Friday, June 12, 2009

Five strong weapons against error


"We must beware how we conduct ourselves in religious controversies with unbelievers and heretics. . . .

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 . . . .

In the second place, we must give them a good example and take the greatest pains not to offend them in any way . . . .

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. . . .

To this should be added, in the fourth place, a practice of heartfelt love toward all unbelievers and heretics. . . . 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 the present disposition of men's minds, which are filled by as much fleshly as spiritual zeal, makes disputation fruitless. It is true that defense of the truth, and hence also argumentation, which is part of it, must continue in the church together with many other things instituted to build it up. . . . Nevertheless, I adhere to the splendidly demonstrated assertion of our sainted [Johann] Arndt in his 'True Christianity,' '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."

Philip Jacob Spener, Pia Desideria, pages 97-102.