Throughout Church history, theological controversy has been one of the enduring features. Name any communion or denomination and you will find one which has struggled with this matter. St. Maximus the Confessor was imprisoned, exiled, and lost his tongue and compared to many he got off easy. For that matter, I’d be willing to guess that among those reading this very essay, if they are Christian, have themselves had discussions, often perhaps heated, of this sort. As the title indicates, I’m leading towards a question but to start I’m going to preface that with a few remarks.
Two fragments from Scripture are perhaps relevant. (1 Corinthians 13:12) “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” For the second passage, Romans 2 offers that Jesus not men will be the final judge.
We may argue about our view of the theology, Christology, soteriology, or whatever topic, but we all must admit we only see dimly the truths to which we attest. Who is right in these argument? From the second it might be said that these arguments will only be settled at the eschaton.
My question is to what end are these arguments? What is the core reason underlying our disputes? What is at stake? I’d be very curious to hear a variety of responses to this.
For myself, my answer might be as follows. Trinitarian theology and Christology, the parables and teachings of Jesus, Paul, James and so on are beautiful. They possess symmetry and a poetry have no little impact. Teachings that obscure this beauty ... that is what is problematic. Why? Because it hinders others from seeing it. The core problem is not that you will be judged adversely if you’re a Calvinist and if at the eschaton Calvin’s teaching was fraught with error (and no, please don’t take this as a generic attack on Calvinism, the “if” is important there). The problem might be with Calvinism is whether his teachings obscures or conceals some important part of the Gospel. The core problems is whether that which I teach or what you teach hinders our neighbor from seeing and finding that pearl of great price.