Thursday, May 12, 2005

McLaren and Arguments-What Kinds are Necessary?

Brian McLaren has some interesting thoughts in one of his latest columns for Leadership Journal. The article, “Avoiding the Argument Party” makes the point that the church probably bickers too much over the wrong things in the wrong way. McLaren’s point is not that we simply should not argue and allow for a fuzzy tolerance of diverse opinions, but that we should argue in a more healthy fashion, possibly lay down old and divisive arguments, and pick up new and more useful issues to discuss.

At the end of the column he states:

Think of arguments bitterly dividing us today. (I won't mention any specifics, but we could all probably name the top three.) Then think of arguments that we aren't having, but probably should—like whether classic just-war theory needs to be re-appraised in light of nuclear and biochemical weapons, or what Christians should do if another genocide begins as one did in Rwanda a decade ago, or how to persuade people to better morality when legislation fails to do the trick, or how Christians should care for God's creation. Perhaps there are some uncomfortable but healthy arguments we should be guiding.

I wholeheartedly agree that the church should be a lot more careful and thoughtful when it comes to some of the doctrinal arguments it has, but I don’t think the answer is to replace the old issues with newer ones.

If I am guessing correctly, by older arguments, McLaren is probably referencing things like Calvinism/Armineanism, Pentecolstalism/Dispensationalism, Exclusivism/Universalism and other denominational distinctives. While these debates can become quite well-worn and divisive at times, they have survived through time exactly because of their necessity-they confront the fundamental questions of, “Who is God?” and, “What is our relationship to Him?”. These are hardly the issues that should be replaced. All these issues should be handled wisely and intelligently in the life of the church-and here I am going to sound a little emergent-it is a both-and situation, not an either-or.

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