Tuesday, September 19, 2006

If Iron Sharpens Iron, Then Why Is The Reformed Drawer So Full of Dull, Rusty Knives?

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

A good surgeon will use only the sharpest of knives. Why? It's because the sharper the knife, the cleaner the cut it makes. And the cleaner the cut, the closer the two sides match each other. The closer the two sides match each other, the easier it is for them to come together again in the healing process. Dull knives and chain saws make for hack jobs; the ripping up of flesh so that the two sides don't match each other. Healing is made much more difficult if not impossible. The word of God is spoken of as sharper than any two edged sword.

The irony of many Christians who hold to "doctrinal purity," and require the strictest adherence to doctrinal minutiae for fellowship, church membership, ministry leadership or pastoral candidacy is that they don't understand how iron sharpens iron. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Ephesians 4:3, "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace", interpreted as, "you must agree with every doctrinal position of the elders/church/by-laws, etc." Disagreement in any form is shunned.

But iron sharpens iron because each piece is rough. They grate against each other and the friction caused by the imperfections is what eliminates the imperfections, resulting in a sharp knife or sword. When surgery is needed, success results. When roughness in beliefs is disallowed, and everybody in a particular group is required to believe the same exact thing, no sharpening can occur. The result is, ironically, the exact thing that is not allowed. What the doctrinal purists who distance themselves from others who disagree are in effect saying, is, "I will not be sharpened by another piece of iron." And so they exist as drawers full of dull, rusty knives. When surgery is needed, a hack job results, and the one in need of surgery is not healed, but rather wounded even more.


  1. This is an excellent metaphor, Steve. One tragedy of doctrinal purity is that many differences in doctrine do not translate into any practical differences in action as disciples of Jesus. For example, conceptions of the nature of the Trinity don't have much impact on how we treat each other and how we approach God.

  2. Yes, but before we decide to discuss these issues we should get permission from the elders...

  3. (Sigh....) You have hit on one of the points why five years ago I left the Neo-Puritan movement. It is ironic that the church I now attend would be considered "doctrianly loose" by my former church, yet my current church has far more real genuine unity then the the former church ever could imagine. Uniformity does not make unity...

    Cheers, ~ The Billy Goat ~

  4. I liked this article too. Well done!!
    It is: good, clean, clear, and crisp!

  5. ecclesia semper reformans, semper reformanda! Should be the cry from every reformed pulpit. Always reformed; Always reforming....I do not think that the Church will reach perfection on this side of Heaven. It is a clear signal when ever I enter a congregation (and I have entered many) that if I am only accepted by them on the basis of doctrinal unity in all respects, to run as fast as I can from them. I will not place myself under any yoke that doesn't allow for free expression of beliefs.

    I do understand that there are dogma's that should not be contested but that is not what I am talking about. There are many beliefs that I hold that are not the orthodox teachings of the reformed church. I do enjoy reading your blogs. They are insightful and well expressed.