I might stand up and argue that I don’t mean to do so, my heart is noble, I was pretty sure I represented the other side correctly and a whole host of other excuses. But I still fall very short. Most of the time those reasons are true. I don’t sit around maliciously trying to misrepresent the other side, but I still do it. And I’m leaning more and more this isn’t a good thing.
The two sides I misrepresent the most are dispensationalism and cessationism. I have reformed-covenant leanings, so I do disagree with dispensationalism. I have strong continuationist leanings, so I disagree with cessationism. But, more than that, I find myself misrepresenting these two viewpoints on a regular basis.
Now, here is the thing. There used to be a day when a theological system was pretty consistent across the board. Uniformity existed, at least within a particular framework of theology. But in today’s world, you have so many varying views within one systematic framework that it is hard to keep up with what is out there.
You have the full cessationists and consistent cessationists (and probably others), and then you have at least 20 views within each of those camps. You have classical dispensationalism and progressive dispensationalism (and probably others), and then there are at least 20 views within each of those camps as well.
Still, it’s no excuse in misrepresentation.
Now, I will tell you of one decision I made a while back, even in my young life. In a general sense, I have typically tried not to specifically mention the particular system of theology or person I disagree with. One reason is that the average person won’t know the ‘system’ of theology or the person that might be mentioned. But, more than that, I think the better approach is to address Scripture passages, teach what you believe Scripture teaches on the topic in a holistic manner, and then people can make their decision if they agree or not with the teaching.
I don’t do this always, as when I interact with students of theology or other theologically minded people, I will raise particular names and systems of theology that I disagree with. But, as a whole, I think it better to focus on what you see Scripture teaching and work that out. Don’t bash the ‘bad guys’, but encourage with what you believe is correct teaching.
Yet, when it comes to addressing the other side, informing others about what it says, I am not good at faithfully representing.
Again, it’s hard with all the varying views. Just when I thought I understood what dispensationalists believe or the arguments of cessationists, lo and behold, they no longer believe that. Or, even worse, they never believed it in the first place. And that is when you feel like not only is your foot in your mouth, but that you have taken a nice mile-long wander around in your own mouth.
So, this leaves one humble, one turning towards God, one desiring faithfulness, and one learning that you might just need to shut up and not say anything in the end. Or, possibly, making sure you understand things a little better before spouting off what you think you know. Or, being much more careful and considerate with what you say.
I’m growing, I’m being transformed, I’m learning, but it’s a process. I look forward to faithfully representing the other side.