Saturday, July 08, 2017

BAM! arguments, or gentle correction?

Surprise!  I've actually made a post without waiting over a year!

I've long thought that 2 Tim 2:24-25a ("And the Lordʼs slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.") should govern our discussions a lot more than it typcally does.  Even in Christian discussions, "heated disputes" often characterizes our disagreements rather than "correcting with gentleness".

But lately, the followup verses (2 Tim 2:25b-26  "Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth and they will come to their senses and escape the devilʼs trap where they are held captive to do his will.") have gotten my attention.  We often offer an argument expecting that that argument will effectly stop our opponents in their tracks, that they'll find themselves so  thoroughly refuted that they shut up (there's a reason that a common form of click-bait headline is effectively "X's response  DESTROYS opponent Ys argument" (of course, if you click through, you  typically find that it doesn't really destroy the opponent's argument).  We *want* our side to be that "victorious".  If inflates our pride in being on the  "right side").  But this passage from Paul doesn't seem to engender that expectation.  It's more like you leave the effectiveness  of your gentle correction up to God, with the result dependent on whether God gives them the grace, repentance and recognition of the truth necessary to escape the error they're in (of course, this assumes that  our gentle correction (or heated argument) was correct in the first place, which if we're honest, is regrettably not always the case).  The attitude is what gets my attention.  It's not "superior", or prideful, or arrogant (all of which  are attitudes that often turn off those we're trying to reach).  It's a gentle presentation of the truth, leaving the results up  to the Father's grace.  Are we doing this?


David said...

I generally agree with this. However with theological arguments in SOME cases there is a real Biblical difference on one side of the argument and not on the other side of the argument. We do ourselves and God a disservice if we don't point out cogent biblical chapter & verse, in context and not say "I think". In the end, the question is - will God be glorified?

Oloryn said...

I don't think correcting with gentleness necessarily involves saying only "I think", and the content you actually use in a gentle correction may very well be a cogent, definitive refutation of the opponent's arguments. The difference is in the attitude with which it is delivered (this gets a bit fuzzy to try to define, as the attitude used for delivery will affect the content somewhat). Maybe I'm not doing a good job of describing the attitude I see in this passage, but I see it as delivery without communicating "how could you possibly not believe this", or "I'm superior to you because what I believe is true and what you believe is false". You don't have to speak as though you're unsure of what you say to be correcting with gentleness (otherwise, would it be a correction?). This may be difficult to figure out within a surrounding culture that often interprets disagreement as hatred. But you can offer a confident argument(a correction) that is nevertheless offered with gentleness (and patience). This may be something that we have to figure out, but we can't figure it out if we're not aware that this is a requirement (note that verse 5 says that God's slave (or servant) must do this) and start trying to move to it.