Christian vs. Christian: An Example
This week I am back to the Christian vs. Christian series of posts that I have been working on for over two months. I was planning on posting the next couple of points in Dr. Dean’s “Doctrine of One Another” when I stumbled upon two seemingly unrelated posts on two different blogs. One post took an offhanded jab at Christian apologist William Lane Craig and the other post, which I read immediately following the first one, reviewed a book inspired by Galatians 5:15:
15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.
Galatians 5:15 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
I have no problem with Christians disagreeing with each other over theology and I actually believe that debating issues can keep us from becoming spiritually flabby. However there are bounds to such debates which I believe Christians violate so regularly that we don’t even think about it. Not only do casual expressions of disdain for other Christians violate the principles laid out in the doctrine of “one another” but are classic examples of Christians consuming “one another.”
In addition this seemed like a strange coincidence to me (call it Divine providence if you like) since I began reading one of William Lane Craig’s books last week for the first time and have been enjoying it very much. Whether anyone likes William Lane Craig is completely up to them but I don’t think that Christians have a lot of latitude in how we treat each other.
I am going to provide links to both articles, some commentary on Galatians 5:15, and then finish with my take on all of this.
He Lives Blog: Bad to Worse
The “He Lives” blog is one of the first blogs that I discovered when I started searching the internet for Christian blogs six or seven years ago. The host of the blog is David Heddle who has a Ph.D. in nuclear physics so he is able to provide insight on some of the scientific debates that are going on right now and how they relate to Christianity. Dr. Heddle believes that the “fine tuning of the universe” is the most persuasive argument for God creating the universe that there is. Given his specialty that isn’t surprising.
I do read the He Lives blog for the physics/science topics but I have to say that Dr. Heddle doesn’t care much for Christians such as me. The problem is that I am a dispensationalist and he is a Calvinist (I don’t believe that he would be offended if I described him as a five point Calvinist). I think this also accounts for why we have different opinions of William Lane Craig’s work.
Without further ado here is the paragraph that caught my eye:
And then, also under the freethoughtblogs domain, there is the much heralded and apparently famous (although I had never heard of him, but I lead a sheltered life) John Loftus, whose cv trumpets the exceptional qualification that he studied under the rather regrettable apologist William Lane Craig [Ed.: emphasis added].
Follow the link above and read Dr. Heddle’s complete post. There was really no need for that shot at Dr. Craig (even if he isn’t a physicist). In fact I doubt that Dr. Heddle gave it much thought when he wrote that sentence.
I believe that the reason I have liked Dr. Craig’s writing so far is that his work is amenable to a dispensationalist such as me. See, Dr. Craig argues that human free will is compatible with God’s sovereignty which is a real turn off for five point Calvinists. I have been told in no uncertain terms by many Calvinists that if the human race is allowed to choose for themselves whether to accept or reject Jesus Christ as savior then God is not “absolutely sovereign.” That puts a real dent in their supralapsarian view of God’s work which apparently cannot be tolerated.
I know that David Heddle has used the teaching of John Gerstner when developing Sunday school materials (he occasionally posts these outlines on his blog). We are always influenced by those we respect and David Heddle is no exception. For those of you who don’t know of John Gerstner here is an excerpt of a review of his book “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth:”
How does Gerstner view dispensationalism? He describes it as not true premillennialism (p. 68) and identifies it as Arminianism (p. 107), Gnosticism (p. 208), pantheism (p. 136, 143), Pelagianism (p, 243), and, preeminently, as antinomianism. More seriously, dispensationalism is “a cult and not a branch of the Christian church” (p. 150). Dispensationalists are heretics and false teachers (p. 262) who have twisted the gospel (p. 252), are void of the gospel (p. 150), and deny the gospel (p. 169).
In his diatribe against dispensationalism Gerstner is liberal in the use of pejorative terms such as “travesty” (p. 141), “blasphemy” (p. 145), “absurdity” (p. 154) and “scandal” (p. 152). The tone of the book is angry, sarcastic, bitter and derogatory, in stark contrast to such irenic critiques of dispensationalism as Oswald T. Allis’ Prophecy and the Church (1964).
Given that, I suppose it doesn’t surprise me that David Heddle and I like different approaches to apologetics.
Immediately following David Heddle’s article I read the book review linked to above. I don’t remember when I last read Galatians 5 and I didn’t remember reading Galatians 5:15. So, I immediately tracked down a detailed exegesis of the passage and I am going to share it with you:
KJV Galatians 5:15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
The Galatian believers were involved in a bad habit (Durative Present tense) of biting and devouring one another. The protasis of a first class condition means it was indeed going on at that very moment. No doubt the debate on grace mechanics versus legalism was causing a lot of commotion, argumentation and shouting matches. “Biting” is a metaphor for the arrogance complex of sins; “devouring” is a metaphor for the hatred complex of sins. Both sin complexes began with mental attitude sins and eventually expanded to verbal sins. The Greek word “analothete” is used to describe wild animals in a deadly struggle, clawing and gnashing each other to pieces in the process.
It’s a shame when believers treat each other this way, but it happens more often than you might think. Sometimes it is covert gossiping and maligning; other times it is overt arguments and brawls in a public forum. Paul begs them to be careful (Imperative of Entreaty) not to be consumed (Culminative Aorist tense) by one another. In a manner of speaking, the first step would be (in our vernacular) to agree to disagree on a matter. The second step would be to realize that neither party is likely to change their mind about something (grace or legalism) that is dear to them. The third step is to make sure you are confessing mental and verbal sins regularly.
Galatians Commentary by Wayne Binnicker
My View of This
Believe what you will, teach what you will, make your doctrinal points but all of this must be done in a way that builds up the body of Christ rather than tears it down. This passage comes to mind:
4 Who are you to criticize another’s household slave? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And stand he will! For the Lord is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:4 (HCSB)
We Christians are not masters of one another, only Jesus Christ is our master. Of course if you believe like John Gerstner then you are not sure if I am even saved. If I am a believer you are required to treat me with patience and long suffering. If I am an unbeliever you are required to provide me with the way of salvation. I am not aware of any biblical justification to treat others, saved or reprobate, with disdain.