For those who do not recognize the question at the head of this article, it is part of Job’s response to the arguments of Eliphaz the Temanite and is found in Job 6:25. The whole verse reads: “How forcible are right words! but what doth your arguing reprove?”
I confess that I have sometimes been like Eliphaz. When someone did not acknowledge the truth of my arguments, I would repeat them at little louder and more shrilly. That didn’t work for Eliphaz. Didn’t work for me, either. I have come to see that being a hothead is an acknowledgement of the weakness of my argument, that I have not fully considered the implications of what I am saying.
It is certainly not wrong for a Christian to wish to stand up for what he believes. Yet it seems that many Christians, new Christians especially, tend to be a little too emphatic, too demanding, in their defence of the faith.
Desiderius Erasmus was openly critical of the errors and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church, yet he chose to remain a member of that church rather than join the Reformation. He gave his reasons in a letter dated 1529:
Look around on this ‘Evangelical’ generation, and observe whether amongst them less indulgence is given to luxury, lust, or avarice, than amongst those whom you so detest. Show me any one person who by that Gospel has been reclaimed from drunkenness to sobriety, from fury and passion to meekness, from avarice to liberality, from reviling to well-speaking, from wantonness to modesty. I will show you a great many who have become worse through following it….The solemn prayers of the Church are abolished, but now there are very many who never pray at all…. I have never entered their conventicles, but I have sometimes seen them returning from their sermons, the countenances of all of them displaying rage, and wonderful ferocity, as though they were animated by the evil spirit…. Who ever beheld in their meetings any one of them shedding tears, smiting his breast, or grieving for his sins ?… Confession to the priest is abolished, but very few now confess to God…. They have fled from Judaism that they may become Epicureans.
I as particularly struck by the phrase “I have sometimes seen them returning from their sermons, the countenances of all of them displaying rage.” It reminded me of what a friend told me many years ago. He was a car dealer in a prairie town and in this town there was a church whose name proclaimed their descent from one of the churches of the Reformation. My friend told me that this church held a Bible study on Wednesday evenings, and after Bible study they went downtown to shop before returning home — and they always appeared to be angry!!
I don’t wish to single out any individuals or denominations, what I want to say here applies to all of us who claim to be Christians. When we try to convince others of the truth of our gospel, it would really be nice if they could see that the gospel has had some purifying and mellowing effect on us. Otherwise, we might as well save our breath.
“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).