The Limits of Politeness

Are Christians too polite?

Perhaps that sounds like a stupid question. Is it possible to be too polite? I'm not talking about saying "Yes sir" and "thank you." I am thinking about our interaction with those in error.

In our pluralistic culture it is not popular to identify error or to say something or someone is wrong. I have been told at various times to not engage in polemic or identify persons or movements that are in error. To be sure, those things can be taken too far. But I wonder if that is our problem.

More than once friends have said to me, "Why can't you just say what you believe instead of criticizing what someone else teaches?" The problem is that we live in a time when people have no problem holding mutually exclusive truth claims. That is why some statements of faith not only state the truth but also the corresponding errors.

Of course the greatest example of this pattern is the Word of God. The creation account in Genesis, for instance, operates on one level as a polemic against the pagan creation accounts. You may recall the prophet Elijah's open mockery of the prophets of Baal. The apostle Paul even employs sarcasm in the book of Galatians to mock the judaizers.

I am not arguing against politeness or respectfulness. But there are limits. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on the subject.

Can you think of any other examples of polemic, criticism (by name), or sarcastic mockery of those in error in Scripture?