Ye all, please take note, I have overshot my brain, and not taken careful note of a most valuable contribution to this thread by Ron.
Truly these are wise words and certainly are words to live by. Being a lover of John Wesley and George Whitfield, I am sorry that I did not read with a cooler head. I wish to apologize for getting up on the olde high horse, of pride with this one. In Jesus. .A.
THE STANDARD FOR SUCCESSFUL EXCHANGE FOLLOWS:
by philologos on 2005/6/16 12:39:52
This is a copy of a posting I made on another site.
In all but the basics, all biblical theology is a 'best fit' hypothesis. This may disturb the idealists (I am a fully paid up member of Idealists Anonimous) among us but it is the case. As you say Wesley and Whitfield were miles apart in some of their understanding of scripture. So how do we react to that? We can say 'well, pay your money and take your choice' but something in us says 'it must be possible to get to the truth'.
Biblical theology has a built in danger in that we extract passages from various places and assemble them to prove our point. It ought to be noted that this is not the way the Bible was written; rather 'truth' is scattered through the whole and we are forced to consider each 'truth' in a context of other 'truth'. To extract 'a truth' and to isolate it from 'other truths' is the route to most of the heresies which have plagued us down the centuries.
Sometimes a much respected brother will have a hypothesis to which he is passionately committed; the 'Restoration of Israel' is one which comes to mind. If another brother is unable to 'affirm' the hypothesis tensions inevitably arise and two camps are established with 'saints' taking up the banner of one or the other. This is very destructive of real 'fellowship' in the scriptures. It is interesting that although Wesley and Whitefield held diametrically opposed views on some topics their personal relationships were usually very good. Sometimes the holder of a hypothesis immediately goes into 'attack' mode thinking that you have your own hypothesis that you are setting up against his, but at times you're not. You are simply saying 'I am listening to you but I am not persuaded and I have some questions. I am putting it on hold'.
I think this is where the nature of what is happening actually surfaces. Some people want to control what others believe and cannot rest until they have 'won'. Theology consequently becomes a 'battle' with winners and losers rather than a forum in which people can learn from each other. In practical terms there are some whose published views on other matters make it much more difficult to 'go with them' on a current issue. There are some who have earned your trust so that you are willing to give them 'the benefit of the doubt' in the short term. There are some whose reasoning patterns have showed themselves so unreliable that your instinct is to 'go to red alert and maximum shields'.
The real conflict is often to be found not in the originators of the view but in their supporters. This was so with Wesley and Whitefield where their supporters made much more extreme statements than would have been made by either Wesley or Whitefield. I often think of the statement of Paul to the Corinthians
“And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.”
(1Cor. 4:6, KJVS)
where they are puffed up not against one another, but 'for one against another'. In other words the trouble was being caused between the supporters' clubs and not the main players. Wesley clearly spotted this and advised
Beware of a dividing spirit; shun whatever has the least aspect that way. Therefore say not "I am of Paul, or of Apollos:" the very thing which occasioned the schism at Corinth. Say not "This is my preacher, the best preacher in the land; give me him and take all the rest..." Do not run down any preacher. Do not exalt any one above the rest, lest you hurt both him and the cause of God. On the other hand, do not bear hard upon any by reason of some incoherence, or inaccuracy of expression; no nor for some mistakes, were there really such...
We are to bear with those we cannot amend, and to be content with offering them to God. This is true resignation. And since he has borne our infirmities we may well bear those of each other for his sake.
"a plain account of Christian perfection"
We are required, not to change someone's opinion by the power of eloquence or knowledge, but to give an account of the faith that is in us. In this spirit I do not seek to convince holders of the 'Restoration of Israel' hypothesis that I am right, but I do challenge their assumptions and am ready to say why I believe what I believe.
It does not take a professional theologian (which I am not) to do this, just someone who is prepared to think a little.
Thankyou my brother, I am sorry I did not read with a humbler heart, a kind sister pointed out my error and it is to her and Jesus that I am thankful that I did not persue a blantant error of judgment.
Eric John Sawyer