I would just continue to encourage you to stand for truth in a balanced and loving way and have no desire to run full stream and embrace the far left progressive view of truth (which in many instances demonstrates many are infected with postmodern thinking).
For the past few months I’ve been engaged with progressives bloggers like Jay and others and it has been very eyeing opening to see just how far down the road many in the church are. They seem to exalt and glory in their “doubts and diversity” in teachings and practice in the body of Christ and seem to think that little if any error will condemn souls.
Robert, obviously we have different views as to which errors damn. But what warrant is there for the “if any”? I’ve certainly never said that there is no error that damns. I’ve said quite the opposite. Nor do I “exalt and glory” in “doubts and diversity.” I certainly take no delight in doubt — and have idea where you get that impression.
With regard to diversity of opinion, I see it as a necessary evil. I’m not pleased that there is any disagreement among Christians at all. But we are finite beings and we sometimes make mistakes — moral and doctrinal. Hence, I exult and glory in God’s grace — for those who are in grace. And I’m saddened that many are not in God’s grace.
Have I said something that gives a different impression?
There really is a spiritually “arrogance” demonstrated in their attitude I’ve noticed that somehow they’ve been “liberated” and “set free.”
Do we progressives exult in being “set free”? I certainly hope so. Freedom is a deeply scriptural concept.
(Gal 5:1) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
(John 8:31-32) To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
A truly Biblical theology sets believers free. How is this wrong?
One thing that’s been most eye opening has been to see how the “progressive” Church of Christ people have just as much ability to be close minded as they accuse us more conservative minded brethren to be. It’s very easy to believe that you’re more advanced in theology and relationship to God than “those poor conservatives.” Progressives have to be charitable in working with other churches of Christ, as well as denominations. Spiritual superiority complexes have no place in the Kingdom.
Are progressives stubborn in their beliefs? I’m sure they are. But there’s an important difference. There are far more former conservatives among the progressives than former progressives among the conservatives. You see, most progressives have a story much like mine. I was raised conservative. I was educated conservative. But because I am willing to change when I learn better, I changed. Most progressives have changed from being conservative.
Therefore, there really is very little a conservative can say to persuade a progressive — because we progressives have heard the same arguments all our lives — and rejected them. Most of us — myself included — once even taught conservative theology. Most of us know conservative theology as well as any conservative does. Our rejection of conservative theology is not because we are closed minded, but because we are open minded, have heard both sides, and have been persuaded.
If the conservatives are openminded, why are they so very unfamiliar with our positions? Why are our views so severely mischaracterized? And why do conservative periodicals and blogs routinely refuse to allow our side to be presented? Why are our views grossly distorted? Why not take the trouble to understand us, even if you don’t agree?
Do we sometimes act superior? Yes. I know I have. I don’t defend it. It’s wrong. On the other hand, when someone finally discovers grace — the true Biblical doctrine of grace — and truly feels saved for the first time, you can’t help but feel joy in your newly discovered condition. You want to celebrate — and well you should. And some take our celebration and delight in our assurance and confidence as arrogance.
Nonetheless, I readily admit two failings among us progressives. We do tend to be dismissive toward conservative theology. Again, I don’t defend that attitudue. Rather, having seen the error of conservative thought and the joys of progressive thought, we often find it hard revisit conservative arguments that we’ve heard and dealt with many times before. But the lack of patience and dismissive attitude we sometimes evidence is wrong.
Second, I have to admit that some progressives do a poor job of articulating progressive theology. There are books I wish had never been published. I’ve said many times that we’ve done a poor job of explaining ourselves at times, and it remains true. But there are plenty of excellent presentations of the progressive viewpoint. I’d especially commend the work of John Mark Hicks and the late Cecil Hook.
But make no mistake about it, the one thing I’ve learned about the strategy and approach of “progressives” is that their “openness” and “genuine dialogue” is carefully coughed in their steadfast zeal to change the conservative brethren and churches of Christ. They talk big on gaining “mutual understanding” but what most of them seem to really desire is that if you listen to them enough, you will convert.
