Kevin H On Disagreeing Agreeably
While it may be out there somewhere, I have not come across any other place on the internet where there is so much interactive input from such a variety of Christian denominations, traditions, and viewpoints as there is here at the Phoenix Preacher.
Of course with that kind of diversity (along with the nature of topics that are covered here) it can get heated at times and that is not particularly my cup of tea. I will usually stay out of the fray. The heat can sometimes serve good purposes. Many other times it doesn’t. Regardless, I still do really appreciate this place and much of the discussion that takes place.
I grew up in a conservative evangelical tradition. I still do consider myself to be a conservative evangelical although I don’t claim allegiance to any particular denomination or faith tradition. I am also not a theologian or pastor. I cannot keep up with some of the discussions that take place here, nor do I even try. Rather, I try to read and learn as I can.
With all that said and knowing there are those who know much more than me from a theological perspective, there is an attitude that really sticks in my craw the more I learn and advance in life. And most especially when it comes from my Christian brothers and sisters.
That is when one has an attitude or approach where they know it all and are condescending and demeaning and divisive toward others, especially other Christians.
It happens here, it happens other places, it happens pretty much anywhere there are humans. I am sometimes guilty of it myself. Now speaking in a Christian context, there needs to be some kind of ascertained basis that is agreed to and held onto, or else there cannot be any real faith at all. I will primarily look to the three classic Christian creeds (http://bookofconcord.org/creeds.php) for this basis. (Yes, MLD, you can thank me for linking to the Book of Concord.) One cannot walk around denying the deity of Jesus or his resurrection and expect others to accept him or her as a Christian. Yet when one Christian speaks to or of another in a disdainful or discordant manner, especially on secondary or tertiary matters, I say – No Good.
Yes, I know there would be some disagreement on what makes up primary matters and which ones are secondary or tertiary. And yes, I know there can be practices within Christendom that aren’t essential to the faith yet are still harmful. Those things still need to be dealt with seriously. And no, I don’t think it’s necessarily problematic for those who are convinced they hold to the truth on many secondary or tertiary matters. There are some of these issues where I’m pretty sure I hold to the truth of the matter. But we ought to express those beliefs with humility and in recognition of their relative importance.
We need to be careful in how we deal with and speak to and of each other.
God calls us to live together with harmony and humbleness. (1 Peter 3:8) He wants us to effort to live in unity. (Eph 4:3) When we speak to and of each other in arrogant and divisive fashions, we hinder our endeavors to achieve these directives. I don’t think there is any problem when we speak to and of the disagreements we have with each other if we can do it in a reasonable and fair and humble way. However, if we are regularly speaking in a condescending tone to and of those who hold to a different eschatological system, or who believe differently on the signs gifts, or about Bible translations, or about alcohol or dancing or gambling, etc., etc., etc……then we have a problem. (And don’t even get me started when this is done in a disingenuous or sometimes even flat out dishonest fashion by intentionally misrepresenting the “other side” or making them out to appear worse than they really are.)
This problem is nothing new. It happens all over the internet. It happens from the pulpit. It happens from the pews. It is something to which I have grown more sensitive to over the last so many years. I have to be careful that I’m not condescending to the condescenders. 🙂 Maybe it’s not the worst problem in the world and certainly there are other behaviors and actions which have greater consequences. But this is one problem that sticks out to me and I say we can and need to do better.