Friday, August 14, 2009

Correcting Opponents Gently

2 Tim. 2:24-26 (ESV)
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, [25] correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, [26] and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Quite frankly, I think this is my worst weakness, being quarrelsome. Not that I don’t want to be kind to everyone, but it is like I am hardwired for debate. Quite honestly, I like it I think too much. But it is not always helpful. I don’t always correct gently. The goal should always be repentance, leading to a knowledge of truth. That is normally my goal. But I don’t always proceed in a tact that would bring one there. Perhaps growth and maturity will help a bit there.
Though, I do think this has more to do with those inside a congregation already, than those outside. I say this because Paul is giving Timothy pastoral advice. Pastors can learn from this. Sometimes we all like to debate too much, and when we are debating with people who ought to know better, other pastors, it can be frustrating. We need to check that frustration when dealing with those in your congregation who may just have honest questions.


Anonymous said...


I feel your pain on this one, though from a layman’s perspective. I’m particularly a quick draw on folks I know who are pietist. I think I’m that way in public discussions because I know there is somebody else listening/reading in on the debate who is silently suffering under a fiery trial of “am I saved” and too scared or timid to take the pietist to task because they are doubting. That drives me most of the time. Because that has been me before; sure and certain I was “not saved, not really baptized, reprobate, not born again”, and you become so fearful of revealing your struggles to the pietist, who you don’t perceive as pietist when you are the weak and humble but great Christian you wish you could be like.

That’s often where my heat comes from. In a way piestist like a passive opponent in order to back them down and edge out the Gospel. It ALWAYS comes in the accusatory form of “well that’s not loving”. And I admit it is very tempting to back down because I feel my heart to never be pure on this point, so the accusation is half accurate. BUT then I detect that really the Gospel is being edged out by such false accusations. To me the unloving thing is to back off the Gospel and not press it.

One thing about Luther was how sure and strongly he spoke of the Gospel. I use to read him and think, “Man that was strong”. But my timid “back down to the pietist” charge would say, “Maybe he ought to tone it down.” However, I thank God that he never did because the forceful surety he spoke with made me realize he was speaking and standing on the truth, and it pulled me out of the dark hell hole I was in.

Too many so called “you are not being loving” accusations simply are used to avoid the Cross and true healing. And if you hang around long enough after it is allowed to take over the conversation, X paragraphs down the discussion trail, we are all talking about what we do as Christian and Christ is nothing more than an occasional tag line thrown in to give it credibility.

My dad was a marine and he doesn’t have what many today would call a “soft side” at all in him. Yet, if I were in trouble him and his type are who I’d want in a foxhole with me, they’d die for me. Opposite of this is the “love hippy”, he wants to be your friend and speak in “loving tones” – he is easier to be around, nicer in tone, and he will get you killed. The same applies to doctrine and theology. Theological and doctrinal “love turtles” will never pull a man out of the hell of the devil’s deception, in fact they will ignorantly aid the devil. It takes a Luther with real Gospel weapons to save you.

I don’t know if that helps but for what it is worth,


Steve Martin said...

Alright... who is this and what have you done with Pastor Bror Erickson!

Bror Erickson said...

Don't worry Steve, I'm still around, just wrestling a bit with my darker side.

Nancy said...

Ahh, yes, wrestling with our darker side is important from time to time. It is called growing...If growing older is the only change that occurs over ones lifetime, as Christians and humans in general...we are useless to society...and society would do well to adopt the BO health initiative...

Brigitte said...

While you are wrestling, remember we love you for your earnest and right zeal.

Anonymous said...

Let me offer three more items:

My internet is down until Tuesday at least so I have limited access.

1. I think in part is Luther's advice to Phillip, "sin boldly but believe all the more boldly."

2. A proverb I just read this weekend has a verse or two in it, cannot recall at the moment that speaks to this as well. It says if you rebuke a scoffer he will be angry with you but if you rebuke a righteous person he will listen. So sometimes its difficult, “am I talking with a believer struggling with a doctrine truly”, in which gentleness is truly called for. OR am I talking with a scoffer that is pretending to be interested but is rather setting up his/her scoffing battleline?


