Tweedledum and Tweedledee / resolved to have a battle; / for Tweedledum said Tweedledee / had spoiled his nice new rattle.

This nursery rhyme scores nursery behavior; but adults can behave that way, too.

Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, the two Swiss giants of neo-orthodoxy, maintained a Tweedledum-Tweedledee toward each other for 30 years following their row over whether granting the validity of natural theology undermined the view they had developed together. When finally they met again, near the end of their lives, their conversation dragged, and Barth said he and Brunner were like the whale and the elephant: two biggies, neither of whom could conceive how the other could exist.

In my youth, England’s two most outstanding evangelicals were Martyn Lloyd-Jones, stellar preacher in central London, and Frederick Fyvie Bruce, head of biblical studies in the University of Sheffield, first, and then at Manchester. They were great and good men, and it was a privilege to know them. They too, however, had something of a whale-and-elephant, Tweedledum-Tweedledee relationship. Both were Celts (one Welsh, one Scottish), and both were Calvinists of sorts, so you might have expected them to behave like blood brothers. But “the Doctor,” theological preacher extraordinary, was a Luther, a tireless exponent of God’s grace in Christ justifying sinners through faith and renewing them by the Spirit, while “F. F.,” historian and man of letters, was an Erasmus, an impeccable scholar committed to the advancement of learning and to the study of Scripture within that frame. They were not on the same wavelength and could not work together at all well.

Each of them was, rightly, sure of the importance of what he was doing. Almost single-handed, Bruce was ...

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