R. A. Dickey

In the smoldering remains of Major League Baseball’s April dreams, it’s great for those of us whose primary teams will go home in a few days to have some great stories to hang onto and celebrate. This year’s Big Story belongs to R. A. Dickey, the only knuckleball pitcher left in the major leagues. On a team that to-date has won only 73 games, the NY Mets, twenty of those games have been won by 37 year-old Dickey. He leads the national league in both strikeouts and complete games. He is the first knuckleballer to notch 20 wins since Joe Niekro over 30 years ago.

That is the story for baseball fan in me. But by all accounts, Dickey is also a decent human being. A husband, a father, and one who has known enough disappointment and struggle to have gained a sense of perspective on what he has been allowed to do and to accomplish. He does not come across as one so full of his own greatness that the rest of us could not enjoy a cup of coffee or a mug of beer with him. His story, told in his memoir (Wherever I Wind Up), and recounted in this NPR interview is one filled with abuse and resilience and redemption.

Not incidental to Dickey’s take on life is his Christianity. He does not wear it on his sleeve (or in his eye-black), but he wears it as a genuine part of his person and a significant foundation for his life. He does not trumpet his Christian faith but he does not shrink from it. He does not link his success to his Christianity and thus stir theological questions when he fails. His Christianity is who he is and baseball is what God allows him to do in this stage of life. There is a genuine maturity in his faith as it is allowed to be seen.

But it is not always allowed to be seen. In a World Magazine interview with him, he was asked about that.

The subject [of your Christian faith] didn’t come up in your NPR interview.

Dickey: I brought it up. They edited it out. I always look for opportunities to talk about my faith in a way that is congruent with the story or the question that they ask, because it is important to me that people know. Most of the time it will be edited out.

Most of the time it will be edited out.

The truth is, though, that God never gets edited. Dickey’s story, and his faith, will find its way to those who need to know and need to hear, whether that is from the platform of his thrilling success, or in his backyard someday when he is trying to encourage a son or a daughter to remain faithful to Jesus in the face of either failure or success.

We take note of Dickey now because of his success. Baseball fans LOVE the rise of the underdog. I wish him the greatest further success. But we, like him, must build our hope not upon his or our success, but upon the story of another who proclaims and secures God’s love for us. And that story will never be edited out.


If you want more on Dickey and on the knuckleball, try to see the new movie Knuckleball: the Movie. The trailer sounds like a winner!

Bonhoeffer vs. Metaxas

Eric Metaxas’ massive 2010 biography of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy) was received so favorably that Christianity Today could report that six months after its release it had sold 160,000 hardcover copies, even though published by the American evangelical publisher Thomas Nelson. (It is still selling at a volume that keeps it in the top 1000 of all books sold on Amazon.com.)

Evangelical reviewers were effusive in their praise. A reviewer in Books and Culture introduces it as a “riveting biography” which holds “…the reader’s attention from the first page to the last….” A Kings College lecturer praises Metaxas in the pages of the Wall Street Journal for his “…passion and theological sophistication….”

But it was the recommendation of friends with comments like this contained in an email: “if you haven’t picked up Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer book yet, its stinkin awesome”  that  had the greatest impact on my choice to read the book.

My only agreement with the reviewers, however, is that the book is indeed massive (550 pages). Beyond that, our opinions diverge.

Bonhoeffer indeed was a fascinating person, as the subtitle suggests. He was a man of deep and firm conviction whose devotion to his God led him to take action that both troubles and inspires us. He was a German Christian pastor and theologian who early on saw the evil in Hitler’s rise to power. He struggled deeply with how a Christian and the church should respond to the evils which we in retrospect can see so clearly. He chose a path of opposition and defiance. For his association with a plot which led to an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hitler, he was executed at age 39 just two weeks before the war was over.

We respond to such a life. He was a faithful Christian, a devoted son, a passionate author, a humble servant of those in need. At his death he was engaged to be married to a young woman whom he had hardly had the chance to embrace, so thoroughly had the war separated them. To read of such a life is to reflect on our own and the choices we think we would have made, and the ones we do in our own point in history. Bonhoeffer challenges us all.

