Often differences of theology and thought can be expressed in a shrill manner. This becomes even more acute as we engage in cultural discussion and debate.
As we engage in these discussions I like the expression “convictional kindness.” Being kind does not mean we do not have convictions; having convictions does not mean we cannot be kind. As believers keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and evidencing the graces of Christ (2 Pet. 3:18) we must/will be both kind and with conviction.
Millard Erickson has written a helpful covenant regarding “convictional civility” as one engages in this discussion/debate with another (“Toward Convictional Civility,” in Convictional Civility: Engaging the Culture in the 21st Century, ed. C. Ben Mitchell, Carla D. Sanderson and Gregory A. Thornbury [Nashville: B & H, 2015], 33).
- I will not point out the presuppositions of another’s position without acknowledging that I have presuppositions myself.
- I will not contend that another’s view is historically conditioned without conceding that mine is also.
- I will be more concerned not to misunderstand or misrepresent others’ views than to claim that mine has been misunderstood or misrepresented.
- I will be more concerned that my language be fair and objective than I am that others’ language about me may not be.
- I will not caricature my opponent’s view to make my own appear more moderate.
- I will not employ ad hominem arguments.
- I will abstain from the use of pejorative language.
- I will not impute motives or emotions to others.
- I will think of intellectual arguments in terms of differences over ideas, not as personal disputes.
Although I like the word kindness better than civility, since it is a fruit of the Spirit, I appreciate greatly Erickson’s covenant.
Some questions for thought:
- What do you learn?
- What might you add?
- What do you need to apply?