Savvy Jesus Picks Diverse Team

Sep 14th, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Does diversity of opinion increase the chance that truth will surface in the Church? A recent article in the Presbyterian Church in America’s magazine ByFaith, “Must We All Get Along?” by Jim Seybert, claims that contrary views are essential for determining truth. Seybert begins by making note of Pauline texts on the need for diversity within the Body,1 and the aesthetic example of diversity within nature. Reflecting on the fact that we are each unique, he says:

One of the [Paul’s] recurring themes is that God made each of us different and that we are subsequently made one through the Spirit of God. Paul never argues for us to ignore our uniqueness but to use the strength of our diversity for the benefit of all.

Reflecting on the High Priestly Prayer of John 17, Seybert sees this same lesson appear:

. . . Christ entreats God the Father to bring unity among His followers (see John 17). He doesn’t ask God to make them all the same but rather asks that they would have the same objectives despite their diversity.

His conclusion is that a diversity of opinions is necessary to reach the truth. We are told that “[i]f two or more people always agree on everything, at least one of them is redundant. Demanding that everyone share similar views is an affront to the creativity of the One who made us different in the first place.” Seybert points to the diverse backgrounds of Matthew and Simon as an example, and finds that “Jesus knew that populating a team with differing opinions and experiences is the best way to take advantage of the power of God’s creative genius.” The problem, he explains, is that without diversity of thought, a leadership team will suffer from “incestuous amplification,” a ‘group-think’ where “people with shared opinions and perspectives feed off one another and become convinced that their ideas are the correct ones.”

But I wonder, what is the problem if church leaders share a conviction that their belief is the correct one? Seybert confuses diversity of function, which we learn about from Paul and from nature, with diversity of belief. This leads him to a flawed handling of the Scriptures and an errant conclusion.

I have tried to imagine a church modeled after his vision: “Demanding that everyone share similar views is an affront to the creativity of the One who made us different in the first place.” This would not be a church with dogmatic proclamations, because those just amplify the errors which Seybert presupposes the church to harbor. This would not be a church of to-each-his-own, because then no benefit accrues from the diverse beliefs we all hold. This would be a church where everyone proffers their vision of truth, but nothing is solemnized as being true. As such, it would be a church without creeds, without a canon of Scripture, and without Trinitarian dogma.

We are created unique in the way that the parts of the body are unique. In our essence we have different strengths and abilities. Some are gifted in tongues, others in hospitality, and still others in leadership, et cetera. But the body has but one brain, and this brain does not simulatneously tell the body to breath, while also telling it not to breath. We do not have a wrong brain and a right brain. Denying the ability of the Bride of Christ to share similar views is an affront to God’s gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Jesus did not “populate” his leadership “team” with people of differing opinions in order to “take advantage” of God’s genius. Jesus, who is God the Son, gathered his apostles to perform one task while being of one mind. The apostles were not given a mere unity of objective; they were given a unity of mind and heart. Consider that history records their nearly identical fates. Had they been truly diverse in thought, perhaps some would have given a go at a path other than martyrdom. Maybe some would have tried founding local churches with different forms of polity instead of only the episcopal system. Would that we, as the Body of Christ, could suffer just one day from an “incestuous amplification” of the truth.

  1. Viz., Romans 12:6 and 1 Corinthians 12:13, 19 []

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  1. I can hardly imagine a more flawed representation of the Reformed faith than “By Faith” magazine.

  2. Dear David,

    Why do you say that? Even if true, do you mean to draw out the conclusion that the aforementioned article is particularly unReformed?

    I was thinking about this, and am presently of the opinion that Mr. Seybert’s conclusion is not unrelated to Reformational (though not particularly Reformed) thought. The conclusion seems to flow from the presupposition that the church and its leaders are not spiritually (pneumatically) preserved from error. He is looking for a way in which God practically (not pneumatically) preserves churches or congregations from error, a way that could be objectively identified when it was being employed.

    Peace in Christ,

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