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Disputatious Spirit

But little is gained if opinions are crammed into men; and this is likely to be the case where they are not permitted to inquire and to doubt. At the same time it must be remembered that no spirit is more unfriendly to that indifference of mind so essential to freedom of inquiry than that which arises in the conduct of controversy. When we become advocates we lay aside the garb of philosophers. The desire of victory is often stronger than the love of truth; and pride, jealousy, ambition and envy, identifying ourselves with our opinions, will lend their aid to pervert our judgments and to seduce us from our candor. A disputatious spirit is always the mark of a little mind. The cynic may growl, but he can never aspire to the dignity of character. There are undoubtedly occasions when we must contend earnestly for the truth; but ... we should look well to our own hearts, that no motives animate us but the love of truth and zeal for the highest interests of man.

James Henley Thornwell, quoted in Credenda Agenda, Volume 5 Number 2, p. 3, from Collected Writings, Vol II, Banner of Truth, 1974, pp. 511-2