Letting Them Alone

July 3, 2006

Recently I ran across an amazing quote from Alexander Campbell, taken from “Debate on Human Creeds” between Campbell and his Presbyterian opponent, N. L. Rice.

It is not the object of our efforts to make men think alike on a thousand themes. Let men think as they please on any matters of human opinion, and upon ‘doctrines of religion,’ provided only they hold the head Christ, and keep his commandments. I have learned, not only the theory, but the fact, that if you wish opinionism to cease or subside, you must not call up and debate every thing that men think or say. You may debate anything into consequence, or you may, by a dignified silence, waste it into oblivion. I have known innumerable instances of persons outliving their opinions, and erroneous reasonings, and even sometimes forgetting the modes of reasoning by which they had embraced or sustained them. This was the natural result of the philosopy of letting them alone. In this way, they came to be of one mind in all points in which unity of thought is desirable, in order to unity of worship and of action.

About a century later, W. Carl Ketcherside quoted the above statement in a Mission Messenger article, describing it as “one of the most significant statements I have ever read.” (Thanks to Phil at restorationunity.com for pointing out to another great article at the Christian Standard where I first found this quote).

Anyone who has read this blog for very long knows that I frequently appeal to 2 Tim 2:24-26 as an important divine instruction for addressing disagreements in the church. I think the above comment from Campbell illustrates very well the wisdom behind Paul’s admonition to Timothy and to the rest of us. Rather than debating every point, and arrogantly demanding that all submit to our views, we need to be patient with one another while God works to bring us to unity.

I continue to be fascinated and deeply encouraged to find that this was the mindset of the founders of the Restoration Movement. Let’s return to those roots!

One comment

  1. Its hard to find unity and allow for differences of opinion when we live in a world of “I’ll just go somewhere else”. There doesn’t seem much commitment to each other in the church. If its easy to leave, they never had a connection with their brothers to begin with.

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