Why I don’t warn as much as some would like me to
A couple of posts ago, Jacob wrote on my lack of criticism of the emerging church:
If my memory is correct, perhaps a few passing comments. Darryl, I think you’re in a great position to warn about some of this “flaky theology” in a more specific and direct way.
(just a little challenge bud)
There certainly is a role for warning against flaky theology, and there certainly is a lot out there of all types. Here are a few reasons why I don’t tend to do this a lot:
My personality and calling – I really believe that some are called to this type of ministry. Certainly as a pastor I need to warn about error when it affects the local church. But I am not as skilled or as interested in doing this other times, by personality and also probably by calling. I tend to be more interested in finding common ground than taking one side against the other. It’s a dangerous place to be as you usually end up getting shot by both sides.
Even when I find myself strongly in one camp, I tend to gravitate toward mediating the conflict than defending one side. Is that a weakness? I don’t know. Not everybody is feisty.
My history – I grew up among fighting Baptists. As with many others, my desire to avoid unnecessary conflict stems in part from seeing conflict handled poorly sometimes as a youth. This is not always healthy since it would be much better to learn how to handle conflict appropriately than to avoid it, but that is probably where I find myself at times.
Actually, in a way I actually like to provoke debate and then sit back. I don’t know what that says about me, but in my defense it is usually a necessary debate, and motivated by a bit of trouble-making but also a desire for both sides to learn from the other.
Others are doing a good job warning – There are great people out there who are doing a good job warning. I love reading Internet Monk, Challies, PyroManiac, and even Steve Camp. I don’t necessarily agree with everything they write but I appreciate their approaches and they certainly are good at what they do.
I like a learning posture – I have found that occasionally (as in the emerging discussion) both sides have much to offer the other. I have also found that in these cases, a genuine desire to learn from the other side can lead to an acknowledgment of the weaknesses of the other position more than a full-on debate.
Some (not all) critiques can be a waste of time because they speak only to those who are already convinced of the problem. It takes skill to break through and generate learning and not just controversy.
I don’t necessarily read the bad stuff – I self-select what I read and have not finished more than one book if it looks shabby. (No I’m not going to mention names.) Some are drawn to read and to critique. I find that if a book is flaky I end up abandoning it rather than finishing it and then pulling it apart.
As I write this I realize that I am inconsistent in how I apply this. But these are the reasons, for what they’re worth, that I don’t do more warning than I do.