When Paul writes to his protégé Timothy, he instructs Timothy to warn the people not to quarrel over words. Isn’t that what most theological debate is, people arguing about words? People who claim to follow Jesus end up arguing about the meaning of certain words.
They build their own theology around their understanding of these words and then reject everyone who thinks otherwise.
This is the primary reason why the world has 42,000 Protestant denominations. People who should know better quarrel over words and then storm off in a huff to form a new denomination of people who think just like they do.
Don’t they read what Paul wrote? He says quarreling over words “is of no value” and “only ruins those who listen” (2 Timothy 2:14).
Later on he says to not “have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments,” which only “produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23).
This isn’t the first time Paul tells this to Timothy. In Paul’s first letter of instruction he talks about false teachers and their “unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words.” The result is “envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions” (1 Timothy 6:4).
So we must stop fighting over words. The Bible says to. Nothing good ever comes of it.
Isn’t quarreling about words the source of our theological debates and divisions? We need to stop arguing about theology and instead unite to tell the world about Jesus.
Can you think of a theological debate that wasn’t a quarrel over words? How should we treat those we disagree with?
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.