I have a sixteen-month-old son at home who has just done his business on the big boy toilet for the first time. Hold on to your congratulations for a moment. He did his business as I frantically swung him over the pot after catching “the poop face” in the bath. That’s right. His new pass time is dropping the deuce in the tub. So what do I do when I can’t get him to the can before he lets one free? That water is pretty nasty. The toys are contaminated, and does he need another bath after floating with a floater? Do we clean up the bath, the toys, and The Goob, or do we just toss them all out and start fresh? Clearly I’m not tossing a poop stained son to the side. I love the little dude too much.
“That’s a great story, Fef, but what the blazes is the point of this s****y story?” I am glad you asked. One of the tendencies of our generation is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. For example, we place a high value on relationships. This is good, but when we see people disagreeing in a way that doesn’t uphold the value of loving relationships, we tend to respond to the issue being disagreed upon, rather than the manner of the disagreement. And I am concerned with how this tendency is playing out in the recent reaction to Love Wins.
The conversation on blogs and twitter is subtly turning toward the value of doctrine. We are discussing the role of scholars in the church and asking if it matters what we think about Hell. I am concerned that after observing the dismissal and attack on Rob Bell many will begin to dismiss the necessity of orthodox doctrine and the value of healthy doctrinal debate rather than addressing the way they disagree. Regardless of what you think of Rob Bell and Love Wins, you have to admit that the firestorm around this book has caused a lot of people to consider what they believe about hell. That is not a bad thing.
My fear is that after observing the attacks on Bell, some will think that they must decide between two options.
1. orthodox doctrine is important, so I am right in attacking someone with a different view, or
2. loving others is the highest value so orthodox doctrine is not that important.
The truth is that there is a middle way. Orthodox doctrine is of critical importance, but loving others is also non-negotiable. Orthodox doctrine and loving others are not competing values. We need to be willing to engage in healthy debate on these issues. I have tremendous respect for people like Scot McKnight who is willing to speak his mind but also encourage people to wrestle with the challenging elements of the debate here.
When we humbly and respectfully engage with another’s differing opinion a couple things happen. First, we open ourselves to the possibility of being wrong. I have lost count of the number of times I have responded harshly to an opinion only to find myself moving closer to it later in life. Other times the conversation will not change our mind, but it will refine and help us better understand what we believe. These conversations have the ability to reveal gaps in our thinking and force us to deal with them honestly. Finally, when we engage those we disagree with we honor them and share with them the opportunity to grow in their thinking. I suspect that few people have been led to correct an unorthodox doctrine by being dismissed or attacked.
So let’s not throw the baby out with this disgusting bathwater. Can we all please agree that orthodox doctrine is incredibly important and the correct response to unorthodox doctrine is not dismissal or attack but healthy and honest conversation?