The good thing about Facebook is that everyone has a voice. The bad thing about Facebook is that everyone has a voice. The problem with ‘free speech’ is that it’s not free…it’s costly, especially when those on their soapbox are angry, judgmental brawlers who don’t appear to care how their words hurt and offend others.
Some Christians and some pastors can really get mean, nasty, and down right belligerent when talking theology, more specifically, when talking about how someone’s theology is wrong.
In my way of thinking, a controversial subject is any topic that Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Apostle’s Creed-abiding Christians disagree on. When Christians can look at the same passage of scripture and come to different conclusions we know we are dealing with something that is controversial, or debatable.
My Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Apostle’s Creed-abiding sisters and brothers in Christ disagree on all kinds of important things. We’re all reading the same Bible but disagree on the role of women in leadership, eschatology, gift of tongues, the proper mode of baptism, Election…I could go on and on.
Ruertus Meldenius told us, “In Essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.”
And everyone says, “Amen.”
The problem is we can’t agree on what is essential and what is non-essential. Often times what is non-essential to one is essential to another. As Protestants we lack a unifying authoritative figure (like, let’s say, our Roman Catholic friends have) over us to tell us what’s what. As Protestants we don’t want a Pope but we could sure use one. We need someone to tell us what the bible says about these controversial subjects. But we don’t have anyone like that. Someone must be right and someone must be wrong. Who gets to decide? And this is where violent, aggressive, angry, mean-spirited Christians come in. There are far too many pastors who act like they have a corner on the market of theological orthodoxy.
“What you believe isn’t orthodox.”
“Really? I think it’s orthodox.”
“Well you’re wrong.”
“Because I’m right.”
“What we need is a Pope to straighten this all out.”
“That’s not funny. And besides…that’s not orthodox.”
The battle cry of the belligerent is, “The Bible clearly teaches (fill in the blank with a debatable subject).” But if the Bible was clear on a controversial topic it wouldn’t be controversial. If my Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Apostle’s Creed-abiding brothers and sisters in Christ disagree on the End Times then saying the Bible clearly teaches a pre-tribulation rapture of the church is not fair. If the Bible was clear on this, why then do we have Postmillennialists and Amillennialists?
I believe that there is absolute truth. For me, as I’m sure it is for you, the Bible is my source for truth. I assume that God must have an opinion (absolute truth) about certain hot topics. God is either in favor of tongues today or not. Infant baptism is okay in the eyes of God or not. God is either a Postmillennialist or not. But when we disagree with our brothers and sisters in Christ on certain important but debatable topics we don’t need to go on the attack, ridicule, be disrespectful, we shouldn’t burn them at the stake. Our response should not be a violent one.
When I run into someone who interprets the Bible differently than I do (and the subject is something I feel very strongly about) I must remember Paul’s words and, “…not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach (and able to be teachable), patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition (because who knows, I could be wrong and if so, I will want my ‘opponent’ to show me kindness, patience, and gentleness). II Tim. 2:24
Coming Up Next: Violence in our vocabulary