Author(s)Lee Gatiss
Date 23 March 2016

When it comes to religious or theological debates, it is so easy to get bogged down in endless arguments. Neither side wants to give way to the other, for the sake of truth. And if we care about truth, it is of course right to be concerned for that.

However, we do not have to be pigheaded in the way that we defend truth. Just as it is possible to be gentle without rolling over with a “Well, if you say so then.” Or as Augustus Toplady once said, “it is not necessary to be timid in order to be meek.”

Here’s what the official sermons of the Church of England say about that…

“Let us so read the scripture that by reading it we may be made better livers, rather than more contentious disputers. If anything is necessary to be taught, reasoned, or disputed, let us do it with all meekness, softness, and gentleness. If anything happens to be spoken disagreeably, let one bear another’s frailty. Let those who are at fault rather amend than defend that which they have spoken amiss, lest they fall by contention from a foolish error into an obstinate heresy. For it is better, to give way meekly than to win the victory with a breach of charity — which is what happens when everyone defends their opinion obstinately.

If we are Christians, why do we not follow Christ, who says, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart” (Matthew 11:29)? A disciple must learn the lesson of his schoolmaster, and a servant must obey the commandment of his master. “Who is wise and understanding among you?” asks St James, “By their good conduct let them show their works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3;13-17). But the wisdom from above, from the Spirit of God, is chaste and pure, corrupted with no evil affections; it is quiet, meek, and peaceable, abhorring all desire for contention; it is amenable, obedient, not grudging to learn and to give way to those that teach better for their reformation.

For there shall never be an end of striving and contention if we contend who in contention shall be master and have the upper-hand. We shall heap error upon error if we continue obstinately to defend that which was spoken unadvisedly. For it is certainly true that stiffness in maintaining an opinion breeds contention, braw|ing, and chiding which, along with other vices, is most pernicious and pestilent to common peace and quietness.”