Contention and the Christian Life

I was just Facebook’ing and saw this comment on Tim Gallant’s wall:

The young man who has no strength when he is young will have no wisdom when he is old. This is a riff on the theme of glory in Proverbs: the young man’s glory is his strength; the old man’s glory is his wisdom.

Gallant is at a ministerial conference in Moscow, Idaho. The quote is from Ben Merkle, Doug Wilson’s son in law. Gallant gives further explanation:

One of the callings of both pastors and fathers is to channel the trouble-making tendency of young men, so that they “get into trouble” in the right way – learn to fight the right battles, learn how to become men in the conflicts of life.

A good venue for young men to ‘get into trouble the right way’ is to encourage them to have a go in theology. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they should fight about everything, but it does mean that they should fight over some things.

Contrary to this is the belief that church unity must be stressed above all things. Nevermind that what you’re left with is a Christianity that has the depth of Gossip Girl, this type of thinking hurts men. Awhile ago I read about how in the early days of Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll would have theology club nights where two to four men would debate theology in front of other men. The winner would receive a crown/football helmet and the adulation of the other guys. Stuff like this offends my sensibilities (it’s a tad bit weird) but hey, Driscoll’s church does tend to attract men. And that’s an anomaly these days.

Not only does the unity at all costs view hurt men, but it’s also got theological issues. Of course, the New Testament is clear that we should strive for peace. “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14.19). “Seek peace and pursue it” (1 Pet. 3.11). However the peace that we are to seek is always derivative. It follows from truth. Consider Phillipians 4.8-9,

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and(A) received and heard and seen(B) in me—practice these things, and(C) the God of peace will be with you.

As John Piper says, “Peace is a wonderful by-product of heartfelt commitment to what is true and right.” And this is not a theme limited to Philippians. Consider Hebrews 12:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; Eph. 4:13, 16; 2 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 6:14-15; 6:17.

The reason why true peace flows from truth is three-fold. First, it frees us from the control of Satan and sin (John 8:32). Second, it serves love (Phil. 1:9). And third, it sanctifies, which yields righteousness whose fruit is peace (John 17:17; 2 Pet. 1:3,5,12).

Piper says this:

For the sake of unity and peace, therefore, Paul labors to set the churches straight on numerous issues – including quite a few that do not themselves involve heresy. He does not exclude controversy from his pastoral writing. And he does not limit his engagement in controversy to first-order doctrines, where heresy threatens. He is like a parent to his churches. Parents do not correct and discipline their children only for felonies. Good parents long for their children to grow up into all the kindness and coutersy of mature adulthood. The Future of Justification, pg. 31.

So let us all be happy warriors then. We ought to spar theologically because truth matters. Then, when we agree – let us have peace.