A recent sermon by Mark Dever has been buzzing around the blogosphere. In his sermon on Revelation 20 and millennial views, Dever makes the bold statement that to break church unity over a difference in millennial view is sin. As transcripted by A.J. Gibson:

I think that millennial views need not be among those doctrines that divide us. . . . I am suggesting that what you believe about the millennium—how you interpret these thousand years—is not something that it is necessary for us to agree upon in order to have a congregation together. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:21 that we Christians might be one. Of course all true Christians are one in that we have his Spirit, we share his Spirit, we desire to live out that unity. But that unity is supposed to be evident as a testimony to the world around us. Therefore, I conclude that we should end our cooperations together with other Christians (whether near-ly in a congregation, or more at length in working together in missions and church planting and evangelism and building up the ministry) only with the greatest of care, lest we rend the body of Christ for whose unity he’s prayed and given himself. Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united. Therefore for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol, or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore condemned by scripture. So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.

So let’s get right to the point. Do you agree with Dever? Is it a sin to break church unity over the issue of the millennium?

(HT: Justin Taylor)

7 Replies to “The Monday Muse: Sin to Break Church Unity Over Millennium?

  1. Is it a sin to drink wine? It is if drinking wine is leading you into a lifestyle of drunkenness.

    Is it a sin to NOT drink wine? It is if NOT drinking wine is leading you to judge and condemn others who, in the conscious context of their faith, have chosen to drink wine in a responsible manner.

    My answer being, I think either option regarding this question around the millennium could lead us into sin. Dever says it is a sin to break the unity of the church – perhaps it is. I say it may also be sin to remain in a congregation who’s views about a particular subject have domino-like ramifications on other areas of life, faith, and theology… ramifications that could be blatantly sinful in and of themselves.

    Every member of every church is not going to agree on everything internally. But I think that’s just an assumed fact of life. For Dever to delve into this publicly… it starts to sound a little emergent doesn’t it?

    In the end, I think it goes a little far to start attributing the word “sin” to this issue, and the congregation’s response to it. But I can appreciate the root of where he’s coming from here: With the infinite number of views on the end-of-the-age and the future destiny of the church and mankind… I would be hard pressed to nail down any single viewpoint on the subject and declare it “absolute fact”. It seems a little silly to get too worked up about intangible issues like this when there is other more pressing work to be done.

  2. I have not heard the entire sermon by have read this excerpt.

    Personally I think that Dr. Dever is on to something. To divide over pre, post, a- mil would be wrong just as much as if we were to say, divide over the method of baptism – sprinkle, pour, dip, tri-emersion. That we believe the scriptures teach us to baptize is without question, the method can be up for discussion without dividing. The Millennial question is the same way – does a person hold that Christ will return? If yes, then we can discuss timing, sequence with other events, etc. But to say “No” is a whold different matter.

    In short, Belief in the Return of Christ is an essential, the timing and circumstances can be debated without dividing.

  3. Burns…I would agree that sin is pretty strong word to use regarding this issue. Mohler has put it well when he says that we have to do theological triage. There are first order issues that must be held by all people in order to be called Christian. Those issues would be the cross, death/burial/resurrection, justification by grace through faith, etc. Second order issues would be things that we can disagree on but would keep us from being members of the same church. A second order issue would be something like baptism. We all agree that we must be baptized but disagree on who, when, and how. Should it keep us from being members of the same church? I guess it depends on your convictions. If we can disagree on baptism and yet consider each other Christians, then I see no problem with it keeping people from sharing membership. The church will practice one or the other and since it is so closely tied to salvation, it will matter in both practice and theology.

    That said…Dever is certainly not emergent. In fact, he is far from it. But I think you exactly right. End times views are certainly something we can disagree on and still sit in the pews together. It makes least sense to cause great disagreement on this point since there are so many difficulties in understanding the writings on end times. In the same breath…it is difficult to discern what’s important and what is not. As you said, one thing seems to lead to another. Theology is a web of interconnected threads.

  4. Terry…I completely agree. It is an essential to believe that Christ is returning. Otherwise, you are not worshiping the Christ of the Bible. We must be wise with our convictions and charitable with those things that are not essentials. Personally, I find it a lot harder than it sounds.

    And by the way…thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you around here often.

  5. Great question. I can see a good discussion coming from this…so…I will post that Monday as the upcoming week’s Monday Muse question. Suffice it to say, it is certainly more common for churches to divide and fight over styles of music than end times theology.

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