Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Love Covers, part II

Here are the remainder of the quotes from Love Covers, which I think significant enough to reproduce here. I personally believe the quotes in bold print are especially relevant. Those of you who like to pick things apart doctrinally will probably find some good fuel for your fire here. There are a few points here and there in what is written below that I myself do not agree with 100%. However, I think that the gist of what is being said is important enough, that we all need to seriously reflect on it, and see how we as individuals, as well as Southern Baptists (excuse me, non-SBC readers), measure up...

"Since all born-again people are members of the Body of Christ, God extends fellowship to them regardless of their position on doctrines not necessary or directly related to the conversion experience. Since this is true, do we have the right to refuse fellowship to other believers when God Himself extends fellowship to them? In doing this, aren’t we in danger of diminishing or breaking fellowship with God Himself?"

"It is clear that God fellowships with people on opposite sides of various disputed doctrines. This suggests that, in God’s book, fellowship should be on the basis of life rather than doctrine."

"No amount of grace will ever enable all born-again people to agree on what formulated doctrinal system constitutes absolute conceptual truth."

"While the Word is inerrant, no one’s opinion of a moot or debatable point is."

"The greatest sin of the Church is not lying, stealing, drunkenness, adultery—not even murder—but the sin of disunity."

"Perhaps the most atrocious damage of disunity is displayed on the foreign mission field. When missions and missionaries, all claiming to represent Jesus and the gospel, manifest antagonism and hostility to one another, Satan alone is the winner. When inquirers and newly converted believers discover that professed followers of Jesus are fragmented, envious, and even belligerent in spirit, they are often totally devastated. To see the Body of Christ rent by proselytism, greed and jealousy is to them incomprehensible, inexplicable, and even unspeakable. It leaves the national believer totally confused, disillusioned and undone. Perhaps nothing brings greater grief to the heart of the Master than the disgrace of disunity on the mission field."

"Therefore, nothing short of heresy or open sin, which affects relationship with the Father, should be permitted to bring schism in the professed Body of Christ."

"If we understand the Word of God, schism and broken fellowship over incidental doctrines are not only sins, but heinous sins."

"Since disunity in the Body probably sends more people to hell than open sin, breaking fellowship over differences in those standards or practices which are not actually necessary to salvation is a greater sin than the supposed error which precipitated the breach."

"Dr. Packer sees an antimony in the doctrines of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. He suggests that both are biblical and that both should be accepted and believed. Although apparently irreconcilable, neither should be allowed to obscure or overshadow the other. If I understand Dr. Packer, he suggests that where the Bible supports the Calvinistic viewpoint, it should be accepted. Where it supports the Arminian viewpoint, it should also be accepted. It is not man’s responsibility to harmonize these apparent opposites. It is God’s."

"Much of the difference between Calvinists and Arminians seems purely semantic. Someone has said that Calvinists call their mistakes sins while Arminians call all of their sins mistakes."

"Since fellowship should be on the basis of life rather than doctrinal correctness, then shouldn’t Calvinists and Arminians bury their theological hatchets?"

"The widespread rejection of the doctrine that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the ‘baptism’ or filling with the Holy Spirit is explainable. But open hostility is not excusable, because it is the direct result of imperfect love."

"Most denominations and congregations carry a lot of cultural baggage, in worship, work and witness, which needs to be challenged."

"I’m not suggesting that fellowship requires Charismatics and non-Charismatics to worship in the same communion or officially cooperate under the same ecclesiatical umbrella. I am speaking of a spiritual and idealistic, not a formal, organizational ecumenism."

"While the great emphasis in Pentecostalism at large remains on the gift of tongues, a moderating trend seems evident in some significant circles. Without discounting the value of the gift, some highly respected leaders of the movement have abandoned the dogmatic position that the ‘baptism’ or filling with the Holy Spirit is limited to those who speak in tongues."

"Sometimes it is claimed that the exercise of the gift of tongues is divisive. We should understand that any issue that is controversial is potentially divisive unless it is ‘handled with love’. But it is not the issue itself that produces division. No controversial viewpoint is intrinsically divisive. All contoversy, discord, or division resides, not in the points of dissent or disagreement, but in the parties themselves. And where nonessentials are concerned, it is all because of a lack of love."

