Hey guys and gals, hope this finds you doing well. I want to chop it up with you guys for a minute about an attitude I have found incredibly disturbing in the last few months, especially since I’ve seen it in myself.
The attitude is this: I have a view, I don’t much care for yours so I will treat it (and you) however I please. Now no one will put it that bluntly, that’s just plain mean, dude. No, we won’t say that but oh my, we behave like it. Like I said, that was something I saw in myself and it was an unlikely turn of events that exposed that rot.
A few years ago, I left my church to join a church plant named GraceLife London. That story is for another day, but one big belief in my theology changed last summer. I moved from a covenantal perspective in my theology to a more Dispensational belief. In my excitement, I posted it on Facebook, which turned out to be quite the airhead move. Within minutes, folks I considered friends and brothers were tearing into me for making such a “ridiculous” move. No one asked what had prompted it, folks on both sides squared off and I got so frustrated that I jumped into the mix and basically attempted to slap folks with a 2×4 for behaving like wild animals at feeding time.
I woke up the next morning and it finally hit me, I had done the same to folks who differed with me on certain issues. Charismatics, Arminians, Dispensationalists (or “Dispies”, because that sounds more derogatory) had all been on the receiving end of some kind of verbal beat-down from me and, now, the shoe was on the other foot.
I’m a firm believer in using negative experiences to learn positives, so looking back, I took three things away from that experience which I think theologically inclined folks like us could do with learning:
(1) There is never any excuse to behave like a jerk: But Paul was kinda harsh in Galatians! Yep, when the Gospel is actually at stake, I’m all for pistols at dawn. But Calvinism/Arminianism (or Lutheranism), Dispensationalism/Covenantalism, Credobaptism/Paedobaptism are NOT Gospel issues. We might not be able to fellowship as members in the same church or serve in eldership together but that doesn’t mean that you are not a Christian (or a “good” Christian). You may not behave like a jerk towards a person simply because you don’t share that person’s views on non-Gospel issues. The same Paul who wrote Galatians wrote this:
1 Corinthians 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
Having all the knowledge in the world without love profits you nothing. At this point, some wise-cracking individual will say, “The most loving thing you can do is point out error.” I agree it is not a loving thing to leave someone to persist in error without saying something. However, it is equally unloving to act as though you have all your theological ducks neatly in a line which then provides you carte blanche to behave like a jerk for Jesus.
(2) You don’t have a market on truth: Now hear me on this; I am not a postmodernist who denies there are absolute truths. Jump off a building and, pretty quickly, you’ll meet an absolute truth called gravity as you plummet into the pavement (or sidewalk for my American friends). That being said, no one system can claim apostolic perfection (apologies to my Catholic friends) and the sooner we all grasp that as Evangelicals, the sooner we might actually get somewhere.
If you’re afraid to learn from someone else, frankly, no one should be learning from you. My historical hero, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said the following in relation to books:
The man who never reads will never be read;
he who never quotes will never be quoted.
He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains,
that he has no brains of his own.
That applies as much to tweets and blog posts as it does to books. If you can’t follow the train of other men’s thoughts to see how they got to where they are, then why in Heaven’s name should I care to get on your train?
(3) Sometimes it’s OK to just shut up: Apologies for the blunt speak at that point but that’s very much how I feel when I see a lot of discussion that happens on the web. I literally feel to yell the words “SHUT UP ALREADY!!!” and if you know me well enough, push it enough and I just might, even if I agree with you.
Not every theological “aberration” needs your commentary. If you know you can say in love and without trying to be the “bigger theologian”, speak…
But if you can’t, dude/dudette, go pray about it until you can. Even if you miss that “perfect moment” to shut down the discussion, listen, you are not Superman and Twitter is not Metropolis. The world is not gonna collapse without your input. Humility and love make for better conversation starters than arrogance and the desire to be “right”.
It’s not my heart to beat anyone up over the web but to prompt some serious thought about how we hold our convictions. Ultimately, Eph 4:15 is the aim. Give it a read sometime…