Written and Media by Mary Todd Christian. [divide]
Attending a Christian college means we are going to encounter different people with different faith traditions. Coming from a Southern Baptist background to a Free Methodist school was definitely an adjustment from how I had grown up. My church did not recite the Apostles Creed every Sunday, we only took communion the 5th Sunday of the month, and you can be sure you won’t find a female pastor at the pulpit.
Coming to a school with a different faith tradition than my own, I was definitely met with varying theological views, some which really challenged me. After several challenging conversations with classmates and professors alike, I have learned (and am still learning) how to address differences in tradition and beliefs in a reasonable and respectful way. Here are some tips to consider before discussing an opposing theological view with someone else.
Read and study the views of the opposing side. It is so easy to rattle off everything we believe, but if we do not have an understanding of someone else’s theological views, it can be almost impossible to have a fruitful conversation. By taking the time to listen to an opposing view, each side can gain a mutual respect, and will be more willing to learn from one another. If this does not happen, both sides can leave the discussion feeling frustrated and angry. You should also take time to get to know and understand the person with whom you are having the discussion. Get to know them and their faith background. This will give you clarity when it comes to understanding their opinion on specific issues.
Know Where You Stand
Along with educating ourselves, far too often we say we agree with certain concepts and issues, but are unable to defend our position. Scripture says we should be able to give an answer for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:15). This means taking the time to come to terms where we stand on issues, and not constantly remaining on the fence. This was extremely difficult for me when I first entered college. I could easily see both sides to an issue, and would not explicitly state what I did or did not agree with. While I still struggle with this, scripture is my go-to for answers. It also allows me to pray for a spirit of discernment when I am struggling with a concept that may oppose my personal view.
Keep Your Debates Off Social Media
Facebook is not the place for theological debates. It can be so easy to comment or engage in a post we disagree with, but this has the capability of getting out of hand. We tend to forget there is another human being on a computer responding to us. In doing this, we can be harsh, sarcastic, and extremely hurtful, unlike how we might act if we were having a discussion in person. Instead of dehumanizing someone from behind the computer screen, go out to coffee and have a civil discussion.
Open Handed vs. Close Handed Issues
When I was planning this article, I was asking my fiancé, Jake Cannon, some advice. He presented a very important point: “There are issues that good, Jesus loving Christians disagree with, like Calvinism and Arminianism, spiritual gifts, baptism, and communion. But when it comes to the things relating to God, faith, salvation, etc… hard lines need to be drawn.” Both sides in any theological discussion must be aware of the minor and major issues. When the discussion begins to focus on important aspects such as salvation and faith, that is when both sides need to be discerning. If concepts such as these do not line up with God’s Word, that is when both sides need to be concerned.
Even though it can be challenging, discussing opposing theological issues can be enlightening and rewarding. What better place to do so than at Greenville College? In the end, we may not always come to an agreement on every issue, but we are still brothers and sisters in Christ.