A Tempered View of Controversy
Working at CBMW I have been exposed to a fair bit of polemics – whether it be about women in ministry, the Trinity, or the meaning of certain terms in Scripture (like headship, authority, submission ,etc). It is easy for one to get caught up in controversy. Its energizing. It puts purpose behind your efforts. As a Christian, I can be thankful for historical controversies. Our faith and understanding of Christ is furthered because of efforts of men who have thought deeply in order to guard against heresies.
But controversy can be consuming.
- It can divert our attention away from feeding our souls on the more necessary things. I do not want to diminish the importance of theological controversies. I am thankful that men devoted their lives to defend the Trinity, justification, or the divinity of Christ. Yet, many of these men kept the Gospel at the center. They did not let controversy divert their attention away from their own increase in holiness, letting the love of Christ improve upon their hearts and lives. We must be careful that our attention to controversies are fueled by the loved of Christ and the preservation of the Gospel.
- Controversy has a tendency to fuel pride and the desire to be right. The more we invest into whatever controversy we are involved in the more we have to lose. Corrupt desires to be right can cause us to be dishonest in our writings, with others, and even with ourselves.
- We must guard against the tendency to lose our desire to love our brothers and sisters in the midst of controversy. Dysfunctional desires to win arguments can cause us to misrepresent our opponents, create straw arguments, or paint opponents in an unfavorable light.
These are lamentable fruits of evil desires and contrary to the Gospel. Keeping the fruits of the Spirt in mind when amidst controversy is helpful. Ask questions like:
- Am I acting with self-control? Is something other than a redeemed heart and affections controlling my words and temper?
- Do I desire to be right to such an extent that I am willing to put down or, even, hate others?
- Am I patient with others, even when they are not with me?
- Do I desire to continue in controversy more than I desire peace?
As Christians, we should be faithful to the Gospel and defend it whenever there is compromise. We should be firm, steadfast, and courageous. Yet, these are not contrary to the fruit of a redeemed heart.