Diversity is one of those words much in use these days, whether it is bio-diversity (the variety of all kinds of life on this planet) or the diversity of lifestyles and beliefs. The former, from a Biblical point of view, can be said to reflect the God’s creative nature. The latter is more problematic because it is used to attack Christianity and Biblical values. So what does the Bible say on the subject? Quite a lot, in fact. Though in the Old Testament the Israelites were always warned about worshipping other gods there was diversity within Israel. The Levites were separated from the other tribes to serve the Lord in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. Within the tribe of Levi the descendants of Aaron were separated to serve as priests. Later during the Temple era some Levites assigned roles such as musicians and singers. Even today in Judaism unity is not mistaken for uniformity. In the Church era the process continued provided one accepted faith in Christ there diversity within the individual assemblies as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:- The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; although all its part are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptised with one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body be an eye where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear where would be the sense of smell be? (verses 12-17). Paul’s view of diversity is under attack today from those outside the Church who hold strong secularist/atheist beliefs. There are also those within the Church who have been affected by this prevalent world view.
Nowadays if an ear is jealous of the eye then they are liable to claim discrimination and invoke equality legislation, just because the eye is better at seeing. Some parts of the Church see traditional structures as wrong and too rigid, a bit like an organ of the body saying to a thigh bone “You are just a big lump of bone.” But inside a thigh bone is marrow which produces the red blood cells. Without these cells the rest of the body will eventually die. There is danger that one part of the body may not appreciate the role of another. The lungs might say to the ribs “You are restricting me, you need to be more flexible.” Failing to understand that the ribs are protecting them. It is easy for someone who is full of enthusiasm for something to see those who urge a note of caution as enemies. Such misunderstandings can easily spiral out of control and lead to division in the Church.
The problem arises when people mistake diversity under God’s sovereignty for diversity from God’s sovereignty.These days people want to believe any weird and wonderful idea. The concept of objective truth is frowned upon. Jesus’ claim to be the Truth in John chapter 14 is anathema to the modern, or should I say post-modern, way of thinking. So it is not surprising that Christianity or any Christian who raises their head above the parapet is under attack. The truth of Scripture is constantly assailed. There is a totally different mindset between the Biblical and the worldly viewpoints. Developed by those who supported the idea of the permissive society back in the 1960s the antagonism shown by those who follow a secularist agenda towards traditional Christian values has increased. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, if that is the case then Josef Goebbels has many admirers today, for they follow his doctrine of telling a thousand lies in order to establish a ‘truth.’ In fact if you tell a lie a thousand times all you end up with is a bigger lie. The truth will win out in the end. To return to the analogy of the body, if one contracts a disease of some sort, whether a virus or bacterium, the immune system comes into play. At least that is the healthy response. In today’s society that sort of reaction is liable to be termed as ‘phobic.’ True the knee-jerk reaction of some Christians is the spiritual equivalent of anaphylactic shock, when confronted with something unbiblical. That does not mean that a measured response to many of the social trends, that seem to question and undermine our faith, should not be made. On the contrary we should. It is just that it is all too easy to be seen as a Don Quixote character tilting at windmills and completely out of touch with reality. Always trying to fight the last war over again, forgetting that weapons and tactics have moved on. Just because God is Spirit and therefore outwith Time, does not give us an excuse to live in a time-warp. Wisdom and insight are required.
A healthy body with a healthy immune system will recover from many ailments in time. But an unhealthy body with a poor immune system can easily lead to a serious deteriorating condition. Likewise a Church fed on spiritual junk food may suffer greatly when challenged by a controversy that a healthy church will brush off. Jesus answered Satan when tempted by quoting Scripture, so we need to make sure that we feed on “that which proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” If we do not then there is a danger that failing to address issues initially can lead from a benign condition becoming cancerous with all the serious implications that involves. Even though it may only be in one part of the body it will affect the whole.
The word ‘tolerance’ seems to have subtly changed its meaning in recent years. In engineering tolerance had been reduced by improved by increased accuracy in production methods that make machines more reliable. Here reducing tolerance is seen as a good thing. But those involved in social engineering argue for the opposite. Vagueness is preferred to accuracy, wishy-washy-ness to the concept of absolute truth, and so on. Everything must be tolerated. Tolerance has become a new virtue. But if the engine parts in your car had the large degree of tolerance that they think society should have then it would make a loud rattling noise if it worked at all. There have been occasional calls for Christian organisations to allow unbelievers to infiltrate them so they can take them over. Surely it is right that a Christian body should defend itself from those who would destroy it. Should a physical body tolerate that which would destroy it? We would say no.
The core values of the Christian Church with the centrality of the Cross and Resurrection must be non-negotiables. The style of worship and music may vary, the locations churches meet may vary, the translations of Bible may vary, etc., There is room for plenty of diversity within the Church, providing that it is under the authority of Scripture, and not diversity from God. If you look at the picture at the top of this post you will see a variety of different colours on the leaves this rowan tree, there is even great variety on many of the individual leaves, but each leaf is still recognisable as being a rowan leaf.
David Rose. 2013