Thursday, June 14, 2007

Charity and Judgment

Yesterday the Presbyterian Church in America (a small-ish - compared to the mainline - Bible-believing Reformed denomination) took action on the "Federal Vision"/"New Perspective on Paul" (FV) movement, declaring certain theological positions to be contrary to the teaching found in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

FV has been controversial in the PCA and other denominations for years, and there are strong opinions and smart men on both sides (and you can see my recent series on Unexamined Presuppositions for more about the problems with that: who is right? Who is wrong? Does it matter?) Unfortunately, when there are strong opinions, charity often seems to go by the wayside.

Take for example this posting by a Reformed fellow who evidently is not particularly a fan of FV. He wants to be fair-minded, but says:
Nevertheless, before I pass judgment on folks like Doug Wilson, who associate themselves with FV/AAT theology, I want to give them (any of them, not just DW) a chance to state what their actual distinctives are, if any.
Before he passes judgment on them??? Goodness! But who is he to pass judgment on them? That's rather bold, to say the least. I hope that what he really means is "pass judgment on what they say," but based upon other postings on his blog, it's not clear what he means: Take for example this post, where he declares a Catholic to be a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Unfortunately this sort of thing happens all the time. For example, when Francis Beckwith announced that he was returning to the Catholic Church, he was buried under an avalanche of simply horrid invective. One commenter even said, "Enjoy the Lake of Fire" (I'd post a link, but it appears that Dr. Beckwith has deleted the post to which this most charitable offering was attached)!!

To be fair, this sort of thing can happen when for some reason a man leaves the Catholic Church, too: I have seen cases where such folk get ripped up and down. So this is not a distinctively Protestant malady. But it's a shame nevertheless, and it certainly won't do anything to encourage the new convert to return whence he came. We need a good deal more charity and fairmindedness, and especially humility ourselves. We may sincerely believe the other man to be mistaken, and we may most certainly try to persuade him, but we must draw the line at condemning the man himself. It's not our place to do so.

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