In Defense of My Opponents

I once heard the tale of a dark and dangerous place which often goes by the name of Internet! If the rumors are true, then that place overflows with angry attacks, countermoves, and insults without measure. Many an innocent child or a virtuous thinker has entered her realm and returned (if they return at all) with the scars and the soiled countenances of wars which should never have been fought. Brothers turn against brothers in the treacherous city of Internet, and old friends become the fiercest of foes.

I heard the report as well, of the fairer skies in a town called Conciliar Post. A rascal or two have stopped there to test their mettle, only to find a community of discussion, deep thought, and mutual respect. Forgive the puzzled looks on their faces. They came looking to tussle and found only friends.

While Christians of different persuasions do not see eye to eye in all things, I trust that we can agree about the beauty of disagreements between orthodox Christians in the first few centuries AD. Perhaps nothing has ever surprised me more than to read the charity shown between the apostolic bishops regarding the status of various books as Holy Scripture or wholly not. No offensive defenses were written nor were friendships broken over whether John’s Revelation was revealed by God. No one questioned the motives of those who thought “The Shepherd of Hermas” to be divine, nor were triumphant told-you-so’s penned when at last the Shepherd was put out to pasture.

For close to a year now, I’ve poked and prodded fellow readers and writers for one single purpose: that in gaining understanding of those whom we mistook as enemies, we might instead see our oh-so-incorrect peers as sincere in faith and valuable, despite their misguided understanding of holy things. I jumped into Conciliar Post with a defense of those dreaded rapture-theorists. I next claimed that Nestorius himself was orthodox. I have attacked the Protestant canon and questioned Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology. I took aim at Roman Catholic soteriology and even challenged the decisions of more than one Church Council.

I have not however, claimed for myself superiority in any of these matters. I have no doubt of my fallibility nor do I underestimate my relative ignorance of Christian history. I present only the best of my current understanding for everyone to scrutinize and correct.

My chief regret is that those who have charitably disagreed with me in this fair land, have sometimes retreated from the discussion without laying out their case in full. The best arguments are not those which one wins, but those which one loses. I have never learned anything by restating my own opinion. Instead, I have benefitted immeasurably when shown where my logic and my learning fell most obviously short.

The Protestant who recoils at the wider canon is my brother and my sister. No one need agree with that argument; I only hope that it elicited consideration and investigation. To those who believe their branch of Christianity is the one true Church, I take no offense at your sincerity and zeal. Those who insist on the penal substitutionary theory are not my enemies. I have no condemnation for those who are in the Anointed Lord Jesus. For in all such weighty matters and more, we agree that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, God’s Anointed ruler, the only Begotten of the Father, uncreated, incarnate in human flesh, without beginning or end of days, crucified for our transgressions, victorious over sin, victorious over death, and victorious over the oppressive rule of the evil one.

We wrestle not with flesh and blood, yet I do ask that those who find offense at my wandering thoughts will oppose me while assuming the best intentions behind my words. I beg that those who know better than I do will love me enough to argue with me here at Conciliar Post. No need to call me names, much less to declare your understanding as a self-evident axiom and depart in haste. Please, present your case, and tarry long enough expose my lapse of reason as if I were valued enough to be corrected in full.

What can compare to the treasure of a kind and unyielding opponent? If I refuse to agree with you, then at least help me to understand how you have arrived at your better conclusion. I sincerely salute you, my brother, my sister, my opponent (in words alone), my friend. You who correct me have given me a gift and have done me no wrong

“Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:5-6

Matthew Bryan

Matthew Bryan

Matthew is a post-Protestant disciple of Jesus, an avid disciple-maker, a father of 2 grown men, and the delighted husband of Kristy. He holds a Bachelor of Science summa cum laude from the University of Memphis and has authored 3 books. A former church planter, Matthew now serves within the Restoration Movement. He enjoys reading the letters of Desiderius Erasmus, learning the history of empires, and encouraging believers to take up Biblical Greek for the twin purposes of clarity and unity.

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