The Art of Having Conciliatory Theological Discussions – A Little Background

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When I went off to Harding in 1997 I moved into Armstrong dorm with a roommate who I didn’t see eye to eye with theologically. One thing that brought our differences front and center was the fact that not only did we share a room but we also shared our very first college Bible class – Honors New Testament with Dale Manor. It wasn’t too uncommon for us to discuss in the room the things we discussed in class and eventually the conversation turned from friendly chat to full out, all in debate mode.

As we began to talk more and disagree more I knew I was going to win. In the Churches of Christ we have an answer for everything. I had learned the fine art of prooftexting from the best and I knew I could find a verse or two to back up everything he needed to believe to get it right. Now, I might have to ignore a few verses in my search and even hope that he doesn’t find those verses in his search…but may way had to come out on top because that is just how this was supposed to go.

On and on it went until the fateful evening of Jimmy Allen’s gospel meeting in the Benson auditorium. I asked my roommate if he was going to go. He didn’t give me any sort of definite answer and so I went by myself. What shocked me was that at the invitation I saw him go forward! I couldn’t believe it. I rushed down there and talked to him and he wanted to be baptized. Following the service we went out to the fountain and I baptized him into Christ in the frigid November waters of that fountain.

In retrospect I can’t help but see that God worked something amazing there not because of me but in spite of me. I had gone about the whole thing wrong. I had been combative, argumentative and hostile. I had decided that I was right…he was wrong and we were going to do battle until he conceded.

Since that day I have seen more times when God has worked his best in spite of my best efforts to mess things up. When I took up blogging in 2006 there were times I reverted back to the old debate mode…ready for a fight…ready to prove myself right and everyone else wrong. In the process I learned that I still have much to learn and that my assumptions are not always as sharp or correct as they seem.

Over the next few posts I am going to talk about a few lessons I have learned while discussing things on my blog, in social media and in person. If all it does is help me process a few of these things…that is great. But I think there is more in store as we can all share insights on how to discuss things in a conciliatory fashion…still holding onto our core beliefs and values while still being kind and considerate to others. I look forward to hearing how many of you do that successfully.

One Response

  1. I was one of those, albeit already baptized, with whom many people at HU disagreed theologically. I too voiced my opinion a few times and was rapidly told I was wrong. I quit counting the number of times I was told I was going to hell. After a while I just kept my mouth shut and did not get in any more of that type of discussion. It was safer to not get in those discussions as they could get rather heated. However, I watched to see how people lived. I tried to compare those who went to worship all the time (often to be seen) with those who went only when it was mandated (chapel). I found no direct correlation between those who went all the time (chapel plus evening devotionals and dorm devotionals) and honesty, decency, etc. as compared to those who didn’t go all the time.

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