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John Calvin's Advice: Christians, Do Not Waste Your Time Arguing with Heretical Preachers!

For the New Year, here's a piece of advice of how Reformed students can start the year right from John Calvin...

In spite of the fact that John Calvin had a published debate with Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto where he wrote that a faith devoid of works is unbiblical, he also said that it is a waste of time to debate with heretics.  Maybe before he said that statement, he used to spend time debating or maybe, he even debated with the Jesuit founder Ignatius of Loyola.  But later, he soon found that in his debate with false preachers that he wasted his time in doing that.  Perhaps it was by his learning experience that he said that arguing with heretics is a total waste of time.

The Geneva Study Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:16, "He reveals the subtilty of Satan, who beginning with these principles, draws us by little and little to ungodliness through the means of that wicked and profane babbling, which gradually increases.  And this he proves by the horrible example of those that taught that the resurrection was already past."  What the comment is saying is simply that Satan really knows how to take advantage of conflicts.  Although Christians are saved but remember, if Satan can make Lot deliberately move into Sodom, make Solomon have the wrong alliances or David commit adultery with Bathsheba which are heavier sins, certainly he can also make Christians lose their testimony by what some may call as lesser sins.  This can be that Satan can mislead Christians in their flesh that they should debate which soon makes the Christian lose their image.  If watered down preaching is wrong then so is teaching the truth in a way that's going as cheesy and offensive as possible.  As much as the truth should offend the sinner, the truth still needs to be spoken in love and not in a way to deliberately offend others like shouting, yelling and cursing at unbelievers.  

While there is a truth war to fight but nowhere in Pastor John F. MacArthur's book "Truth War" did he encourage to do conflict for conflict's sake or to keep debating with heretics after you have rebuked their heresy.  While you need to rebuke heresy and correct heresy but spending time debating on who's right and who's wrong is really a waste of time.  Christians are told to fight for the truth but not to fight with other people.  The more the debate goes on, the more battles and disputes increase which in turn gets rid of Christlike behavior because ungodliness increases in its place.  While it's Christlike to rebuke sin and heresy calling for the person's repentance but it must be done with the motive of love for the other person.  Jesus may have confronted the Pharisees but He did not debate with them nor did he quarrel them.  He warned them and spoke the harsh truth but He did not quarrel with them.  

The debates with heretics appeals to the flesh and since Christians still have their sinful nature (which sins) along with their new nature (which cannot sin), it appeals to the pride of life.  A Christian may refuse the lust of the eyes or the lust of the flesh but they can fail in resisting the pride of life.  Getting involved with debates means appealing to the pride of life.  Like any comfortable bed, sin is very hard to pull out when you get comfortable in it.  Even if a Christian may not find comfort in getting drunk, drug dealing or the obvious sins but it can be very easy to get comfortable with debating with heretics.  When one gets trapped in a debate against heretics, it ends up getting trapped into one's system and it will be very hard to get out.  Like drugs and alcohol, once you pop you cannot easy stop and the same goes for those useless debates with heretics.  It takes God's grace to say no to a debate and a Christian should just say no to debating heretics.  If a Christian can say, "No thanks, I'm a Christian." to vices like drugs and alcohol by God's grace, the same goes for debating with heretics, they have that power to resist it by God's grace.

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