For the past 14 years I’ve been engaged in theological discussion. I’ve grown a tremendous amount through these discussions, and I owe my eschatology and ethics (for starters) to brothers in Christ who took the time to *argue* with me. Now, when I say *argue*, I don’t mean be a jerk or call nasty names. What it means that brothers were willing to listen to my ideas with understanding and engage with them. They were willing to love me enough to challenge my false notions. This is what brothers are for… well, at least one thing they’re for.
Most of my theological discussions have taken place face-to-face (or, more accurately, side-to-side). My deep preference is to sit down with a brother, light up a cigar, pour some scotch and spend a couple of hours talking. I have found this recipe to be most fruitful. Don’t think I’m joking, either. When two brothers sit down to enjoy the goodness of God and to discuss the deep things of God, good things happen. (Side note: the Bible clearly condemns drunkenness, but never condemns drinking. In fact, the Bible includes alcoholic beverages among God’s blessings to humanity: “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” [Ps 104:14-15].)
While I’ve long loved these sorts of personal, incarnational interactions (and I’ve seen them bear great fruit), I have despaired of argumentative interactions via electronic media. Too often, when we’re dealing with people over the internet, we (unconsciously) de-personalize our opponents. We interact with people as if they’re not people, let alone our brothers in Christ. This happens quite a bit, and I’ve made war against this tendency in myself. I haven’t always succeeded, but I’ve tried to engage other Christians with respect and interest. I have had long discussions with all sorts of Christians, but I’ve probably engaged most with Arminians most of all. Among these Arminians are my friends, William Birch and J.C. & Ben. Another friend with whom I’ve had long discussions is my friend, Mark Ketchum. Mark has encouraged my heart and shown me that online theological discussion can bear fruit. Praise God for that! Check out Mark’s article on how he’s come around to a more Reformed/Calvinistic view of salvation. Thanks, Mark, for all your discussion, questions, and answers. May God use our blogging, Facebook and other online efforts to build up his church and bring glory to his name.