Read 2 Timothy 2:22-26
22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (NIV)
It seems to be true that Christians who are most firm in their commitment to Biblical truth are also most likely to divide over doctrinal points. Those who don’t hold to such a commitment are unlikely to divide or argue because they don’t hold such firm positions. There is less to argue about if we hold fairly loose to doctrines.
Church history is littered with instances of churches splitting, of movements fracturing over certain doctrinal points. A proper concern for sound doctrine has been replaced by stubborn insistence that others must tick every doctrinal box we figure is non-negotiable. And so there are arguments and finger-pointing. Doctrinal purity (in other words, agreeing with my interpretation of the Bible) becomes the overriding goal and those who are ‘impure’ are rejected.
The antidote to this is not to give up firm commitment to doctrinal truth and go all wishy-washy about our basic principles. It is to heed Paul’s advice to Timothy. Avoid arguing over issues that ultimately need not divide us. In any disagreements, avoid a quarrelsome spirit. Be gentle and respectful when others disagree. Only when such differences become a matter of outright false teaching need we become more assertive.
Which means that we have to discern the difference between a viewpoint which happens to be different to our own and a viewpoint which does violence to the truth of God. There is such a thing as false teaching, but we dare not consign all those who disagree with us into that category.