Dealing with Those Who Differ

Newly moved to Oviedo, Florida, and to the neighborhood of Reformed Theological Seminary, I find the name of Roger Nicole prominent. Only recently have I learned much about him, in the wake of his recent death at age 95. Better words can be found here and here.

Reading his paper, “Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us“, though, has made me wish I had met him.

Dr. Nicole here notes that Christians can be ornery. There is gentleness in that assessment. Pugnacious might better describe it. And while affirming the need to confront our differences, he lays out admirable ground rules for doing so. He says that we MUST ask these three questions in this order:

1. What do I owe the person who differs from me?
2. What can I learn from those who differ from me?
3. How can I cope with those who differ from me?

Terribly helpful insights for dealing with conflict in theology for sure. But I see that an argument in a marriage disciplined by this approach will result in peace and growth. These are really important principles.

A Christian who carries on discussions with those who differ should not be subject to the psychology of the boxing ring where the contestants are bent upon demolishing one another. Rather “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel: instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses . . . ” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).


4 thoughts on “Dealing with Those Who Differ

  1. Roger Nicole was the inspiration for our large library. He said books were to be referenced, not read, and collected as a legacy for one’s children. I heard him say that long before I had children. I wonder if mine will consider these 3,000 volumes a legacy or a curse sometimes…

    Definitely somebody to eat a meal with in heaven…


    Chris in snowy NM

  2. My brother once looked at my (paltry) library and said, “Have you read all of these?” I told him honestly, but a bit tangentially, “Some I’ve read twice!”

    I prune my library regularly ridding it of volumes I no longer have any use for as reference.

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