Let me say first that I don’t really like the term (TR stands for “Truly Reformed”). The connotations of the term imply someone who doesn’t care about unity and love in the church. It also implies an arrogance that they are the only ones with any truth, and/or that they are the only people who can legitimately claim the term “Reformed” at all. All of those are untrue of confessional Presbyterians I know. I cannot judge whether they are true of me or not, though I can say that I really do not enjoy conflict, contrary to what many people might think.
However, what is often shouted at TR’s is that they are unloving, uncaring about church unity, and fanatical about doctrine, and denigrate love. What is rather amazing to me, however, is that many people do not care to find out about what makes a TR click. They do not feel that they need to take any steps to get along with TR’s. If any unity is going to happen, it can only happen if the TR abandons his convictions, they think. But what is really irritating is that the people who are yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs for love and unity aren’t showing very much love and unity in screaming and yelling for love and unity. I’ve lost count of the times this has happened to me. Raise a question of BCO procedure, and get shouted at for being unloving. It gets old. Fast.
What I would like to do is to help people understand what makes a TR click so that people can understand us. In this way, we might be able to get along better, even when we disagree.
Principle 1. Never, ever, ever ask a TR either explicitly or implicitly to abandon his principles. This is probably the single most unloving thing that anyone can do to a TR. The principles he holds are what he believes the Bible to be saying. Furthermore, asking a TR to do that will only make him that much more royally upset. Any attempt to force a TR to abandon his principles will make the TR think that the other person has abandoned truth.
Principle 2. Stop accusing the TR of being unloving. People do not know what is in someone else’s heart. It might be fair to say that a particular action seems unloving to you. That can be debated, certainly. But blanket statements about someone else’s motivations are never very helpful, and they are almost always inaccurate.
Principle 3. Focus attention on the issue when you disagree with a TR. Nothing irritates a TR more than having personalities dragged into it. The TR doesn’t want to dwell on these things. He is thinking about whether something is logical or not, whether something is biblical or not (and this is not to say that non-TR folk are not concerned about this). If I have any more thoughts about this, I’ll add to this and edit it.