Reflections on Controversy

October 12, 2009 — 2 Comments

Rather than push ahead with other topics, once again it seemed like it might be better to ruminate a bit over the dialogue that I had with Pelagian7 over the weekend. You can read the comment string here if you would like, as it will make sense of the following commentary on it.

For starters, I did not handle the dialogue in a completely fair and graceful manner. There were several ad hominem attacks on my part, not always against Pelagian7 but against some of his sources as well. This weakens my argument against them and is not a very Christian way to debate. It is also an example of “demonizing” the opposition. This illustrates rather clearly that I still do not have a thorough handle on embodying grace and truth in arguing for the Truth. It is ironic in some ways that this discussion took place on the particular blog post that it did as I manifested several of the shortcomings that I pointed out.

I was hasty in several of my responses, seeking more to respond than to thoughtfully reflect on the best way to respond. This is shown clearly by the typos that showed up in responses that are usually absent from blog posts. All in all, I definitely did not succeed in winning the person, although judging from the amount of unanswered questions Pelagian7 left, you could give me the win for the argument, however, that doesn’t really count for much.

However, this particular argument in some senses fell outside of the bounds of the theological arguments I was referring to in the original post. What I had in mind there was more of the “intramural debates” Christians have amongst themselves about particular doctrines or application of doctrine. In this instance, it was more of an apologetical argument against someone who is not a brother in Christ. It arose from claims that Pelagian7 made that amounted to the denial of Christ as both Lord and Savior. These claims were increasingly portrayed as the truth of the matter and the ideas that I was holding were alleged to be either borrowed from other religions and myths or were slanted by over-zealous sects of Christianity.

Now, in light of this, Pelagian7 was aligning himself with the false teachers that are continually showing up in the Epistles. To deny the historicity of Christ is in effect to deny that Jesus has come in the flesh. Further, if Pelagian7’s claims were correct, than the Christian faith as traditionally understood from Paul onward is in vain, for Christ did not actually live, die, and rise. Also, in Pelagian7’s view, we are not infected with original sin and need God to come down to save us, we are fully capable of ascending to God, in which, no real Incarnation or death on a bloody cross is needed to reconcile us, we simply need secret knowledge to enlighten us and remove the mysteries.

In his worldview, there is nothing at stake in denying the Incarnation. He is simply envisioning  a God without wrath saving men without sin through the example of Christ without a cross. As such, the referents in his language mean different things. When he says “Jesus” he is not referring the eternal second person of the Godhead like Christians are when they use the name “Jesus.”

In this case then, it is not idolatrous to seek to be right, for to concede to any claims would in effect on my part be a denial of the faith. It would amount to denying Christ to give Pelagian7 any leeway on the claims he was making. In that sense, he was right, I was not open-minded and unbiased. But as a Christian, I shouldn’t be unbiased and open-minded to other religious claims. If the jury is still out in my mind on the truthfulness of the orthodox Christian faith, then I am not really placing my faith and hope in Christ, I am just placing it in myself to accurately determine the best path to take.

This in essence was what Pelagian7 was both doing and arguing for. He started the entire comment thread by denying the Lordship of Christ in salvation, and from there went on to undermine it in other areas as well. To question the inerrancy of Scripture in the way that he did was not much different than the serpent’s question in the garden asking “Hath God said?…” For him, the Bible is not the word of God and his authoritative revelation, its just a knock off of other religions and myths. This is what he has determined in his own autonomous reasoning.

However, this is ultimately sawing off the branch you are sitting on. In denying any authority to the Bible, there is no sure way to know, if and when God has revealed anything of himself. Without any sure revelation of the nature of God, there is no way to know whether there is any such thing as absolute truth, and without any guarantee of absolute truth, there is no reason to argue, and there is no reason to search for truth, or hoist it as binding onto others.

Now you can still pretend and assume there is such a thing as absolute truth and proceed in like fashion, but you are doing so for no real reason. So in essence, if Pelgian7 were correct ultimately in his claims, he has destroyed the foundations of knowledge and there would be no reason to adopt his ideas, for it is just every man for himself in terms of determining the truth. Without an idea of truth that is binding on all peoples everywhere, there is no idea of truth that is binding on anyone anywhere. Truth then is whatever you want to believe. Every man can then do and think what is right in his own eyes.

