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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Myths of Controversy

I thought I'd throw Presby Peppo a bone, and refer you to a quote from his homeboy, J Gresham Machen. (Quote is found on Pyromaniacs.)

Machen answers common objections to controversy in the church:
Let us above all, men say, have no controversy in the Church; let us forget our small theological differences and all repeat together Paul's hymn to Christian love.
His answer:
As I listen to such pleas, my Christian friends, I think I can detect in them rather plainly the voice of Satan.
Other objections addressed:
If you go heresy-hunting for the sin in your own wicked hearts," said the speaker, as nearly as I can remember his words, "you will have no time for heresy-hunting for the heretics outside."
Again, we are told that our theological differences will disappear if we will just get down on our knees together in prayer.
Again, men say that instead of engaging in controversy in the Church, we ought to pray to God for a revival; instead of polemics, we ought to have evangelism.
But men tell us that instead of engaging in controversy about doctrine we ought to seek the power of the living Holy Spirit.
Again, men tell us that our preaching should be positive and not negative, that we can preach the truth without attacking error.
Click the link to read Machen's answers.

5 Comments:

  • At 10:10 AM, Blogger Zach Doppelt said…

    Interesting post! Wisdom is required, because we are called to expose and avoid false doctrine, which includes some foolish disputes, but these disputes are generally on divisive non-essential quarreling that is focused away from the gospel message and subsequent righteous living required. Balance becomes the key.

     
  • At 1:03 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    good point.

    i suppose it helps to know the context of machen's life.

    he was the man who accurately pointed out that liberal protestantism (of the 50's-60's) was really a worship of a completely different god.

    he was dealing with big issues.

    but yeah, we're not talking foolish disputes.

     
  • At 1:47 PM, Blogger Dale Harris said…

    Did you see the link to this article by John Frame (a solid Reformed theologian) in the comments section? He so helpfully highlights the differences between essential and non-essential issues. Plus, he shows the historical development of a militant spirit within Reformed Christian circles. I would highly commend his wrap-up comments as a wonderful way of moving forward.

    Here's the link, if you missed it.

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2003Machen.htm

    You'll have to paste it into your browser.

     
  • At 3:44 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i read the article and found it so-so.

    a) none of the issues regarded are unique to reformed theology. i don't think we could say arminians are more united.

    b) i found the title disappointing. machen seemed to focus on the important issues, though the article seems to want to blame machen somehow for divisions and controversies well after his death. how are those his fault?

    c) the article seems idealist and impractical. it reminded me some of "mclaren's moratorium on homosexuality." the whole, we should take our time before determining something as "in or out." this is highly difficult if you are in a church where the view is being perpetuated.

    frankly, i can't find any instruction this way in Scripture. while we certainly shouldn't act rashly, it doesn't seem like we should opperate with patience over error in the church.

    d) while i understand his concern that humility be expressed, and his frustration that some guys build fences where they need not....his article had an air of superiority to me. it seemed like he is pretty confident to determine which issues are important and which aren't. which should extend compromise and which shouldn't.

    yet, Scripture was not evoked to do any of these.

    e) this guy should attend "together for the gospel." i think he would see a unity and cooperation that is beautiful, yet does not require uniformity.

    i also do not believe the pca and opc must merge to prove they can work together. to me, that is similar to the argument that their only should be one church per town/city. where does that have to come from? why can't more than one exist? why can't they just work together. i think the t4g conference shows a very diverse group of men who are willing to work together.

    f) i'd have to say many of machen's issues were also our father, mclain, issues. he drew distinctions over eschatology, soteiriology and the authority of the Word of God and a denial of a harsh subscription view. would it be fair to blame him for any divisions today?

    of course, this view could continue to go backward. was luther wrong then? calvin? athanasius?

    g) if anyone is aligned to a man, they have a problem already. it is that we are to be aligned with the Word. each man is feeble and sinful and will get things wrong. semper reformanda applies.

    i guess i'm not sure he highlighted the differences between the two (essential and nonessential). he just highlighted that there are differences.

    of course we haven't handled them perfectly and have more to learn...we're sinners.

     
  • At 3:21 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i find it interesting that the guy who provided the link at pyro's later said this:

    And yes, full preterism is bad. But I'm talking about dispy/amill/premill/postmill; not the extreme fringe views that are alive and well only in the mountains of West Virginia.

    it just seems to me that many who like to claim foul and harsh language are either the ones causing the divisions or the ones speaking with language equally as strong.

     

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