Don’t You Hate Being Wrong?

It is no calumny to be mistaken. Indeed, it is not even a very great fault. And although it is preferable to be correct, other matters of far greater importance ought to pull rank on any division over a matter of correctness.

There are, of course, matters in which correctness is of vital, nay, crucial importance, but this import is not derived from the correctness itself, but from other matters and considerations. Salvation is a prime example. For to be perfectly accurate (though not necessarily precise) on the matters upon which our eternal souls depend is a matter of eternal import. Yet it is evident that this importance is due to the immeasurable stakes which are upon this belief, and not to the details of the belief itself. Thus we must be perfectly accurate in this, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the consequences of that belief.

You will say that God is Truth, that He values truth, that He abhors false witnesses, that He is Holy (and thus no fault or mistake is in His nature), and that we ought to be like Him. You will moreover assert that God commands us to hold to those standards, so to neglect to seek Truth would be to sin against Him. I do not contest these assertions.

I do, however, contend that these truths to not make mistakes in accuracy sins themselves, but merely the neglect to pursue the eradication of these errors. I still further contend that there are other duties held so much higher in God’s esteem that when these come in conflict with out quest for truth, we must relinquish said quest for their sakes.

This philosophy has two manifestations in practical life, insofar as I know. Each of these are sadly quite common, and ought to be solidly addressed.

The first is where you find yourself in a situation in which another person is mistaken, and because of this difference in belief between the two of you, there is potential for discord and other undesirables. The Biblical example is eating food. Some people mistakenly believe it is sinful to eat certain foods, others do not have this misunderstanding of the Bible. Paul says that it is more important to avoid conflict with the person than it is to confront them. We ought to, as far as reason allows, trick them into thinking we agree with them, more or less. It is more important to help keep them from feeling like they are sinning than to help them see their mistake. (Of course we still ought not to avoid preaching and teaching the truth. (Paul didn’t)) This conclusion is clear to anyone who has read Romans 14-15 honestly.

The second is where you find yourself in a situation in which another person is mistaken, and that person is in significant authority over you. This is something that has a lot more emotional charge than the last, and I do not expect many of you to agree with me. But here ’tis. There are situations in which we ought to submit certain beliefs of ours to another in the cause of obedience, submission, and creating a good witness.

What kinds of situations? Well the most solid one is that of husbands and wives. If a husband believes that a wife ought to wear headcoverings, and she doesn’t believe that, it is her duty to submit to her husband’s belief and wear them. Same thing with other topics like eating certain foods, going to church, etc. This is being a witness to her husband, and God will bless that, possible even turning her husband to the truth. Mistakes in minor doctrines like these are so unimportant that they are hardly worth mentioning, especially if doing so would be an act of rebellion, disrespect, or conflict. This principle is not so obvious, but just as strong. Study 1 Peter 3:1-6 in coordination with Romans 14-15 if you want to see it.

This principle also applies to children who are under their father’s authority. (Don’t ask me when they go out from under his authority, that is another post entirely.)

The basic principle is that seeking truth is good and profitable, as long as it doesn’t conflict with other, more important things like submission and charity.

What are your thoughts on this concept? This is a hot topic, but I would like to see what you think.

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15 Responses

  1. Great post!

    The only bone I found to pick with it was in the case of submitting to those who are in authority over you. While I believe in ever word you said, obviously, if a spouse or parent were to ask you to do something that clearly went against Scriptural teaching, then we should concur with God’s Word, which I believe you made clear in your first example.

    • Y es, there is that caveat. But I sincerely and seriously am disgusted by having to make it, and so I avoid it when possible.

      The plain and simple truth is that, yes, they are out of their jurisdiction to command you to do certain things (as I covered in my last post I believe). And as such you are not necessarily bound to yield to them.

      This is not an excuse to be rebellious, however. It is still advised, and also commanded (when the issue is small, like in a matter of correctness or a mere personal belonging), by Scripture for you to knuckle under and submit to the faulty authority. That is the whole point of turning the other cheek and yielding your cloak and coat and etc.

