boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
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I'm back...

O.k., we have a connection. We've got dial-up internet again, which is brutally slow, but I guess I'll survive. I really hope the long drought of blogging is over. I've missed a lot of topics that I wish I could've said something about. Here's a short list:
  1. moving to a new house
  2. unpacking
  3. this blog's one-year blogaversary
  4. my wife's birthday
  5. our two huge new bookshelves
  6. the NCAA basketball tourney
  7. opening day of the baseball season
  8. the Master's golf tourney
  9. the first day of spring
One thing that's going on now: I've found a blog that I've been visiting a lot lately. It is oriented toward theological discussions and I have been engaged in a debate over a particular point for a couple of days. The blog owner (is that what we're called) is opposed to several points in my theological system. He also has a regular contributor who is a friend or mentor or something who shares his theological perspective and is the main proponent of their view through the comments and even the main posts. Anyway, there is another regular commenter who is closer to my position on the issue we've been discussing. And, as I said, we've all had a pretty good back-and-forth exchange about the issues.

Here's the thing: I think that theological discussion is great, even over the fine-points and "non-essentials". I do believe, however, that such discussion should be for the purpose of edification--something like "iron sharpening iron". In this particular forum, however, and over this particular issue, I don't think that is happening. (This is why I have not given the address of the blog.) I don't see myself changing my view on the issue. And, as logical and persuasive as I believe my arguments to be, I don't believe my counterparts will change their views. Further, while I try (though I do at times, maybe even often, fail) to remain respectful and patient in such discussions, my counterparts on the other side of the issue do not necessarily do so. One in particular uses inflammatory language and recently made some rather offensive charges against people of my particular theological perspective.

So the question I'm struggling with is: Is there a good reason to continue in such an exchange? I admit, I find it fun and a bit exhilarating to participate. But, I suspect I am not satisfying really satisfying the more noble aspects of my character. Instead, I like to be involved in controversy and debate in order to make myself look smart or feel good about myself when I feel like I've presented a good case or really offered a zinger in the exchange. At the same time, I believe that the view I'm presenting is true, biblical, and worth defending. So, I'm conflicted about my participation in this debate. Anybody out there have thoughts? Do you struggle with similar less-than-righteous motives when involved in discussion or debate? (It could be debate about anything, not just theology; I know it's true for me across the board.)


nickg said...

In the post I said: "I don't see myself changing my view on the issue." I just thought I should note--there are a healthy number of issues that I CAN see myself changing my view on. They range from issues that I don't yet have a solid view, to those that I think I have a grasp of, but on which I'm maintaining a tender grip for lack of support/evidence/clarity. I just wanted to clarify that I'm not a fanatical, unbending fundamentalist about every theological issue.

Mark said...

I really couldn't have said it any better. This is pretty much the stuff of online debate, isn't it? My alterior motives sidetrack me, so I often forget what's even being talked about.

I often argue in a debate just to make myself look a certain way. I'll try for "intelligent," but if I get beat in that I go for "clever," "oblique," or maybe "decentering," or for a last resort, "irreverent." I go back and read what I've written, or remember what I've said, and see that it doesn't have an ounce of genuinity to it, and I want to take a years-long oath of silence like one of those monks in The Brothers Karamazov.

Also, do you think, especially nowdays, that demonstrating the truth in your actions is a better arguement than logically proving it? (If so, maybe debate is the perfect situation to display a decidedly supernatural love?)

Mark said...

"No. You're forgetting," said the Spirit. "That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about the light."

"Oh, that's ages ago," said the Ghost. "One grows out of that. Of course, you haven't seen my later works. One becomes more and more interested in paint for its own sake."

"One does, indeed. I also have had to recover from that. It was all a snare. Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there, but they are also dangerous stimulants. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn't stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower--become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations."

--from the great divorce. Ugh.

W Sofield said...

Good quotes, mark.

nickg, I have often gotten involved in such debates, too. For me, my salvation was found in picking my head up out of my books and engaging people in their real pain. In 90 minutes, I'll start a memorial service for a 23-year-old friend who killed himself last week in front of his girlfriend. He's an employee of the hospital where I work.

My job helps me to lift my head from the books, but it doesn't force me; and even the most scholastic among us can engage in human pain.

I'm reminded that B.B. Warfield (great theologian of Princeton Seminary) spent his entire career within walking distance of his classroom. Everyday for decades he walked home to care for his wife, confined to bed for most of their long marriage due to an accident as a young woman. He was certainly a great scholar, but with a heart toward real people.

I don't know if it would work for everybody, but that's what rescued me from these kinds of pointless discussions.

Mark said...

Sorry, William--my prayers are with you. And truly said.

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."