Theological Weaponry and Words

901898_95139400I read this the other day and it really struck me. “I don’t think God is glorified by tightly crafted argument wielded as weaponry.” Sarah Bessey 

Sarah was commenting on how we seek to craft our theological arguments into weapons that win the argument, break the defense of others, and cause harm. I think this is both sad and true.

So often when God enters into the conversation, rather than discussion and sharing, we debate and argue.

Now don’t get me wrong I love theology, I love debating, and wrestling with God and theological issues. The point is that there is often a point in a conversation where it becomes less about wrestling with an idea or with God, and more about wrecking another person’s views.

I’m not saying that I believe everyone has a right or correct view. But so often rather than trying to help one another grow, we try to show through our intellectual prowess, mastery of theological language, or biblical understanding that our position is not only better – that your position is stupid, small, and clearly wrong. That you, as a person, are clearly stupid, small, and wrong for believing…whatever.

The point is that we argue not to grow in theological understanding; so often we argue to prove we are better than someone else. And I agree with Sarah, God is not pleased when we try to prove our worth by proving someone else’s deficiency whether that is in relation to morals, actions, or theological belief.

So I’m all for wrestling, discussion, and growing. I just want there to be grace and love in the midst of dialogue and debate. Because the truth is I hold my beliefs strongly, and I think you should too. Let’s just make sure that our strongly held beliefs don’t slide over from being strongly held to violently pushed, coercively driven, and hatefully argued.

The Life of Theological Debate

663092_26111643I have a confession: I love theology. My wife has a confession probably as well, she would say I have an obsession with theology. I read way too many books, listen to podcasts, and half of my suitcase on our vacations is filled with books and highlighters to read while on a beach.

So that is the context for the next thought I have. While I love theology, I’m not a huge fan of theological debate in church. It is not that I’m intimidated by conflict, by discussion, or by contrasting viewpoints. The reason I’m not a big fan of debate is that debate often devolves into something so un-Jesusy (I know, not a theological word for someone who reads so many books).

The point is that when people start talking about Jesus, they for some reason, stop looking and sounding like Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with discussion around theology. I love it, need it, and actually search it out. What I’m not a fan of is people using theology as a springboard to prove their own intellectual prowess, certainty, or general “rightness”. What this means is that when people enter into a theological debate they are generally not interested in learning or growing, but being right and proving the other person wrong. The point becomes about winning rather than growing. And this is where, for me, I tend to exit the conversation. I love discussing, being challenged, and growing; I just don’t find that debates help with that. Jesus tends to ask questions, debates give up only clear cut answers. Debates are about shutting off the conversation by being right, rather than opening up a conversation by admitting our humility. So while I’m not scared of theological debate, I’m much more interested in growing in theological depth. I just haven’t found the two often connected.

Perhaps you’ve had a different experience than me, and that’d be great. But either way I have a challenge for you. The next time you find yourself in a theological debate, ask yourself this question: am I trying to be right, or help people grow?

Because the answer to that one question can change the whole thing…