Breeding quarrels

Theological disagreements are inevitable. It happens in every religion, and Christianity is no different in that regard. Fallen people will always find it hard to agree on everything. The question is, how do we handle such disagreements?

The Apostle Paul told Timothy that those who opposed him he must gently instruct (2 Timothy 2). And he knew a few things about theological arguments! Here’s how the Anglican Homilies talk about this, drawing on some of Paul’s own experience…

“This day (good Christian people) shall be declared to you the unprofitableness and shameful dishonesty of contention, strife, and debate; with the intent that when you see (as it were, in a scene painted before your eyes) the deformity of this most detestable vice which so tends towards evil, your stomachs may be moved to rise against it, and to detest and abhor that sin which is so much to be hated, and so pernicious and hurtful to all.

But among all kinds of contention, none is more hurtful than is contention in matters of religion. “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies,” says St. Paul, “you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone” (2 Timothy 2:23-24 ESV). In St. Paul’s time there was such contention and strife among the Corinthians, and is at this time, among us English. For there are too many people, in alehouses or other places, who delight to propound certain questions, not so much pertaining to edification as to vainglory and ostentation. And so un-soberly do they reason and dispute that when neither party will give place to the other they fall to chiding and contention, and sometimes from hot words to further inconvenience.

St. Paul could not abide to hear among the Corinthians these words of discord or dissension, “‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas’” (1 Corinthians 1:12). What would he then say if he heard these words of contention (which are now in almost everyone’s mouth), “He is a Pharisee; he is a gospeler; he is of the new sort; he is of the old faith; he is a new-broached brother; he is a good catholic father; he is a papist; he is a heretic.” Oh how the church is divided! Oh how the cities are cut and mangled! Oh how the coat of Christ, that was without seam, is all rent and torn!””

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