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Philosophy and applications in the local church

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series

"That They May Be One: Conservatism, Cooperation, and the Center of Christian Unity"

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That They May Be One

Last week I argued that differences among philosophies of culture must necessarily affect cooperation on various levels of ecclesiastical cooperation.

Having said this, it is important to distinguish between philosophy of culture and worship and particular applications of that philosophy. I am suggesting that agreement concerning philosophy is an important factor influencing my ability to cooperate with other Christians in certain circumstances. But I will also insist that we must allow for latitude concerning how an underlying conservative philosophy is applied in practice.

Specific applications are based (hopefully) on wise consideration of the philosophy and how it works in real life, but those applications will certainly vary from person to person, context to context, and church to church. This means that although I personally have strong opinions about the best applications of a conservative philosophy, they are not as important as the philosophy, and thus particular applications of a conservative philosophy should not affect fellowship to the same extent as the philosophy itself.

For example, on the local church level it is important that all of the leadership agree philosophically. It is also fairly important that the leadership come to agreement about how that philosophy will be applied in that ministry. It seems clear to me that this must be how it works on a local church level. Beyond that, however, agreement on particular applications becomes less important dependent upon the situation.

I think that it is important to distinguish between these two categories of philosophy and applications as we discuss how a conservative philosophy affects cooperation. Both are important, but the more important matter is always philosophy rather than particular applications.

I know some pastors with whom I share convictions about both philosophy and general applications. There are other pastors I know with whom I agree philosophically but who make applications of that philosophy that I wouldn’t.  I can’t find sufficient ground for withholding most levels of cooperation with men in both of these groups. Differences in particular ways of applying a similar philosophy don’t necessarily affect much beyond the local church level.

It is fundamental philosophical differences that will often limit cooperation. The applications are usually most apparent and appear to be the primary reason for limiting cooperation. Yet in reality, it is the more important philosophical differences that are the real reasons for cooperation limits.

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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.