Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Talk to the Hand

How should Christians discuss their differences? There is a thought, not unpopular, not without long historical precedent, that debate is the way. Usually, the thought is that someone is right and someone is wrong, and that it matters. I cannot disagree more. Not only may both be wrong, but even if one party is more right than the other, does it thereby necessarily matter? Is the argument over something that would undermine someones essential nature as a person born of the Spirit?

I think Calvinism is fundamentally a scripturally untenable system of doctrine. To my understanding, it assaults the character of God, says of him what he clearly does not say of himself, makes nonsensical most of the commands and entreaties in scripture, and misses entirely the ultimate aim of God in creating man. That may sound like a big deal, but I know a few Calvinists personally. They love the word as much as I, love the brothers as much as I, serve Christ as fully as do I, and I'm discovering, particularly in the blogosphere, love the Spirit as much as I. I am not likely to ever accept their approach to the "doctrines of grace," but I will gladly accept them. I may discuss our differences with them, but I am not looking to brand them as heretics or nonbelievers. If there is a quality in a purported Christian that would cause me to perceive him or her in that light, it would be having a divisive spirit that will not lay itself down for the brethren. Someone who shows other believers no grace is in no position to lecture anyone else on grace.

Debates are how heathens deal with opposing viewpoints. Christians operating in the realm of heathen concerns may need to debate with those heathens or even with other Christians also working in those realms, but Christians should not deal with matters of faith and conduct the same way. Debates are rarely, if ever, about helping either side see the others viewpoint better, or even helping someone see something clearer. Debates are about ego, winning and losing, and then suppressing if possible. How is such a format remotely acceptable to the Christian community? Our discussions should be respectful, aimed at edification not destruction, and if there is any prejudice, let it be on the side of deference and esteem.

I have to admit a prejudice of my own: when I come across argumentative, insulting, smug Christians looking for fights rather than trying to help a brother, everything they say sounds like nothing but a clanging cymbal. If one cannot understand the primacy of love for the brothers in the Christian community, and so practice reigning in his tongue, that person is at best an immature novice, and at worst a wolf in sheep's clothing. He understands nothing! I could care less how many degrees he has, I could care less how many books he's written, or how many fans line up to see him. His words are empty and my suspicion is that so is his confession of Christ. If you want to talk to me, talk to me, but leave your attitude at the door, or talk to the hand!