Yesterday’s posting and the “fallout” surrounding the events of that discussion reminded me of what we are NOT to do in these types of situations. Fortunately we have a perfect example of how we are to handle doctrinal disagreements with fellow brothers in the Lord. I offer George Whitefield’s example of how we are to handle such disagreements (source)
There are plenty of folks who desire to believe George Whitefield compromised the faith by his continued admiration for his brother John Wesley. The letter I linked to shoots that theory right in the foot, Amen?
There are even some who personally blame Whitefield for the spread of the Methodist Movement which is silly. Was Whitefield supposed to erect a gigantic sign in the middle of the Atlantic that said;
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Gooooooooooooooooooooooooo Awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy!
That would be silly wouldn’t it? Instead Whitefield followed the admonition the Apostle Paul gave directly to Timothy and by extension to us as well;
But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
Iain Murray beautifully explains Whitefield’s letter;
Some evangelical writers have sought to minimize the division between Whitefield and Wesley by referring to their “minor differences.” An impression is given that Whitefield abandoned the strong conviction he had about Arminianism in 1741; in proof of this we are referred to the fact that in 1742 their personal friendship was in measure resumed and that ultimately Wesley even preached Whitefield’s funeral sermon. But all this is misleading. The truth is that Whitefield rightly made a distinction between a difference in judgement and a difference in affection; it was in the former sense that he differed from the Wesleys, and that difference was such that, as Tyerman writes, it “led them to build separate chapels, form separate societies, and pursue, to the end of life, separate lines of action . . . the gulf between Wesley and Whitefield was immense.” But while their public cooperation was thus seriously disturbed, his personal affection for the Wesleys as Christians was preserved to the last. In this respect Whitefield teaches us a needful lesson. Doctrinal differences between believers should never lead to personal antagonism. Error must be opposed even when held by fellow members of Christ, but if that opposition cannot co-exist with a true love for all saints and a longing for their spiritual prosperity then it does not glorify God nor promote the edification of the Church. (source)
Whitefield did what all of us are implored to do which is to separate the doctrine from the man. Granted Whitefield and Wesley were once close friends so it was probably easier for him but shouldn’t we all try and emulate Whitefield’s biblical example?
Before anyone gets silly there’s a big difference in how we are to handle doctrinal disputes and how we are to handle errant behavior amongst professing brothers. We have another method and that can be found in 1 Corinthians 5 just in case you were wondering.
Did George Whitefield compromise? No he did not but I’m sure there are still some hard-head my way or the high way guys who will still try and convince us that he did. I suggest its the my way or the highway folks who are the real compromiser’s.