Religious, is the agitation of any religious question, in order to obtain clear and adequate ideas of it. The propriety of religious disputation or controversial divinity has been a matter of doubt with many. Some artfully decry it, in order to destroy free inquiry. Some hate it, because they do not like to be contradicted. Others declaim against it, to save themselves the disgrace of exposing their ignorance, or the labour of examining and defending their own theses. There are others who avoid it, not because they are convinced of the impropriety of the thing itself, but because of the evil temper with which it is generally conducted.
The propriety of it, however, will appear, if we consider that every article of religion is denied by some, and cannot well be believed without examination, by any. Religion empowers us to investigate, debate, and controvert each article, in order to ascertain the evidence of its truth. The divine writings, many of them, are controversial; the book of Job, and Paul’s epistles, especially. The ministry of our Lord was a perpetual controversy, and the apostles came at truth by much disputing, Acts 15:7. 17:17. 19:8. To attend, however, to religious controversy with advantage, the following rules should be observed; 1. the question should be cleared from all doubtful terms and needless additions.–2. The precise point of enquiry should be fixed.–3. That the object aimed at be truth, and not the mere love of victory.–4. Beware of a dogmatical spirit, and a supposition that you are always right.–5. Let a strict rein be kept on the passions when you are hard pushed.
Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.