Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Three Aids to Theological Discussion

Rather than studying passively, letting your eyes move over text mindlessly--as many commonly do--enter into your studies engagingly, with a mind for discussion and interaction.  As you are reading make a note of concepts that fall into these three categories:
  1. I want to know more.
  2. I do not understand.
  3. I disagree. 
Mark up your text to make your questions clear, and then take them to someone knowledgeable who can discuss them with you.  Seldom are our knowledge and thinking sufficient by themselves.  The most learned among us need other sources to help clarify thinking.  We need to go to others--books, studied ministers, articles--in order to gain our most full understanding.  Without this intentional engagement and interaction, we will likely learn poorly or wrongly, especially if we disagree with what we have not fully understood.   

To go a step further, it can even be wise, if time and opportunity permit, to explore opposing positions by going to their sources.  This is best done after you understand your own position very well.  To only read sources that critique opposing viewpoints creates the strong possibility that you will know only an easily disassembled "straw man" of the opposing position.  Too many people rely heavily on critiques of opposing perspectives by unreliable sources when forming their own opinions.  Ask yourself, "Do I truly understand what I am disagreeing with?  Or is it possible that I am disagreeing without fully understanding what I am disagreeing with?  Has my source demonstrated that they are thoroughly familiar with what they are critiquing?"

I have run into too many people who are guilty of creating and demolishing straw men when they oppose Reformed theology.  Of course, Reformed proponents can be very guilty of this as well. (However, Reformed people often journey out of non-reformed positions in which they were immersed in a first hand knowledge  of  non-reformed objections.)   But more often than not, students who rely only upon sources critical of reformed theology do not fully understand reformed theology.  Many times, I have heard the same tired arguments against reformed theology over and again.  These people often fail to understand that there is a vast amount of Reformed literature that has  answered these objections many times over.  Those who fail to acquaint themselves with the Reformed position from Reformed sources before decrying it reveal that they are not serious students of theology.  Rather, they are lazy students who are only interested in parroting what they have been told by other likeminded individuals. 

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