On the quarrelsome, we distinguish…

In Distinguishing Marks of a Quarrelsome Person, Kevin DeYoung offers a number of points about what it means to be a quarrelsome person. But, like Turretin, we need to further distinguish here.

Not every argument is a quarrel and not everyone who disagrees is quarrelsome. A quarrel is typically a heated argument over something trivial, and not every argument qualifies as both heated and trivial. Arguments can sometimes be heated for good reasons as much as there are times when we legitimately debate over issues that may at first glance seem trivial. We also can’t forget the fact that our evangelical and even Reformed subcultures generally eschew disagreement in the name of avoiding quarrels when in fact many things remain unsaid and people avoid dealing with the truth of very important matters, typically for the sake of their own comfort or advantage. So, while I agree that there are quarrelsome people and they may reflect some of what you see outlined here in this article, more should have been said. It would be very easy, for example, to use this article to attempt to silence people and to go well beyond what the Bible actually says about being quarrelsome. There is no small amount of irony in a Presbyterian pastor outlining how we shouldn’t be quarrelsome, to be sure. I’ve seen some pretty heavy church conflicts in my day, but none rival the knock-down-drag-out brawls presbyteries and their ministers have had over the tiniest points of church polity. Meanwhile, we also know that abusive ministers have misused the Bible verses quoted in this article to enforce their own personal or even institutional power.

As any fan of My Big Fat Greek Wedding knows, there are also cultural differences that attend to social behavior. Quiet and reserved families are going to express themselves differently than all-out Greek and Italian folks. Shouting at one dinner table may be strictly forbidden while that’s simply what other families do every night of the week. One family might consider that quarreling and another just an expression of what it means to be together. Similarly, individuals are also wired and gifted different than others and express their calling in ways others might not. The prophet Elijah was unique but he was also called to function as he did in a very unique time and place. Elijah’s call isn’t our call per se, but that’s not to say that there would never be others who had similar missions. People like Martin Luther and John Calvin might have been considered quarrelsome if we merely lay DeYoung’s categories on their works without more context. So, we can’t universalize what DeYoung attempts to point out without taking these and many other things in mind. Any maxim that rules out the examples we have in Scripture might be worth a more detailed analysis and perhaps even a rejection of what’s being claimed. As congregations continue to express the diversity of many different people and cultures coming together, failure to consider these ethnic, personality, and vocational differences in a discussion about what it means to be quarrelsome will remain problematic.

All in all, I want to suggest that we think deeper about things like this rather than covering subjects with simplistic bullet point observations especially when many of the points offered are more from the perspective of modern psychology than what the Bible actually says. Although it’s true that great wisdom can be found even in the smallest of aphorisms, there is always more to say and think about when we attempt to apply the principles of the faith to our lives.

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