Have you had a political discussion with anyone lately? Was it a discussion of differing viewpoints and disagreement? If so, you have probably witnessed and even participated in one of the most futile activities in human history. Ok, maybe that is a dramatic assessment. But it is safe to say that most enter such discussions with their viewpoint anchored in concrete and nothing short of dynamite could lose them from their starting point.
This personal steadfastness on political issues does not affect me much. I rarely discuss politics. So admittedly, I am ok with varying opinions and can even see the value of ideas that are different from my own.
My realm, my work, and my primary interest is spiritual, Bible-based discussions. We should engage these discussions with a genuine concern for truth and never compromise that which has been proven to be sound doctrine. Once we have tested the spirits (1 John 4:1) and examined everything carefully, we should hold fast to what is proven good (1 Thess. 5:21). Why? Because the Bible is right. Because truth is absolute. Because life depends on it.
Consequently, I find religious disagreements much more difficult to handle. If truth is unchanging and I have found it, why would I give ground, allow discussion, or even rethink my convictions due to the viewpoint, studied opinions, or conclusions of someone else? As a defender of truth, my natural inclination would be to shut down any attempt at alteration. In holding fast to what is good, my response to a dissenting opinion would be to silence the one sharing it or to influence anyone listening to give it no weight. With great force, volume, and aggression I might crush the teaching and teacher in one fail swoop, so as to stop their mouths (Titus 1:11) once and for all.
After this defense of my convictions, if I were to look back with sincere honesty, what I might see is this: I had acted about religious disagreements the same way some act about political disagreements and the results were just as similar. No minds were changed. No progress was made. No evidence offered was considered. I might feel the satisfaction of having defended my ground, but religious discussion is not about me. It is about transformation and conversion.
In some cases, we do not spend enough time testing the spirits and examining everything carefully. This process might take longer than we had first assumed, and it might need to be done again and again as we wrestle with the deeper matters of Scripture. A brother or sister can bring a legitimate question from the Biblical text or an honest conclusion based on personal study only to be ridiculed and rejected on sight with little to no “testing” or “examining” at all.
Maybe I could offer a few additional observations that might encourage us to spend more time testing and examining before we determine a position to be wrong and a person to be worthy of condemnation.
- What if I am wrong? Just because the Bible is always right doesn’t mean that we, as Bible students, always are. Have you ever been wrong about anything? Could you ever be wrong about anything again?
- Truth can handle scrutiny. Any Bible doctrine is durable enough to withstand questions, reexamination, and verification.
- Courtesy and honesty are owed to all men, even those who believe and teach differently from me. Believing in a representative indwelling of the Holy Spirit does not make one a deist and believing in the literal indwelling does not make one a Pentecostal. We should focus more on what is being taught and less on who else is teaching something similar to that.
- We should spend more time studying to understand the text or passage being discussed and less time predicting the implications of someone’s conclusion. Truth will not lead to false doctrine. Properly understanding the text will preclude one from forming unbiblical conclusions.
Dear readers, let us hunger and thirst for righteousness, seek to defend truth, and love the brotherhood. All of these can be done and should be done simultaneously.
– Wayne Jones