On the Nature of Theological Debate

Today I had one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in a theological debate. It actually didn’t start out as a debate and it wasn’t structured as a debate. Instead, I was able to talk with someone who completely disagreed with me on a specific theological issue (if you are wondering, it was regarding baptism). Most of my theological discussions take place with people I already agree with. In fact, I am more willing to discussion theological issues if I already agree with the person. If I know (or can presume) that certain people will disagree with me, I avoid the conversation. Or, if it is unavoidable, I try to be as courteous and non-disagreeable as possible. That is what made this time different. We genuinely disagreed with each other–and it was great! What made it great was the character of the person with whom I was talking. He’s not a theologian, but he is someone who loves God and has a desire to preach the gospel to children (his ministry website can be found here). In fact, out of all the children preachers I’ve heard in my life (and I’ve heard a lot working at a Christian Camp), he is by and far the greatest. I enjoy listening to him as an adult! Anyways, his attitude and character were a model I want to imitate. He asked questions instead of assuming what you meant, and then he would listen as you explained. Yet, at the same time he was willing to say when he disagreed in a clear and respectful manner, followed by an argument for his position. Unfortunately, our time was limited and we had to part. He left with a loving smile and a wish for God’s blessing on our lives (my brother-in-law was there, too).

To summarize:
1) Seek understanding first (i.e., ask questions to make sure you understand the persons position)
2) Argue your case (i.e., don’t just assert or explain; argue!)
3) Clearly state where there is disagreement and agreement
4) Do it all in love
5) Repeat

So, thank you Kirby for a well needed lesson.

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4 thoughts on “On the Nature of Theological Debate

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