Saturday, 17 February 2007

Gentleness and Controversy

What does it mean to be gentle in debate and argument with others? I can't help thinking that there's a world of difference between gentleness in debate driven by insecurity and a need to gain people's approval, and the gentleness generated by the gospel. Surely, we must be gentle, not because we don't want to seem fundamentalist or harsh, but because the gospel itself is a message of God's gentleness to us. How can I be proud and self-righteous about my 'correct' doctrine when I was born with false doctrine in my heart? The Father's amazing gentleness to me - both at the cross and every day - must surely soften me to my opponents, though not to falsehood itself.

We need to beware a subtle spiritual pride in 'our battle for the gospel'...

“Let a man once engage in controversy and it is surprising how the love of it will grow upon him; and he will find a hare in every bush and follow it with something of a huntsman’s feelings.” (Charles Simeon, Evangelical Spirituality)

“A man may be forward to expose himself to the dislike of the world and even to provoke their displeasure out of pride. For it is the nature of spiritual pride to cause men to seek distinction and singularity; and so oftentimes to set themselves at war with those whom they call carnal, that they may be more highly exalted among their party.” (Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections)