Friday, December 14, 2012

Living out the doctrines of grace we profess

I love how Dr. (and pastor) Tim Keller writes about the issue of controversy in a letter he wrote to the PCA General Assembly in June 2010. In particular, I appreciated this section where he refers to John Newton's approach:
In a classic letter by John Newton on controversy, he states that major theological controversy nearly always consists of two parts‐‐partly of a concern for truth, and partly of a concern for ‘self.’ He writes: “Whatever… makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self‐righteous spirit.” He argues that whenever contempt and superiority accompanies our arguments, it is a sign that, “the doctrines of grace” are not operating in our life “as mere notions and speculations” with “no salutary influence upon [our] conduct.” Finally, Newton delivers his most devastating blow:
Self‐righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature, and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify.”
Newton grounds his exhortation in texts such as 2 Timothy 2:24‐26. “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance…”

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