Just this week one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, wrote an article in Relevant Magazine entitled “When Truth is the Enemy of Truth.” In my opinion, Don is one of the most profound story tellers of our time. He’s a phenomenal writer, brilliant communicator, funny as heck, & is a creative leader in caring of children without fathers. (You should check out his Mentoring Project). If I’m honest with myself, hearing Donald Miller speak after reading one of his books significantly impacted my spiritual development in college. All that to say, if you couldn’t tell… I’m a huge Don Miller fan.
After that “i heart DM” rant I want to get back to his article in Relevant.
In his article, Don (yes I do call him that in pretense like we’re old friends… don’t judge me) explains Thomas Kuhn’s theory on paradigm shifts and then applies it to our current evangelical culture:
“When theologians throw out anomalies that threaten their paradigms, they respect their interpretation of truth more than truth, or worse, believe their interpretation of truth is actually truth. They use terms like “biblical” and “heretic” to convince themselves and others that their interpretation is the real truth and others are a threat to ‘the Gospel’ or to God Himself. This sort of language isn’t helpful or respectful of anomalies, not to mention its behavior indicates a genuine intellectual threat that should be taken seriously, not dismissed as heresy.
What we are encountering in Christian culture today is a paradigm in crisis. Will there be a shift in the way we understand truth or read the Bible? Time will tell. But it would be arrogant of us to dismiss the anomalies. Dismissing anomalies rather than addressing them may be good for existing structures, including financial structures and power structures, but it isn’t good for truth. This does not mean anomalies have to be accepted but rather carefully addressed in a reasonable manner.”
I loved that last line – but here’s my question: What does “carefully” & “reasonably” look like in the world of theological debate? How do leaders on opposite sides of ideals faithfully debate an issue? And is it ok after much debate to still label a brother/sister as a heretic if indeed it is true?
Now, let’s all be honest here… we all know what sparked his blog entry. Even though Don states that this is more related to McClaren’s old book rather than Bell’s new book… I’m not buying it. And even if it is, this entry is still extremely applicable in the debate over “Love Wins.”
I was tracking with Don for the majority of his article – although I have to stay that I do not think that McClaren’s book “seemed faithful to Scripture.” But the core of Miller’s article isn’t about which side we’re on, it’s about how we debate & articulate disagreement in a way that is helpful to the Christian community. What do we do with ideas that differ or threaten our own? Although I love that Don brought up the topic, I would love it if a prominent pastor or Christian leader would set the ground rules for theological debate in world where much of it takes place via social media. I think Don is right – dismissing ideas without intellectually addressing them is hurtful to the body as well as ostracizing to those on the outside who are wrestling with these issues. But how do we respectfully yet adamantly seek truth, speak truth, debate truth, and shepherd our people towards truth in this crazy world? Because ignoring ideas, allowing anomalies that contradict Scripture permeate our churches is equally poisonous.
I’d love it if Mark Driscoll/David Platt/A. Mohler/Rob Bell/Brian McClaren/John Piper/(fill in with your fav. controversial pastor) all got together in one room – without weapons – and said, “This is how we are going to publicly and privately debate these theological issues.” This would be extremely helpful to the evangelical community because whether they like it or not… these leaders set the tone for theological debate. And as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, sometimes these debates can be extremely hostile (ie. the infamous “Farewell Rob Bell” tweet).
Yes, I recognize that the likelihood of Piper and Bell ever hugging it out is slim… and I’m not asking for that (although I would probably pay some serious cash to see it)! It’s just that I truly believe we are capable of debating ideals and discussing theology in a helpful and intellectual way. I know we can because I’m seeing it happen now through many less known authors who are writing fair and thorough book reviews on Bell’s “Love Wins.” So, as we slowly (and hopefully) move on from “Farewell Rob Bell” to the issue of what is a Biblical view of hell, I’d love to have our leaders develop a standard for theological debate. I think it would greatly benefit our Christian community not only now, but when future anomalies occur.
Just a few lighthearted thoughts for Friday 😉