Posts Tagged ‘Polemics’

There’s no getting around it. Invariably and inevitably, in the course of any ideological (or theological) discourse, one will eventually find himself confronted by some form of opposition, and therewith, the potential occasion forcing him to decide either to ‘cross swords’ (as it were) and engage his opponent, or otherwise to stand down and retreat.

Now, it should be a given that most men generally like to fight. It’s part of our fallen nature to enjoy brawling. I believe even the most self-respecting and reserved amongst us is not entirely immune to this inclination.   And yet, on the other hand, many of us would also admit we don’t like conflict.  So get this: we want to fight (sometimes) but also generally don’t like conflict. If that doesn’t make sense to you, that’s okay, it bewilders me as well.

Nevertheless, not all fighting is bad. In fact, there’s a sense in which, as men of God, we indeed should want to fight — given the right reason and right motivation.  Scripture is clear enough in this regard.  But determining, when, where, how and in what cases this fighting should be done is the stuff of our common dilemma.   Indeed, it seems unsurety regarding these  kind of situations can be the cause of considerable consternation amongst those conscientious not to give needless offense and yet convicted not to just stand still and do nothing. So what’s needed is wisdom — biblical, mature, and spiritual discernment to determine when to fight and when to hold one’s peace.

Well, the apostle Paul possessed this kind of wisdom. And  what’s more, he demonstrated it when he confronted his fellow apostle Peter before the whole Antioch assembly:  “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong” (Gal. 2:11).

Now, some might say Paul was wrong to do this since he didn’t first approach Peter individually (Matt. 18:15) and thus avoid a public scandal. And yet, perhaps we shouldn’t jump to any such hasty conclusions.

It seems clear enough to me that when the Gospel is at stake, and therewith, the minds, hearts, and faiths of God’s children, we shouldn’t cavil to the tongues of deception. For under this pretext of peace is the the very demise of the sheep. No, we should stand up like men, and fight.

I’ve been reading through some of John Calvin’s commentaries and found these words particularly riveting.

If Paul had been silent here, his whole doctrine fell; all the edification obtained by his ministry was ruined. It was therefore necessary that he should rise manfully, and fight with courage. This shews us how cautiously we ought to guard against giving way to the opinions of men, lest an immoderate desire to please, or an undue dread of giving offense, should turn us aside from the right path. If this might happen to Peter, how much more easily may it happen to us, if we are not duly careful! – – Commentary on Galatians 2:11

Before them all. This example instructs us, that those who have sinned publicly must be publicly chastised, so far as concerns the Church. The intention is, that their sin may not, by remaining unpunished, form a dangerous example; and Paul elsewhere (1 Timothy 5:20) lays down this rule expressly, to be observed in the case of elders, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear;” because the station which they hold renders their example more pernicious. – Commentary on Galatians 2:14

It is a cruel kind of mercy which prefers a single man to the whole church. “On one side, I see the flock of God in danger; on the other, I see a wolf “seeking,” like Satan, “whom he may devour.” Ought not my care of the church to swallow up all my thoughts, and lead me to desire that its salvation should be purchased by the destruction of the wolf? And yet I would not wish that a single individual should perish in this way; but my love of the church and my anxiety about her interests carry me away into a sort of ecstasy, so that I can think of nothing else.” With such zeal as this, every true pastor of the church will burn. – Commentary on Galatians 5:12

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