Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dealing with Doctrinal Disagreement

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

How should we deal with those who disagree with us on doctrinal issues? We are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and to approach the situation with courage and caution (Jude 22,23). To do this, we must proclaim God's truth (1 Peter 3:15) and correct error (2 Timothy 2:24-26), but do so with a spirit of gentleness. This means our goal in correcting needs to be to help bring them to the truth, not simply to win an argument or drive them away.  It is easy to let pride get involved (Proverbs 16:18) and to become concerned with our ego rather than convincing the other person.  Now I am convinced that only God can bring people to Himself (John 6:44), and if the person involved is an unbeliever, they will not understand unless God works to enlighten them (1 Corinthians 2:14). But we are obligated to do our part in a Biblical manner (Colossians 4:6). We have a special obligation if a person claims to be a believer (Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12-13), and if they do not repent we are required to exercise church discipline (Romans 16:17-20; 2 John 10,11).  But Scripture does prescribe a process for dealing with sin, and this should not be bypassed (Matthew 18:15-17).  We should not compromise truth to reach people, but we also should not just give up on people without trying to reach them.

But the question then arises:  What are the boundaries, and what is worth dividing over?  That there are things to contend for is clear from Scripture (Jude 3). But we must realize our knowledge is imperfect (1 Corinthians 3:18), and while we are to diligently pursuit all Biblical truth (2 Timothy 3:16,17; 2:15), there are particular issues we need to uphold. There are certain things put forth by Scripture as fundamental, and these must be defended: the nature of God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5), the nature of Christ and of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4), the sinfulness of man (1 John 1:8-10), the nature of the gospel (Galatians 1:8,9), the truth of Scripture (John 17:17), and the Second Coming (1 John 3:2,3). I am not claiming this is an absolutely comprehensive list, but I am convinced that many of the things we fight over are not on it. Therefore, there may be places where it is best to agree to disagree, if the issues are not crucial.

If we are to correct people in these crucial areas, we need a knowledge of what Scripture teaches regarding them. Those who are immature may want to bring in someone more knowledgeable to help. But it should be our goal to be mature and able to respond to people ourselves (Hebrews 5:11-14).  Also, experience in dealing with those who hold false doctrine is helpful. You talk to somebody and then go back and study the issues and are better prepared next time. But most of all, we need to trust God for wisdom to be able to deal with the situation (James 1:5-7).

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