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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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The Controversial Spirit

Many a person who declines controversy over the truth of Christianity has renounced his confidence in the truth; that truth which is like a torch in that – the more it shakes, the more it shines. Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) writes:

Are there then to be no limits set to the controversial spirit? Assuredly there are. These limits are, however, not to be sought in motives of convenience or prudence. Christianity thrives on controversy, and exists only by virtue of it—it is in the world to reason the world into acceptance of itself, and it would surely be vain to expect the world to take its reasoning without reply. “It is the native property of the divine word,” says Calvin, rather “never to make its appearance without disturbing Satan, and rousing his opposition. This is the most certain and unequivocal criterion by which it is distinguished from false doctrines, which are easily broached since they are heard with general attention and received with the applause of the world.” “If the presence of controversy,” therefore, adds Vinet, “is not in itself the criterion of the truth of a doctrine, a doctrine which arouses no contradiction lacks one of the marks of truth.” And surely subjective motives cannot exonerate us from bearing our witness to the truth. Indeed it may be fairly argued that even subjective considerations would rather bid us advance valiantly to the defense of the truth, if it be at all the case as Dr. Hort tells us it is, that “smooth ways” in this sphere too “are like smooth ways of action … truth is never reached or held fast without friction and grappling.” And surely we will give quick assent to the same writer’s dictum that “there are other and better kinds of victory than those that issue in imperial calm.” Even a certain amount of heat in controversy may thus find its justification—in the consideration, to wit, that it is not merely the chill logical intellect which may well be enlisted in this war. The poet’s line, “And God’s calm will was their burning will,” is no libel on the spirit of God’s true martyrs and saints. (“Christianity: The Truth”)

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