It is not just his life that matters here. It is the theology that motivated that life. Metaxas has stirred up a hornets’ nest of controversy regarding Bonhoeffer’s theology. “Eric Metaxas gives us a Bonhoeffer who looks a lot like an American evangelical…,” says one reviewer. Non-evangelicals tend to think that Metaxas is hijacking Bonhoeffer’s legacy and wresting him from the theologically liberal camp where they think he belongs. And so the battle rages.

Though Metaxas makes a good case I will let the theological battles be fought elsewhere. Whether he was or was not ‘evangelical’ is of little consequence to me. What matters to me is that in the reviewers’ zeal to address Bonhoeffer’s courage or to praise the book for its claiming him for ‘our side’, they overlook the fact that the book could have been so much better. As it is, the writing detracts terribly from the content. It seems to me that the book has received attention because of the interest of its subject and despite its stylistic and presentation flaws.

Metaxas’ slavish devotion to a chronological telling of Bonhoeffer’s life strips the vigor from the story. He strings together paragraph after paragraph, each of which is tied to the prior by chronological markers. Random references to places he stopped on his travels and gifts he bought for Christmas may be true enough in the chronology of his life, but such detail adds nothing to the story.

Further this bondage to chronology can kill the narrative drama. The last years of Bonhoeffer’s life were marked with plots and espionage and secrecy and threat, the stuff of novels. When the final attempt on Hitler’s life fails, Bonhoeffer is imprisoned and eventually killed. It could have been a grippingly told tale. However, because Bonhoeffer writes some things while in prison which are key in the theological controversies, Metaxas interrupts the narrative to engage the debate concerning these theological matters. Far better to tell the story of a man’s life through a series of overlapping thematic panels of content. A chapter on the theological controversies could tell one story while traversing a wide chronology, and then the story of the political intrigue could be told without interruption. I think only someone  working on a doctorate in theology would feel that the book holds “the reader’s attention from the first page to the last…” It doesn’t.

Secondly, this tends in the distinct direction of hagiography (well critiqued here). Whenever we tell the story of someone we hold in high regard and with deep affection, it is hard to be objective about the subject matter. But we must be objective, and we must report the faults in a subject as well as his virtues. Did Bonhoeffer have faults at all? All men do, but his certainly are obscured if not completely omitted in this book.

Thirdly, I expect a biographer to tell the story of his subject by distilling the events and works of his life into a coherent narrative. Though Metaxas really aims at this, his effort is stymied by his over-dependence upon quoted material. Page after page is filled with quotes from letters and sermons and articles. One longish chapter has, by my estimate, 1260 total lines of text of which 590 (nearly half) are quotes. In fact, the biography ends with the entire manuscript of the sermon preached at his memorial service. Much of this is no doubt material worth preserving. But preserve it in an appendix. As it is, it bogs down the story by requiring the reader to do the distilling that is the biographer’s job.

Finally, Metaxas needs to ‘kill his darlings‘. Metaxas is so fond of clever turns of phrase that one loses sight of the seriousness of the story in the triteness of his language. Well turned phrases can enhance a story, but poorly chosen clevernesses detract. And they detract in abundance here.

At one point he says that Hitler “…would now with a flourish produce from his hindquarters a withered olive branch and wave it before a goggling world.” (356) From his hindquarters?

In speaking of the hopes attached to a plan to explode a bomb in a plane in which Hitler was flying, he walks through the events which “…would explode the bomb and then: curtains.” (427)

He tells of a church publication that had “…gone over to the dark side…” (325) Of the deal that Neville Chamberlain made with Hitler, “…it was ‘peace’ on the house, with a side order of Czechoslovakia.” (314)

Writing is hard. And harder still is it to write and then receive the insight of others as to how to improve one’s writing. And still harder is to be forced into making changes based upon the insight of another when that other is a clearheaded editor. I don’t blame Metaxas for the faults listed above. I blame his editor. A good editor would have forced him to address the stylistic weaknesses and would have reduced this from massive to manageable. A good editor, that is, could have made this into a book that was indeed “stinkin’ awesome”.

