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,