Vol. 23 New Series October, 1961 No. 5


However much some people may dislike it, there is no escape from the fact that all search for truth is controversial.  The reason for this is simple: once some truth is revealed some untruth is unmasked for what it is; and those who prefer the untruth resent the unmasking. That is only to be expected, on account of the weakness of our mortality. And their offence is not so blameworthy for their resentment as for their preference which is the occasion of it.

Consequently, those who dislike controversy are in reality at bottom people who dislike truth—not that they dislike all truths, but only those truths that make them uncomfortable. Such dislike, and corresponding discomfort, may be due to several causes. A truth may disturb some settled conviction; so that the sufferer has to start thinking again and to embark on a toilsome re-examination of ideas which he has accepted as certain for so long a time that any disturbance of them is bound to be most upsetting. With others, a newly encountered truth may prick the conscience by exposing some comfortably accepted sin. This, too, may be felt to be very vexatious on account of the discomfort of inward strife induced by it.

Yet neither of these will compare in exasperatingness with the revelation of a truth that offends the pride or self-esteem of a certain sort of expositor or would-be leader of a church. Such a revelation is regarded as unpardonable and is always rejected with great bitterness.

Recently a fairly well-known expositor was confronted by a printed article propounding a teaching of which he did not approve. His reaction was quite definite. He made it clear that he declined to quote the article or attempt to refute it point by point, as that amounted to filling the pages of his magazine with arguments for self-justification, though he did not explain why that should be the case. Evidently he had failed altogether to realise how completely he was-exposing his own hidden motives by dragging in the idea of self-justification. Only too evident is it that what was hurting him was not so much that the teaching he was resisting was, "in his view", unscriptural; but that to answer it adequately would involve justifying himself rather than the Word of God. The idea never seems to have dawned on him that criticism of some particular line of teaching should never call for the teacher trying to justify himself in reply, that is, if it is God's Word he is expounding and not the traditions of others or his own opinions. He very properly declined to stoop to such a thing, but he ought never have regarded himself as required to do so.

When a person has had the misfortune to discover that he has been teaching something unscriptural, defending himself ought to be the very last notion to enter his mind, either directly or indirectly. The one valid consideration for him should be to rectify what is wrong. If he seeks to do this fully and candidly, his self-justification automatically comes about; for by his works he has proved that his faith in God's Word is genuine.

All this comes down to one's own inner motives. If they are the glorification of oneself as a leading expositor or teacher, then anything humiliating one's self-sufficiency is resented, any fellow-Christian who puts it forward is hated as the cause of that resentment, for pride is hurt. But if the inner motive is glorification of God, then anything that brings further light on His Word, or even that exposes our own shortcomings in approaching it, must be hailed with unstinted joy as further insight into the wonder and splendour of God's revelation.

Everyone who tries to search into God's Word and publish his findings is liable to be subjected to the temptation to think he is indispensable. In a sense this is true by reason of the very fact that God has chosen him for the task; yet it should not imply, or be taken to imply, that God would not if necessary choose someone else instead for it. At best we are no more than vessels of His making; and we should always bear this in mind, and remember that we ought to regard the work as His, not ours; and that if He could not work on earth with the wretchedest tools, He would achieve nothing at all.

These considerations raise once again the whole question of how we are to make a stand for God's truth, and even whether we ought to do so at all. From the challenge not long ago offered by one correspondent, it is plain that in his opinion we ought not. He even quoted Rotherham's version of Ga1. 5:26: "Let us not become vain-glorious—one another challenging, one another envying." At first it seemed strange that he ignored the 1930 Concordant Version, but examination soon revealed a possible explanation; for its Concordance definition of prokaleomai, rendered challenge in the version, is not "challenge outright," but "call forward, so as to challenge." This means provoke, which is undoubtedly the correct rendering. To the Greek work kakoO the C.V. gives "ill-treat, provoke"; but out of the six occurrences of the word, only once, in Acts 14:2, does it use provoke, and even then irritate would better convey the sense. So the correct rendering of Gal. 5:26 should be: "We should not be becoming vain-glorious, provoking one another, envying one another." This alters the position completely. The fault lies with the one who provokes another, not the one who challenges the wrongdoer to justify his provocative act.