Serendipity and Biographies of Note

How does one comprehend the serendipitous overlap of various threads of his life? I haven’t a clue. See if you can follow those weaving the portions of my life together.

1. Two years ago, my son announced that he wanted to be the next Einstein. (He is not short on ambitions.)

2. Recently, somewhat in keeping with the above, he has taken a deep interest in particle physics. Quarks, muons, and anti-matter pepper his conversation. It’s all a mystery to me.

3. Steve Jobs died. (The connection here is really tenuous.)

4. Walter Isaacson publishes a wildly popular bio of Jobs. I learn that Isaacson had previously published a well received bio of Albert Einstein. My brain takes note.

5. On Father’s Day, my son gives me, bless his heart, a gift certificate to Amazon. An hour later he has bought for me Isaacson’s Einstein biography. It seemed a perfect way to spend his Father’s Day gift. Einstein His Life and Universe Walter Isaacso

6. A few weeks later, I am a hundred pages in, hanging around 1905 trying to comprehend special relativity, when suddenly particle physics is THE hot topic in the news. My son’s obscure interest is now in the headlines. I resolve to read more physics when I finish with Einstein.

7. Einstein is my fun, home, off-duty reading. Every fall, however, I line up a list of books needing to be read in direct support of my pastoral ministry. History and biography are a part of that reading plan, which dictated that I begin last week Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

8. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in 1906, 20-something years Einstein’s junior. Both were German. Both would encounter Germany’s rising anti-semitism. Only one would survive.

9. I found myself, therefore, reading two biographies at the same time dealing with the same period of European history. Unplanned, but intriguing.

10. And I found myself able to compare two biographers. Both biographers are dealing with fascinating men with lives of significant import.

11. I came to Metaxas’ bio with great anticipation since several friends had recommended it highly. My wife started to read it, but couldn’t finish. She wrote that off as a deficiency in her. It isn’t.

12. As a writer, Isaacson shines. His bio, even when dealing with complex scientific theory, flows and when dealing with the life of the man, reads with ease and pleasure.

13. Metaxas on the other hand could have used a good editor to cut detail, to trim (or eliminate) quotes, and to arrest his temptation to be clever, which easily becomes trite. (Someone should have stopped him before he had Bonhoeffer ‘bid adieu’ to Paris, for example.)

14. One gives a good report. The other tells a good story. I’m a sucker for the story every time.

But I’m thankful for the serendipity – I think we call it God’s ‘most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures’ – which has allowed these lines to intersect so fluidly in my life.


UPDATE: One more serendipitous note – Bonhoeffer grew up in the Grunewald district of Berlin and attended Grunewald High School.

The Power of the Book

There was a time that people died to make accessible a book we take for granted. I’m somewhat ashamed to write that sentence because I’m not sure this knowledge, as profound as it is, will change my behavior. But it should.
William tyndale biography david daniell hardcover cover art
I have been working through David Daniell’s Yale University Press William Tyndale: A Biography. This biography, set in the history of the early 16th century, when Luther was hot, reminded me that it once was a crime to translate and publish the Bible into English. Men gave up their lives to translate, print, and distribute this book which I so take for granted. That I knew this before, I am sure. But I had pushed this uncomfortable knowledge to a dim and infrequently accessed corner of my brain.

Daniell’s biography is thorough and passionate. That it is thorough led me to skim those portions containing detail far beyond my level of interest. But its passion drew me in and kept me.

Daniell is Tyndale’s belated publicist. Tyndale has been given short notice over the years. We know of the King James Bible, the so-called ‘Authorized Version’. And we know of John Wycliffe because of the mission organization that borrowed his name. But Tyndale’s influence runs much more deep and wide than either of these.

Tyndale learned Greek when only a few Englishmen knew it, and Hebrew when almost none did. He translated from those languages, not from the Latin. His gift for written English has rarely been matched. Though the AV, produced 70 years after Tyndale, adopted much of its memorable language from his, in many cases where they differ, Tyndale sounds stunningly more modern. Tyndale would opt for clarity over some artificial notion of literality. The AV reversed this, and revered though it may be, it is revered mostly for phraseology introduced by Tyndale, and forgotten at the level of its own revisions.

