Once I found myself on a trip, sitting between two pastors. The driver was Calvinist, the other Arminian, and for three hours they hotly debated God’s sovereign will vs. the sovereignty of human choice. They both had good arguments and backed them up with Scripture. But by the end of the trip they weren’t talking to each other. I felt sad and believe God did too.
“Wait a minute,” you say. “That’s just healthy debate!” No, these kind of debates have been dividing the church for centuries, delighting the devil and grieving God’s Spirit. You reply, ”Now you’ve gone too far! How can you say this grieves the Spirit?” I answer “Because the Word of God says so. Read it for yourself.” Do not use harmful speech, but only say what is helpful to others that you might build them up and give them grace, so as not to grieve God’s Holy Spirit.” (Eph 4: 29-30, Our Translation). The Greek word “harmful” (sapros), means corruption. In the church we are constantly urged not to get into these kind of arguments because they corrupt relationships. What’s so sad is the Bible teaches that there is no higher doctrine than the greatest commandment which stresses our right relationships—with God, our neighbor and our fellow believers. (John 13: 34; Matthew 22: 37-38).
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words are even worse. Are you still thinking arguments of this type are not the devil’s work? Consider these words of the apostle: The tongue is a fire, a world of evil…It sets on fire our entire being with the fire that comes from hell itself. (James 3:6, Our Translation)
But Who is Right? Arminius or Calvin? They both are, but if we fight about it, we are both wrong. “OK, so we should just get along. But how can two opposite things both be true?” And I say, it’s true everywhere: in science, philosophy and especially the Word of God.
The Unity of Opposites: The Greeks figured it out in the 6th century B.C. Two opposite things can depend on one another and create a dynamic tension between them. (Heraclitus) “Up” makes no sense without “down”; finite has little meaning without infinite. In physics, the classic example is the debate between wave theorists and quantum mechanics. One proves light is a wave, the other can prove it’s particles. Since both have empirical evidence, scientists now accept both are true. This shouldn’t surprise us since we believe God is one in three persons.
The Power is in the Middle. A practical example of this principle is the dynamo which is simply two coils, north (positive) and south (negative), placed opposite each other, causing a rotor in the middle to spin, inducing a powerful magnetic field, hence the unity of opposites. Only when the two are in tension with each other is power generated.
Truth is a Double Edged Sword. This principle applies to truth in every sphere because it originated in the mind of God. In the Bible we often find two ideas that seem to contradict each other. James emphasized doing God’s works as evidence of our faith, Paul (and Hebrews) teach us that doing God’s work is impossible without faith. Both are right. If we tip the balance in favor of one over the other, we dull the sword of truth’s two edges.
Disagree, but Be in Agreement. When we quarrel over doctrines we fall into the devil’s trap, His main strategy is to divide and conquer (It’s working pretty well, isn’t it?) The triune God is in harmony with Himself, He loves, expects and rewards our unity. (Eph. 4: 2,3; John 17: 21-22) He wants us to find unity in our diversity, to blend and complement each other with our diverse perspectives. Let’s be that one body with many different members, disagreeing sometimes, but maintaining our agreement. The first church derived its power in great part to this quality of being “in one accord.” When God’s kids fight, we miss out on the Father’s blessing and the world’s recognition as belonging to Him. (John 13: 34,35)
OUR NEXT POST WILL BE “HOW TO MAKE THE DEVIL MAD.” Please join the conversation.