      It is a very rare and extreme situation that merits an actual revolution… which is another post. The problem is that people nowadays use this truth of “you have to agree with the Bible to rule over me” to justify “my interpretation of the Bible is your leash for your authority” and thence to “I control you and you don’t get a say in what I believe.” See the problem?

      Does that make sense? Do you see why I hate that caveat?

  2. I like how you point out that that isn’t a reason for rebellion. Veddy gutt.

    Well, my perspective is a tad bit more or less different than yours, but most points in your explanation made sense. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Jay,

    I agree with pretty much everything you said, but, I do have one relatively minor disagreement. ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t believe we are to “trick” people into believing that we agree with them. Rather, we are simply to not try to coerce or shame them into offending their conscience and/or yield our right, for instance, to eat certain foods (if we are having them over for dinner, for example) so as to not cause them to stumble or create (by offending their conscience) conflict between the two of you.

    In regards to your exchange with Rebeka, I agree with both of you basically. ๐Ÿ™‚ Rebeka is correct that there are exceptions to the rule, but you are right that more often than not people use the exceptions for their own sinful purposes. As Mark Driscoll put it, “See, everybody wants to be the exception to the rule. Yeah, there are exceptions and you aren’t it.” ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hey Mark (I love it when you comment by the way),

      I see your point, and I do see its validity. My reasoning was that we weren’t supposed to give them the impression that they can do something they think is wrong by doing it ourselves in their presence, and thus betraying their conscience. After more thought under the light of your interpretation (I believe I understand you rightly to mean that we aren’t to expect them to break their standards to meet ours), I realize that my position is untenable because that would make preaching against something an infraction of this principle. Thank you very much! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Good quote! I have heard that before, but didn’t remember it, or else I would have included it possibly. Thanks! That says it all. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. I appreciate it when you post, so we’re even. ๐Ÿ˜›

    Yes, that was my basic point. One of the “macro” points I believe Paul was trying to make in those chapters is that…a conscience is a fragile thing…but it is the key instrument by/through which God works. So, we must guard our conscience and protect other believersโ€™ consciences (to the extent that we can and especially those of young or “weak” believers) to the greatest degree possible. Weak believers can’t grow or will struggle to grow strong if their conscience is being violated and/or needlessly. That is why we don’t cause or urge them to violate their conscience in such small matters as eating meat. To them, it’s not small thing.

    When we step back and honestly look at things we will see that if we want to help them guard their conscience and grow closer to the Lord we can and will. Assuming you believe “a little wine is good for the stomach”, do we really need to serve or consume a little after dinner wine in the presence of a newly converted alcoholic whose conscience is offended by it? No, not at all. It’s a very small sacrifice on our part not to…almost to small to note.

    It is a sign of weakness and immaturity on the part of a “mature” believer if they cannot aid a believer who is “weak in the faith”.

    • Haha, alright.

      That is a good way of putting it.

      After some thought, I realized that principle possibly applies to what I am talking about here in another way as well. If a new ‘weak’ believer is mistaken and believes that inaccuracy is a sin, and we brush off a mistake as minor, would that be violating their conscience? Or would the violation occur when we encourage them to forget about a small difference in view of a greater cause?

      More thought needs to be made on that.

  5. “Paul says that it is more important to avoid conflict with the person than it is to confront them. We ought to, as far as reason allows, trick them into thinking we agree with them, more or less. It is more important to help keep them from feeling like they are sinning than to help them see their mistake. (Of course we still ought not to avoid preaching and teaching the truth. (Paul didnโ€™t))”

    Whoa.

    Your last sentence helps. But I disagree with you, there. We shouldn’t be making mountains out of molehills- but I don’t see why we shouldn’t help them see their mistake…

    I agreed with the point that you thought would get less agreement more than with the point that you thought would get more.

  6. Yes, I saw that after. So. You’re welcome. ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. […] don’t attack. Being mistaken is never a sin in itself,ย even in matters of doctrine, and it is rarely very bad either. It can be dangerous, though, which […]

  8. […] donโ€™t attack.ย Being mistaken is never a sin in itself and it is rarely very bad either. It can be dangerous, though, which should motivate us to be as […]

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