Daniell notes:

One key to Tyndale’s genius is that his ear for how people spoke was so good. The English he was using was not the language of the scribe or lawyer or schoolmaster; it really was, at base, the spoken language of the people. In this he was unlike all other Bible translators, in English certainly. To give an example: David, as we saw, was ‘brown with goodly eyes’. The comment speaks down the centuries: the young man was a looker, and one can hear someone saying it. The whole sentence is ‘And he was brown with goodly eyes, and well favored in sight’. By contrast, this is what the Authorised Version has: ‘Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to.’ That is the sort of sentence that gets the Bible a bad name. No one, ever, spoke that, or could do, with a straight face. As a sentence, all it can do is live in a big book on a brass lectern and be read out on one of the Sundays after Trinity.

(Daniell’s prose isn’t half bad either, apparently.)

Tyndale, it is famously said, wanted the Bible to be accessible to the ploughboy as well as to the scholar. That, of course, was what the establishment feared. He succeeded. Memorably. And this led to his execution.

Of his legacy, Daniell laments:

We have at this point, however, to utter a cry of grief. It was of a scholar of this towering stature, leading all Europe in his knowledge of Greek, matched now by an equal command of Hebrew, uniquely gifted in tuning the sounds of the English language, who had achieved so much but who still had some of his greatest work to do, who was, soon after this, by a vicious, paltry and mean villain tricked into death. It is as if Shakespeare had been murdered by a real-life jealous Iago half-way through his life, and the great tragedies had never been written.

Daniell makes a convincing case that the comparison with Shakespeare is not inappropriate.

Tyndale died because he believed in the power inherent in the Word of God. God grant me the grace to share even a portion of that passion and conviction.

John Stott, 1921-2011

Today, God added one more saint to his cloud of witnesses. And somehow, though I never met him, I feel a sense of loss. When asked to list those Christians living and dead who have had the most significant impact upon my ministry, the name of John R. W. Stott has always seemed to come up. If his name is unfamiliar to you, you can read an obituary here.

My first exposure to Stott came in college through his book Basic Christianity. I was already a Christian but found his careful expression of the Christian faith something that deepened and solidified my own commitment. And I remember clearly his respectful invitation to non-Christians to read and give consideration to what he was saying. He invited them to hear, he did not hound them to believe.

In 1979, Barb and I had the privilege of attending the Inter-Varsity Urbana Missions Convention where John Stott lectured daily on the book of Romans. A rich theological and biblical foundation was being laid for me day after day. And though I cannot today tell you anything he said I can say that I ‘caught’ through that an attitude of respect for the Bible and a love for the importance of a Biblical theology. Stott modeled that.

Shortly thereafter I plunged into Stott’s Christian Mission in the Modern World which gave my wife and I a sense of God’s heart for the whole world. We became persuaded that a career in missions was what God had in store for us. That persuasion led us to seminary where God turned my heart toward pastoral ministry. But that sense that the mission of God encompassed all peoples was not something that has ever left me.

As a preacher I have long learned to depend upon a series of commentaries Stott championed and called The Bible Speaks Today. His contribution to that series included a volume on Acts which came to me at a time when my vision for what the church was meant to be was maturing and expanding. I was not left the same.

And several times I have read his book on preaching, Between Two Worlds, and have been encouraged and challenged to persevere in what can be an exhausting and draining task. And those who have listened to me will appreciate the answer Stott gives to the question of how long a sermon should be: “It does not matter as long as it seems like twenty minutes.” Wise answer, that.

In 2004, NY Times columnist David Brooks penned a remarkable tribute to Stott. In an age when the news media would rush to find the most extreme examples of Christian thinking to comment on whatever issues were in the news, Brooks wondered why none ever thought to seek the insights and wisdom of a man who was the best representative of Christianity.

I came to Stott’s magnum opus, The Cross of Christ late. Having just preached on John 12:31 I feel a need to return to his mature reflections upon the central event of our Christian faith.

