A different way to resolve theological impasses

From John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, p. 155:

The Christian life is a training process: the more experience we have making tough decisions in obedience to God, the better we will be able to do it in the future. The better we are able to make ethical decisions, the more equipped we will be to make theological decisions; the two are of a piece with one another.

Thus ability to come to cognitive rest concerning Christian teaching comes with sanctification, with growth in holiness. Many doctrinal misunderstandings in the church are doubtless due to this spiritual-ethical immaturity. We need to pay more attention to this fact when we get into theological disputes. Sometimes, we throw arguments back and forth, over and over again, desperately trying to convince one another. But often there is in one of the disputers–or both!– the kind of spiritual immaturity that prevents clear perception. We all know how it works in practice. Lacking sufficient love for one another, we seek to interpret the other person’s views in the worst possible sense. (We forget the tremendous importance of love–even as an epistemological concept; cf. 1 Cor. 8:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:5ff.; 1 John 2:4f.; 3:18f.; 4:7ff.). Lacking sufficient humility, too, we overestimate the extent of our own knowledge. In such a case, with one or more immature debaters, it may be best not to seek immediate agreement in our controversy. Sometimes, we need to back off a bit, for a while. We need to go off and spend some time–months or years, perhaps–in constructive work for the Lord, fighting the Christian warfare, exercising our moral faculties. Then we can come back later to the doctrinal question and address it again from a more mature vantage point. Do you see how theological problems may sometimes, in effect, have practical solutions?

How many seminarians, I often wonder, have the spiritual maturity to warrant the theological decisions they are asked to make in preparation for licensure and ordination? In this context, Paul’s words take on fresh importance: “Do not ordain a novice, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).