Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The End of Controversies?

Toward the end of his life Richard Baxter wrote a book on the end of controversies. It was, to say the least, a somewhat premature assessment of the state of the doctrinal life of the Christian Church.

One doesn't have to look around the Christian world for long to know that not only are so called "secondary issues" as vigorously contested as they have ever been, but every major Christian doctrine is disputed, denied and debated. Gresham Machen wrote at the start of his classic Christianity and Liberalism
that the things that men will fight over are usually the things worth believing.

Controversy has the capacity to bring out the best and the worst in us. Some shy away from it for personal reasons (they simply don't like confrontation), whilst others seem to thrive on exposing errors and are quick to draw strong condemnatory conclusions.

Handling controversy is a test of our godliness, a test that all too often, when we come to pray, we realise that we have failed. Defending orthodoxy and attacking error demands more from us than the use of reason and knowledge. It also demands the exercise of patience, prayerfulness, humility, compassion, faithfulness, truthfulness, fairness and so on.

Tests like these are unavoidable. But evading controversy to keep the peace when the truth demands that there be conflict is moral and spiritual failure.

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