Further on My Invitation to the CFTF Lectures

I’ve had readers comment here and write me privately to praise my invitation to the CFTF, warn me against these men, or else urge me not to engage in debate with them at all. Some argue that they’ll never change their minds. Others argue that debate is never helpful. Some warn me against being slandered.

A few have written to let me know they are praying for me — in a good way (not like: “I’ll pray for you — because you’re going to hell.” I’ve gotten a few of those, but not on this subject.)

First, I must say that I appreciate all the comments — pro and con, praying in support and praying that it doesn’t happen.

And I appreciate being warned against slander. I’m not concerned. I don’t know why, but I have this peace about it. I really just don’t care.

Second, I’d like to point out a way of looking at the offer that I think is important. You see, while I’ll absolutely engage in the discussion with the desire and prayer to persuade those I’ll be talking with, I believe the dialogue will have been worthwhile even if I fail.

The success of a dialogue or debate shouldn’t be measured by whether one side persuades the other. It rarely happens. In fact, nearly daily I’ve engaged in dialogue here at OneInJesus with people who disagree with me. And I’ve rarely persuaded any of them. Nor do they often persuade me. I’m still not a Calvinist, just to take one example. But that doesn’t mean I’ve wasted my time or that they’ve wasted theirs.

There are at least these good results that usually come from an exchange with someone I disagree with — even if neither side is persuaded —

1. I’ll come to understand his position better. And that has unquestionably happened for me many times. I’m a far better student of Calvinism, for example, than I was before Calvinism became an issue here.

2. The other side will come to understand my position better. Sometimes that happens. Really.

3. We’ll both come to understand our own positions better. That always happens for me — regardless of the opponent. The smarter and more knowledgeable the opponent, the more I learn about what I believe.

4. The thousands of lurkers who read but don’t comment will come to understand both sides better. And that happens, too. Some will even be persuaded and will never tell me. That’s the nature of things. And I’m good with it.

Now, in the case of the CFTF-influenced church, my heart’s desire is to persuade their thought leaders — the publishers, writers, and preachers — but my time will have been well spent if the only good accomplished is to open the minds of some in their congregations to the true gospel.

And they should feel the same way. The odds that they persuade me likely aren’t any better than the odds I’ll persuade them. But by dialoguing with me, they’ll have the opportunity to show my readership how my views contrast with theirs. And if they’re right, well, my readers are very smart and they’ll likely be persuaded. Or at least they’ll be more open to considering the conservative position.

Indeed, those who speak for the CFTF position should feel that way. They should believe that their views, when fairly contrasted with mine, will be more persuasive and will completely undercut my ministry at this site. If they don’t feel that way, I’m sure they’ll refuse the dialogue.

For both sides, it’s far more important to open the minds of the many readers than the few who are writing posts. If they never persuade me but persuade my readers, their time will have been well spent.

But I know this. The conservative Churches are filled with people who’d be greatly blessed by being exposed to the true gospel of Jesus. And if only one person finds the true Jesus because of the effort, it will have been worth my time and effort. They should feel the same way about the progressive Churches. They obviously see the progressive Churches as led by apostates. Surely they believe they can bring some of the progressives out of apostasy if their views are contrasted with mine.

Of course, the only way to teach the gospel is to live the gospel. And that means writing in way that shows forth the love of God. And it’s frankly a difficult task — because it’s easy to seek victory at the price of truth.

Therefore, I’m looking for one or two volunteers to “second” me — that is, to review my drafts before I post them to make sure I’m writing as Jesus would have me write. It’s tough work because you’ll have to contend with me. (It’s dirty job, but someone has to do it.)

If you’re willing, write me at jfguin(at)comcast(dot)net. I’ll not respond until we know whether CFTF is willing to undertake the discussion.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink.
My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.

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11 Responses to Further on My Invitation to the CFTF Lectures

  1. Matthew says:

    These reasons seem well-articulated and entirely appropriate to me–if the precedent of Grace Conversations is any indicator–the effort will be a blessing to all.

  2. Guy says:

    Jay,

    i don’t think it’s a bad idea to have this discussion. i don’t think such a discussion would be fruitless either.

    My concerns would be about the tone and demeanor in which the discussion is conducted. i think it’s possible that such endeavors can turn into crusade to nay-say the evil machine/institution and blame all our problems on that idea and spend our energies defining ourselves by what we’re against rather than on what we’re for. i think when an event is formatted such that there are “opponents” or “contenders,” it can become very difficult to maintain the utmost respect and kindness when addressing one another. i think a lot of the published debates i read back in preaching school were permeated with dismal failures to treat each other in a Christ-like way.

