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A Proposal of Rules

August 11, 2016

Last night at our church Bible study we narrowly avoided a rip-roaring argument over the answer to this question:

Does God cause trials and temptations or does he permit them?

Everybody in the group ignored my suggested answer of “yes” as not worth considering and they were taking sides and pulling out Bible proof-texts from Job, James and the mouth of Jesus to support their obviously right, if contradictory,  choices when the pastor deftly called for a return to the subject we were actually discussing.

It wasn’t the first time, and I doubt it will be the last, that everyone in the group went to their theological corners and prepared to come out swinging.  I am rather certain that churches across the country have had similar discussions.  And of course the evangelical corner of internet is flooded with shouting matches and accusations of heresy over every obscure theological tidbit there is.

It has me wondering if we ought to agree on some rules of engagement on such discussions.  Here are a few suggestions.  Perhaps you can add to or modify them:

  1. Never use slippery slope arguments. For example, don’t say things like “If you don’t believe (my interpretation of) Genesis 1 you can’t believe John 3:16.”
  2. Keep the discussion Scriptural but avoid “Proof-texting.” Consider all verses in their context; understand the genre, the historical setting and the writer’s intent.  Don’t view the Bible as a basket of verses you get to choose from to make your case.
  3. No ridicule or personal attack. Perhaps the stupidest example of this was the movie “God’s Not Dead,” where the atheists were shown as evil, angry and despicable.
  4. Spend as much time listening as talking. Try to truly understand the other point of view.  Perhaps you should even paraphrase it back to them to be sure you have it right.
  5. Don’t set up “straw men.” For example, don’t say “Arminians don’t believe God is sovereign.” just because they see His sovereignty at work differently.
  6. Above all else, accept that sincere and intelligent Christians can differ on a host of issues.

Any other suggestions?

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