Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Defense of Theological Discussion; or, What Exactly Is This Blog All About Again?

I'm a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The years that I spent there are among the most cherished of my life. I was one of a few Assemblies of God students in a school that was officially interdenominational Evangelical, but when you got there, was mostly Presbyterian. I got into plenty of debates with guys in my dorm over Reformed theology and a few over miraculous gifts, but it didn't matter. We argued like brothers and we parted as friends. We all had the sense that, even though we were from different denominations, we were still working together for a common goal.

It was a very good thing for me to be in that milieu. My background had been Wesleyan/Methodist in early life, and later on Charismatic/Pentecostal. Combining that background with a Reformed education helped me to get a much more well-rounded view of Evangelical Christianity. It was good for me to see that people from other traditions weren't "God's Frozen Chosen." It was good to see people who didn't agree with me in every doctrinal detail worship God with their whole hearts. Some of the best people I have known were students and teachers there. One of my favorite professors was a short, skinny guy who wore bow ties and had the sharpest wit of anyone I've ever known. He was a very hard-bitten Calvinist and cessationist (neither of which, you'll soon discover, am I) but I loved him and learned a great deal from him.

It was the camaraderie with the other students and the shared sense of discovery that I most enjoyed. We would debate theology with a common commitment to the authority of God's Word, which gave us a foundation for honing our own theological perspectives. I think that ever since, I've been trying to recreate something of that kind of experience. I've tried some newsgroups and mailing lists, but my experience has been that they mostly end up in flame wars between athiests and fundamentalists, or other similarly opposed points of view that have no common ground with which to frame a debate, and no sense of mutual respect for one another's point of view.

I've started up this blog partly as a venue to publish some of my own thoughts and papers on various theological and social topics that interest me, but also partly to provide a forum for discussion. It's fashionable these days to discount the value of theological debate. Why argue about fine points of doctrine when our real business is to win the lost? There is, in fact, a point where theological hair-splitting becomes counterproductive; my favorite example is that of Nestorius, who was excommunicated for a doctrinal error that he denied, maintaining that the orthodox view was his own. But it is also true that most of the foundational doctrines of the Church were hammered out, in the midst of persecution, by debate over various points of view that had to be rejected because they didn't fit the Biblical data. If theological debate was relevant then, when the church was struggling to survive, then I think it's relevant now. To me, the exercise of having to articulate what you believe in a specific area, and perhaps having to defend it to someone with a different point of view, is challenging and exciting. It keeps what I believe fresh and alive.

I'd like to invite other Evangelical Christians to participate in this blog in the "Comments" section. You will notice, if you do, that I've chosen to make this a moderated group. It's not because I'm a control freak, or because I can't handle opinions that differ from my own. It's because, as I wrote above, my experience with Net venues is that they deteriorate into very ugly arguments, and often get dominated by people who don't share the worldview or presuppositions of the main author. My presuppositions include the authority and inspiration of the Bible as the foundation of all theological belief; I'm not particularly interested in getting on the merry-go-round of trying to prove God's existence or the authoritativeness of the Bible. I'm much more interested in discussing the implications of those basic beliefs with those who share them.

So there you have it. Let's begin.....


  1. "as I wrote above, my experience with Net venues is that they deteriorate into very ugly arguments, and often get dominated by people who don't share the worldview or presuppositions of the main author." I have read your blogs and your comments on Jesus Creed. I am going to ask you to reflect not so much on your content of your comments but on the tone of them. I see you as not sharing many of Scots views and it is not so much the sharing of those views but your almost arrogant attitude.

  2. Hi hebron! Welcome.

    First of all, thank you for digging into my blog deeply enough to check out this purpose page. That tells me you didn't just write this flippantly or off the cuff. I appreciate that.

    While I'd like to believe that you may have just misinterpreted some of my tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, I'm sure that you are indeed discerning real arrogance on my part. I will make this a matter of prayer and reflection.

    I think you have, however, misunderstood my opinion of our brother Scot. I actually have enormous respect for him. He has done me, and I'm sure others, a tremendous service in articulating what the emerging church movement is all about in a way that those outside of it, like me, can comprehend. Check out my posts entitled "Check Out Jesus Creed" and "Scot McKnight's Zealotry Series"; I would have thought my admiration of him was obvious.

    The only post in which I quibbled with him was the one entitled "Emerging Creedalism?" Scot responded to that one, and I acknowledged that I probably had misunderstood his original point. I'm enjoying his series on the emerging movement and the creeds. I've also enjoyed his series on Romans, although I haven't posted there because I don't think I have anything worthwhile to add. To the extent that I understand him, I think I agree with him quite a lot; but what's more important than agreement, I deeply respect him.

    Anyway, thank you for your comments. God bless.

  3. Hi I am just curious if you are the author of What is a Pastor? Examining the Biblical Job Description of the "Poimenas" of Ephesians 4:11

    1. Hi Billy,

      Yes, I am. Thanks for finding it and connecting me with it. I'd be happy to dialogue with you about it if you have any thoughts or questions.

      For anyone else interested, the link is here:

  4. Hey Keith,

    Was reading up on some Rob Bell Tumblr posts, which is a favorite past time of mine, and stumbled across your blog. My good friend Spencer attended Gordon Conwell many years ago. He had nothing but good things to say about it.

    I am a former youth minister, College/Career SS teacher, and armchair theologian. Nice to come across people that enjoy good conversation and debate, with friendly back and forth discussion, that doesnt conclude with one person trying to PUT AN END to the other person (as in "Finish Him" from Karate Kid). Nice blog. Oh and what were you saying about keeping the Comments moderated from things getting out of control.......and 10 seconds later, someone is accusing you of being ARROGANT on Jesus Creed. WOW. Hilarious and SAD. People need to loosen up.

    God Bless,
    Rhett Konneman

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Rhett. I appreciate you stopping by.