Monday, March 06, 2006

IN PRAISE OF HAIR-SPLITTERS

J. Mark Bertrand confesses. He's a hair-splitter:
McGregor Wright says that, “For every inconsistent teacher there are several of their students who are quite willing to drive the truck of heresy through the holes the master has left in the semiorthodox fence.”[ii] That’s the legacy of inconsistency: one generation’s innocent mistake becomes the next generation’s cherished assumption. The teacher who admits that God is sometimes illogical will have students who insist that God is frequently illogical. And the following generation will question whether God is ever logical.

It is far more difficult to spot the last generation’s error and weed it out than to drag truth down to the level of error we inherited.

Some mistakes seem trivial but lead to significant thought shifts. Paul teaches salvation by grace through faith apart from works. Then someone comes along and says salvation is by grace, but our works are a pre-condition for God’s grace. He might never imagine a gospel of works, but his students will soon rationalize the system and arrive at precisely that. What begins as a seemingly trivial mistake ends in an egregious error.

And that’s why we need hair-splitters. That’s why we need people who will suffer the shrugs and sighs to insist that Christians speak with precision when they deal with doctrinal truth. We need people who care about the jots and tittles, who aren’t afraid to delve into the minutiae of the faith, who are willing to keep a thousand seemingly-pointless distinctions in the proper logical sequence.

Yes, sometimes we can "major in the minors", but it is human arrogance to assume that God is not concerned with His details.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

I'm always amazed at the number of people who believe Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their strictness, when He in fact endorsed it but noted they didn't take it far enough.

Only God gets to determine what's unimportant. Not us.

Holmes said...

Amen Jeff. I too see many people define incorrectly "Pharisaism" or "Legalism" as it's called today.

Joel

proudconservative said...

Very good post. There is a movement of liberation among my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is justified in my opinion. But careful examination and scholarly foot-dragging as well as hair-splitting are just, well, Biblical and they should never go out of style.