Friday, July 9, 2010

Eluding Endless Theological Arguments

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”

~Titus 3:9 (NIV).

I’m a self-acknowledged theological pacifist. By that I mean I will not senselessly argue theological points back and forth for points—gained or otherwise. I have basically a one-response limit, lacking the tolerance for further possibly “unprofitable” and “useless” banter.

This might set me apart from my Jewish counterparts who might love to debate the Torah long and hard—yet, always respecting the other side as they ‘wrestle’ faithfully with the text. This is actually a long-held tradition in the Jewish culture.

But the arguments I’m referring to have nothing of God in them.

The Reason Not to Argue

Some may argue and cherish it as sport, but most of us, if we argue too long, get personal—or worse, we take it personally. It ceases being fun anymore. “It’s always fun until someone loses an eye,” or so the saying goes.

Arguments are hence divisive and they work against the Spirit of grace that must attend every believer’s heart—and certainly in the midst of their relationships. Arguments are the devil’s trick in swiping from us the joy that normally should grace our demeanour.

Arguments polarise the view of the purveyor; they clamour for position, point and priority, not logic, candour and unity.

Quarrels, almost by nature, are back ‘n’ forth ‘tennis match’ affairs where one initiates, the other responds and so forth. Some quite impressive ‘rallies’ are developed as the believing populace looks on in saddened bewilderment. Forget those Satan-worshipers who are loving the spectacle.

These are clearly not for us. Paul tells us again via another of his pastoral epistles, that “foolish and stupid” arguments only produce quarrels—they’re good for nothing (2 Timothy 2:23).

And it doesn’t matter, really, what the subject matter is; it is how—and how long—the points are argued, each ‘proponent’ going incessantly for a re-badged version of the same tired idea.

Often people are arguing nuances of the same thing, or different things that are both basically right—though neither is listening to the other, and this is the point!

Living Faithfully is About Not Arguing

Living faithfully is not a win-at-all-costs game. It’s actually a lose-most-games-willingly-and-cheerfully-for-Christ sort of game. We need to have faith that the truth always wins; love never fails. To love is to issue grace; yes, as well when it is least deserved. We have faith to lose a battle in winning a war—the loving of souls.

Not arguing is also setting us apart in the realm of discernment—in other words, wisdom. The person who can hold their tongue is considered wise (Proverbs 10:19; 17:28).

Although there are ways of maturely debating (respectfully) the things of God, let us not argue theological or faith points endlessly with our fellow believers, or anyone else. It’s grieving the Spirit of God when we fight tooth and nail. It is fellowship without love; presence without congruence.

Our congruence is Christ.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.


Rodney Olsen said...

You are so right. There is no point in constant back and forth arguments.

I wonder, however, if there is a way to have a robust discussion looking at alternate viewpoints. I'm not simply trying to call an argument by another name; I'm trying to look at the heart of those in the discussion.

If we enter a discussion thinking, "I'm right - you're wrong - and I'm going to prove it" it's an argument. Is it still an argument if we discuss an issue with someone with an opposing viewpoint with the aim of discovering the truth together or at the very least gaining understanding of another view without having to adopt it?

Of course you may violently disagree ... but that would just be an argument. :)

S. J. Wickham said...

Hi Rodney - I actually wholeheartedly agree. I would like to at some point write a follow-up to discuss mature argument because, as you point out, there has to be some really enjoyable intellectual tussles - these in God's ever-expanding truth (to our own understanding). Maturity, though, needs to be present in both parties or it won't work. Of course, you know that. The discussions on your radio program are a perfect illustration of this.
I'm glad of your comment, because I've picked one side when there truly are two (or more). God bless.