Who is that theologian or church leader you almost never agree with? Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, John Piper, or your own preacher? Assuming someone is universally wrong typically opens an enormous intellectual blind spot. Some people are almost universally wrong. Not many. The meta-message of that scholar or church leader is something we should give a fair hearing to–even if we dismiss it.
Theological debate is taking the shape of our political debate today. It’s become increasingly polarized even to the point people look for “gotcha” videos, sermons and blog sentences to use against their opponents. However, this isn’t applied consistently to their own favorite teachers. They believe so strongly in what their favorite scholar/teacher is saying they don’t bother to question them, while pointing the harshest lens of semi-blind skepticism toward their favorite scholar or church leader’s opponents. When one does so, one ends up with some of these classics:
All mega-churches are shallow.
All small churches are a failure.
All Democrats/Republicans are socially immoral/don’t care about the poor.
The New Calvinists are all chauvinists who demean women.
The Emergent Churchers are all milk-toast humanists with a small/no God.
In my better moments, I’m able to listen for their meta-message and learn something from it. What are they really trying to say, and what good are they doing? In my lesser moments, I label and dismiss. I’m lesser for it.
How about you? If you feel up to it, who do you think is almost always totally wrong? I know it’s hard, but can you honestly assess their meta-message? Have you honestly appraised what they are really trying to say?