them versus differing on a secondary issue.

Scott Rae: And that's why I'm troubled by people who say, “I'm just following Jesus.” And don't bother me with the doctrinal stuff. But there's certain doctrinal things that make Jesus worth following. And I'm not interested in following Jesus, the great moral teacher. I'm not particularly interested in following Jesus, the great healer. I'm interested in following Jesus. And we're invited to follow Jesus, the son of God who paid for our sins and who is alive today.

Sean McDowell: Amen.

Scott Rae: I mean, that's the Jesus that I decided to follow. And I suspect that this person you're referring to also decided to follow at some point.

Sean McDowell: Yeah, at least said that he did. Last questions we'll wrap up is how do we interact with Christians on second or third-tier issues? And I think it's pretty obvious that we would say extend grace, consider that maybe we're the ones who are mistaken, and reconsider certain issues. We should not engage in a divisive way. So we should debate and we should discuss with unity, but also recognize these secondary issues are important. How we answer the question of the age of the Earth affects how we process the intersection of science and faith. A church can't avoid complementarianism versus egalitarianism. Churches have to make these decisions, so when they make those decisions and live it out, I'm more concerned with the posture that they take towards others than the particular position they take on secondary issues.

Scott Rae: And the reason for that is because people who are undecided make up their mind based on how we do this. Not so much the merits of the position. They're watching how we're interacting with people who disagree with us. And I think that's right. I think with grace and charity and understanding and listening and humility and, I mean, we've both been at this for a while, but we're never exempt from reexamining some of our views.

Sean McDowell: Amen.

Scott Rae: I don't wanna think that I'm arrogant enough to think that I got nothing else to learn.

Sean McDowell: Amen to that. Well, hopefully it's obvious to you watching that we don't think we've got it all figured out. And this is kind of, we scripted some of the questions, but a lot of this, I didn't know where you were gonna go. You didn't know where I was gonna go. We're kinda just practicing a conversation carefully, thinking about these issues we're at in process, that issues change. And so hopefully this gives you something to think about even if in some ways it raised more questions than it gave you answers to. This kind of conversation, Scott and I are co-hosts for the "Think Biblically" podcast. If you enjoy listening to these exchanges, once a week, we talk about some current theological, philosophical issue. You can find it anywhere, called the "Think Biblically" podcast, sponsored by Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Check it out. [uplifting music]