I’ve seen it with eschatology, I’ve seen it with KJV Onlyism, I’ve seen it with the no vaccination movement. I’ve seen it with beliefs or practices I share, such as the Doctrines of Grace (you might’ve heard of “Cage Calvinists,” so-called because you want to put them in a cage and let them mature) and with home education. I’ve read and worked with and loved Christians who have a wedge issue, a hobby horse they (a) can’t stop bringing up and (b) must convert others to. It excites them more than the Gospel. They are more ready to talk and post and write about it than the Cross or the goodness of Christ or the character of God.
Not everyone who reads the King James Bible exclusively is what I’m describing here. Not everyone who is wary of vaccinations, either. But many are, and here’s what I’ve noticed: When you dig a little their lives are often on fire. Marriages are often on the rocks, kids often don’t want to have anything to do with them, many times there’s a history of church hopping and/or inability to maintain long friendships or a history of being difficult to work a job with.
I remember one co-worker who I really, seriously loved in Christ who would constantly come back to one single issue within his Christian faith. We gave each other grace and were close and we honestly cared about each other, but that issue, though I would argue is incredibly tangential (not to mention misguided), was paramount to him. And I’m fairly certain that I was pitiable in his eyes for not seeing the light. I later found out that his marriage was unimaginably problematic, that he had broken relationships with multiple children, and that he was deeply (and vocally) unhappy and bitter about his church and her leadership. And then he abruptly and angrily quit the job we worked together. It’s a pattern I’ve seen, and my conviction is that the two things, the small pet project you absolutely must argue about and the personal life that is deeply fractured, are symptoms of the same virus. The hobby horse issue that you will not let go and the regularity of broken, unhappy relationships in your life are manifestations of the same bug.
I think the same virulent strain was in Gnosticism, the early heresy that attacked the Gospel by claiming (among other false things) that there were truer, inner Christians who had secret knowledge that the lesser ones didn’t. It’s often (though not always, of course) in conspiracy theorists and died-in-the-wool political partyists who view their fellow humans in categories of the enlightened “in” and the foolish or sinister “other.” It’s a kind of pride that wants to rest in its own perceptive abilities, its own intelligence, its own research and cognition and wisdom. It enjoys the fact that it is in the minority, because it wants to be one of the few enlightened and superior or, if I can use 2018-speak, “woke” (I hope I used that right; overlook it if I didn’t). It wants to be right even more than it wants to be righteous. It wants to be vindicated even more than it wants to be justified. It wants to win even more than it wants to listen.
I’ve wrestled with pride all my life. I’m guessing I always will. But the more I’ve read or listened on podcasts to or interacted with what I’m describing, the more I’ve wanted to protect myself (and the people I love) against this particular kind. Paul wrote against divisiveness as a man of conviction. It is good to have rock-ribbed convictions in Christ. But to be more enthralled by an issue than by God Himself, to love theory more than God or people, to be willing to argue but not have the slightest interest in reconciliation (or even persuasion) but simply in being upheld and proven right and victorious, is a sign of a toxin, a poison down deep in the spiritual bloodstream.
Something is very wrong with this one who thinks he is very right.
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 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. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
1 Corinthians 1:20-29