Friday, August 15, 2014

Let me not fight for God as if the devil were in me

James M. Kushiner is the Executive Editor of Touchstone. In a recent email to its readers his subject was how doctrinal disagreement is best handled:
.... Two hundred years ago, President of Princeton, Samuel Stanhope, wrote this to his cousin, Samuel Blair, who happened to believe all men would be saved:
I shall never believe that you are to be rejected from salvation for holding that all other men are to be saved—therefore your asserting this principle will not provoke any pious rage in me. I will give your argument a fair and cool examination. If I am not convinced, I will represent my objections to you with the same candor—if I cannot answer you I will not grow angry—and that is more than you can say of every Christian Brother—but I have learned long since, not to fight for God as if the devil were in me. If reason and charity cannot promote the cause of truth and piety, I cannot see how it should ever flourish under the withering fires of wrath and strife.
His closing words seem wise—especially "not to fight for God as if the devil were in me." Jesus, though, did not speak softly nor politely (or did he?) when he saw the devil in someone else. "Get thee behind me, Satan!" he says to Peter. Of course, Jesus was never mistaken in his assessments and judgments. We see things less clearly, but at times we do see. ....

John Witherspoon, a prominent Evangelical minister from the Church of Scotland, emigrated in 1768 to become president of the College of New Jersey (which became Princeton). Concerning the importance of manners for clergy, he wrote, "Let no man seek to avoid that reproach which may be his lot, for preaching the truths of the everlasting Gospel, but let him always avoid the just reproach of handling them in a mean, slovenly, and indecent manner." ....