Part 1: Assert Without Apology or Pride.Part 2: Critique, Correction, and Warning Part 3 (coming) Part 4 (coming) Part 5 (coming)
Please note: this series is addressed to Calvinists (like myself), but obviously applies to all Christians.
A couple weeks ago I started this brief, five-part series encouraging Calvinists to do well; to be better than the popular caricature of the "angry Calvinist," or maybe even better than we have actually been. For some this is merely an encouragement to "excel still more" as they are bright, godly examples we should all learn from. For others it is an encouragement to repent from a cold Calvinism that gets the points right, but misses the heart.
Today, I'd like to focus on the issues of critique, correction, and warning.
Tip # 2: Critique with kindness, correct with compassion, warn with earnestness.
I'm using these words, which obviously overlap, to try and press different levels of "negative," but necessary, engagement.
The reality is that life, relationships, and theology in a fallen world requires various levels of confrontation. I tend to see three general levels of confrontation that commonly happen within the church, and a good Calvinist should work at engaging brothers and others in these ways when necessary.
Critique (the smaller issues) At times we will feel compelled to offer a critique of something that in itself is not a critical issue, but still an important one. Hopefully we already know that some opinions are worth keeping to ourselves, at least some of the time. But, when we are offering critique let us do so with kindness. I'm thinking of situations in which some brothers in Christ are operating in a way that we believe to be unwise, but not necessarily against God's expressed will. Your criticism is more likely to be heard if you offer your insights, observations, and advice kindly and without a finger wagging in another's direction. Honestly, I've seen this done well online and in person. But we've also seen it done very poorly. If you must critique do so kindly, expressing good-will and a benevolent attitude.
Correction (dealing with larger issues) We all need correction from time to time, and love, over everything else, should be the compelling factor in offering correction. Being corrected is at least awkward. Actually being wrong is even worse. So when bringing a strong word doctrinal correction to a brother do so with compassion.
Correcting with compassion doesn't mean forgoing hard words, but means that when giving hard words we do so with an awareness that this is my brother/sister in Christ, that they have erred in something significant, and that by God's grace I see this issue more clearly. As a fellow Christian and sinner we should feel sympathy and sorrow for our brother who is in the wrong.
Warning (dealing with gospel and orthodoxy issues) Sometimes we will have to engage people on the most important issues where life, death, and eternity are truly at stake. At this level we are not merely offering critique, or correcting, we are warning others of true and terrible danger. Some warning is directed to those who are drifting from the nature of God and the saving work of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we will have to warn another who is preaching "another gospel" or teaching theology that undermines it. We must be earnest, expressing a sober zeal in our address at this level of confrontation.
Calvinists, like all Christians, are compelled by Scripture to critique, correct, and warn. But not all issues and people should be engaged in the same way. As we speak to others concerning Christian doctrine and practice, let's do so carefully, patiently, and with an aim at both pointing to the truth and rescuing a brother or sister from error.
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2 ESV