Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" - Psalm 133:1
Unbelievers reject the truth of God for a number of reasons. Despite being unable to understand the word because it is spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14), unbelievers often point to the faults perceived in God's people. At the top of most lists, the disunity of the Church stands supreme. “Why”, they ask, “would I desire to be involved in the backbiting, gossip-hungry, prideful group that calls themselves Christians?” The interactions inside the Church should never be the reason why belief in Christ is rejected. We are called to be holy and united in spreading the Gospel message (Leviticus 19:2, 1 Peter 1:13-16, Matthew 28:18-20, Philippians 1:27-30) and that is what we should seek.
Failure to perform this mission of spreading the Gospel is unacceptable and our disunity displays a lack of maturity. While I am in no way arguing for a position of the Ecumenical movement, I find the disunity of the Church to be egregious and argue that this disunity derives from both selfish pride and lack of true maturity in the faith. As true believers, we should be able to work together to spread the Gospel despite having many differences. To combat this spirit of disunity and immaturity, I have found that holding to the "O.D.D. Theology" principal aids in the proclamation of the Gospel and prevents unbelievers from being able to reject Christ based on our behavior toward one another.
O.D.D. Theology is an acronym that makes up three distinct parts of every individual Christian worldview: Opinion, Doctrine, and Dogma. The first two vary from individual to individual while the latter – Dogma – should be the same for all who claim Christianity. In essence, the O.D.D. Theology principle teaches that a Christian can work with anyone who believes in the dogmas of the faith to spread the Gospel. Sadly, too many people lack an understanding of those dogmas and find themselves at odds with others on the basis of mere opinions or doctrines.
An Opinion is a belief held by an individual without external validation. In a Christian worldview, that means there is no biblical basis for the belief, or it is founded upon an interpretation of a scant few Scriptures. These beliefs are generally prefaced with statements like "I feel" or "I think." Personal opinions on matters are important and can play a major role in the way a Christian worships God in accordance with his or her conscience. The apostle Paul dealt with this topic in Romans 14, where he tells us “Not to quarrel over opinions" (Romans 14:1). Those who are stronger and more mature ought to "bear with the failings of the weak" (Romans 15:1). Too often believers take their opinions to be dogmatic and are unyielding even to the point of vehemence towards those who would contradict them. When this takes place, disunity takes root within the church body. Moreover, many people hold to opinions that are opposed to the Word of God. Christians often convince themselves of the validity of certain behavioral patterns based on nothing more than mere opinions.
For example, a believer holding a career as a sales executive must have clients. In his opinion, his church and family life are compartmentalized into one category and his worldly means to support his family into another. Because of this, he rationalizes his actions of deception as permissible as long as he does not tell outright lies. As a Christian, this pattern of thinking cannot stand and displays a lack of spiritual understanding. Opinions frequently drive our worldviews when they should instead take a backseat to the dogma and doctrines of the faith. In those instances, it is the responsibility of the mature to gently correct and help those weaker in the faith (Galatians 6:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Doctrines are beliefs founded on and supported by Scripture. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul states that the inspired Scripture is profitable for teaching or doctrine. In this area of the Christian worldview many perspectives are propagated, and they have been the reason for much division in the Church. In truth, many such held beliefs are misinterpretations of God's Word and need to be corrected, but those false doctrines, like in Corinth, have a purpose (1 Corinthians 11:19). They exist so that the genuine might stand out and shine forth. Nevertheless, arguments over doctrines keep many Christians from being able to work together.
For example, I have encountered men who refused to help me in teaching others because we disagree on the doctrines of the Lord's Supper and baptism. One individual was a strict memorialist and held to believer's baptism while I hold to the spiritual presence and infant baptism positions. Such differences of doctrine, while important, are not valid reasons for rejecting to help disciple new believers in the foundational truths of God. Our pride often prevents us from choosing to perform our responsibilities, and when outsiders see such division, we are not "walking in wisdom" toward them (Colossians 4:5).
Doctrines make up the largest part of the Christian worldview, and it is a sign of maturity when those of different positions can sit and discuss the Scriptures without bickering among themselves. Such discussions aid in our understanding of not only God's Word, but one another as well. With this understanding, we show love towards one another and can find ways to accomplish our common goal of preaching the Gospel.
The Dogma of the church encompasses the self-evident truths set forth by the Scriptures and bears recognition throughout church history as immutable. These truths cannot be denied or argued about. If one rejects dogma, they also reject Christianity as a whole. Since this is of utmost importance, what exactly are the dogmas of the faith? Throughout church history, the Apostle's Creed stands as a summation of Christian dogma and is accepted by Roman Catholics and Protestants.
The Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God the Father, Almighty
Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord.
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary.
Suffered under Pontius Pilate;
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again 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 Ghost.
I believe the holy catholic Church;
the communion of saints.
The forgiveness of sins.
The resurrection off the body.
And the life everlasting. Amen!
With this statement guiding us, Christians should be able to work together in spreading the Gospel. If we can agree on these essential truths and their implications, and we should, then the only thing preventing us from showing unity in our mission will be our own selfish pride. In the area of evangelism, the principle of O.D.D. Theology prevents unbelievers from rejecting Christ due to interactions within the church. Moreover, all those who seek maturity must also seek unity by calmly discussing doctrinal differences in a way that honors God. A Christian properly following O.D.D. Theology will not only be able to better understand other believers, but also serve as an example for others to follow.