Wisdom for Theological Controversy

In a fallen world, controversy abounds. Political controversy. Economic controversy. International controversy. Even theological controversy rears its head even in the best of ministries. How are these controversies addressed? Concern for the Bible’s authority on theological controversies is a question of biblical sufficiency. The authority of the Bible is endless. Regardless of issue, problem, temptation, or even controversy, the Bible is sufficient to give wisdom. Often the Bible is used to answer the important questions of faith and conduct. But when theological controversies arise, the Scriptures are enough to answer them, and should be the primary consideration for resolving them. The apostle Paul charged Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul gave Timothy this charge in light of future theological controversies. Paul wrote, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:2-3). Looking back at verse 2, notice the simplicity of Paul’s charge. Boiled down, the charge is merely to preach the word. Paul uses the Greek term λόγος. Logos (word) is used in 317 New Testament verses referring to communication and, specifically, communication of God’s truths. Throughout his writings, Paul uses logos when referring to the word of God.

In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul charges Timothy to preach the word of God in response to inevitable theological controversies. A time would come in which Timothy’s hearers would turn from the truth to myths. Theological myths raise controversies by challenging sound doctrine. The Greek word for myth is μῦθος and refers to a fable or falsehood. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes a similar caution. “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:5-7). These men also stray from faithful instruction and practice fruitless discussion. Though they want to, they are unable to teach because they place their confidence in speculations that they do not understand (1 Timothy 1:4). Again, the solution to these speculations is sound instruction from the word of God. The Bible has sufficient authority on theological controversies.

Paul refers again to theological speculations (controversies) in a letter to the Corinthian church. “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6). This passage shows that theological controversies are comprised of lofty ideas that stand up against the knowledge of God. When Paul speaks of the knowledge of God he must think of the Bible. In another letter to the Corinthians he writes, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Paul equates the message preached (biblical truth) with the wisdom of God (or knowledge of God). The answers to theological controversies are found in the Bible.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In the context of this crucial passage, Paul (still writing to Timothy) warned him that evil men and impostors would degenerate into deception and being deceived. As a safeguard for Timothy, Paul exhorted Timothy to continue in what he learned from his teachers; even since birth: the Holy Scriptures. He described the Scriptures as sufficient for salvation and wisdom. For Timothy to answer controversies, destroy speculations, and silence fruitless discussions, he must stand under the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

TheologyRush Witt