On Controversy

The comment made by Doulos is very worthy of our attention.  If we choose to address a theologically controversial issue, we must be fully informed.  This seems so obvious, but it is so often not the case.  It is asy to study any issue either superficially, or only from within one camp.  When your input is coming from one side of a debate, even if they present the other side, you are still one-sided.

This is evident in books. I remember one book published several years ago that created quite a stir.  It was written to critique a theological position differing from that of the author.  Unfortunately it was written with an ad hominum edge, a gross tendency to attack a straw man presentation and a generally ungracious attitude.  I know some from the same camp as the writer, who respected the writer for his work in other areas of theology, that bought into his inadequate presentation of the “other side.”  If the same content and tone came from pulpits as was found in that book, harm was done.

This is evident in schools. By schools I mean Bible schools, colleges, seminaries, universities, etc.  It is by no means guaranteed, but it is certainly possible, that in a school you fail to receive fair presentations of all sides in these matters.  “Liberal” institutions are often critiqued as being restrictive by not encouraging reading from “conservative” writers.  However, “conservative” schools, while often better on encouraging the reading of “liberal” authors, often fall short in encouraging the reading of all other “conservatives!”

This is evident in cultures. I see in one country a general attitude towards certain theological positions that simply associates them with another country and then summarily dismisses them from any discussion.  This occurs in various forms around the world.  You see the danger here?  You can study many books, from various writers, study at various schools, etc., but if your study does not stretch out beyond the borders of your culture, then you are at risk of only being fed one side of certain theological debates.

It takes a lot of work to be well-informed on theological matters.  It is impossible to stay on top of everything.  But before you wade in from the pulpit, you must be fully prepared.  Often it is not necessary to “wade in” at all, but when you do, be very wary.  A preacher wields a dangerous influence, like the oft used illustration of the sharp blade – will it be incisive as in the hands of a surgeon, or devastating as with a mugger?  This will be determined by your diligence in study, your prayerful wisdom in preparation, and your attitude and tone in the pulpit.

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