In Praise of Controversy and Dogmatism

Nov 9, 2017 by

by Bill Muehlenberg, Culture Watch:

We live in an age where the last thing most folks – including most Christians – want to hear about is controversy and dogmatism. This is the sort of stuff people flee from. We have been indoctrinated into believing that the highest virtue is to simply get along with everyone, never rock the boat, and never be dogmatic in our beliefs and assertions.

After all, this is the era of “tolerance” and “diversity”. Thus we must refuse to engage in any controversial issues or topics, and above all things we must never be dogmatic. Well, that may be how the world thinks, but it most certainly is NOT how the Christian should think.

Quite the opposite. The Christian must be dogmatic, and this of necessity will result in controversy. It is not that we go out of our way seeking controversy – it just arises naturally as we seek to proclaim truth in a culture that no longer believes in truth.

Christianity is above all a religion of truth. As Francis Schaeffer put it in his vital 1981 volume, A Christian Manifesto, “Christianity is not just a series of truths but Truth – Truth about all of reality.” And when you proclaim biblical truth in a culture that despises absolute truth, controversy – and worse – is guaranteed.

But we dare not shy away from this. It is our calling as Christ followers to share his truth no matter the negative reaction. Jesus was killed on a cross for sharing truth, and his disciples also met a similar sort of fate. Church history is full of examples of the world hating Christians for sharing truth. So we had better get used to this.

But the temptation is for the church to slavishly follow the world. Therefore, far too many churches no longer proclaim truth, no longer affirm basic biblical dogma, and no longer experience conflict and controversy. They are intent on being friends with the world, on being seen as “nice,” and on being in the business of pleasing people.

Such men-pleasers are of course not God-pleasers. We all must choose here. Either we affirm and assert the hard-core truths of the gospel and risk offending many, or we seek to get along with everyone, but jettison truth in the process. It is either one or the other.

Many great Christians have spoken to this issue, and many could be quoted here. But I wish to highlight just one Christian leader, and one of his books. I refer to John Stott who wrote a very important work in 1970, Christ the Controversialist (IVP).

It is still well worth reading – indeed, even more so than when it was first penned. His opening chapter, “A Defense of Theological Definition,” is alone worth the price of the book. So valuable is it that the rest of my piece will comprise his wise words. Here are some terrific quotes from his first chapter:

Read here


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