Things We Shouldn’t Say When Discussing Theology

Posted: November 12, 2013 by Josiah Batten in Cultural Conspiracies, Moscow Idaho Stuff, Satire
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One of the nice things about social media is everyone is able to communicate with everyone else. One of the bad things about social media is it gives people the impression that they have something valuable to say on every issue. It helps us forget our limits.

I feel fairly competent to address issues of theology and apologetics. But if its physics or chemistry you want, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. But Facebook often removes this natural inhibition to speaking about issues we don’t understand. Why? Because I read an article on it so I’ve become a 5-minute expert. I watched a 2 minute Youtube, so I obviously know what’s up.

This is a real tragedy in discussions via social media about matters of theology. People frequently misunderstand the point being made because, like it or not, you can’t master theology by reading blogs and watching short Youtube videos. But this is social media, so everyone is supposed to speak. What do you do when you don’t know what’s going on, but you feel the impulse to say something? You default to a cliche, and normally one that doesn’t directly speak to the issue at hand, but it’s so general as to seem applicable to everything. Like the great tonics of old, something that applies to everything normally doesn’t actually treat anything.

Permit me to use some examples. These are things that we should not say when discussing theology, because they are cliche and now meaningless. Also, they are conversation stoppers. They aren’t meant to address arguments, but to end discussions before things get “out of hand.”

In my heart I know…

No, you don’t. The heart pumps blood, it doesn’t know anything. Your mind knows things, and if you spent more time developing it you wouldn’t say things like this. This cliche is often used as a red herring, to distract attention away from serious arguments and turn the discussion into a subjective pomo experience fest.

It’s God’s job to judge.

The problem with this cliche is it has an element of truth to it. On the cosmic level, God is the judge. But when we’re talking about specific sins, this cosmic reality shouldn’t be used as a bludgeon to beat people into never saying anything whatsoever is a sin. As a matter of fact, it is because God is the judge, and He has already judged certain things to be sin, that we are free to apply His judgment without making ourselves out as the judge.

You’re just too religious. OR We’re under grace, not law.

This is the cry of the antinomian. They want everything to be permissible, or they at least want the issue under discussion to be permissible. So what do they do? Make your position out as impermissible. Oddly, this actually ends up turning the “grace” being discussed into a “law” not to be violated. The anti-religious antinomian religiously follows the pious ideals of rejecting the law or any type  external standard for behavior.

We need to walk in unity.

Exactly so! And to make sure this unity is not superficial, we need to have it out among ourselves and figure out the true position. Conflict over ideas is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. If we have enough trust to be vulnerable with our fellow Christians about topics we disagree on, we’re closer to true unity then if we’re so sensitive we can never bring up any disagreements.

God is love.

This is, once again, difficult because it is true. God is love. The person making this point typically is advocating accepting some sin or falsity. They want love to be a blanket protecting them from any criticism or evaluation. But God’s love is the type of love that doesn’t want you driving over a cliff. It’s because of love that the guardrails are there. Only an idiot would want to tear them down.

Our job is not to criticize. OR We’re not supposed to be theological police.

Actually, it is our job to criticize just in case the position under attack deserves criticism. No one gets mad if you criticize Nazis or tyrants. They get mad if you criticize a position that is not so obviously wrong. But it’s precisely because not all positions are obviously wrong that criticism is necessary. Criticism seeks to make obvious what might otherwise be hidden. And regarding being theological police, I’m sure Jesus and the apostles never corrected any errant theologies or false doctrines. Also, they never commanded us to do that, or to, for instance, earnestly contend for the faith. [Not sure how to make sense of that sentence in light of the examples and commands of Scripture, consider editing before publication.]

I just wish…

That’s nice, I’m not a genie. Moving on.

That statement is really offensive.

I don’t care if it’s offensive, as long as it’s true. If you don’t care about truth, don’t discuss theology. If you care more about personal feelings then about truth, you are free to discuss theology, but only among fellow theological liberals and compromisers. As Doug Wilson says, “sometimes people ought to take offense, and sometimes we ought to endeavor to give it.” (I think that’s a direct quote, but I don’t have the relevant book with me to check).

Jesus just loved people, He didn’t waste time with debates.

I would argue that it is because Jesus loved people that He debated them. Because Jesus loved people He corrected Pharisees and Sadducees. Because Paul (a follower of Jesus) loved people he debated at the Areopagus.

You should spend time doing real ministry, not arguing with people.

Sometimes arguing with people is the best way to minister to them. If someone believes a falsehood, you minister to them by arguing. Of course, you need to earn a right to a hearing with them, but arguing and ministry are not mutually exclusive. Why do I get the feeling that by “real ministry” you actually mean “things that make others feel warm and toasty inside?” Hmm…

That’s all for now, I’m sure I could think of other examples if I spent more time on it, but you get the idea. These are cliches, and they are meant to silence discussion, not discover truth. They are cop-outs for people who want to avoid thinking about anything challenging. They are great threats to truth and rationality, and we need to recognize them as such.

God bless,
Josiah

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Comments
  1. Patti says:

    I’m not sure why there are no likes or comments on this post. It is extremely relevant. My husband and I have a conversation similar to this on a regular basis! Sadly, we see more and more real discussion shut down because someone throws in a “God is love” or “I know in my heart”.
    Thanks for this.

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