Good Discussions Become Stale Positions
Vigorous and timely Christian dialogue that leads to an incarnational practice of faith daily is essential to having a relevant message. I might even characterize that discussion as argument or debate, as long as the spirit is irenic. There is nothing ungodly about believers engaged in a desperate search for the meaning of faith in our cultural context, and in a lively discussion of the possibilities as long as grace and love pervade the exchange. But, of course, such is so rarely witnessed that many will likely doubt that it could even exist.
I describe the practice of faith which we seek as "incarnational" because it must be the authentic presence of the Divine within historical circumstances. We are concerned with our historical circumstance, and should be. This pursuit of the incarnation of faith in the "flesh of our time" will be an attempt to interpret the nature of God in normative ways for our behavior, priorities, relationships, and congregational life. When done well, these discussions result in teachings about the truth of God's own revelation of Himself which frankly and perceptively address our context. The debate is vital and necessary for Christians of a specific time and place to proclaim a relevant message of hope and conviction, and for their working out of faith daily to be true salt and light.
The problem is that when the fleshly context, the historical reference of a discussion ceases to exist, or changes either dramatically or slowly over time, often the doctrines remain. Those untethered teachings which once had immediate relevance to the daily life of certain group of God's people often take on a life of their own. They are no longer incarnational teachings, but ethereal statements of belief. Once a fleshly context no longer anchors the teaching to a specific daily practice which has a immediate relevance, they become stale positions and intellectual posturing. Often, these morph into tests of orthodoxy, now in a theoretical way - far different from the circumstances of their formation.
Undoubtedly we all carry with us the baggage of some of these stale beliefs. We cling to these in the false notion that thinking the right thoughts on these subjects, which have little or no bearing on our daily attempts to live like Jesus, is somehow important to God. What would be the change if we resolve to discuss, debate, pursue, and teach no thing but that which directly involves our daily walk of faith? How many subjects would languish undiscussed for lack of any immediate relevance? How many questions would not be pursued because how we live to love God and our neighbor on Monday is not affected? Think of the Christian unity that would result.