Reflect a bit on what you’ve just said. Isn’t it equally true of you? Don’t you have “steadfast zeal to change the [progressive] brethren and churches of Christ”? Why is it okay for you to contend for your position through dialogue and wrong for a progressive to do the same? Haven’t you been commenting on this site in hope that someone will listen to you and be persuaded?
I’ve gladly let you post tens of thousands of words on this site, completely uncensored and unmoderated, even though you were arguing vigorously against my beliefs? Have you paused to wonder why? Trust me, there aren’t many conservative blogs that would give me the same privilege! There are no conservative periodicals that would let me publish articles in their pages. Why do I let you publish freely on my blog?
You see, I believe that truth is best found in dialogue. I think it helps for both sides to be freely advocated. The readers are bright people. They can make the right decisions — but only if they’ve heard both sides. If someone chooses to agree with me, I hope it’s because they’ve heard both sides and agreed with mine. I’d far rather persuade in open competition with those who disagree with me.
I wish more conservatives would post here. Unlike many of our periodicals (nearly all), I am not interested in presenting only one side of the argument. It’s not right. I don’t like being cut out of the pages of the Gospel Advocate etc., and so I figure conservatives would want to be able to post at length here. It’s the Golden Rule. And it’s confidence in my position and in my readers. I believe the more the readers know about both sides and the more the two sides interact, the more likely my readers are to be persuaded to the progressive view. I hope that you feel the same way about the conservative viewpoint.
This was the position of Alexander Campbell as editor of the Millennial Harbinger and Lipscomb as editor of the Gospel Advocate. Both published articles they disagreed with. I think they were exactly right.
And, of course, one advantage of an open editorial policy is that when you do make a mistake, it’s more likely that it gets corrected. Allowing readers to disagree at length keeps me on my toes. And sometimes they persuade me that I’m wrong. It’s good for me.
But how much of this “understanding” goes the other way? I would bet none. Of course there are issues within the church that we need to have “mutual. As far as discussion goes, though, perhaps if the conservative brothers do well, they might dissuade someone trying to learn more about these issues from jumping off the doctrinal deep end.
And so I do stay in “the ring” (although less and less) because there are hopefully lurkers (people who read but who never post) who might be persuaded by the arguments presented. As far as the opponents goes, our arguments generally fall on deaf ears
I don’t have a way to measure the impact of your arguments. I’m grateful for your participation. In fact, the hit counts consistently go up whenever there’s a conservative/progressive dialogue going on in the comments. I assume I’m getting hits from both sides, but have no idea who is being persuaded and who is not.
This site gets over 1,000 hits a day, and there are rarely more than 10 people commenting on a given day. The vast majority don’t comment, but they read. And I’m glad they read both sides.
It remains my view — deeply held — that the ongoing division in the Churches of Christ is contrary to God’s will, and I continue to believe that the cure is dialogue. I don’t know any other possibility.
Not a one of the print periodicals in the Churches of Christ is willing to print both sides. Therefore, the internet seems the best place to talk through our differences.
Of course, both sides thinks it’s right. And neither side comes in wishing to be shown in error. If that weren’t so, there’d be no division to cure!
Thus, both sides need to present their views in a forum where they can be considered, critiqued, and discussed — and where misunderstandings can be corrected. The internet is a great place for exactly that. And even if neither side persuades the other, some good things will surely result.
First, some of the lies being spread by one side about the other will be corrected — and the liars will be proven liars.
Second, the two sides will understand each other much better. As I said, we progressives don’t always do a good job of explaining ourselves. The conservatives have sometimes done a poor job of this as well.
Third, forcing both sides to carefully state and defend their views will force each side to think more carefully about its position — and get away from sloganeering and instead focus on the scriptures more deeply. Both sides will be better for being pushed to a fresh study of the scriptures (and, trust me, that’s happening).
Fourth, those watching the dialogue will learn more about both sides — and learn more than the slogans and rhetoric. They’ll see the points of contention. When they pick a side to agree with, they’ll do so for good reason — not based on mischaracterizations of either side but by that side’s own arguments.
Will the divide disappear? No.
Will the division get better? How could God not bless the courteous, prayerful discussion of his word?