The Damage Done By the Dogmatism of Controversies

I’ve just finished reading Alexander Strauch’s new book, If You Bite & Devour One Another, and I was absolutely blown away by this quote from Iain Murray:

At the same time it is essential to recognize . . . that differences of understanding among Christians are never to be allowed to transcend the truth which makes them one in Christ. God would use our defective understandings and mistakes to humble us and to make us the more diligent in seeking to know the truth. The devil would use the same weakness to alienate believers from one another and to destroy Christian love and sympathy. . . . He would have issues not foundational to salvation so elevated in importance that the larger Christian unity disappears and contention threatens to ‘destroy the work of God’ (Rom. 14:20). This ploy Satan used with effect at the time of the Reformation and again in teh Puritan period, for it is not Laodiceans [Rev. 3:14-22] but those with the strongest attachment to Scripture who are most likely to be tempted this way. From the harm done by the dogmatism of controversies over secondary issues the devil them tempts other Christians, who observe it, to abandon contending for the faith altogether.

The best remedy then for divisions among Christians is for all to put first the living and teaching of the gospel. . . . When Christ is put first, when making disciples of all nations is the first priority, division is far more likely to occur where it should occur, between believers and the world.

Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950-2000, 309-310 (as quoted in If You Bite & Devour One Another, 142-143)

 This should give us much to consider as we read it. How do we react in debates over secondary issues? Are we characterized as being “quick to hear, slow to speak, [and] slow to anger” (James 1:19)—are we patient in how we respond to “family” debates or do we risk crossing the line of humble contention into divisiveness and quarrelsome attitudes?

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  • http://www.blamelewis.com Chris Lovie-Tyler

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: how we can be part of encouraging unity in The Church, rather than destroying it (by constant, distracting arguments). The problem is, there is dispute even over what are primary and secondary issues.

    I think we need to get back to Christ, and faith in him, being absolutely central. He is he head of his Church—and our common ground. Anything that distracts away from him, and causes disunity as a result, is a problem. I’m sure someone will disagree with me on this, though. ;-)

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