By Larry Ray Hafley
Lyman Beecher said, “No great advance has been made science, politics or religion without controversy.”
Spurgeon, perhaps the best known Baptist preacher of all time, said:
Controversy for the truth against the errors of the age is, we feel more than ever convinced, the peculiar duty of the preacher in the present crisis. Our spirit is, we hope, one of genuine love to all the chosen of God, but the rule of modern charity that requires us to keep certain points in the background, we utterly abhor. It is treason to the Lord Jesus to be silent on any point where He has spoken, and where the honor of His gospel is concerned. It is of course the most easy to flesh and blood to deal in generalities, to denounce sectarianism, and claim to be of an ultra-catholic spirit; but though rough and rugged, it is required of the loyal servant of King Jesus to maintain all His crown rights and stand up for every word of His laws. Friends chide us and foes abhor us when we are very jealous for the Lord God of Israel, but what do these things matter if the Master approves? . . . Silence and temporizing will only protract or postpone a struggle which must come sooner or later; and he is wisest who, loving all truth, fears not to publish all, gainsay it who may (C.H. Spurgeon, preface to Volume II, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, as quoted by Wayne Camp).
In The Baptist Examiner (p. 7, September 7, 1963), J.C. Ryle said, “Controversy and religious strife no doubt are odious things; but there times when they are a positive necessity. Unity and peace are very delightful; but they are bought too dear if they are bought at the expense of truth. There is a vast amount of maundering, childish, weak talk nowadays in some quarters about unity and peace, which I cannot reconcile with the language of Paul. It is a pity, no doubt, that there should be so much controversy; but it is also a pity that human nature should be so bad as it is, and that the devil should be loose in the world. It was a pity that Arius taught error about Christ’s person; but it would have been a greater pity if Athanasius had not opposed him. It was a pity Tetzel went about preaching up the Pope’s indulgences; it would have been a far greater pity if Luther had not withstood him. Controversy, in fact, is one of the conditions under which truth in every age has to be defended, and maintained, and it is nonsense to ignore it.”
Well, if editor Willis or myself had said what is noted and quoted above, we may have lost our Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Even the title of this article was stolen from a Baptist Church bulletin! It is sad that a few brethren may shriek at the unloving militance of these Baptists. But the Baptist words above sound like some of the echoes of those crude “Campbellites” from an earlier generation.
Wayne Camp, a Baptist preacher, was chided by a liberal in the “restoration movement” for a debate that he was to have with me. My sweet-spirited brother said, “Wayne, why debate Hafley? Remember, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” To which my friend Camp replied, “I’m not in the fly catching business.” Amen and amen.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 16, p. 481
August 20, 1987