Kind, patient and gentle debates?
Darryl brought to light a nasty conflict going on between some reformed not so reformed evangelicals. I read through each post cataloged on by some other blogger. Is it me or are the reformed baptist types the most volatile when it comes to online theological debate?
There are specific topics that people just seem to get angry about. What is it about homosexuality or women in ministry or the sovereignty of God that makes people so angry when they encounter someone who doesn’t think like they do? Why do people get angry? I think that for somethings, like homosexuality, we rationalize our own bigotry and hatred with scripture verses. Now don’t get me wrong. I still think that the best interpretation of the biblical passages leads me to believe there is something is at least a little bit wrong with gay sex. However I don’t think your average church goer’s opinion on homosexuality comes from the bible. I think it comes from society. People are worried that the pro same sex marriage camp is compromising with our postmodern culture of tolerance and relativism. I see just as much compromise on the other side. Does the hatred, and yes I mean the “If one of those fagots ever touches me I’ll curb stomp ’em” hatred, come from the bible? I’ve seen it lots among church people. It comes from society and many elements of the church have just legitimized it. We can cover it up with “hate the sin, love the sinner” language but deep down our hearts we have legitimized our bigotry. We often don’t admit it but we feel we have the right to treat someone like trash if we are right and they are wrong.
I believe in good theology. I think that my search for Christ in the scriptures led me to a strong belief in grace, faith and the sovereignty of God. Good theology helped me understand God and salvation better and that dramatically improved my relationship with God. However I still prefer to leave things up to mystery because I don’t think the bible is perfectly clear. Do believe that Christ died for my sins? Yes. Do I believe in substitutionary atonement as the the primary metaphor for understanding what Christ did for me? No. I don’t know how Christ’s death works. I just know that it does work. This whole thing illustrates my frustration with the modern evangelical world. I think it arrogant and presumptuous to believe that I alone am right on issues that people traditionally divide over. That isn’t relativism. I’m not picking and choosing what to believe on a whim. I’m just trying to be honest with myself.
I think that there a great many ethical and value issues that are abundantly clear in scripture that seem to slip past our radar. How many warnings are there in scripture about getting in to useless and divisive arguments?
All verses are NASB
1Cor 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were R103 not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
1Tim 6:20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”– 21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.
2Tim 2:23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?
I like a good debate. I’d say that I’ve been on the wrong side of these Scripture verses on many occasions. I think I’m finally starting to see the wisdom of Paul and James in this stuff. I have to wonder how much good ever comes out of volatile debates? Can there be a debate where both sides are kind, patient and gentle?