Over the years I have struggled with how to deal with criticism and disagreements. This was one of my issues that my wife and I had to work through when we got married. When disagreement or criticism showed up, it was either “fight or flight.” I avoided it, or I went to war. There was no in-between.
I struggled with disagreements not only at home but in churches and with friends. I never wanted to be wrong or risk losing a relationship, I would avoid anything confrontational. Even worse, at times I swung the other way and desired to show how “right” I was and wound up attacking.
I know I am not alone.
You know the people I am talking about. They either dismiss any form of discussion that is contrary to what they believe, or they hang out in a certain Facebook group and troll.
Over the years, by the grace of God, dear brothers that have spoken into my life, and a graciously patient wife, I have been working through how to deal with disagreements.
Recently, Joe and I did an episode where we go through and highlight a couple areas of disagreement with the Traditionalist Statement on Soteriology. We strived to be gracious. Sometimes our jokes and tone can be interpreted as reckless or dismissive. That is something Joe and I are working on. The episode was received well and we were thankful for the feedback we got.
One person who gave us a lot of feedback was Leighton Flowers. Leighton is the Director of Apologetics for the BGCT, an Adjunct Professor, a Pastor, and has a podcast over at Soteriology101. He is also a Traditionalist. Leighton took the time to listen to our podcast and record a response. His response exemplified what discussions should look like as we discuss points of contention.
He was, and we should strive to be, charitable, focused, and humble.
When I say be charitable, I am not talking financially. Though, that is a great way to be charitable. You can head on over to the D&D store and grab a tee for your pastor ;).
I am referring to giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. Often, we enter into discussions already assuming the worst of each other, believing there is some malicious intent behind every word or phrase. We think they are waiting to catch us slipping up so they can pounce and destroy us.
Don’t assume the worst of others. In disagreement or debate be quick to listen, and listen well. Be clear in articulating your perspective. If someone is out to get you you will find out soon enough. Don’t pre-judge them and come in overly defensive.
Keep the conversation on topic. Often times people try to argue broadly instead of drilling deep into the point at hand. One reason is because they don’t have a response to what has been stated. They are out of their depth and looking for a way out.
Staying focused also means one should critique the argument, not the person. When someone resorts to personal attacks it is a sign of immaturity and arrogance. It is a sign of arrogance because deep down the person believes they are personally superior. They seek to demean the inherited worth of the other–an individual carefully and wonderfully made by a loving and gracious God.
Focus on the argument. In doing so you will see the holes in their position, or you might just find holes in your own.
Finally, enter into disagreement and discussions with a willing to be proven wrong. Hold your points of disagreements with open hands. I am not referring to the Gospel or other key affirmations of our faith. There are certain doctrines that we all hold dear and affirm as believers. Acknowledging that you could be wrong should be scary since our authority is the word of God and we should want to be corrected by it if we are erring.
As I read Scripture, I am persuaded to believe in believers baptism, but I could be wrong.
As I read Scripture, I am persuaded to believe in election, but I could be wrong.
As I read Scripture, I am persuaded to be a cessationist, but I could be wrong.
As I read Scripture, I am persuaded to not have fog machines and lasers in worship services, but I could… nah. I’m definitely right on that one.
My point is, hold your convictions high. Articulate, argue even. But be willing to be proven wrong by the Scripture.
We all need to step back and be a bit more charitable, focused, and humble. I thank my brother Leighton for responding and showing all of us how to engage in discussions. As you deal with disagreements, whether at home, online, or at your church, strive to see their heart. Focus on the point and do not stray. Be willing to be wrong and corrected. In the end, lively and edifying discussion will only help to strengthen our faith, define what we believe, and unite us as Christians.