Disagreeing as Brothers Not Enemies (Part 3)
So far in our walkthrough of Dr Roger Nicole’s Polemic Theology, we have considered the first of Dr Nicole’s questions, namely, What Do I Owe The Person Who Differs from Me? and made a start on the second, which is, What Can I Learn from Those Who Differ From Me?
Pressing on, we continue with that second question, looking at two further things involved in learning from those who differ from us:
3. What are the dangers? Part of the trouble we face in disagreement with one another is that we truly believe our views are beyond error. There couldn’t possibly be dangers to our own view which a disagreement with others could expose. Dr Nicole writes:
I may learn from those who differ from me that I have not sufficiently perceived certain dangers to which my view is exposed and against which I need to be especially on guard. I may find out notably that there are certain weighty objections to which I had not given sufficient attention heretofore. Here again, I must be grateful for a signal service rendered by the objector. Instead of being irked by the opposition, I should rise to the challenge of presenting my view with appropriate safeguards and in such a way as to anticipate objections that are likely to arise.
Part of the point of dialogue is to perform the function of a whetstone. If you’ve ever done any serious work in a kitchen (guys, I don’t mean making a sandwich), you know that knives can lose their edge when you use them over and over. To keep a knife sharp, you do something like this:
Now imagine doing that with human beings and not with knives – that’s what disagreeing with people ought to do! That’s a painful process but that painful process only serves to make the knife more sharp. So the next time your paedobaptist brother makes that point you can’t immediately answer, consider it a “whetstone opportunity” – a chance to go away, find the answers from God’s Word and grow it in your new-found knowledge. Remember – our aim is not to “win” but to fulfil what the Bible says:
Proverbs 27:17 HCSB Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
4. What about ambiguities? In other words, what about what I am saying will bring up questions from my opposition (for lack of a better term)? A master at this can be seen in the Apostle Paul in Romans. Paul is simply fantastic at anticipating potential objections based on what has been said and answering them head-on. Now, hear me – this is not the idea of putting words in people’s mouths and saying that is what they meant. That’s rude and un-Christlike – even Jesus knew what the Pharisees were saying and said it verbatim. What we are saying is that as we speak, we need to be conscious of what may be legitimately mulling around in the minds of those who hear us – especially in matters where there is (despite the protestation of some) a level of ambiguity.
I simply love how Dr Nicole finishes up this section on what we can learn from those we disagree with:
When we give due attention to what we owe those who differ and what we can learn from them, we may be less inclined to proceed in a hostile manner. Our hand will not so readily contract into a boxing fist, but will be extended as an instrument of friendship and help; our feet will not be used to bludgeon another, but will bring us closer to those who stand afar; our tongue will not lash out in bitterness and sarcasm, but will speak words of wisdom, grace and healing (Prov. 10:20, 21; 13:14; 15:1; 24:26; 25:11; James 3).
In the next part of this series, we’ll begin considering how to cope with those we disagree with. Dr Nicole is going to lay out a feast of necessary truths for all Christians and especially for those who discuss sensitive issues over the Web. Hope you can tune in!