To say, "This man is an Arminian," has the same effect on many hearers, as to say, "This is a mad dog." It puts them into a fright at once : They run away from him with all speed and diligence ; and will hardly stop, unless it be to throw a stone at the dreadful and mischievous animal. (x. 358)Why is it so easy to be so uncivil in society today? Yes, the stakes are high but does this give us excuse enough to engage in it? Calvinists do themselves no favors if they continue to call Arminians/Remonstrants "semi-pelagians" because it will do nothing to secure for themselves a willing audience open to the Reformed view. I believe caustic names are used when one person believes another won't listen so the opposition is simply written off and dismissed with a label.
John Wesley had an interesting take on being wrong. In his Sermons on Several Occasions, he confessed:
But some may say, I have mistaken the way myself, although I take upon me to teach it to others. It is probable many will think this, and it is very possible that I have. But I trust, whereinsoever I have mistaken, my mind is open to conviction. I sincerely desire to be better informed. I say to God and man, "What I know not, teach thou me!"Excellent advice; gentleness brings a much more willing audience to listen to a new point of view.
Are you persuaded you see more clearly than me? It is not unlikely that you may. Then treat me as you would desire to be treated yourself upon a change of circumstances. Point me out a better way than I have yet known. Show me it is so, by plain proof of Scripture. And if I linger in the path I have been accustomed to tread, and am therefore unwilling to leave it, labour with me a little; take me by the hand, and lead me as I am able to bear. But be not displeased if I entreat you not to beat me down in order to quicken my pace: I can go but feebly and slowly at best; then, I should not be able to go at all. May I not request of you, further, not to give me hard names in order to bring me into the right way. Suppose I were ever so much in the wrong, I doubt this would not set me right. Rather, it would make me run so much the farther from you, and so get more and more out of the way.
Nay, perhaps, if you are angry, so shall I be too; and then there will be small hopes of finding the truth. If once anger arise, Eute kapnos, (as Homer somewhere expresses it,) this smoke will so dim the eyes of my soul, that I shall be able to see nothing clearly. For God’s sake, if it be possible to avoid it, let us not provoke one another to wrath. Let us not kindle in each other this fire of hell; much less blow it up into a flame. If we could discern truth by that dreadful light, would it not be loss, rather than gain? For, how far is love, even with many wrong opinions, to be preferred before truth itself without love! We may die without the knowledge of many truths, and yet be carried into Abraham’s bosom. But, if we die without love, what will knowledge avail? Just as much as it avails the devil and his angels!
The God of love forbid we should ever make the trial! May he prepare us for the knowledge of all truth, by filling our hearts with his love, and with all joy and peace in believing!