I must admit that I have a failure in my teaching, preaching, blogging and conversation with regards to theological views. I am not always faithful in representing the ‘other side’.

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.

Hearing Other Sides

This blog was triggered by something I read this morning in the preface of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Here it is below:

I hope that no reader will suppose that ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions – as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling. In plain lanuage, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?’

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house. (Mere Christianity)

I could have looked at any one of the numerous statements within these two paragraphs, for there are many. But I will only take a moment to look at one particular thought of Lewis’ that struck me while reading.

We all know that within Christianity there are a plethora of varied beliefs, viewpoints, denominations, etc. And such differences have tended to leave a bad taste in the mouths of non-believers.

But I love the metaphor that Lewis uses in this passage above, and one statement in particular, ‘When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.’ Presumably, he is speaking of being kind and gracious to those who are a part of a different church tradition than we are, or maybe they have not even been able to decide such.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do believe in standing for truth. I do believe that we are to guard against accepting any and every thing that might be taught in a self-proclaimed ‘Christian church’. This is why I spend time writing articles on this blog (click here to see the purpose of The Prodigal Thought). We need discernment, we need to weigh things against Scripture. But in all of this, I also am aware that I don’t know it all. And I would presume that all 6.8 billion people on the earth are in the same camp as me.

My heart is to truly see us move towards the great proclamation of Paul in Ephesians 4:13:

‘This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.’ (NLT)

But, right now, we are not there yet. I believe Christ, as the Head, is moving His body that way. But until then, I want to listen. I want to participate in what Eugene Peterson describes as ‘conversational humility’.

I love the truth. I love learning and getting to know the Word (the living Word and the written Word). Yet, I know that, in my finite understanding, I do not have it all figured out. And I never will!

So, I am hoping to learn the lesson C.S. Lewis, and many others since, have challenged us with – ‘When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.’ And so, let us lend not only our ear in conversation of spiritual matters, but our heart as well. For in doing so, we will truly please the One who is drawing us unto Himself, even if we don’t have it all theologically figured out.