2 Timothy 2:14—Is it wrong for Christians to argue about theological matters?

Problem: Paul seemed to forbid theological arguments when he instructed Timothy “not to strive about words to no profit” (2 Tim. 2:14) and to “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes” (v. 23). On the other hand, Paul himself argued with the Jews in their synagogues (Acts 17:2, 17) and disputed with the philosophers on Mars Hill (Acts 17:18ff). Indeed, Jude exhorted us “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Solution: A distinction must be made between the two senses of what it means to argue or to contend. Arguing is not necessarily wrong, but being argumentative is. We should contend for the faith, but we should not be contentious in so doing. Making an earnest effort to defend the faith is good (cf. Phil. 1:17; 1 Peter 3:15). But engaging in fruitless quarrels is not. Likewise, Paul did not oppose disputing about what words really mean in a given context—he simply opposed mere semantical wrangling.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.