Recently I have been considering the rhetoric or language that Christians use to describe other Christians who hold different theological convictions. Mind you these are not necessarily unorthodox positions, but positions that are scriptural, cogent, and historically confirmed by church tradition. The misuse of language by some Christians towards other Christians becomes clear when we look at the typical Calvinism – Arminianism polemic.
Sometimes the contempt for the other camp is overt and clearly recognized. Such unveiled contempt for the ‘other’ by pastors and teachers creates an ethos of superiority that infects their listeners. “Election” or “Free-will” quickly become issues that are essential to faith in Jesus and soon become equatable with the Gospel itself! Is this how we are to love one another as Christians?
There is a second type of contempt that is even more insidious to the Christian faith (and may even be a subconscious script in some folks). Veiled Contempt feigns that Calvinism or Wesleyanism isn’t worth fighting about and shouldn’t determine how we treat each other, but in the very next breath they chose to undermine, discredit, and misrepresent what the other group believes. (See a great example of veiled contempt here - notice how the author feigns peace, but goes on to say that if you pray for another person’s soul, you’re really a Calvinist!) We must move beyond these veils that protect our delicate theological prejudices. Is this how we are to love one another as Christians?
I am not suggesting that there shouldn’t be honest dialogue or even academic debate that takes place, but only that it happens in the proper settings and with the proper spirit of holy love. Bashing Calvinists and Wesleyans from the pulpit, in a group of laity from your church, or in some public setting (like your blog) can be toxic (if not for yourself then for those who hear you). What may embolden your faith may tear down the budding faith of another dear brother or sister who is of a different (but still orthodox) theological persuasion.
In the end I am just confused really about why blogs like this one have to be written? How did we get so arrogant in our theological prejudices? I’ve seen more loving debates between Christians and Muslims than between some Calvinists and Wesleyans! Doesn’t the world need to see not only that we love each other, but that we love each other in a qualitatively different way than the world loves? If our words could be tools shouldn’t we fashion them into paintbrushes and paint instead of guns and bullets?