Saturday, April 14, 2012

Stupid Arguments

Sam left a comment in the previous post about a discussion he was having with friends about 2 Timothy 2:22-24. He asked for my thoughts, particularly as they regarded our conversation a while back about David Platt, reformed theology, and whether or not God hates sinners. That conversation began with this post, in which I criticized David Platt's exegesis of the psalms. It then continued in the comments and into several other posts, including:
Biblical Hatred
How I Read the Bible
Why I Criticized David Platt on My Blog
Questions for Calvinists
A Response to a Response
That was a long and involved series of posts that had a lot of theological debate. The passage that Sam refers to from 2 Timothy says this:
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
So I think the first question is this: Is the discussion about Calvinism v. Arminianism, predestination v. free will, etc. a "foolish and stupid argument"? I've heard a lot of folks, exasperated from the same late-night conversation playing itself out over and over again, decry this conversation as one of those stupid arguments that Christians should avoid. I'm certainly sympathetic to that position; this conversation can be exasperating.

But I don't consider it a foolish and stupid argument because I believe that it pertains to the nature of God. Calvinists and Arminians understand God in fundamentally different ways. If you believe in, for example, double predestination, then you perceive God in a radically different way than someone who believes in free-will. Roger Olson, an Arminian biblical scholar, would even go so far as to say you believe in a different God altogether.

Where it breaks down, though, is when you are more concerned about being right than having godly character. Not only can our drive to be right, or to win an argument, obscure our perception of the truth, it can also reflect deep character flaws that need to be redeemed. When your aim is to win the argument rather than discover the truth, you have become quarrelsome. That might sound like a petty sin, but quarrels lead to broken relationships within the body of Christ. In fact, doctrinal quarrels have led to the fractured and splintered state the Church is in right now. Being quarrelsome is a serious issue that reflects deep character shortcomings.

While some conversations are important to have, and some disagreements are going to result from those conversations, it's important to not be foolish or stupid, or do anything that would turn those conversations into an argument or a quarrel. We must strive, as the Scripture says, to be kind to everyone. We must be able to teach, which is definitely not the same as shouting or arguing.

So I say, let the conversations continue, but let them continue in the spirit outlined by Paul in this passage.


Anonymous said...

Hey Andy,

Thanks for the response - and glad to see you published a whole post rather than just responded in comments!

Do you agree with Roger Olson's perspective that reformed and Arminians believe in different Gods?

I tend, because again I'm pretty reformed to look at things in black and white, and I would say that I actually agree with Olson's argument.

However, the consequence of that belief is staggering and the implications are tremendous. To say that Armenians worship a different God (false God) or visa vie Reformed worship a different God (false God) is quite the statement.

That would put Aremenism and Reformism outside of the acceptable view of Christianity, right?

What do you think???


andy said...

I found this to be a very thought-provoking article by Olson.

If I had the time, I would read his blog more. As to your question, if we worship different gods, then only one of our groups (if any) will gain salvation. I'm not sure that's true. But if we remove salvation as the determining factor, then I think it's highly possible that we do, in fact, worship different gods. This, of course, requires much more thought, for which I don't have the time right now. But it would make an excellent fireside chat!

Anonymous said...

I am not sure how to handle Olson's blog post. This will take me a little bit to process. But, my initial thought though is: different Gods. different results. They are mutually exclusive concepts.

But I will read it again, and think it through and will post again! If this is a fireside chat, let me know and I will come with all the humility of a reformed person - hahaha, but for real, it would be interesting to process together.

Also, do you read much of what the Gospel Coalition writes?