"Although those who do not speak in tongues lay the responsibility for division upon the zealousness of those who do, they themselves may also be responsible. Could it be that the hostility of anti-Charismatics may be as responsible for division as the overemphasis on tongues? Both probably share some blame."

"In God’s book, the important thing is not to settle controversial issues here and now, but while considering them, to grow in grace and in the supreme virtue of agape love."

"All theologians, administrators, and other spiritual leaders who persist in fragmentation of the Body of Christ over nonessentials may be risking the loss of eternal rank in a social order where the law of love is supreme. The question is, How are you going to explain at the judgment seat of Christ why you refused to offer fellowship to other born-again members of Christ’s Body?"

"For instance, a belief in the method or mode of water baptism is not generally considered as fundamental or indispensable to salvation."

"As a member of the same family, you are my own brother, whether you realize it or acknowledge it or not. As far as I am concerned, this is true whether you are a Charismatic or anti-Charismatic; whether you believe that everyone should speak in tongues or whether you believe that speaking in tongues is of the devil; whether you believe that the gifts of the Spirit are in operation in the Church today or whether you believe they ceased at the close of the Apostolic age; whether you are a Calvinist and believe in the ‘Five Points’ or whether you are an Arminian and believe that the ‘Five Points’ are heresy; whether you believe in eternal security or in falling from grace; whether you accept the ‘King James’ or prefer a modern version; whether you believe in baptismal regeneration or no ordinances at all; whether you are a Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, Mennonite, Amish, Seventh Day Adventist, Episcopalian, Catholic…or no denomination at all; whether you believe in female or only male ordination; whether you think that Saturday is the true Sabbath and should be kept holy or whether you think that the day is indifferent; whether you eat meat or are a vegetarian; whether you drink coffee, tea and soft drinks or only water, fruit juices and milk; whether you wear a toupee or sport a bald head; whether you color your hair or not; whether you are a pre-, a post-, or an amillennialist; whether you are a Republican, Democrat or a Socialist; whether your skin is white, black, red, brown or yellow; and if there be any other doubtful matters or silly nonessentials over which we differ…if you are born again, we still are members of the same family and organic parts of the same spiritual Body. I may think some of your beliefs are as crazy as a loon, but if I have sufficient love for God, agape love, I will not reject you as a person."

"Correct doctrine, right views of conceptual truth, can never unite the Body of Christ because fallen minds can never be absolutely sure that their positions are infallible. ‘Now I know in part’ (1 Cor. 13.12). That means that error may dilute our concepts. Therefore the Church cannot unite on that platform."

"The person who does not speak in tongues but who excels in agape love will accept and fellowship with one who does speak in tongues. They are members of the same family. Sufficient love and reverence for God will unite them. The person who speaks in tongues and who also excels in agape love will accept and fellowship with one who doesn’t speak in tongues. They are also members of the same family. Sufficient love will cover their differences. Agape love is the only thing that will unite them."

"Also, agape love is the only guarantor of truth because it is the only guarantor of total objectivity, total honesty, total freedom from bias and prejudice. Agape love is the only thing that delivers from self-interest, self-centeredness and self-love. All or any of these are certain to corrupt, distort, and falsify all views of truth. For this reason, agape love and only agape love is a guarantor of truth. Scholarship is considered the means, the process, the technique by which truth is discovered, verified and communicated. But scholarship which ignores the importance, necessity and relevance of agape love is suspect, deficient and ineffectual. Therefore, agape love is an essential ingredient to genuine scholarship. I consider this one of the most important concepts in this book."

"Only nonessentials to salvation can divide the Body because the true Church agrees on all beliefs necessary to salvation. Without such essential beliefs, no group can qualify as part of the real Body of Christ. Therefore, all division in the true Church must be over non-essentials."

"What and where is the greatest hindrance to unity? Many feel it is not primarily among the laity, because in general they seem more open to efforts to foster fellowship. If this is true, could it be possible that the greatest obstacle to unity is among the clergy, the spiritual leaders of the church?"

