How To Deal With Doctrinal Disagreements George Whitefield Style!

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;

2Timothy 2:23-26

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.”[9] But while their public cooperation was thus seriously disturbed, his personal affection for the Wesleys as Christians was preserved to the last.[10] 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.

Any thoughts?

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8 thoughts on “How To Deal With Doctrinal Disagreements George Whitefield Style!

  1. I think the problem with Christians today is we all think we are right and others are in error and hence false teachers.

    How do we exactly judge the difference between ‘doctrinal disputes’ and ‘errant behavior’ amongst professing brothers ? For instance saying Arminianism and Calvinism are simply doctrinal differences but modern evangelicalism or prosperity gospel are heresies is absurd in IMHO. I’m not defending the latter here. My point is if modern evangelicalism and prosperity gospel are erroneous teaching and should be handled according to 1 Corinthians 5, Arminianism or Calvinism should be handled in the same manner, which ever is wrong.

    They are far too dissimilar to be considered mere differences. Let me clarify this by a couple of points. Firstly, while one teaches atonement for only a few pre-elected individuals based on nothing- not even faith but solely on so-called sovereignty, the other teaches atonement for all and salvation based on faith. Secondly, one teaches it is impossible to fall away while the other teaches it is possible. These ‘differences’ deal with the main message of the Bible and can never be treated lightly. In other words, if we really want to be truthful, we should also apply 1 Corinthians 5 or label Calvin, Whitefield, Arminius or Wesley as false teachers(whoever is in error)the same way we apply them to what we call ‘false teachers’ because they can not all be right.

    If we can’t be truthful or honest enough to take this step then i suggest we all follow Whitefield’s example which IMO is the most scriptural way. Let God be the judge in his appointed time.

    “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God”

    • Hi Arthur,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I think the problem with Christians today is we all think we are right and others are in error and hence false teachers.

      I agree with you.

      How do we exactly judge the difference between ‘doctrinal disputes’ and ‘errant behavior’ amongst professing brothers ? For instance saying Arminianism and Calvinism are simply doctrinal differences but modern evangelicalism or prosperity gospel are heresies is absurd in IMHO. I’m not defending the latter here. My point is if modern evangelicalism and prosperity gospel are erroneous teaching and should be handled according to 1 Corinthians 5, Arminianism or Calvinism should be handled in the same manner, which ever is wrong.

      What I meant by “errant behavior” was open sin which is why I referenced 1 Corinthians 5. Heresy should be dealt with according to Romans 16:17 and should be marked, or “watched”.

      They are far too dissimilar to be considered mere differences. Let me clarify this by a couple of points. Firstly, while one teaches atonement for only a few pre-elected individuals based on nothing- not even faith but solely on so-called sovereignty, the other teaches atonement for all and salvation based on faith. Secondly, one teaches it is impossible to fall away while the other teaches it is possible. These ‘differences’ deal with the main message of the Bible and can never be treated lightly. In other words, if we really want to be truthful, we should also apply 1 Corinthians 5 or label Calvin, Whitefield, Arminius or Wesley as false teachers(whoever is in error)the same way we apply them to what we call ‘false teachers’ because they can not all be right.

      We do that via Romans 16:17. 1 Corinthians 5 is for dealing with open sin by professing brothers.

      If we can’t be truthful or honest enough to take this step then i suggest we all follow Whitefield’s example which IMO is the most scriptural way. Let God be the judge in his appointed time.

      I take this step every day Arthur. My suggestion is to follow the example of Whitefield and seperate the teachings from the teacher.

      “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God”

      Amen.

      Thanks,

      Phil

  2. Amen! as our old wineskins fade away and are replaced by new ones, our understanding is being enlightened and that process occurs at different times in each individual’s life, according to how diligently we seek Him and God’s grace in their lives. I know that the early church was in one accord on the day of Pentecost. I don’t know of any other group that has been ever since, even though they may claim to be. Just like when Jesus redeemed us believers when He rose from the dead, His redemption in our personal lives is taking place in our hearts today. We were born again at a set time and moment, but the benefits of that salvation manifest daily. That was the gospel then and it’s still the power onto our salvation now. There are many mysteries that can only be revealed to us by the Spirit of God and to judge others based on the amount of that knowledge as though anyone has any control over His mercy is just prideful. It’s when we try to understand things with our minds and not with our hearts that many divisions occur. But we DO know that it IS possible for a group of people to all agree. It’s just not very common. Jesus is not coming back after a church full of schisms. The fact that we don’t all have the same level of revelation at this time is all part of His plan. Who is anyone to question the sovereignty of God by calling their brother a heretic??

    Isabel

  3. @Phil:

    Sorry about the misunderstanding. It was silly of me. I thought by ‘errant behavior’ you meant erroneous doctrines/teachings. Very stupid indeed.

    Thanks for the clarification and your patience. And I’m with you all the way on this.

    God Bless you.

    @inalley:

    Well said.

  4. Phil,

    At last i think u hit the right button on this.Human nature many times delves into extremes.The Early Church in Acts sure had major doctrinal differences and level of insights differed with each apostle(2Peter3:15-16).Gal2-Paul never referred to peter with the names we often use these days.In contending for the faith lets refuse to contend with our brothers.
    Calvin erred on baptism etc yet we respect him as a father in the faith-he was human.As long as sinless perfection is impossible ,to err should never be a reason to turn christians into unbelievers
    Any one any where u has believed with his heart and confessed with his mouth the death,burial&ressurection of Jesus should be seen as a brother(Rom10:8-10).Christians can be bewitched,(Gal3:1)just as the galatian church(who had ministers too),they cant be carnal 1Cor3:1-4(Just as the Corinthian church,which equally had ministers).
    Our insights into the work of redemption might differ yet we all know who redeemed us (Heb7:25)its unlikely we all were doctrinally correct unbelievers.Most pple who “demonise” certain denominations got saved in those churches yet they cant separate issues.

    Once again,i hope this attitude of Whitefield will ring thru and purge most ODMS and latter-day calvinist.Amen

  5. Phil,

    i meant to write”Christians CAN BE CARNAL 1Cor3:1-4(Just as the Corintian Church,which equally had ministers)”

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