P. J. Spener on How to Conduct Ourselves in Arguments

In the late 17th century, a movement emerged within German Lutheranism that was a reaction to the established church. The goal of Pietism was to rouse the faithful from the torpidity and complacence of cold orthodoxy, to a vital, practical religion, expressed daily in the study of Scripture, the fruit of the Spirit, and a transformed life.

In 1675 Pietism’s founder, Philip Jakob Spener [SHPAY-ner], published a sort of manifesto entitled Pia desideria [Pious Wishes], in which he describes how the church could best be revived. One of his chief concerns was that Lutherans conducted themselves with scathing rhetoric in bitter disputes with unbelievers and heretics. His timeless wisdom on this topic is helpful in our religiously divisive age.

“We must beware how we conduct ourselves in religious controversies with unbelievers and heretics. We must first take pains to strengthen and confirm ourselves, our friends, and other fellow believers in the known truth and to protect them with great care from every kind of seduction. Then we must remind ourselves of our duty toward the erring.

“We owe it to the erring, first of all, to pray earnestly that the good God may enlighten them with the same light with which he blessed us, may lead them to the truth, [or] may prepare their hearts for it…

“In the second place, we must give them a good example and take the greatest pains not to offend them in any way, for this would give them a bad impression of our true teaching and hence would make their conversion more difficult.

“In the third place, if God has given us the gifts which are needful for it and we find the opportunity to hope to win the erring, we should be glad to do what we can to point out, with a modest but firm presentation of the truth we profess, how this is based on the simplicity of Christ’s teaching. At the same time we should indicate decently but forcefully how their errors conflict with the Word of God and what dangers they carry in their wake. All of this should be done in such a way that those with whom we deal can see for themselves that everything is done out of heartfelt love toward them, without carnal and unseemly feelings, and that if we ever indulge in excessive vehemence this occurs out of pure zeal for the glory of God. Especially should we beware of invectives and personal insinuations, which at once tear down all the good we have in mind to build. …

“To this should be added, in the fourth place, a practice of heartfelt love toward all unbelievers and heretics. While we should indicate to them that we take no pleasure in their unbelief or false belief or the practice and propagation of these, but rather are vigorously opposed to them, yet in other things which pertain to human life we should demonstrate that we consider these people to be our neighbors… To insult or wrong an unbeliever or heretic on account of his religion would be not only a carnal zeal but also a zeal that is calculated to hinder his conversion. …

“In the fifth place, if there is any prospect of a union of most of the confessions among Christians, the primary way of achieving it, and the one that God would bless most, would perhaps be this, that we do not stake everything on argumentation… [For] I adhere to the splendidly demonstrated assertion…, ‘Purity of Doctrine and of the Word of God is maintained not only by disputation and writing many books but also by true repentance and holiness of life”…

“From all this it becomes apparent that disputing is not enough either to maintain the truth among ourselves or to impart it to the erring. The holy love of God is necessary.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s