Too bad that so many of God's dear, honest, sincere saints have such an unbalanced conception regarding "controversy." They think it is all of the devil. They deprive themselves—and others—of great elements, and opportunities of real development and expansion.
One sister writes me about as follows, telling what another sister says, and the writer is in agreement on it: "If I receive something that has arguments in it I destroy it."
I do not know how many have said to me: "I don't want to argue, and I don't want to hear any arguments."
Now to be consistent all such cannot read Paul's epistles.
Of all arguers defending the truth, he must be considered the champion. Read Romans, Galatians, and any of his writings and you will not go very far before you are in the midst of arguments.
Read Acts 17:17 where it says that, "he argued in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the reverent, and in the market place every day, with those happening along." According to this he was "looking for an argument" all the time.
Read Acts 19:8 and foll. and see how he carried on a continuous series of "argumentation" or "dispute" meetings for about two years and three months. In ch. 18:4 he "argued" with the Jews, and in v. 28 the results are related: "He strenuously and thoroughly refuted (or convinced) the Jews."
How would it look like in Christendom today if Luther and his Co-reformers had not argued, disputed and "fought" for the truth? Would we be satisfied being completely under the heel of the Roman Catholic church?
On the same principle of non-argumentation we cannot gainsay any doctrine, no matter how obnoxiously false it is. Not a chirp must be heard.
Shall we say that we are holier than Paul? Or have we found better ways to promote the truth of God? He used arguments, disputes, as one of the major means by which to bring the truth across.
The argument of non-argumentation is one of the best evidences that the church is in a half dead, indifferent, wishy-washy condition. Paul used military terms to express the proper methods in propagating the truth of God. To him it was war, and more war. War knowing no retreat.
Reminds me of a famous character in church history whom they tried to silence with inducement& of peace in order to still his voice, but he replied: "I want war, war! War with the world and with the enemies of truth. It is enough to me that I have peace with God."—Amen! But most of the saints today are too pussy-footed to follow that course. Too many of God's ambassadors follow the lines of least resistance. They see and know much truth that they do not want to preach, because it might cost them some friendships, prestige and (perhaps, pay). It is safest to keep the light under the "bushel" or "bed."
Now there are two (or more) ways to carry-on controversy. There are the same two (or more) ways to carry-on anything. It is God's way, or the way of the flesh.
It is difficult to avoid entirely expressions of the flesh in controversy, but should that stop us? It is difficult to keep the flesh out of anything that we undertake. Difficult to keep it out of business, yea, even worship? But shall we, for such reason, quit it all?
May not the desire to avoid controversy also be an expression of the flesh? Seems at least very suspicious, as the one whom the Spirit of inspiration urges us to follow—Paul, the apostle to the nations—who never refrained from controversy, but deliberately entered into it time and time again, and kept it up for years. It sounds so pious, so God-pleasing to avoid all arguments, but in order to do that we shall have to part from Paul, instead of following him.
Of course, very few, if any, objects to having the doctrines of other sects refuted, but when it comes to "our doctrine"—oh, that's different. Can it be that this aversion to controversy is partly because the flesh cannot stand having any of our doctrines reflected on, because it brings them into the class of the questionable? We must maintain that we are right. We must not doubt it ourselves, and we must not permit anyone else to express doubts about it.
Or may it not be that we feel that our doctrines (at least, some of them) are so delicately balanced that we fear that they will topple?
E. A. L. Last updated 9.10.2008