Paul Speaks With One Mind

Some critics believe that Paul, in verses such as Romans 12:16 and 1 Peter 3:8, is forbidding any sort of intellectual discussion or debate in favor of being of the same mind. Is that what Paul was arguing for?

“The Bible commands us to agree with everyone about everything, so thousands of Christians are disobeying their holy book.”

There is a subset of arguments used among the skeptic community that attempts to denounce the truth of Christianity by making its adherents out to be living contrarily to the Bible. I have a feeling, although without demonstratable proof, granted, that these arguments act as a kind of recoil to the popular apologetic regarding the hypocrisy of atheism. Since atheism attributes no value to humanity, if we live as if that value exists by raging against moral or natural evil, we show that atheism isn’t a consistent worldview. Moreover, if we take the “lack of belief” approach, atheism then becomes consistent with both murder and love, for it makes no positive claims. Its adherents display some form of hypocrisy either way. What better way to denounce Christianity than to use the same thing?

There is a fundamental difference between the two, and this argument makes it abundantly clear. Christian apologists who point out this hypocrisy are looking to atheism as a worldview. The atheist is looking at interesting particulars instead. One such example regards the application of the Old Testament law. Folks such as Sam Harris state that you cannot be a true Christian unless you are stoning people the same way people recorded in the OT did. That’s one argument, but they all avoid the primary claim of the worldview in favor of its particulars.

So how about this one? Paul urges his audience, in verses such as Romans 12:16 and 1 Cor 1:10, to dwell together in one accord and with one mind in perfect unity. Does this mean no one can ever disagree with anything?

A number of theologians and church fathers have debated the meaning of Paul’s admonition over the centuries, among those being John Chrysostom and Johann Friedrich Flatt, but a look at the original Greek text is where we find our answer. Paul is telling his audience to strive after the same things, to live in one accord, and to hold each other up with respect and dignity as one in the body of Christ. Godet puts it best in his commentary on Romans,

“The only possible meaning is: “aiming at the same object for one another as for yourselves”; that is to say, having each the same solicitude for the temporal and spiritual well-being of his brethren as for his own.” (Ibid., p. 437)

So there you have it, personal opinions aren’t even in Paul’s scope. It’s a command to live and walk in brotherly unity as the body of Christ and not a prohibition against discussion or debate.