Anonymous said...

3. I could not help but notice this weekend watching some of the news and the latest debates on healthcare between the two sides. Not so much the content but the principles in play. The right, as you may well know, is being vocal while the left is attempting to shut any dialog down. What I notice was HOW they were doing it. A lot of terms are like “nazi” and such are being used by the right, and they are accurate descriptions. Yet the left wants to “make the debate civil”, so it is always crying foul for what it perceives to be “inflammatory” language. This why I say a LOT of deadly, false teaching comes in under the cloak of nice smiles and so called love talk. Because this same dynamic of “debate” by truth and falsehood goes on in the theological and doctrinal arena. The falsehood ALWAYS appeals to “love talk” when the truth is exposing its seedy underbelly and lie. It pretends to love but really is deadly and murderous! The truth is generally forth right and calls a thing what it is and if the naming of such a thing sounds “unnecessarily rough” or “inflammatory”, then so be it. Falsehood always, then, cries foul! Take Peter for example attempting to “help Jesus out” by saying, “may it never be Lord”, concerning his Cross. Jesus saw that for what it was, the devil, and called Peter Satan! What worse could you name someone indeed! Falsehood would attempt to then “rebuke” Jesus and say, “That’s not very loving.” Of course falsehood is attempting to murder. In the theological the issue is souls and eternal life, it’s a very very real war, THE war of all time. The OT shadows of Israel utterly conquering other nations at Yaweh’s command, with ZERO tolerance for falsehood and idolatry against His Word - these prefigure the very real battle of the Gospel itself. How it MUST remain PURE and true and MUST of necessity destroy and be an utter polemic against all other concepts. Because we as individuals do not in any sense naturally believe the truth but rather our “gravity” is toward the devil and works righteousness in ALL kinds of forms. That’s why for example when I teach our kids, very young at this point, about baptism and we have a LOT of family in the SB ministry, I pull no punches and call believers baptism what it is, false doctrine. Because I know it will challenge their own faith in their baptisms, in fact it will say to them “you are not baptized” (hath God really said). That’s just one example. Would I prefer with all my heart that all Baptist move away from this false doctrine and into the truth, SURE, ABSOLUTELY. And at the same time I would prefer that the false doctrine of believers baptism would be stricken from all minds and history forever.

This is why I don’t think Luther was being “hyperbolic” as most think he was being when he said things that sounded fiery.

Don’t let them get to you! There is likely always some struggling Christian listening in on or silently reading a debate needing a pure Word to pull them out of hell. And the slightest “maybe the other side is right too” will cause them to doubt the truth coming from the other side. When the truth says, “Well I see what you are saying”, it becomes doubt for the one suffering. It is like when I was in our last PCA WCF confessing church and they allowed Baptist to become members with unbaptized children. It makes you doubt or lower baptism thus, “Well leadership seems to think this is ok as is evidenced by their actions to allow them membership and communion…therefore baptism of an infant must be a small thing or optional thing…and thus, ergo, therefore, my own baptism must be equally not such a big deal.” Then where will you be when the devil tempts you to ask of yourself, “Are you REALLY saved, reborn, elect, converted.” Having disarmed the sacrament where then will you go. See the battle is really LIFE and DEATH.



Brigitte said...

Larry, you may or may not recall, I have defended your right to say tough things boldly and not pussy-foot and bend in the name of "niceness" on the Old Adam before, to the fellow Edmontonian with the same last name as mine (Josh).

But there are different kinds of situations, needing different kinds of responses with different kinds of people on different kinds of topics, with different tones. Always, always, always, always, listen carefully first and take a deep breath and a heart-felt prayer first. I don't want to be a hypocrite. I am not know as the most diplomatic woman of all and can be a little too sassy and forward, I think (or know). But just because "niceness" becomes a club when abused, "love" and therefore "niceness" is still where we want to be, whenever possible. This is how we are to be different in may situations.

Remember it is the message itself that has power, not the vehemence or many words. Also, none of us, NONE of us, let me repeat, are Luther, nor do we live in his times. And I for one, though I am as big a fan as can be found, am heartily sorry for some things he said (only very few) :).

