Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

How to Contend for the Faith, part 2. Why Christians Disagree

Part 1 here

Part 3 here

In today’s ‘tolerant’ and ‘don’t judge’ atmosphere, when discussing biblical things, if the other person blows up it’s often seen as a failure of communication on our part. But in many cases it’s not.

Though we can’t account for how other people respond, there are many Bible verses given over to what kind of speech we are to employ. Here are just a FEW!

  • Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips (Ecclesiastes 10:12).
  • The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools (Ecclesiastes 9:17).
  • A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. (Proverbs 15:1-2)
  • A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
  • Anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matthew 5:22).
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).
  • Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6).
  • But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips (Colossians 3:8).
  • With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be (James 3:9-10).
  • Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
  • Therefore encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
  • Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother (2 Thessalonians 3:15).
  • Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (Romans 14:19).
  • Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1).
  • He must gently reprove those who oppose him, in the hope that God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 2:25).

Before we get to solutions in the next part, let’s look at-

1. What civil biblical discourse is
2. Why Christians disagree

Here, James A. Herrick, Professor and chair of the Department of Communication at the Christian institution Hope College, partner with the Reformed Church in America, states from his article What Do We Mean By “Civil Discourse”: A Biblical Model of Managing Disagreement that civil discourse is:

… talk—including conversation, dialogue, speech making and writing— on questions of moral significance. By ‘moral significance’ I mean questions that affect the choices we make, individually and in groups. Discourse, then, is talk or communication about (1) our choices and (2) about the principles we embrace that influence those choices. Ultimately, discourse is talk about the way we are going to live our lives as individuals and in communities. … So, understanding how discourse can be improved is important.

I’ll insert here that as we discuss ideas and interpretations from the Bible, there’s no higher ‘moral significance’ to be had on earth. The highest basis for any conversation is when we speak of Jesus from His Word. Therefore, the principles to be understood from these conversations are or should be highly prized.

I’d also add that these conversations are of moral significance but are also of theological significance. And lest a person think that ‘theological conversation’ or is only for seminarian eggheads, if you say “God is love” you have just uttered a statement of theological significance. Theological discourse just means talking about Jesus or conversing about things from the Bible.

Professor Herrick resumes his definition of discourse, now explaining when disagreement enters into it:

One more nuance should be added to our definition of ‘discourse,’ for the term also tends to simply staking out and defending a position on an issue, and in this way entering into the larger arena of public discussion of that issue. That is, inherent in the very concept of discourse are both the presence of disagreement and the goal of persuasion. I take these two components to be a facts about our efforts to talk through important issues—(1) we usually run into disagreement, and (2) we typically seek to persuade those with whom we disagree. It is precisely these elements which make it so vitally important that our discourse be civil discourse, that is, that our efforts to persuade those with whom we disagree be hemmed in by some sort of ethic of advocacy that keeps the discourse constructive and respectful. 

Of disagreement, I’m frequently asked, ‘If two people are Christians and read the same Bible, why do they disagree on what it says?’ It’s a good and valid question. Here, Professor Herrick outlines three reasons why in his view, Christians disagree.

1. Sin
2. Ignorance
3. Clash of worldviews

1. Sin is always the root of disagreement. Herrick gives the example of the church members at Corinth. Their failure to address sin caused a disagreement between themselves and their overseer, Paul.

2. As for the second reason disagreements arise, ignorance, Paul mentioned those often. He said ‘don’t be ignorant’ over spiritual gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:1). Paul said don’t be ignorant about eschatology. (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Paul also said not to be ignorant of satan’s schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11). And what are some of the most vociferous theological arguments about? Eschatology, spiritual gifts, and satan’s schemes. Ignorance of the Bible’s contents itself also factors into this reason why Christian disagree.

3. Worldviews. Any worldview that excludes God will be wrong about the source of truth, morals, righteousness, etc. Any Christian where Jesus is not at the center of their worldview, will also be incorrect in a number of ways.

Knowing what theological discourse is, and why disagreements occur within such discourse is helpful to know as a basis. Tomorrow, Lord willing, part 3 will look at on what to do about differences when they arise in theological discourse. Solutions, we need solutions! 🙂

holiness and godliness
How to Contend for the Faith, it can be confusing part 1

How to Contend for the Faith: Putting it all together part 3  

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

How to contend for the faith, it can be confusing, Part 1

How to Contend for the Faith Part 2: Why do Christians Disagree?

