Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Sacramento's Presbytery meeting and "Dialogue vs. debate"
Sacramento Presbytery's moderator, David Rue, has placed a document on our Presbytery site meant to be a guide for our meeting on Saturday. The document is entitled "Dialogue vs. debate." It is a document adapted from, “a paper prepared by Shelley Berman, which was based on discussions of the Dialogue Group of the Boston Chapter of Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR)."
Rue is suggesting that this should be how we address the issues before us in particular 08-B, the removal of the fidelity and chastity clause from our Book of Order.
There are several problems with this paper particularly when a group of Christians are addressing biblical issues.
The first problem with this paper is that it at times redefines debate. For instance while I agree with the idea that “one should submit ones best-thinking, knowing that other people’s reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it” I would not put that under dialogue but under debate with this qualification that “will” be changed to “might.”
The same is true with the idea that “Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend.” While both dialogue and debate might be the cause of alienating or offending that should never be the goal of either.
But some of the statements in this paper are themselves offensive to Christians. For instance, “Dialogue reveals assumptions for re-evaluation. Debate defends assumptions as truth.” Debate or even dialogue from a Christian point of view may be about biblical truths. Therefore a person may rightly understand their assumptions to be truth.
When I look at John 3:16 and state that “God gave his only begotten Son” I am quoting and insisting on biblical truth. To be a believer in Jesus Christ means to believe that some things are true, period. This does not mean that the other person will not be allowed to re-evaluate what I say, it simply means I hold my position as true because I believe it is based on God’s Word.
Another problem is this thought. “Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one’s beliefs. Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one’s beliefs.” But, we are talking about one of the greatest issues in the Church in contemporary times.
When early Christians were called upon to simply suspend their belief’s and say Caesar is Lord they instead invested wholeheartedly in their beliefs to the point of death. This is no mere game we are playing; this has to do with redemption, transformation and the life of the Church. This has to do with the Lordship of Christ. We must not suspend our beliefs.
I will go to Presbytery with the intent of not hurting anyone, of not offending anyone. But the one I am most intent on not offending or alienating is my Lord Jesus Christ.
May God have mercy on His Church.