17 August 2008

How to read an opponent -- Wisdom Sunday

If anything in these chapters should prove useful to the soul, it will be revealed to the reader by the grace of God, provided that he reads, not out of curiosity, but in the fear and love of God. If a man reads this or any other work not to gain spiritual benefit, but to track down matter with which to abuse the author, so that in his conceit he can show himself to be the more learned, nothing profitable will ever be revealed to him in anything. – Maximus the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love.
“Tracking down matter” with which to “abuse the author” is the most popular way of reading anything an opponent might write. The opponent provides little more than an opportunity for one to demonstrate one’s superior grasp of facts, one’s greater skill with logical argumentation. At the out-set of the read, one knows one’s opponent is wrong, probably about everything, and it’s a simple matter of finding where he’s wrong and exposing him.

In truth, an opponent is an opportunity to practice charity and love of one’s enemy. Yes, error must be refuted, but Christian refutation begins not with immediately crafting rebuttals. Christian refutation begins by “putting on” and “wearing” the opponent’s view, briefly seeing the world, and possibly yourself, according to his report of it.

In truth, the Christian’s real enemy is not the human opponent, but falsehood itself, and, behind falsehood, the Father of Falsehood.

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James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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