This theme is illustrated by referring to the quotation at the bottom of p.56 of our April, 1956 issue: " Romans records the great truth that God's attitude towards the nations has changed since Israel refuses to convey His blessing to them." Nowhere in Romans is there any visible support for this assertion. Is it, then, so very wrong to demand a proof from the influential teacher who made it? If so, why? Why should it be wrong to follow the example of the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and, on failing to find that" these things be so," to call for some explanation? And why should it be right for the influential teacher to ignore such a request and for his friends to object to it. No doubt, the objector would be deeply hurt at the suggestion that he prefers the opinion of his chosen teacher to God's holy Word; but that is exactly the position.

Yet we must not be too ready to condemn, for few of us are guiltless in this respect. The teaching quoted above has been extant for over thirty years; yet apparently nobody had noticed anything wrong before, or, if any had, bothered to comment on it publicly. That fact stands to the discredit of us all, and it divides us into those who are determined to go on following the teacher who made the pronouncement but lacks the courage to attempt to justify it, and the Bereans among us. What is going to condemn is not past blindness, but present refusal to face honest criticism.

So we come to the question: "What should we do?" What we ought to be able to do would be to discuss all such matters frankly and openly and fairly; but unless there is a pretty general change of heart among us, this will never be possible. It simply is not practicable to carry on such a discussion with people who are out to support their pet theories at almost any cost rather than to discover the truth about them.

The Differentiator endeavours to set out facts from Scripture, simply, plainly and logically. Some friends have responded splendidly; but outside there remain several prominent teachers who will neither accept what is brought to their notice, nor discuss it openly, nor refute it point by point. By their attitude it is easy to see what is in their minds. It is, in effect: "I am unable to answer these' fellows, but I intend to stick to my opinions, all the same."

Ought we, then, to take the line that we should not be too hard on such men, for they are doing their best? But is it in any sense right to hold that men who simply will not face objections from Scripture to their published teaching are doing their best? Surely it is far more truthful to claim that by such conduct they are doing their best to destroy the faith of their followers, not to build it up? Those who insist that we should not be too hard on such people are unwittingly follow ing a course which more than anything else is the basis of all our weaknesses and all our troubles, feeble appeasement.

May I here intrude my personal experience? I was brought up in the Church of England (the Episcopal Church). When I was a child it was still predominantly Protestant, though the truth had been losing ground for many years even then. Now very few real Protestants remain in it, and these are weak, scattered and often deplorably ignorant. Why is this? Simply the attitude of appeasement by their leaders over the years. For much of my life I have been hearing that appeal as, bit by bit, vital ground has been surrendered. The shepherds have not only let their flocks stray; they have strayed themselves. So the position is, humanly speaking, beyond remedy. We have now to face the fact that we are in the days of II Timothy 3 and 4. We simply CANNOT afford to surrender the truth of God. In times not far back, many thought that we could without serious loss; and the result is our present plight. Yet, now, as then, if ever anyone seeks to follow the precept of the Apostle Paul in II Tim. 3:5; 4:1-4; Tit. 1:13; 2:1, there is always someone else to raise the cry that such forthrightness is unchristian.

Certain leading men have shown plainly that they are among the number of those who will not endure sound doctrine. Their fault is not that they are wrong in some matters, but that they simply will not even consider objections to their published teaching, however courteously these may be presented.

Modernists and so-called Catholics never attempt to appease us. A story appeared some time ago of the church leader of the early Nineteenth Century, Dr. Pusey, leaving a meeting because of the arrival of a Dissenting Minister. Such men do at least believe their creed so intensely that all other considerations, even good manners, come second for them. That is abominable; but do we not go too far the other way? Few of us do anything at all by way of protest against evil. The plain truth is: for a century or more our leaders have not been men, but jellyfish. We are supposed to be wrestling against spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials, not conducting a mutual admiration society, nor a schoolboy pillow-fight, nor a "battle of flowers." We simply must not appease, any more than Paul did, even if this means standing alone.

Let us all take stock regarding this matter and ask our-selves what we stand for and are seeking to accomplish. Are you committed to some chosen leader, come what may? If so, you belong to a sect, and in the long run must be judged accordingly. Or do you want the truth of God?


Last updated 22.10.2008