In response to, “Christian conversations: ‘I’m right and you’re wrong,'” by Aaron Evans
By Patrick LaMar
According to Mr. Evans’ article last week, theological discussions and debates can at best provide a moment to exercise rhetoric and refresh ourselves on what we believe. But ultimately these discussions are not fruitful and can point us away from the true goal as Christians, making new converts. This sounds like a very moderate and level-headed view for a subject which invokes a range of emotions without often providing satisfying answers. However, this is a very dangerous and potentially unchristian attitude.
For example, I have personally been approached by both Jehovah Witnesses (JW’s) and Mormon missionaries. In both cases they have declared that God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. Based on this statement alone, one may think they are preaching the gospel. But when you look closely they are not trying to win converts for the real gospel. Yet how would I or anyone know this if we didn’t begin to compare and contrast theologies. Now someone may say, “Well, clearly the beliefs of JW’s and Mormons are clearly wrong while issues like theistic evolution and free will are not so clear cut.”
Sure, there are parts of the Bible and Christian doctrine which seem really fuzzy or confusing.
But just because we don’t fully understand it now doesn’t mean we should just say it is unimportant. In fact the reasons why you believe God made life on earth by dust or via evolution dictate how you view who God is. The same goes for free-will and predestination. If what you believe does not match up with who God is, then is your faith really valid? Again, JW’s and Mormons sound and look like they believe in the same promise of salvation as we do, but a closer inspection reveals they don’t follow the same God. Again someone may answer, “But how can anyone know for sure? Isn’t an infinite God supposed to be incomprehensible to a finite human mind?”
According to Isaiah 11:2, the Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of knowledge”. And in John 16:13, Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit will come to us to “guide [us] into all truth.” Therefore, I would argue that God is not incomprehensible to us because God himself dwells in us to reveal and guide us into the knowing of him. Of course one would then point out why everyone has different views on the same subject. To this I don’t have a solid answer because there can’t be one for Protestants. Consider the fact that Protestantism holds sola scriptura and the priesthood of all believers as foundational Christian theology. This allows individual interpretation which in turn creates a “buffet-style” of Christianity. Everyone is equal to his or her opinions of God and Christianity so long as they can make the argument from Scripture.
Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers don’t seem to have this problem because they have accepted someone or something to be a greater spiritual authority than the individual believer. As I understand it, Roman Catholics can ultimately appeal to the Pope for a decisive answer. And for the Orthodox, whatever a Patriarch, bishop or priest teaches is in align with church tradition. This doesn’t mean they don’t have arguments about theology, but that they do have a means to ultimately getting an answer. Protestantism doesn’t except that Protestants must trust that they are correctly learning from the Holy Spirit.
So though it may sound great to just say, “This isn’t a salvation issue,” or, “Ultimately it doesn’t matter as long as we make disciples everywhere,” it creates the possibility for incorrect belief and bad dogma. We should therefore continue having these kinds of discussions, but with a polite and gentle manner.