But whatever I want to believe has no claims of truth outside of myself. It’s just true to me. And if that were really true, I would have no reason to comment on someone else’s blog and raise questions or continuing defending my views in the face of opposition. I can just respond with, “Well that’s true for you but not for me.” But to start the comment thread itself with a claim that is binding on all people (claiming there is only way to heaven is hypocritical and judgmental in nature) undercuts the whole argument. It is an appeal to an absolute truth within a worldview that denies the existence of such a thing.

All I was doing from this point out was subjecting his worldview to criteria it could not meet and if it did, it would just undermine itself further. By ignoring issues I raised, Pelagian7 was just demonstrating that he was not interested in being rational, he was just interested in stirring things up and vindicating his own views by making unsubstantiated allegations against the truthfulness of Scripture, the historicity of Jesus, and the Lordship of Christ. From the start Pelagian7 was intent on being his own functional god and deciding the nature of truth for himself, and his argumentation from there on out just illustrated that position.

Now, since he has closed off the dialogue, this might just be the end of it. All of the above is not my way of attacking Pelagian7 as a person, it is just describing the outcome of his beliefs as illustrated by his actions. If I had it to do over, I would not change my position, I would not back down from my claims or my allegations, but I would try to be more gracious and dependent on the Spirit and submitting my tone and attitude to the Lordship of Christ as well as my reasoning process and ideas. I am still learning and growing myself and this by no means was the best defense of the faith I could have given. Hopefully in the future though, I will be more Christlike in the manner with which I reason and not just with the content of my reasoning.

Nate

Posts Twitter Facebook

I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

2 responses to Reflections on Controversy

  1. But it’s a historical fact that what we know as mainstream Christianity is the product of a council of men sitting around the table deciding which doctrines were most advantageous for themselves. There were many Christian documents available, and only those that supported a particular viewpoint were kept. Many of the texts that were excluded in no way refer to the resurrection or to his being the Only Son of God. Who is to say that what they chose is the most correct?

    Faith cannot really be argued. It can be discussed, but never proven true or false. Any form of faith is reliant on some degree of personal knowledge — for some the knowledge comes strictly from a book crafted by someone several hundred years ago, and for some it comes from a thorough personal exploration of the universe. Which you draw from is of course your own personal choice.

    I don’t know the details of your disagreement, but neither party can be correct from an outside viewpoint. Even though you may have an unshakeable faith that what you believe is correct, it’s not any more convincing to me regardless of the strength of the belief. Faith is entirely subjective and personal regardless of the content. So I would keep this in mind before entering a heated disagreement along religious lines.

    • Your opening statement, how do you know it is a historical fact? Is there a reason you are emphasizing “historical” and “fact,” or is that just demonstrating the strong faith you place in your interpretation of history? You are not alone of course in this interpretation, but it is not as if this understanding of history is bias free and objective, and the other views are bias-laden and/or subjective. You seem to be placing faith in this particular understanding of history, and if so, you are undermining your own argument. If faith is as you say, why bother commenting on this post?

      Your initial comments show a very rudimentary understanding of the nature of early Christianity, pre-Church councils and its roots in Judaism as well as its relation to the other view points around in the 1st century world. It is not ultimately an act of faith to believe that the texts chosen were the correct one, it is just the only understanding that accounts for all the evidence available and makes the most sense of the data. Maybe faith comes in when one trusts that they are accurately understanding the evidence, but in that sense of faith, every predication involves some level of faith.

      It is a very sweeping generalization to say that from an outside viewpoint neither party can be correct. You are presuming too much. Whether or not my faith (in the sense of what I personally believe) is convincing to you does not translate into whether or not it is ultimately truthful. I can believe things that ultimately true, yet leave you unconvinced and alternately, I can believe things totally false and thoroughly convince you to do the same.

      I am not sure why you felt compelled to comment, but it very much seems both presumptuous of you and arrogant to comment on this particular post when you do not know the details of the disagreement. Looking into the nature of the argument is something you might like to keep in mind before commenting on blog post, along religious lines or not.

Want To Add Your Thoughts?