Theological Musings

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Of Theological Wars and Such

I love discussion and debate. I enjoy the challenge of trying to think through a particular position and consider its strengths and weaknesses. I love analyzing arguments and figuring out if they are solid or not. It's a positive and a negative for me, though.

On the one hand, it's great intellectual exercise and makes me feel more convinced about a particular issue once I have taken the time to think through it. On the other hand, it can lead to a lot of frustration because I often feel like many people debate issues solely on what they feel about it or what someone else says about it. This is especially true for me in reading blogs.

Frequently, I get involved in the comments section of other blogs, only to get frustrated at the lack of real solid defense of arguments. If you've read my blog at all, you've seen me reference this from time to time. I either get accused of being a heretic or people dismiss me as just not as theologically equipped as they are to speak to an issue. For a sensitive guy like me, that can be hard sometimes! But I'm learning to deal with it.

Here's an example of the type of debate I'm talking about: Phil Johnson, aka Pyromaniac, is an enormously popular blogger. And yesterday, he revived a charismatic/cessationist debate. This debate had begun during the fall, but had simmered down for a while. Now, Phil is arguing heavily for cessationism, specifically in this case as it relates to the gift of prophecy. And the comments section is jumping with fiery debate already.

While I think that the topic can be discussed among Christians to great benefit, the debate has already been polarized into false dichotomies and inaccurate presuppositions. It sometimes seems that in these situations, no one takes the time to lay out logical, rational, and peaceful arguments. So, a potentially good discussion gets lost in the midst of party lines and "my theology is better than your theology" finger-pointing.

Update on 1/6/06: The comments section on Phil's post has continued, but the tone has taken a very notable change for the better. Several people have called for civilized and biblically-based discussion, so there is hope! I felt it only fair to point that out as an update.

But I'm not convinced that is the biggest problem. Today, I read a post at one of the more recent blogs to make it onto my "must read" list, Cerulean Sanctum. In that post, Dan Edelen laments the surge in "theological wars" amongst Christian bloggers, and I agree with him wholeheartedly. We seem to spend way too much bandwidth and energy simply arguing without any real Kingdom benefit in sight.

Update on 1/10/06: It appears that the main intent of this post has been misunderstood, specifically by Phil as mentioned in this post. Let me clarify for all that I am not calling for the end of debates such as this. Far from it. I continue to enjoy, look for, and participate in discussions that will help me either firm up my own stance on particular issues or help me see reasonable evidence for a different conclusion. I used Phil's post as an example of what happens in these debates, but did not mean anything here to be construed as an attack on Phil or a call for him to cease his discussion. My agreement with Dan was not intended to be a full endorsement of the "white flag" that Dan threw up. It was simply on the nature of the debates. I hope that clears things up a bit...

I have to agree with Dan on this one. And I agree as well with Adrian Warnock, Michael Beasley, and Bob Kauflin, who all wrote similar posts recently. While I'm not exactly sure what the answer is, I know that I personally will endeavor to limit the intensity with which I engage in debates going forward. I still like to think through arguments, and I still like to attempt to make the case for my viewpoint, but not to the point of developing feelings of animosity or participating in mudslinging. If any of you observe me doing that here or on other blogs, please email me personally and speak a word of correction to me. I will listen humbly.

I'll conclude this post with the words of Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:23-24:

Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

Until next time,

steve :)

11 comment(s):

Steve,

Thanks for the link and the kind words concerning Cerulean Sanctum.

Blessings on your blogging.

By Blogger Dan Edelen, at Thursday, January 05, 2006 3:31:00 PM  

You've heard me many times before, but I will post here as well. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we must come to recognize we are bound together in an economy of peace (Peace is our "lingua franca." We spend it everywhere and on everyone.), which is the Kingdom of God. Maintaining the "unity of the spirit and the bond of peace" is a heart attitude which goes beyond various interpretations of scripture.

ded

By Anonymous ded, at Sunday, January 08, 2006 8:09:00 PM  

Hey man, I moved over to your blog -- We can talk easier over here...

Anyway, I think you have a point with your observation of Hebrews 1. Let me ponder on that a bit...

:-)

By Blogger Ray, at Thursday, January 12, 2006 12:38:00 PM  

Ray, thanks for moving over here. I'll try to post on it here this afternoon and we can dialogue on a post specifically related to this topic.

