Democracy’s main weakness is that it makes it possible for popular error to hold sway. Conservative Christians, like me, would say that about this or that popular cultural value that doesn’t align with theirs, and a minority voice within a Christian denomination often says that about the majority denominational view which which they disagree.
There is a conversation happening in my denomination in which I am part of the majority, and it makes me uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable primarily because I want the minority voice, the very voice I disagree with, to be heard, and heard in its best form. And too often it is not heard. And far too often it is not heard in its best form. Along with all the multitude of biblical passages that I base my majority view upon, there are other passages that make me uncomfortable in the majority camp.
The Gospels (Matthew 18 and Luke 15) have Jesus giving us a principle of leaving the majority of the sheep (99) to seek out the minority (1). In context this is a picture of God’s reach to those who are socially and spiritually ‘outside’, ‘lost’ and marginalised; but I can’t help but feel the principle also applies to interpretive disputes as well.
Acts 15 recounts the church dealing with a very difficult issue, and they neither appealed to the anointed authoritative leader (my Catholic brothers and sisters may disagree), nor did they ‘vote’ on it as my Baptist tradition would. Instead they had ‘no small amount of discussion’ before some leaders drew things together into a consensus. And what is beautiful is that the view that ended up being wrong (the view that Christians must be circumcised) was included in Luke’s account (though it was arguably not kindly represented in the council’s letter!).
Then there’s Philippians 2:3, within a letter which later instructs Euodia and Syntyche to ‘agree with one another’. This verse is within a context about imitating the humility of Christ, who was divine but became not just a human, but a slave. The instruction is to not be conceited, but to humbly ‘consider others better than yourself’. I know this verse is not about aiming for heresy rather than orthodoxy in the name of humility, but could it maybe help the majority hold their majority with a bit less arrogance, over-certainty and impatience (which admittedly can be needed for the minority at times!)?
And 1 Corinthians 13:9 strikes a death blow to any perfected, complete, omniscient majority view. In the same letter that uses language about having ‘the mind of Christ’ (in a context still about humility! chapter 2), we have Paul saying that ‘we know in part’. This epistemological qualifier should give us plenty of hermeneutical humility.
And that is why I’m comfortable with being uncomfortable in the majority.