The title of this post is my spin on the closing line from an article by American Vision’s Joel McDurmon, who recently debated Jordan Hall (of Pulpit & Pen) on subject matter central to theonomy. While I’ve not yet seen the debate (cannot wait! …but will have to), and I anticipate numerous future opportunities to tackle many of the items and ideas presented at that event, my purpose here is not to dive into the give and take of that particular discussion.
What I do want to take a moment to touch on is a challenge that we’ve all faced, and likely often, if we’ve been actively engaged in the arena of competing ideas for more than a few nanoseconds. The challenge in question is actually a two-parter, having to do with how we honor Christ in our understanding and presentation of opposing views:
1a. We honor (and emulate) Christ in the context of debates and disagreements of significance by cultivating a sincere desire to gain an accurate understanding of what is, at the moment, a view that is contrary to our own.
1b. We honor (and emulate) Christ in the context of debates and disagreements of significance by then striving to rightly and fully present the opposing view in question.
Spend much time at all in the realm of serious discussion of serious things in this culture, and you’re likely to witness any number of logical fallacies or purposefully lazy approaches to (equally purposeful) misidentification or mischaracterization of your worldview. Obviously, this is not a lot of fun. More importantly, it’s counterproductive. Most importantly, it’s dishonoring to Christ.
We can be tempted to frustration and anger quite easily through these experiences…which is often why such tactics are deployed in the first place.
Another temptation that easily flows in our direction in light of such dishonesty and manipulation is a building desire for a “tit for tat” retaliatory sort of Straw Man or Red Herring Wars scenario.
This we must avoid, and for many important reasons, including:
1. We dishonor the Lord with such behavior.
2. We undermine our own credibility and the credibility of our position (insofar as it is linked to us in the minds of others).
3. We undermine our own pursuit of truth through vigorous, legitimate “iron sharpening iron” debate and discussion.
4. We undermine the very concept of such debate, further encouraging an already infantile culture to stay even longer in the contemplative kiddie pool and away from anything resembling maturity or the pursuit of depth.
5. We perpetuate ignorance and enable the never-ending stays in the kiddie pool that have come to shape the “intellectual pursuits” of many (most?) individuals in the professing church and, as a result, the culture at large.
If we seriously, earnestly love the Lord and would honor Him through the vigorous pursuit of truth as tested and defined in light of His Nature as defined in His Word, the petty and pathetic tactics of willfully and inaccurately caricaturizing opposing views is something that we must avoid, call out, and lead against by example.
These tactics are beneath Christ the King. Therefore, they ought to be beneath His people.
I’m not talking about honest questions or requests for clarification in the course of a conversation or debate. I’m not even talking about honest confusion or the “innocent” ignorance that may fuel many such questions.
We all begin ignorant and everything that we have – including the seemingly tiniest tidbit of knowledge about the seemingly most insignificant little thing – is a gift given us by the grace of God. This truth should fundamentally inform and shape our approach to ignorance, confusion, and error in others.
What I am aiming to call out and clobber here is the all-too-common tactic of persistent, willful deception in the form of the aforementioned caricatures and willful misrepresentations, as well as the aversion to meaningful (if any) interaction with respectfully presented corrective facts.
These issues are hardly unique to theology or theological conversations, of course. If you are a self-identified Republican or conservative, for example, you have likely had others presume that you identify with (and are therefore obligated to defend) each and every position of any particular “conservative” (or caricature of a conservative) presented by someone on the opposing side of a conversation or debate.
How many folks hear “conservative” and think of George W. Bush?
See the problem?
Now think of how many people hear the word “Christian” and think of a large group that includes, say, Mormons.
And Joel Osteen.
And Rob Bell.
Are you getting it?
It’s one thing to be honestly ignorant or confused. It’s quite another (and quite a deceptive) thing to willfully remain or present one’s self as being ignorant or confused when they know full well that they have had clarifying details presented time and time again.
Willful ignorance is not ignorance.
It is deception (with self-deception being covered under that umbrella, too).
It is sin.
So it is that I wanted to take a moment to encourage and remind each of us (certainly myself included) as to the necessity of our vigorous pursuit of Truth…wherever it leads.
I also wanted to remind myself and readers of the fact that, while there is certainly a hard line of demarcation between the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of unbelief, there is also a large umbrella under which many differing views are found rightly under the label “Orthodox Christianity”.
The theology in America has been so paper-thin for so very long that there are many who cannot even comprehend of something other than what they grew up with as being really, truly Christian.
Generations of biblical illiteracy and comfort with biblical illiteracy combined with wildly popular Left Behind books and Omen movies have taken a toll. It is now hard for many professing Christians to even accept that a “non rapture” view is legitimately Christian, much less the fact that such views have been the norm rather than the exception for the vast majority of actual Church history.
That is but one example of many that we could get into, but I think that the point has been made.
All o’ that said…back to theonomy.
I hold to what I would call a theonomic perspective and understanding. Does this mean that I therefore agree with everything that anyone identified as a theonomist might believe?
Of course not.
(For those unfamiliar with theonomy, What Is Theonomy? by Dr. Greg Bahnsen, is a good intro to the subject. As an added treat and as a demonstration of a theonomic worldview in action, check out this classic debate between Dr. Bahnsen and professed atheist Gordon Stein.)
To help make the point, let’s take a few steps back from there and consider all of the most revered and favored (yet still flawed) teachers that you might have. Think of your favorite contemporary Christian teachers and theologians.
While I would not presume to speak for you, I suspect that our lists are similar in one regard. I’ll bet that your list, like mine, is comprised of Christians who actually disagree on (sometimes very) significant (but non-essential) issues.
My list is so loaded with such disagreement that it can seem challenging to find folks on it who would completely agree with one another on every point on which I am aware of their positions.
I’m not going to name names and give examples here (maybe in a future post), because that’s really not the point.
What I do want to emphasize here is grace and patience with those of the true Christian community that may seem odd, foreign, or even suspect to us.
By all means and at all times we should test all things in light of Scripture. We should challenge one another properly. We should contend. We should correct. We should rebuke.
To do this rightly, we must strive first to understand opposing views accurately, and we must strive to present opposing views accurately.
This takes work. It takes reading. It takes study. It takes discipline.
It is not easy.
And yet, if we value Christ truly and desire to represent His Nature properly when it comes to these matters, we will do that work and pursue those studies so that we can then credibly and coherently participate in the most God-glorifying and humanly beneficial debates to which He has called – and for which he has equipped – His people.
All in the supernatural Spirit of grace with which we have been filled and by which we have been saved.
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© 2015 Scott Alan Buss – All Rights Reserved.
Soli Deo Gloria!