I appreciate you, Ray! You're a blessing here in cyberspace.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, January 12, 2006 12:41:00 PM  

Thanks! I look forward to your post...

By Blogger Ray, at Thursday, January 12, 2006 1:03:00 PM  

Hi Steve, nice to meet you. I just discovered your response to my comment at Jollyblogger about the Robertson controversy. Old news now, sorry, I don't get out every day. But seeing your topic here allows me to argue? I believe Christians who speak up about God's "other side", Righteous Judge, can be speaking out of deep compassion. PR wasn't necessarily judging; maybe Ariel Sharon will be given a chance to reconcile with God IF THERE IS FRICTION, ie sin. Reconciliation is the ultimate goal for all of us. Is Sharon going against God by dividing the land? I dunno. Who does? That is between God and the PM. Robertson only opened the possibility for consideration based on Bible prophecy. Was it cruel or heartfelt concern for Sharon's salvation? I'm prayin.

By Blogger cwv warrior, at Thursday, January 12, 2006 2:50:00 PM  

cwv warrior - Had I seen more 'compassion' out of PR in previous statements that he has made I might tend to agree with you, but he is often caustic and shooting from the hip...

A man who declares that we (the USofA) should assassinate anyone is enough to keep him from flapping about too soon after such a statement...

He does not think through his statements, (that is obvious, as he often goes back and attempts to 'smooth' over them, albeit awkwardly), and presumes to represent the Christian Body at large.

I have no personal beef with PR, while I think he is misguided, mixing a strange brew of nationalism with his theology, and coming up with ummm, interesting perspectives, I will not attack him personally.

By Blogger Ray, at Thursday, January 12, 2006 5:16:00 PM  

cwv warrior - thanks for stopping by. I have to say that Ray pretty much stole my thunder on this one (I was away from the computer for a few hours, and Ray's already taken over my blog! ;) hehe...just kidding).

For those who may be reading these comments and wondering what in the world comments about Pat Robertson have to do with anything here, cwv warrior is referring to our comments on this post.

Let's assume for the moment that Pat Robertson really did feel compassion for Ariel Sharon with regard to this. Why did he not address this with Sharon when he was meeting with him personally? To publicly make these comments shows, at best, poor judgment.

This is not comparable to a prophet speaking to the nation of Israel in OT times. I'm not sure what this compares to, but it's very hard to justify it by any stretch of imagination!

Just my thoughts.
steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, January 12, 2006 9:26:00 PM  

Um, why doesn't it compare to OT prophets? They weren't exactly "nice" either! Christianity isn't always NICE; Truth hurts.
Ray,
Robertson is a political person; so am I, of sorts. I separate individual accountability as Christians from political/nationalism. God directs nations differently from soul-searching believers. In other words, the "assassination comment" was from a political, national security standpoint. Do you think it was a suggestion for Christians to become assassins? God revealed Himself as protector of nations over and over; and He used military prowess. God doesn't change. OT and NT theology, different; same God.

By Blogger cwv warrior, at Friday, January 13, 2006 1:56:00 PM  

I think PR 'assumes' to speak for God (watch him more often than just during the faux pas) THEREFORE, he has a RESPONSIBILITY to speak properly...

You cannot compare an OT prophet speaking God's word on a nation to a US citizen making the statement that we should assassinate another national leader...

This has nothing to do with Christians being nice, it has everything to do with someone speaking out of a personal desire without thinking through the implications of his remarks.

You do realize that the statement put Christians inside the country in danger? If he is a politician, then drop the Christian side. You cannot claim to be a Christian leader, and then, when you say something nonsensical, claim that you were speaking as a politician.

Nationalism is FAR too pervasive inside the church for my tastes anyway...

By Blogger Ray, at Tuesday, January 17, 2006 11:31:00 AM  

Ray wrote: Nationalism is FAR too pervasive inside the church for my tastes anyway...

I couldn't have said it better, Ray. There is a disturbing trend to equate Christianity with American patriotism. I have said it on this blog before, and I will say it here again. I am a Christian first and foremost, and an American second. Furthermore, I am only an American to the extent it does not conflict with my Christianity.

I have been resisting the urge to post on this topic, but if cwv warrior continues to post about it here, I may be forced to!! ;)

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, January 17, 2006 12:05:00 PM  

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