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Too Much Retoric

Unfortunately, that is not very often how it works. The accusatory rhetoric at the United Nations is not all that different in tone from the way Christians argue with each other. Here is an example from the seventeenth century, when the Puritans and the Quakers were engaged in angry debates: The great Puritan preacher Richard Baxter wrote a pamphlet in which he lumped the Quakers with “drunkards, swearers, whoremongers, and sensual wretches” and other “miserable creatures.” And then—just in case he had not yet insulted them enough—he insisted that Quakers are no better than “Papists.”

The Quaker leader James Naylor announced that he was compelled “by the Spirit of Jesus Christ” to respond to these harsh accusations. He proceeded to characterize his Puritan opponent as a “Serpent,” a “Liar,” and “Child of the Devil,” a “Cursed Hypocrite,” and a “Dumb Dog.” This is strong stuff. What makes it especially sad is that the angry talk often makes it difficult to get to the real issues. The debate between the Puritans and the Quakers was actually a rather interesting and helpful one. Both parties engaged in some serious biblical exposition; if the heavy rhetoric were removed, the discussion could easily appear to have been a friendly argument between Christians who had some important things to talk about. But I doubt that either group heard the helpful things the other side was saying. Too much angry rhetoric was in the air.

Uncommon Decency, Richard J. Mouw, p. 52