Principles for Bible Study

I found this picture someone shared online. I think it does an amazing job putting into words my feelings about theological differences.

It’s so easy to assume people who reach different conclusions are malicious, or willfully ignorant, or anything like that. On the other side of the coin, we can’t act like theological differences don’t matter. The truth is important, and when truth is treated as relative, then there’s no actual point to the truth. This hits at the heart of the matter!

I think that’s all pretty true, as far as it goes. Just with the caveat that agreement is surely possible, because truth cannot contradict truth. But with human fallibility in mind we should be prepared for disagreement.

I have been thinking that trying to minimise disagreements and say they don’t matter is actually counterproductive. On the one hand, love and frinedship are built on respect for other’s differences in taste and opinion – tolerating them if we cannot share them. To minimise those differences is actually to undercut the relationship by implying that that aspect – their tastes, preferences, opinions – of the person doesn’t matter.

And on the other hand it leaves people unprepared for when they encounter a difference they are not prepared to sweep under the rug. “I can pretend that A isn’t into/doesn’t believe x and y because they’re not that important, but z? z is problematic!”

Which I guess leads me into a point that the link doesn’t really address. How do you tolerate, much less love, people whose opinons/beliefs you believe are not just wrong, but harmful and/or evil Issues of sex and sexuality are the big topics of this age, and on one side people think those who disagree with them are depraved, and on the other side people consider their opponents to be bigots.

I kind of just realised that htis is posted under “Christianity” and not “Serious Discussion” like I thought, so I’m a bit worried that what I’ve said might be too controversial. >< But I will leave it and hope tha tit isn’t, or that if it is it won’t be too much fo an issue and the discussion, if any arises, can be moved to the appropriate forum.

Anyway I do certainly believe in love and tolerance. I just want to emphasise that it takes truly Christian love to do this in the face of serious issues.

I think a good thing to do with well-meaning-yet-harmful people is to recognize the core values that are shared, even if they take those values in harmful directions. This not just helps humanize them for the sake of our own hearts, but also makes it easier to address whatever it is that’s taking them further away from expressing Christ’s love. “They’re that way because they’re bad” doesn’t help. “I know they value X and this is a good thing but they’ve been convinced they must Y in order to X,” then suddenly they’re a person with feelings and values, but also one where you have a better insight into how you can try to potentially change their mind, or at least contribute to the long process of them changing their own mind with God’s help.