‘We cannot defend the truth by creating caricatures’. So stands the conviction of the White Horse Inn as they have been engaging in debates with people from all sorts of theological persuasions over the last two decades. The web is a trolls dream come true as they move around from blog to blog and twitter feed to twitter feed causing havoc and leaving pernicious, ill-informed comments about a host of theological topics, safe in the anonymity of their own home. For instance, Calvinists become those who hate evangelism and don’t love people and Arminians become theological lightweights with an anemic view of God’s Sovereignty. Discussion in this arena can quickly become personal, aggressive and completely at odds with Scripture’s urgings to brotherly love and particular respect for our enemy. Instead of having a good argument, what ensues is a fight in which the other position is caricatured and both sides end up talking over one another rather than with one another.
The White Horse Inn has written an excellent article http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/09/08/christian-character-and-good-arguments in which they remind us that what we say matters. I would encourage you to take the time to read and digest it.I am reminded by Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. He writes:
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Paul, here, encourages the church to use their tongue for building up and not for tearing down. Change that to the written word in the context of this article and you get the picture. I am very thankful that on this blog people are generally respectful even if they disagree with me. Thankfully, I have a feature which allows me to approve (or not) those who wish to make themselves heard on the particular topics I deal with. Not everybody makes it through this process if I feel that what they are saying is (1) not genuine. By that I mean is this person trying to be controversial or do they have a genuine point to make. (2) If they are respectful and coherent then I will allow their response. Interestingly, on my blog I receive more correspondence through email or on my private inbox on Facebook than I do on the blog itself. I think that often many people (particularly pastors) wisely want to keep their opinions out of the blogosphere. That’s fine and these conversations are usually healthy and well thought through.
Of course, pretty much most of what I write here is my personal opinion. That’s the point of it being my blog. Some of it is jest and some of it is a nod to internet quirkiness. Much of it is serious thought or my own thinking out loud about topics I am still digesting and trying to work out in my own ministry within housing schemes. I am happy in all of this to have discussions with people about what I write and, if I can, argue my point from the Scriptures. Sometimes I will be right and sometimes I will be wrong. Some of it will be down to poor communication and writing skills and some of it down to a lack of mature thinking on a subject. All of it will be out of a heart to engage my Reformed convictions with the messiness of my particular ministry. Of course, it is all open for good-natured, biblical critique by those who follow and read what I say. The point is not that we argue over these things, but the spirit in which we do it as believers. Also, there is also the distinct possibility that we are not always right!
The White Horse Inn article end with this reminder:
In the din of talking heads shouting at each other, Christians have a great opportunity in the current atmosphere to end quarrels by offering a few good, at least better, arguments.
Wise words and good counsel. Peace.