Thursday, June 01, 2006
Golden Rule of Apologetics (Or Theological Disagreements in General)
The often touted words of Christ "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." have real meaning. Christs words aren't just a pseudo-deep way of saying "be nice to people" in order to get to heaven, as it is often used in non-Christian culture. One of the practical applications I want to address is in doing theology, philosophy and apologetics.
The late Bob Passantino, coined the phrase "The Golden Rule of Apologetics", saying that before we disagree with somebody and their ideas/world view we really need to know what they are saying. I have heard it said by some, "You have no right to disagree with me unless you can present my view in a way that I would agree with." I think that is a pretty good standard to go by (particularly among Christiand doing theology), and it is consistant with Christ's teaching on doing unto others. I know I really am disapointed when I find people's writings on something I agree with (Calvinism is a frequent example) where what is called my view is barely reckognizable to me and then it is shown to be false. Now I don't think this means we need to be experts on all the ins and outs of every bizarre ideology that comes down the pike, but when we encounter somebody we really sould try to understand what it is that they think before we explain that they are wrong (I'm thinking practically in evangelism).
I mentioned the failure to do this in the area of the predestination debate b/w calvinists and arminians. Lets face it 21st century evangelicalism is majority Arminian (I was Arminian by default for most of my Christian walk). Because of this consensus much of the apologetic against calvinism is to be nice pretty poor. Many arguments are reduced to calling God a rapist and human beings robots, which are based on complete misunderstandings of calvinism. These sort of straw-man arguments are used by apologists Dave Hunt and Norm Geisler (both of whom I genuinely respect in other areas, but their grossly unscholarly treatment of Calvinism in their books has caused me to question the merit of their other writings) The disappointing fact is that this is all that a lot of people will understand about calvinism because they will not research the issues themselves.
I only use this as an example, the point is that we should know what it is we disagree with before we disagree with it. We all hate it when unbelievers say things like, "You Christians think that your better than everybody else!" because in actuality I don't think any geuine Christian really will think that at all (being saved by Christ's death). So that being so we really sould try not to mis-represent other people's views. Oh by the way nothing in particular triggered this post, I've been talking about calvinism on the Mass theology blog with some arminians and they really are for the most part walking in the golden rule of apologetics.