“Offense must come”, said Christ, and of the several legitimate meanings of this passage, one is that on the earthly plane, conflict is inevitable and, insofar as it is inevitable, we can even say that it is possible for two good men to fight another without having to place one “in the wrong.” St. Augustine himself wrote that two men at war could both be “right,” contrary to our normal way of looking at conflict.
Of course, we are only exploring possibility here, and this possibility is not the reality in general, and in general we are safe in assuming that most arguments involve an error on one side or both. But particularly when we come to the issue of schism, or division within religion, it is very important to keep in mind that even if we must “choose a side” in such a conflict, we need not necessarily condemn the other side For it often has its reason for existing even if its existence brings it into conflict with ours.
I am thinking here mostly of the Latin and Greek Churches, and the schism which, in Islam, gave birth to the Shiite way.
To say it another way, we should observe that it is of the nature of religion to divide outwardly, like the cells of a human embryo, so that it may expand to fulfill its destiny. In such cases, the animating “spirit” remains the same, inwardly, but on a material or external level there is division and the possibly of antagonism. Thus, the division between Latin and Greek Christianity should not be seen as one of spirit but of contingency, of the way in which certain formulas had to be adapted to certain peoples, such that both were what they needed to be in order to serve as a means of grace for a specific people. That the formulation appropriate to one group manifested itself as “error” to the other group speaks more about the difference in humanity than about any doctrinal divergence.