Debating

20 06 2008

Last night my wife and I went to Wildfire Churascaria. It was for a friends 21st. We had a great time and as the night wore on we started a good ol Christian discussion. Lucky for us this was not the kind of debate where someone gets so dogmatic about their position that they end up attacking the opposing sides character in a last ditch effort to beef up their position. It was a lot more civilised. If anything I could say the only thing I was really dissappointed in was that I didn’t listen enough and spent too much time talking rather than trying to understand their position.

Such is the case for many people, and this was certainly true of how I had come to learn theology. But a few things became crystal clear for me last night. One is that we need each other even if we hold opposing views. The reason is that inspite of how well you might know your position you cannot possibly know everything. Hearing arguements from someone on the otherside of your position will always challenge you to go deeper and explore more. We need each othe because doing theology in community is the only way we truly learn. Let me give you an illustratrion I came accross in my theology course (thanks Michael Patton). The bank has a particular way of trying to find forged notes. In training their employees to find them they spend countless hours studying the original and never look at any forgeries. That way when the forgery comes along they can spot it a mile away. Whats the problem with that? Well first off banks certainly don’t do that and very regularly look at the latest forgeries and forgery techniques. Secondly it implies that someone can know something perfectly.


The analagy works very well for studying theology. We need to do it in community and wrestle with the ideas that opposition to what we believe. Now I’m not advocating that we wrestle with ideas like “Jesus was just a man” or “Jesus wasn’t God – he was just a nice man” or “We need to become Jews to become saved” etc. There are clear heresies out there that we must stand against. In all things that are essential for salvation I say we are to be in unity with our brothers and sisters. In matters that are debatable we can have diversity, but in all things we must have charity.

Getting back to the discussion at the restaurant, I was a little concerned for my friends who seemed to hold to beliefs that were contradictory. I do not doubt their salvation for one second but I think they had not clearly thought through some of the issues they were so heavily pressing forward. For instance one guy sai that Jesus died for everyone on the cross. I pointed out Romans 8 to him saying that if that the case you have two options for what it accomplished – Universalism where everyone is saved regardless of what they believe, or a salvation made possible for all but secure for none. Instead I argued that from that verse it woudl appear that Salvation was made possible for the elect only. I stressed that we both limited what Jesus had done on the cross in one way or another. (If you’re interested in my views on this see my post on the Limited Atonement) At one point I think some of them started to concede that the doctrines of Calvinism were very difficult to get around and instead pointed to objections they had to the doctrines like “Theres no point in evangelising” and “Where does hope come in” and “But I have free will, God has to respect that”.
I tried to conclude and share honestly from my own struggle with the doctrines (as best I could, my wife will have to be the judge of that!) and that I wrestled with the same objections that they did. But for some reason they kept thinking that their objections meant the doctrine couldn’t be true. I realised that it was not that they had a problem with the doctrines, as much as they had a problem with me not hearing them and trying to understand their point of view. If I had spent more time listening to them and understanding them they would have a lot more respect for what I had to say.

My advice to Calvinists, for what its worth – When debating with an Arminianist use an Irenic approach. State what you believe to be their case for what they believe in the best possible case and ask them if it is true of what they believe. Present it in the best possible light – but then politely state that although their view makes sense, you will show them why you hold a different view, presenting your case respectfully and rigorously from scripture. Don’t argue from logic or rationale but stick rigorously to the text.

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2 responses

21 06 2008
cornishevangelist

Speak The Word

Jesus defeated satan in the wilderness by speaking the Word of God, He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”. Don’t forget Jesus was very weak and hungry; He was at His lowest, that is when satan comes to you saying it is hopeless, you are finished, it is all over. My friend the devil is a liar. David the shepherd boy said,” God delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, surely He will deliver me from this uncircumcised Philistine {Goliath}.
Surely God will deliver you from your problem, so, shout it out “SURELY GOD WILL DELIVER ME” The Bible says,” “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you”.
EVANGELIST BILLY BOLITHO
http://www.evangelistbillybolitho.blogspot.com

21 06 2008
aworthydiscussion

Amen Brother ! I spoke a lot of scripture at them, but thats not really the point of my post. The point was more focused on the way I presented those scriptures. Its a case of the old parable between the sun and the wind who were both trying to get the man to take his jacket off. The wind blew harder and harder but the man clung to his jacket all the more. The sun simply shone and the man got too hot to keep his jacket on….

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