After seminary, I realized that people read the Bible differently than I do. In my first year of seminary, I affectionately called these people ‘heathens’. Someone obviously didn’t teach them to appreciate this book the way I was taught. It took some time and some life experience to begin to see that I was “appropriating” (that is the fancy theological word for defining the scripture the way I wanted to base on my belief and my circumstances) the Bible in ways that fit my worldview.
My brother, Matt, is a Southern Baptist pastor. Actually, he is now a ‘non-denominational’ pastor and I give him relentless grief because Non-Denominational is actually a denomination. Anyway, I digress. My brother once said, “You know… a conservative Methodist is an oxymoron.” My feelings were hurt. He explained this to me by ending, “And Baptists are right”. He pointed to some of our Methodist beliefs like: infant baptism, prevenient grace (that’s a Methodist thing where we believe God’s grace is available to everyone), free will, and women in ministry.
We read the same book, yet we disagree on some of the details. What we don’t disagree on are the essentials. What are those? Well, to begin with there is something called the Apostle’s Creed. It’s been around for almost 2,000 years! (Okay, since the 4th century). In it, we find the essentials of our “orthodoxy” (this word means “right belief” and don’t let people tell you it’s only what they choose to believe). Here is the Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Funny thing. There is nothing in there about the way one is baptized, the different ways we understand grace, whether we have free will or not, or whether women can be in ministry.
This is why when my brother and I share dinner at Christmas time, we laugh, eat, drink (he is only allowed tea), and share life together. We don’t argue theology. Why? Because on the main things we agree. They are listed here in the Apostle’s Creed. And they all come from the Bible that we both love so much.