How To Disagree

Tony Jones linked to a post by a young Reformed conservative who went to experience the emergent Wild Goose Festival last week. No one changed anyone else’s opinion, and there was no shouting match, but it here’s what Devin (the aforementioned young Reformed man) had to say:

“I was conflicted about whether to try and stop the fun and get down to business but I feel wisdom told me not to. The fact that I met and spoke with numerous people at the festival who know (mostly) what I believe will grant me access to their thoughts and beliefs and enable me to challenge them based on what they say as opposed to what others say they say. In the grand scheme I can now have more of a chance to say something to them as their token Calvinist friend instead of as another brutal critic with no love for them. A big reason why I didn’t chirp up on everything I heard them say that I believe to be incorrect is because that’s what they always hear. You think these guys haven’t heard all of the arguments before? Seriously, how do you witness to a guy like Frank Schaeffer who was drilled with Reformed Theology and was raised by perhaps the best Reformed Apologist ever to grace the planet Earth? The most that could be done is listen to him and figure out responses later in order to try and steer his thinking in another direction. Notice I said try. When you hear him talk about all of the people of Reformed greatness that he has met and probably bounced on their knee as a child, you will soon realize that this is a guy with his mind basically made up when it comes to anything that a 20-something Calvinist hoping to evangelize him could say.”

This is important stuff. I think a lot of us have this fantasy of being able to go up to some luminary of an opposing camp (whatever camp you oppose) and hit them with your best talking points and get an on-the-spot conversion. While I suppose this isn’t impossible, it is very wise to understand that those you engage with probably have strong motives (reason, tradition, self-interest, intuition, empirical observation, revelation) for believing what they do and your instant rhetoric will not easily undo them.