THE RIGHT TO BE WRONG
T. Pierce Brown
Not long ago I read an article by some preacher that advanced the idea that we have a right to be wrong. Another preacher took issue with him and wrote a scathing reply about how ridiculous it is to even talk about having a right to be wrong.
As I read the articles, I was again impressed with how often we may rant, rave and fuss, passing each other like two freight trains in the dark, never realizing that we are on two different tracks, or to change the figure, two different wave lengths, talking about two different things, although using the same words. If we would have enough courtesy, or even good common sense to ask a person to clarify his meaning, it would help to overcome that problem, though it might not eliminate it completely. For example, the person who said that we have the right to be wrong may have meant, “God gave Adam and Eve (and us) the right (or opportunity) to choose to obey (do right) or disobey (do wrong).” Very few persons who believe the Bible would have any disagreement with that truth. The one who wrote in shocked dismay (apparently) though he was teaching, “Since we have the right to be wrong, the person who is wrong should be treated the same way as the person who is right. That is, a false teacher has as much right to teach a false doctrine (be wrong) as one has to teach the truth (that which is right).”
Does God give a person “the right” to teach false doctrine? If one means that, as in the case of Adam and Eve, God says, “You may teach false doctrine if you choose. In case you do that, you will surely die, losing your soul and causing those who follow it to lose theirs,” then one may say, “We have that right.”
One may recognize the difficulty if he has ever been out in the woods in basic training in the Army or Marines. The sergeant says, “Bear to the right,” so the squadron takes off to the left. They thought it was logical that if there was a bear to the right, they should turn left. In other words, they thought it was wrong to go right. Is it ever wrong to go right?
If by “the right” to teach false doctrine one means one is allowed to, but must suffer the consequence, he has one meaning. If by “the right” to teach false doctrine one means it is approved, he has another meaning. Part of our problem is that we “shift gears” in the middle of a paragraph, or sometimes in the middle of a sentence, having a word with one meaning at the start and changing meanings before we finish.
A person who teaches that one has the right to be wrong might gag at the statement, “I have the right to kill you.” But they are both true in exactly the same sense. That is, God made me as a person with freedom of choice. Therefore I can freely choose to kill you. God allows evil of all sorts. That is, he gives us the “right” to practice wrong. Yet, if one should say, “It is right to do wrong,” it seems evident that there is a contradiction of terms that is not necessarily so in the statement, “One has a right to be wrong.” The first statement means that right and wrong are synonymous or equivalent. The second one means that one is allowed the choice to do either.
The main point of this article is that those of us who write in refutation of some false statement of another need to try to make sure that we clarify what we are opposing. Our problem is made more difficult because of the habit of many of those who teach false doctrine. They seem to deliberately choose “weasel words” or words that can be twisted to mean almost anything one chooses. The modernist who says, “I certainly believe in the resurrection” may at the same time say, “I do not believe in the empty tomb. The body of Jesus did not come forth.”
In my private Bible studies with various persons, I have had them tell me, “I certainly believe that baptism is for the remission of sins.” At the same time they claimed to believe that they were saved before they were baptized. Instead of simply saying, “You can’t possibly believe those two contradictory things” we need to clarify what they mean by “for the remission of sins” and show them the Bible meaning.