Upping My Antagonism

My mom always told me picking fights was bad.

Okay, that’s an oversimplificiation. What she said was that you can never convince anybody of anything simply by debating them into a corner. Debate, in any setting, is always for the sake of the audience. And, when the audience is your local church, picking a debate in the middle of, say, the morning service, is probably a bad idea. Odds are you’re more likely to stir up contention instead of bringing anybody to a closer appreciation of the truth. No matter who ends up being made to look stupid, both of you hurt the community of the church.

I’ve always tried to live by this standard of not picking theological fights in church. It’s a good standard. In fact, I’ve tried not to pick theological fights with anybody anywhere. Who ever has gotten saved because a Christian made them look stupid in public? But when it comes to blogging, not picking a fight may be exactly the wrong tack.

I really should have gotten this memo before. I mean, all my [mom](http://www.mingobird.blogspot.com) ever does is pick fights online. Of course, her bent is “picking fights” with the MSM, and other windmills. No windmill was ever offended by a quixotic crusader, and a great many people have been inspired to better ideals by a Don Quixote.

But my main focus is stuff like theology, Christian education, and a dash of philosophy. So I hesitate. My “no fight picking” flag goes up. This is religion: no fights allowed. Don’t want any potential Christians getting turned off by nit-picky blogging. Instinctively, I take on this reserved mindset and wait until I have every loose string tied up in my theology before I go announcing it to the world. In my mind, I’m still not blogging. I’m writing a theology primer.

But, like I said, I’m beginning to think that this is exactly the wrong tack. Public debate, done right, can be a form of entertainment. A very persuasive form of entertainment, since it gets people thinking about the really important things. Imagine if the framers of the constitution had been reticent to engage in public debate of any kind. The thing would never have been ratified, and we’d be fifty separate states by now. It was the publised debates over the federalist and anti-federalist papers that did so much to persuade people to even *think* about how our country ought to be shaped.

The same thing is true with theology. If Martin Luther an others had been reticent to engage in debate, there would have been no Reformation. (Some Catholics might think this would have been a good thing, but think again: No Protestant Reformation means no Catholic Reformation. We’d still have vagrant friars selling advance forgiveness on city street corners.)

There is a rising tide of Christian bloggers who are spurring a whole host of theological debate, and I’ve been sitting on the sidelines waiting to form a clear position. Rey at the [Bible Archive](http://www.biblearchive.com/) for instance, has a post up outlining a little [culture war](http://www.biblearchive.com/mambo4_5/content/view/482/65/) going on among Christian bloggers that basically falls along the lines of Calvinist vs. Armenian, and liberal vs. conservative. Or, as they’re putting it, “retro” verses “metro.” Rey creates a third rail, “hetero” or other, since half the time, he doesn’t agree particularly with either position on anything. Honestly, I’m with Rey. On the other side of the water is [Adrian Warnock](http://www.adrian.warnock.info), who has been growing on me the past week or so. He’s actually [*complaining* about the *lack* of debate](http://www.adrian.warnock.info/2005/10/does-penal-substitution-contribute-to.htm) going on between evangelicals and “neo”-liberals. Apparently, in England, there are increasingly a set of Christians who want to hold on to the greater bulk of traditional orthodox doctrine, and only chip off a few inconvenient positions. You know, like “penal substitution.” But mainstream theologians get together with the neo-liberals for a conference and decide to “work alongside each other for the sake of the gospel”, ignoring these little inessentials (!).

So I’m upping my antagonism. I’m going to start trying to read through some of these debates and give my best knee-jerk theological reactions. Since I am still writing my theological primer in the back of my head, you won’t be getting any measured, ballanced positions out of this. But you’ll be hearing about some of the questions that are going around out there, and you’ll get at least *one* position on them.

Besides, you don’t learn through analysis. You learn through acculturation. If a culture forsakes even the slightest tinge of good-spirited debate, the culture merely drifts, and then what do you get?

Right. America.

3 thoughts on “Upping My Antagonism”

  1. I’m not sure Valerie wrote that.

    True, I do regularly tilt at windmills [to dream the impossible dream….] however I have an issue with what passes for debate in America — even Christian America.

    The trend is to replace reason with rhetoric….and when all else fails use sarcasm and accusation. The example that comes to mind is one shared with me of a church who is lead by a “plurality” of elders and calls churches who have pastors “kool-aid drinkers”.

    By equating those who practice a different form of church government with the most extreme example of blind discipleship, they think they’ve proven their point and won their argument but, in reality, all they’ve actually accomplished is to call someone a name.

    Whatever that is — it isn’t Jesus.

    Like

  2. Di,

    I have to agree with you. I regularly post on a political message board which used to be liberals and conservatives combined, but now has been divided into conservatives and liberals. Your summation of the debate process on the internet is right on. The chasm between Evangelical Christians and neo-liberals might as well be the Grand Canyon. I have also noted that after a few posts of attempted debate it ultimately descends into sarcasm and if allowed to go on it disintegrates into a pure insult-fest. Maybe because I am on the evangelical Christian side of things I have a little prejudiced view but it seems that the neo-liberals have no tolerance for debate, however, I have seen the same reprehensible behavior take place on the Christian side too. The kool-aid response is literally the “phrase of the year” on the net and is regularly dished out on both sides.

    Like

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