Meanwhile, Larry, you have made your way into my prayers somehow. I hope your stand with your relative goes well. You are, of course, totally right.

Anonymous said...


I appreciate your kind words and prayer. And I don't disagree with what you said, if you'll notice I distinguished that in what I said when I:

"A proverb I just read this weekend has a verse or two in it, cannot recall at the moment that speaks to this as well. It says if you rebuke a scoffer he will be angry with you but if you rebuke a righteous person he will listen. So sometimes its difficult, “am I talking with a believer struggling with a doctrine truly”, in which gentleness is truly called for. OR am I talking with a scoffer that is pretending to be interested but is rather setting up his/her scoffing battleline?"

Here's the thing, typically a person needing the soft touch, if you will, WON'T use the "love talk" against you and neither will someone honestly debating you. However, the false teacher backed into a corner will. You will note that the “love talk” defense is similar to the same defense many political groups use to disarm any real discussion. They will say, “you are intolerant”, assuming you are just being mean. They’ve changed the idea of intolerance and hate to mean anything that says the truth is the truth, and thereby changed the idea of love into something akin to all things are true – which is really hateful and not loving at all.

I tend to follow Luther's advice on this, faith always draws the sword and never gives in, but love always gives in and draws no sword.

Keep in mind that true love, agape godly love is not primarily the affections! But rather an act of the will! John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” does not end in an empty emotional display that does nothing for it continues, “…that He GAVE His only begotten Son…”.

To the honest heart truly stricken by the Law if you ask in ANY given situation, a heated debate or friendly moment, “is your heart now unloving”, they will reply, “Yes”. Because God’s words are right words and judge rightly and thus he/she confesses.

This is akin to what Luther called one of the most fiery anfechtung moments when the devil would come to him, Luther, and say, “Do you alone know.” IMAGINE the weight of that on Luther.

More deception from Satan comes under smiles and so called good will and so called love than by any other means. You must never forget the weakest conscience is harmed most by this! And that’s where the defense line is drawn. When a Baptist says to me in the presence of my children in a scoffing laughing tone, “I guess you had your children sprinkled”, I am duty bound by the Word of God to rebuke that in the harshest of ways…to even call it Satan, because it is. Recall that Paul said in Galatians of Ishmael’s laughter toward Isaac that it was persecution, Paul meant it. He or she who is stronger in the Word at any given moment is duty bound to defend he or she who is weaker. I would not give the right hand of fellowship to that person in that situation.



Brigitte said...

Thanks Larry. Well enough said. I read something in Luther the other day: your enemy you should love, but the heretic you should hate.

Brigitte said...

I have since cooked a supper and walked the dog, and I've been wondering about the "heretic" bit. Maybe we should have a post about it somewhere. Looked in the "What Luther says" and there are a few different kinds of things there. No time right now.

Anonymous said...

I think that would be a good post Bridgitte. Because in our day and age we meaning the church in its widest possible sense (ortho and heterodoxy) recognized the secular culture's "the truth is relative" but fails to recognize its own internal version of the same thing. A kind of "Christian" named ring drawn around a "Christianized the truth is relative within the ring of Christian".

One thing to look into is is the issue of the Lord's Supper and Marburg. Everyone wants to revisit that and attempt to connect doctrinal differences there, when in fact Marburg once and for answered the question. That's why Luther did what he did. The question is this, "Why do some, mainly Luther and Lutherans, see this as an essential doctrine and Zwingli and other not?"


Anonymous said...


You’ve gotten me to thinking about this. The more I read of heretics of old, they never perceive themselves as “heretics” (e.g. Zwingli and Bucer, and Calvin by extension of the same heresy). I believe that no one person believes “they” are the heretic. Nobody says, “Hey I think I’ll espouse heresy”. But believes “in their hear” and mind they are of the orthodoxy.

Even a complete atheist. When I was an atheist I never though, “Hey, I’ll cook up this false reality in open war against God”. I thought I was right. Every cultist I’ve run into thinks the same way, e.g. Mormons.

That’s one thought.