In Error or in Disagreement?

errorAnyone who has studied and taught knows this frustration all too well.

“I just heard your teaching on X, and I am sorry but you are in error on this issue.”

“Oh, did you study my sources? I gave my sources, I’ve been studying this for a long time now and I would like to hear why you think I am in error.”

“The Bible says you are in error, and when I heard your teaching, the Spirit within me rose up in anger.”

(Here is where the conversation gets dangerous because you have to let the “spirit” comment go by as if it never happened – most folks attribute their own offense to be the leading of the Spirit and if you disagree with them, then they make it into a proclamation that you are saying they aren’t hearing from the Spirit, which generally they don’t nearly as often as they think they do – but we’ve all been there, right?)

“The Bible is one of my sources, please show me where it disagrees with what I teach because I certainly don’t want to be unbiblical.”

At this point they either will or will not agree to show you. Sometimes they will show you something out of context, and if you try and insert context they will reject it because the Holy Spirit “teaches them all they need to know” (again, this is a conversation ender). Sometimes they will outright refuse and just tell you that you need to study or listen to X’s teaching on that subject. I like to ask people what they have studied on the matter, and if all they can say is that they got their doctrines through Bible reading and prayer, or by listening to other people I just let it go. It’s a Catch 22. I read the Bible, and I pray, and I listen to other people but time and time again it has been my experience that the Counselor only tells me things that I need to hear and nothing that I want to hear. Who needs a counselor to tell them what they already believe? The Spirit restrains me, more often than not, and quenches my offense, more often than not, and rebukes me, more often than not.

But the problem here doesn’t simply lie in attributing everything to the Holy Spirit, the biggest problem is in not being willing (still, even after having been wrong so many times on so many things for so many years) to first consider the possibility that we are the ones in error, and that we are simply in disagreement with the other person.

I have a mentor who recently taught me something I did not like, and a spirit of offense rose up in me immediately. Not a violent one, but definitely an unhappy feeling inside. I heard them out and my biggest problem wasn’t disagreeing, but in agreeing that their evidence really only led in one direction and it was a direction that my flesh hated because it went against everything that I had ever been taught about it. But as I heard the evidence it was like, “Oh gosh this hurts but I can’t argue with their logic or evidence other than to cite what I have always been taught and bad english language translations.”

It hurt like it hurt to hear that the Law was never done away with. Cutting flesh away hurt badly. To be honest, it hurts right now even just thinking about it. If I didn’t respect their decades of study, I would toss it out the window, but here is a person of proven track record and character and I know that they don’t just put stuff out there lightly – especially stuff that challenges paradigms. In this society today, few are willing to consider the possibility that the reason they don’t agree with such and such teacher is because they haven’t spent the same amount of hours studying. We want everything to be easy – we want to read a quick blurb on an internet site and be experts, or we want to spend some time in prayer and have the Spirit reveal everything to us when most of us are more than capable of spending some time studying if we wanted to.  But in this area, although I haven’t read all of their sources, the Bible did back them up – and I only knew this because a completely separate teacher had shown me a translation problem years ago. I was stuck attributing my offense to the flesh, even though I wanted it to be the Spirit.

So I sent them a note that read something like this, “I don’t like this teaching, it is messing with what I have always been taught and my flesh is screaming – BUT, the reason I hate it most is because everything you have presented, along with everything I read in the word is backing up what you are saying. It’s going to take me a long time to deal with this, but I want you to know that I am struggling with it and certainly not disregarding it just because it offends me.”

Paradigms don’t shatter easily, and we always have to be on guard against our flesh – which doesn’t want to change, not ever. Our flesh likes to reside in this fantasy world of “knowing it all” and “not being challenged because we know it all.” Unfortunately, I don’t know it all, and whenever that is made apparent my flesh is going to remind me that it isn’t going to change without a fight – and my flesh will try to masquerade as the Holy Spirit every single time, masking my offense in mock holiness.

As a teacher, it is incredibly frustrating to me when people disagree without having studied, or without having studied legitimate sources, or who mistake their own discomfort for the leading of the Spirit – but it is all part of the job. People want to be heard, people want to be authorities, people want to retain their beliefs – no different than when we were all sitting in the pews in Sunday churches. We really aren’t as different from them as we like to think we are – challenge our deeply held paradigms and we will react in exactly the same way they do.

Defensively and pridefully.

 

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