A theologian named P. Andrew Sandlin came out with a book that he knew would be controversial, so he said in the preface: “I ask you to compare what I say here to what the Bible teaches (Acts 17:11). And if what I argue here is what the Bible teaches, I ask you to join me. …”
That, in my view, is a fair bargain. Let every man weigh what is said and make up his mind before God—but let him do so comparing what is said to the original source—the Word of God. Let the Word of God judge the word of man, always.
Some people may think that’s naïve or arrogant. We cannot start from our puny minds but must stand on the shoulders of our betters, they say. But which betters? The Lutheran betters? The Calvinist betters? The Catholics? You see the problem: Theologies are fallible—and they are once removed from the source. “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. … [A]bide in Him” (1 John 2:27).
Still, there is a tendency for us to react more than reflect, and to react according to our espoused theologies. We draw from our files faster than Quick Draw McGraw can draw his six-shooter. It’s a knee-jerk thing. We sometimes react before we listen; we react before we have given the cited Bible passage due consideration, hollering over it with other passages we favor, rather than letting it have its distinct voice.
A while back, one commenter here wrote: “It’s fine to bring in other Bible texts, but … you cannot just dismiss one portion of Scripture by quoting another portion. You still have to deal with [the portion under discussion].”
I thought that wise, and a good policy for our discussions. The Word of God, and love. What better ground rules?