Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us (With a Supplement) -- By: Roger R. Nicole

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 14:2 (Winter 2005)
Article: Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us (With a Supplement)
Author: Roger R. Nicole

Polemic Theology:
How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us1
(With a Supplement)

Roger R. Nicole

Roger Nicole is one of the preeminent evangelical theologians of the United States. Born in Germany of French Swiss parents, he was educated at Lausanne, the Sorbonne, Gordon Divinity School, and Harvard University. He was a charter member of the Evangelical Theological Society when it founded in 1949, and he has been a contributing editor to Christianity Today since its founding in 1956. He taught at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts for forty-one years, and then at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, for eleven years. He is currently Professor of Theology, Emeritus, of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The editors of The Emmaus Journal are delighted to welcome one of the elder statesmen of modern evangelicalism to our pages.


It seems strange that one should desire to speak at all about Polemic Theology since we are now in an age when folks are more interested in ecumenism and irenics than in polemics. Furthermore, Polemic Theology appears to have been often rather ineffective. Christians have not managed in many cases to win over their opponents. They have shown themselves to be ornery; they have bypassed some fairly important prescriptions of Scripture; and in the end, they have not convinced very many people—sometimes not even themselves! Under these circumstances one perhaps might desire to bypass a subject like this altogether.

We are called upon by the Lord to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). That does not necessarily involve being contentious; but it does involve avoiding compromise, standing forth for what we believe, standing forth for the truth of God—without welching at any particular moment. Thus we are bound to meet, at various points and on various levels, people with whom we disagree. We disagree in some areas of Christian doctrine. We disagree as to some details of church administration. We disagree as to the way in which certain tasks of the church should be pursued.

If we are careful to observe the principles that I would like to expound in this article, we may find that they are valuable not only in the religious field but also in the realms of politics, business, and family. Who does not encounter from time to time people who are not in complete agreement with us? Whether it is between husbands and wives, parents and children, co-workers on the job, or fellow members in the church, it is impossible to live without disagreement. Therefore it is good to seek to discover certain basic princi...

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