    Do you think our public debates in the past were helpful and effective and godly endeavors? If not, or if you think some of them were not, then how will the discussion you’re proposing differ from those that were ineffective/unhelpful/ungodly?

    –Guy

  3. paul says:

    May I suggest asking Edward Fudge to review your drafts? I'd also like to say that you are brave to go head to head with CFTF crowd, may the Holy Spirit guide you (He will also give you the advantage because many of the CFTF crowd don't believe in Him (the Holy Spirit) being real, present, and personally communicating/indwelling with the genuine Christian as the scripture teaches). May the Lord bless and protect you in this endeavor.

  4. John says:

    Jay,
    After reading your reasons for meeting these individuals in public discussion I can say that I do not find your reasons to be anything but honorable, and I pray God's blessing on your time and effort.
    However, I do wish to convey a word of warning. The wing of the Church of Christ these gentlemen represent is populated by many who long, even live in obsession, for the "glory days" of the church; the days of "victorious" debates, of one week, even two week gospel meetings when, in their memory, denominationalists obeyed the gospel in droves; and to get these days back any attack, any crafted argument, regardless of the fictionalized parts, any twist of scripture is justified.
    From what I have seen no one practices situation ethics better than a legalist trying to lure the church back to the "good ol' days". But to borrow a phrase from my late father, "I've lived the good ol' days…they weren't that good".

  5. Jerry Starling says:

    Jay,
    Your recent conversations with Cougan and the difficulty you have had trying to get him to discuss the basic issues instead of chasing every "issue" is mild compared to what a discussion with CFTF will be. I believe Cougan is honest, but misguided. I have my doubts about the CFTF crowd. They will scour your web site to point out any inconsistency they can find or manufacture – and will point to every place you differ with the tradition as evidence you have abandoned the faith.

    Yet, the reasons you give for seeking this conversation are valid. There are people who will be influenced. You will bring far more people to the table than will they. Perhaps you should insist that they open their list to you for postings in the conversation as well. Even if they did, there would be at most a couple of hundred people seeing it there – unless they also agreed to publish it in their magazine (which I doubt they'd do).

    Jerry

  6. Guy says:

    Is specialized warning against conservatives anymore needed than against anyone desperate to achieve a certain goal? Perhaps anyone who wants change and progress badly enough can be so overcome with that desire that any tactic or word to shame the status-quo protectors will do. Anyone with passion and an agenda can find themselves saying things and behaving in ways they will later regret.

    –Guy

  7. nick gill says:

    Guy, you might be right. I suggest that you test that hypothesis against the actual presentations of the different groups.

    Compare the lectures at the Contending For The Faith lectureship (self-labelled as "conservative") with the lectures at the Tulsa International Soul-winning Workshop. Both have free lectures available for download online.

    I promise you that each group is full of people with both passion and agendas. See for yourself which group finds themselves saying things and and behaving in ways that sound and look regrettable.

  8. Guy says:

    Parroting Jay's post today: people are rarely in a tiff about genuinely doctrinal disputes. Often underlying them is mattes of power and control. i would argue that underlyig that is really fear–fear of losing control/power. That is a state to which anyone is susceptible regardless of factional alliance.

    i believe there are horror stories from victims on both sides of the fence. i think the words and actions that cut the deepest aren't those like the CFTF lectures (as bad as those may be). It's when you're in your own congregation and you see people roll their eyes at each other, absent-mindedly 'forget' to include each other, murmur under their breath "here we go again" in a Bible class, etc. What's worse? When someone across town shouts obscenities about you? Or when the person sleeping in your bed treats you like an unwelcome stranger?

    Nevertheles, trying to track down whose record of wrongs is longer–i don't see how that's loving or unifying in design or effect. Besides, i'm far too busy trying to dislodge the log in my eye to worry about which camp has a bigger speck.

    –Guy

  9. Ray Downen says:

    I'm reading this note 62 weeks later than the comments. Did anything come of the proposed debate?

  10. Jay Guin says:

    Not a thing. They turned me down cold.By the way, I’m totally offended that I wasn’t included in this year’s list of apostates either! What does a change agent have to do to get declared apostate in West Tennessee anyway? <a href="http://www.churchesofchrist.com/lectures2011.phphttp://www.churchesofchrist.com/lectures2011.php&lt;… />I mean — they damn MAC DEAVER and not ME! I’m hurt.

  11. Alabama John says:

    Many times the best defense is to simply ignore the opposition.

    I think the day of debates in the conservative churches is over.

    been to many of them between the CofC and denominations, especially church of God Holiness but the average spectator is much more educated on the Bible than the older bunch was. Proof Texting today is now seen as just that, not a real knowledge of the Bible.

    Blame the Internet for that.

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