How to Contend for the Faith Part 3- Putting it all together

Introduction

The practicalities of how to contend for the faith is a big subject. We’re told to contend, of course, many times and in many ways. For example, Jude wanted to write a nice, little encouraging letter, but found that because of false brothers teaching false doctrine, he had to do his duty first.

Beloved, although I made every effort to write you about the salvation we share, I felt it necessary to write and urge you to contend earnestly for the faith entrusted once for all to the saints. (Jude 1:2)

Paul was sure that in his absence the Philippians will be “contending side by side for the faith of the gospel,” (Philippians 1:27).

Paul urged Timothy to “fight the good fight“. (1 Timothy 6:12).

Stand firm, do not turn, speak truth, and so on.

It’s important to consider, especially in this day and age of social media platforms with widespread audiences watching us, reading our words, and listening to our debates. Even in Solomon’s Portico or at the Areopagus or on the hillside at the Sermon on the Mount, with tens of thousands in attendance, today’s audiences who either lurk or engage with us online are an order of magnitude larger than those audiences.

But how? How do we contend appropriately? Sometimes we’re called to be gentle, other times to be direct. Righteous anger is allowed, but not unrighteous anger, and don’t let the sun set on any anger. Paul used holy sarcasm, but are we allowed to? Maybe? Maybe not.

I’ll do my best to answer the above but first, there is one part of online life in civil discourse I’d like to address as I fold it into the larger issue of appropriate theological discourse. I call these the “Drive By Debaters”.

Drive-By Commenters

It’s when someone takes the time to read the post. They take the time to comment on the post. But when they reply they state their position and end it by saying “I don’t want to debate.”

This kind of comment is opposed to true theological discourse, and even undermines it. It shuts down the point of any biblical discussion, which is to work together to arrive at a common understanding, mutual edification, and brotherly love with Christ as a center point. That kind of comment says ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, and I don’t care if you accept it or not, I just wanted to use your platform to say so. Buh-bye.’

The purpose of discussing biblical principles, interpretations, or concepts in person or online is to arrive at a common understanding. It’s to teach and be taught. The drive-by debate-denier displays they have an unteachable spirit.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5).

What I do if someone says “I don’t want to debate” on one of my platforms (Facebook, Twitter, blog, or email) is to engage once more by gently asking a question about what they’d said. Sometimes they’ll come back and we can begin discussion. If they don’t, I delete their original comment. I figure, if they don’t want to discuss, then we won’t discuss. At all.

I won’t allow my platforms to be used by drive by commenters, because from the outset they display that they are not interested in the rules of honest civil engagement. We should all seek wisdom, then understanding. This should be true from the top-most sage teacher to the newest babe.

Wisdom is to be highly prized. Proverbs 4:7-9 says,

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get insight.
8 Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head a graceful garland;
    she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

How Should We Contend?

As for my main point, how to contend. I contend a lot. I share with friendly people and unfriendly people. Some of the most unfriendly people I deal with are those who claim they are Christians but are not. When addressing their sin, they explode in myriad ways. When pointing out their favorite teacher is false, they go off like a rocket. If you really want to poke a bear, either discuss their sin with a false professing Christian, or identify their favorite teacher as false. Both discussions go to the same root: sin. Satan is protective of his peoples’ sin and it does not like to be exposed to the light of day. (John 3:19). That’s why the person explodes on you.

Some Bible verses call for gentleness on the part of the deliverer of the message, other Bible verses call for firmness, harshness even. In today’s ‘tolerant’ and ‘don’t judge’ atmosphere, when discussing biblical things, if the other person blows up it’s often seen as a failure of communication on our part. But in many cases it’s not, and don’t be afraid of it if it happens to you. I’ll share this verse again and again in the other upcoming parts:

The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 5And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions.b Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.(Ezekiel 2:4-7).

Not that we are Prophets like Ezekiel was, but in New Testament times we are God’s witnesses, His ambassadors, people with a sent message. We are one of the ways Jesus uses to either draw people to Himself through the Gospel message, or we are one of the ways He will condemn them on the last day, if they refuse the message. In our case we say ‘Thus says the LORD’ via His written word.