All this could be said about the influence of any scholar and model pastor upon a younger generation, I suppose. But there is something more. I cried shortly after reading about Stott’s death. It’s not that I have lost a friend. I never met him; how can I call him that? It’s not that I feel the church on earth is weakened by his absence; his influence has been minimal in recent years. Rather, I think I cried because of these words written by his associate and biographer Timothy Dudley-Smith and quoted by Justin Taylor:

He thinks of himself, as all Christians should but few of us achieve, as simply a beloved child of a heavenly Father; an unworthy servant of his friend and master, Jesus Christ; a sinner saved by grace to the glory and praise of God.

He modeled that for which I long: to know myself primarily “as a beloved child of a heavenly father.”

To whatever degree I am in the least bit able to live my life to the glory and praise of God, John Stott has played a role in that. I thank God for the privilege of falling under his influence.

+ + + + +

UPDATE: A good tribute is this from Don Sweeting, president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

A VERY Crooked Stick

I wrote some time ago about God’s ability to bring himself glory through weak and broken people, that he was able to draw a straight line with a crooked stick. The key subject of that post was John Calvin, a crooked stick with which God drew a very straight line.

I’ve been reading about the prophet Ezekiel, and some have judged him to be SO crooked as to be psychotic. Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 1–24, whose ultimate judgment of Ezekiel the man is not unfavorable, still must confess that

“Ezekiel is in a class of his own.”

In an assessment lifted from Ezekiel’s own recorded record, Block notes:

“The concentration of so many bizarre features in one individual is without precedent: his muteness; lying bound and naked; digging holes in the walls of houses; emotional paralysis in the face of his wife’s death; ‘spiritual’ travels; images of strange creatures, of eyes, and of creeping things; hearing voices and the sounds of water; withdrawal symptoms; fascination with feces and blood; wild literary imagination; pornographic imagery;… and the list goes on.” (page 10)

That’s one crooked stick. In the end, Block does not judge Ezekiel as psychotic, but notes that for Ezekiel, ‘the medium was the message’, and he acted out many of the revelations he had received. And in the end, not unlike his older contemporary Jeremiah, he was reluctant and not a bit rebellious.

Just like, I discern, the other crooked sticks among us.

A Crooked Stick

I can’t remember who first impressed upon me the fact that God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick, but I have often drawn encouragement from it. I am a decidedly crooked stick who harbors hopes that God would draw something straight from his labors.
It is, though, as well important to recall that history is full of straight lines drawn by crooked sticks. Our tendency to want our heroes all straight runs counter to our comprehension of human nature. Every year in mid-January, for example, well-deserved praise pours forth in honor of the courage, passion, and vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., and a backlash emerges from bitter pens wanting us to see his moral faults. He was a crooked stick God used to draw some long needed straight lines.

Of course, all God has to work with are crooked sticks. We should expect nothing else from fallen humanity.

Knowing all of this, then, I find that completing Bruce Gordon’s biography of John Calvin Calvin, has made me sad. Calvin, it appears, was a crooked stick.

Calvin’s own Institutes of the Christian Religion has had a huge impact on my life and thinking. So instructed have I been by its logic and restraint, and so moved by its warm, pastoral approach, that I find it easy in reading it to overlook the polemical tone that settles upon many pages.

That combination of pastoral warmth and polemic aggression reveals the two sides of Calvin’s personality that make it difficult to offer a simplistic picture of him.

This was Calvin’s divided self: the confidence in this calling as a prophet and apostle set against his ever present sense of unworthiness and dissatisfaction….These were two sides of the same personality. It was his acute sensitivity to the gap between what was and what should be that distressed him. (page 334)

A complex person is easy to attack but harder to understand. And when that complex person is a spiritual person, and especially a prophetic person, he becomes an easy target for those wanting to attack him as one who did not well represent the principles he preached. Gordon’s portrayal is sympathetic, insisting that we need to understand Calvin from within his own cultural context (a good rule of thumb for any historical character), and at the same time his portrayal feels honest.

At the end of the day, I judge that I would not have liked him very much. The Calvin that emerges from these pages is one whom I wished were different. He comes across as being hyper-sensitive to criticism, not very politically astute, at times harsh in his expression, and one whose work-ethic was so intense as to be idolatrous.

