Who is Victoria Beeching?
For the record she is, in her own words, a “theologian, religious commentator, broadcaster and musician.” Maybe you knew that but I confess I had never heard of her until I saw the reaction to her announcement that she was gay. There is something ineffably sad about becoming widely known through people who are critical, often viciously critical.
When she said “I am gay and God loves me just the way I am.” it set off a firestorm of reaction among evangelical Christian commentators. She was widely denounced by many people, a few of whom admitted they had never heard of her, but took the time to criticize her and make it clear that she was not truly one us real Christians. In short, you might say she came out and then was kicked out.
Rather than jump directly into a debate that is already too acrimonious I thought I might use the matter as a springboard to an issue that has always troubled me:
What do I owe the person that differs with me on a theological issue? Here are some ideas.
- I shouldn’t exaggerate or mischaracterize what they are saying. In this case one commentator said that Ms. Beeching believes that God “loves me only if he makes life easy for me by removing any or all of the deprivations and difficulties of life” and that this means “God loves all my innate urges.” There is not a shred of evidence that Ms. Beeching holds any such broad-based belief. She has come to a different theological position than the commentator on one issue but it is unfair to broaden the attack.
- I should remember the log on my own eye. In Matthew 7:3 Jesus shares an unpleasant truth; that we see clearly the speck on another’s eye but not the log in our own. Why is this? Probably because, once we are sure we are right, their specks seem like logs and our own logs become invisible. We begin to see our own views as “natural” and “straightforward” and other views as distortions.
- Our own views, particularly long-held ones, become very comfortable. Arminians tend to overlook Bible passages that support Calvinist views while Calvinists grow comfortable denying passages that support Arminianism. The same can be true for an almost unlimited number of issues such as the proper mode and subjects of baptism, the meaning and practice of the Lord’s Supper, Christian views on war and the use of violence, eschatological views, gender roles and relationships, and many more. We end up defining our faith, and denying the faith of others, on secondary issues.
- I must remember that what is clear to me is not clear to others. Too often theological debates resort to mocking the intelligence of others.
- I should recognize that belligerence and sarcasm have no place in theological discussions. These emotions, when expressed, testify more to the insecurity of my beliefs and not to their strength. It is fine to oppose those “who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:17) but when we are trying to influence others for good these emotions are unhelpful.
- I owe those who differ the right to be treated with love. I want to treat them as I would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). This means that I’d want to express my understanding of their views without adding commentary or criticism and then express my own differing views with grace.
- I owe it to those who differ to communicate in such a way that they can sense I have genuine interest in them as people. I am not just trying to win an argument or show how clever I am; I am trying to persuade them because I care about them.
We will always have theological debate. Frankly, I think that it is a necessary foundational principle of our faith. A healthy ongoing theological debate is essential to the church. May God help us in our debates to recognize our own logs, and to be people in whom Christ’s own love, grace, and patience is so clear that even our arguments are seen as a light to the world