In addition to sharing the Gospel, we are called to warn, encourage, rebuke, teach and exhort and so on. We are constantly called upon to employ a humble attitude and to contend in myriad ways. Though our proclamations sometimes will not be received well either, we still speak them. The LORD assured Ezekiel and He gives us the same assurance in Luke 12:4 and Revelation 2:10.

In the next part I’ll sift through the various verses that discuss our speaking up in warnings and rebukes and exhortations, and being a witness through appropriate theological discourse in difficult times. There’s a lot to it, but mainly it boils down to two ingredients; speaking the truth, in love. I’ll share my perspective on this tomorrow.

Posted in potpourri, Uncategorized

Prata Potpourri: Secret Nazi Base, Gay man dislikes Church Discipline action, Star Trek Uniforms, Luther & Reformation Day- more

Our school closes for a few days at the end of October for a mini-Fall Break. We all look forward to this, both the staff and the students. Lots of people take trips. The mountains aren’t far and Fall is a great time of year in Georgia to go tuck away in a cabin somewhere. Others go to Disney because it isn’t so hot, or the beach, for the same reason. I love Fall in Georgia, it’s my favorite time of year. It lasts longer than Fall lasts up north. Its gradual slope into winter leads us to toward holiday season in a gentle way. We can finally turn off the loud air conditioner and start using the oven to bake wonderful things without making the house too hot.

The progression of the seasons is orderly and beautiful. Each season with its distinct colors and meaning is due to the creative mind and power of Christ.

For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17)

Here are a few items I believe may be of interest. Enjoy the day, the season, the Savior 🙂

This is interesting. Man starts social media campaign over his church dismissal for unrepentant homosexuality. The next big thing I see coming are lawsuits emerging from church discipline. As a side note, please notice in the article where it says the man had repented and lapsed several times prior to his final repudiation of God’s standards. Remember, repentance should be viewed as something that happens over time. Fruit takes time to grow. Be patient, either way, to see if what is growing in the heart is an apple or a thorn.

Oh the agonizing pull to check notifications or respond to texts…the overarching need for new stimulation even after a few minutes…Samuel D. James has more in his essay The Phone and His Boy.


A Secret Nazi Base in the Arctic has been discovered? And it’s not a wartime myth or clickbait? No, it turns out to be true. Russian researches stumbled onto it and found within over 500 relics, including well-preserved papers. /shudder/ Nazis are still extending their shadowy reach into even this millennium. We will only be removed from the presence and memory of that terrible history when we are resurrected into glory. The UK Independent also has the article and photos.

Death has always troubled the pagan man. Cemeteries have always troubled the aggressive realtor. Decaying biomass has always troubled the zealous environmentalist. Now, these concerns are combined in an unusual proposal for where or how to bury the dead. Is this the future of death?

With Halloween coming, with the inevitable Star Trek costumes abounding, which is as it should be, here is how to read the secret language of the Star Trek uniforms of that most unabating TV show. Which is 50 years old this year by the way. Oy, I suddenly feel old…

The Narrow Minded Woman has a great essay on Luther and Reformation Day.

Ignore the one reference to Rick Warren and enjoy the author’s case for quantifying discernment/judgment of each other. The 10 Percent Grace Rule: Judging Without Being Judgmental

I really like this man’s writing. He muses on You Get What You Pay For, an essay on shepherding financial resources wisely, Philippians 4:8, the election, and Netflix which is cohesive and concise. Really, the guy has mad writing skills.

Julia at Steak & a Bible said, “Hillsong Music: Popular Yes, but Is it Biblical?

Hillsong is an enormous church network and through its music, the church reaches far outside of that network. Many churches use Hillsong songs on Sunday mornings. But I wonder how many of them ever stopped to examine the songs for doctrine. That’s precisely what Chris Rosebrough, Steve Kozar and Amy Spreeman did on a recent episode of Fighting for the Faith. Given the popularity of the music I highly recommend listening to it.

I recommend it too!

Dr. Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, RTS Charlotte answers the question of does the Bible have mistakes? Length, 2:40.

Chris Powers has illustrated another Bible verse with his usual skill, insight, and sensitivity. Take a look,and please take a look at his overall ministry at Full of Eyes. Everything he makes he gives for free for the edification of the body and evangelization of the lost.