I 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…
2 thoughts on “The Life of Theological Debate”
I’m confused. How can you read “too many books”? ;-P
It’s not only theology can be twisted into a platform for tribalism (i.e. “Me and my people are right! Join us so I can feel good about my choice.”). Sports fandom (football hooligans), technology selection (Apple vs PC), and even child-rearing techniques (cry-out vs family bed) are equally fertile ground for ‘religious wars.’ The problem isn’t with theology, it’s with people.
I just realized now my reply didn’t post for some reason…weird. Anyway I had never thought about the parenting moving into tribalism before but it is so very true. You’re totally right the problem is with people…and you’re also right there are never too many books. Although my wife might debate that with you 😉