"The illusion that congregations and denominations can be built and held together only by divisive methods must be forever abandoned. Ecclesiastical leaders, administrators, theologians, writers and propagandists, and all others with vested interest, must cease to aid, abet and sanctify division. Religio-political ambitions must not continue to overshadow spiritual values by fostering divisive policies. Success, gauged largely by growth in numbers and finance and rewarded by political and financial advancement, must yield to a larger vision of a united Body."


Docadams said...

Amen! Thanks for sharing from Billheimers book Love Covers. After reading it many years ago, I came to understand the importance of Jesus’ prayer for us in John’s gospel.
John 17:20“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
The world can see the truth that Jesus is the Son of God when we have unity. We have unity because we are a part of God’s family and we are partakers in His life.
Our unity is proof to the world of His divine nature. When our love overcomes the chasms in our fellowship, then the world can see it is possible for God’s love to overcome the chasm in their fellowship with Him.
As Peter says in his first letter 4:8”Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” May we find a way to love one another even when we don’t agree with each other, FOR THE SAKE OF THE LOST WORLD!

James Hunt said...

We are one with the body of Christ and with the Lord, to be sure...that is, those who've come to God on His terms: grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Those who've done that...well, I should consider them family, no matter the denomination; however, if someone is preaching a "gospel" that deviates from the faith once for all delivered to the saints then let him be eternally damned, I say it again, even if I or an angel brings forth a "gospel" that is different than grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone...then let that person be damned. (poor paraphrase of Paul, but you get the picture).

Baptismal Regeneration is another gospel.

Salvific Grace dispensed through the Sacraments is another gospel.

Saying you're a believer but basing that confidence on creed, man, work or institution is another gospel.

Ecumenism, sure with the true Church Universal...not with those who call themselves Christian yet proclaim an abherant gospel.

David Rogers said...


I'm with you here. There were a few statements that made you wonder if he was opening the door a bit too widely, weren't there?

In any case, I don't think this invalidates the main point.

I go back to the quotes in Part I: "The principal thesis of this book is that in the Church, or Body of Christ, acceptance and fellowship with one another should be on the basis of common spiritual parentage rather than on common views or opinions in nonessentials to salvation," and
"For the purpose of this book, the term 'essentials to salvation' will be considered as the minimum beliefs necessary for the new birth." I agree with you that sacramental salvation is a distortion of essential points of biblical soteriology. I hope Billheimer did not mean to indicate otherwise, but there are a few places where it leaves you wondering.


James Hunt said...


Thanks for the clarification.

Keep up the good work and courageous stand.


mixilmash said...

Could it just be that the FUSE that ignites the "dunamis" dynamite of the Gospel is the unifying love for one another?

Could it just be that Jesus' command to love one another is foundational to effectively spreading the Gospel rather than being an incidental ideal to which we tip our hats while we madly search for "THE PLAN" that will "make it happen"?

Could it be that our REAL confusion is a confusion of authority? Could it be that all the hoopla over baptism and other secondary issues are really smoke-screens that divert our attention away from the reality that our human authorities toward whom we look for guidance are themselves in disarray because they are not themselves BENEATH HIS AUTHORITY due to their frenetic attempts to be THE AUTHORITY?!?

Could it just be that the world is waiting to see how the Gospel has changed its adherents....To see if WE are fleshing out Jesus' command to love one another and thereby PROVE we are His followers? Jn 13:35

It could even be that if we TRULY love one another, we can even begin to experience CHRIST-LIKE SERVANT leadership in our midst rather than the "over/under"kind that the "Gentiles" experience?!?!

Maybe the miracles that will fertilize the Gospel seeds that have been sewn in the world are RELATIONAL miracles in our midst rather than organizational or programatic fixes to increase results?

Maybe the rest of the world isn't really interested by our theological jousting and jockeying for position, for they see that every day, all day long in their experience of life....but when the extra-ordinary quality of loving unity among Jesus' followers enters their radar scope, it is such an unusual and winsome oddity that it's worthy of their inspection!

Maybe it's time for us to "do it" HIS WAY?!?! It seems like we have everything to gain and to not do so would mean we have everything to lose....and even more tragically, so do the lost who are waiting to see TRUTH AS ADVERTISED!!