One of the problems with the church, whether the global church, within a denomination or even within a local church, is the conflict that has resulted in an us vs them mentality. The issues change but our natural tendency is to separate into camps and to see the other as the enemy. This is nothing new as we see in 1 Corinthians.
David Fitch’s new book, The Church of Us vs Them, is arriving just in time. Fitch is a gifted writer, a thoughtful theologian and someone who loves the church. He has observed the state of things and has felt compelled to respond with a different way. Fitch argues that we don’t have to make enemies but can instead make room for other opinions. It comes down to a change in posture, one in which we don’t need to be right all of the time. It is enough to faithfully follow Jesus and treat others with respect.
There is much in this book that rings true. There has to be a better way than what we are seeing. He is an equal opportunity critic, holding both conservatives and progressives to the same standard. It is not about what end of the spectrum that we hold but the posture we hold toward others.
I also appreciate what Fitch says about not using the Bible as a weapon. However, I think he goes too far. I calls for an end to the use of the Bible to defend our position and instead of quoting texts, enter into the Bible story.
That sounds nice but that is not actually what we find in the Bible. What Fitch sees as the problem is exactly what we see Paul does in his letters and especially in Acts. Paul argues with opponents and he uses the Bible to support his arguments. By Fitch’s understanding of the role of the Bible, it could be argues that Paul is the example of what not to do.
The other problem I had is that it seems that Fitch is not always listening to his own advice. He argues against a church of us vs them but then goes on to group those who are using the Bible wrong or are creating community wrong. At times he even identifies them by name. By the time he is done, he has created a different us vs them, with only the members shuffled from one group to another.
That is not to say that The Church of Us vs Them is of no use. Fitch’s thesis is one that we all need to hear and he offers some helpful advice on how to serve Jesus better. But in the end, even Fitch can’t avoid the temptation to divide up the church into us vs them.