And yet I need to understand that Calvin existed in a time of great contention. Christian truth was not only disputed academically, but blood would flow when persons would differ. The church was in a position of needing to be re-formed, and that was a messy business.

I leave the biography respecting Calvin’s work and being drawn to aspects of his person. That he determined to live by the truth’s reflected in his Institutes is perhaps illustrated by his desire to not become the center of any cult of idolatry. He shuddered to think that a theological system would emerge bearing his name. When he died, per his instructions, he was immediately put in a box and buried in an unmarked grave, to prevent idolatrous adulation of his body.

It didn’t work, of course. Idolatrous adulation still occurs. Honest biographies are necessary to remind us that we are to idolize no person. All are crooked sticks, and crooked sticks are harder to idolize.

But the straight lines they are used to draw reveal that they are useful instruments in the hand of an Artist worthy of our honor. We thank God therefore for the work of great men, and we pray to God that he will draw something straight with us as well.

Dear Diary…

I mused a few weeks ago about the lost art of the diary.

Apparently, according to the New York Times, I’m not the only one musing along those lines. The Morgan Library and Museum in New York has apparently brought together an exhibit focusing on the art of keeping a diary. Oh, to be able to visit. If the previous post sparked any interest at all, this article will be worth the read.

As I did, the author here sees the relationship between the diary and things such as Facebook and Twitter.

Our own era, of course, has turned spontaneous journalizing into something of a fetish, as 140-character tweets supposedly spring spontaneously from the thumbs of celebrities; scores of electronic walls sprout on which “friends” post tirelessly about their socially networked activities; and blogs are tossed into the electronic ether like rolled-up notes floating in virtual bottles. And though far less distinguished, the contemporary mix of self-invention, self-promotion and self-revelation is probably not that different from what is on display here.

But the most interesting observation she makes is on whether written self-reflection is true. Some diarists clearly wrote for history, and tidied up their lives to make themselves look good. Others wrote for themselves, and might have been excessively hard on themselves. For honesty, she commends the author of the Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” John Newton:

An enormous volume by the British slaveholder John Newton recounts his spiritual conversion (which led to the composition of the hymn “Amazing Grace” and to his later opposition to slavery), but also his “repeated backslidings”: “I have been reading what I have recorded of my experience in the last year — a strange vanity. I find myself condemned in every page.”

My own journal keeping occurs early, early in the morning, when sometimes my soul is as dark as the sky is outside. It’s not necessarily an accurate description of my whole view of life!

Anyway, fascinating reading.

The Diary

Interesting men and women of the past kept diaries. They would record, often daily, without the aid of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates (or Thomas Edison for that matter) thoughts, observations, joys, sorrows, all threaded through a running narrative of their daily lives.

Do they still? I really don’t know. I don’t.

In Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln Doris Kearns Goodwin tells the stories of four men who rose to prominence in the 19th century: Lincoln, and three rivals who eventually served with him on his cabinet. She records the diary keeping habits of one of these men, Edward Bates of St. Louis.

Beyond commentary on his family and his city, Bates filled the pages of his diary with observations of the changing seasons, the progress of his flowers, and the phases of the moon. He celebrated the first crocus each year, his elm trees shedding seed, oaks in full tassel, tulips in their prime. (page 67)

Goodwin goes on to note that Bates was a “contented man”. That in and of itself is a rare thing.

Taking time to regularly take note of one’s place in life and to reflect on the rhythms around us by recording our narratives would be beneficial, especially for those who process life by writing, and could perhaps serve to feed contentment.

Why did such men and women keep diaries? Were they kept by only certain social strata? Did they keep them with the expectation that they would be read? If they lived now, would they trade the diary for Facebook, Twitter, or a blog? Did anyone ever begrudge them the time spent in their diary keeping? Where did they find the time, discipline, and motive to keep a diary?

Those questions could make an interesting study, which I’m sure has been done. But my real interest is whether anyone, perhaps among my readers, yet keeps a diary. If you do, please share some of your thoughts with the rest of us.

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).