Can we dialogue?

This blog is dedicated to building an “atmosphere of dialogue” in the spirit of christian unity, (melting our swords into plowshares),  and recognizing and valuing multiple perspectives on various topics that relate to the current transition we are in.  Some of the topics include transformational spirituality, leadership, community, mission, integration, and a host of others.  One of our friends, Danny Silk, says that the goal of communication and healthy dialogue is not  necessarily “agreement”, but the need to understand and the desire to be understood.  In the end we can “agree to disagree”.   But I believe we gain more than we lose in the process and grow in our understanding of what is progressively occurring in the Kingdom (present day truth).  That more than ever we are experiencing “fundamental shifts” in our theology (our understanding of the nature of God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit), our soteriology (What really happened at the cross), our ecclesiology (how we do church, community and mission), and our eschatology, (the “now not yet” tension of the Kingdom).  I believe we are living in a turbulent transition where EVERYTHING is changing fundamentally, and that we have entered something called “liminal space”.  More on that later.

Several excellent points here will create a “framework” for meaningful dialogue. (Source: Scott McNight, RJS)

First – we need each other. No single voice can speak all the truth, no single “tribe”  can conceive all the options or perspectives, no single “stream”  can acquire all of the revelation and hold “the edge” on truth that is “progressive in nature”.  And ironically, we can learn more from those who thoughtfully challenge our views and positions than from those who simply agree. This is especially true in the areas of theology and biblical studies (our eschatology, ecclesiology, etc.). But this necessitates sitting down in dialogue and exploring both our points of agreement and our points of disagreement.  A current example in our movement  is the disagreement between the east coast prophetic voices and the west coast prophetic voices regarding our theology of God’s goodness, the problem of evil (theodicy), and “hyper-grace”.

Second – we all need to concentrate not on winning battles but on making allies. Ultimately our goal within the church is to search for truth in Christian unity, not to score points or win debates. We are not called to conquer our fellow Christians, victory is reflected in willing unity not enforced submission.

Third – we need to keep working on what are called the “dialogical virtues”, habits of discourse that are conducive to understanding others and to making ourselves understood. Among these virtues are such things as honesty, fairness, and clarity,  and one that stands out in particular, humility (the opposite of pride or self-righteousness).  We can be passionate about our convictions and what we believe, but “make room” for other view points and perspectives because we all “see through a glass darkly (I Cor. 13:12).

Fourth – we need to avoid caricatures, “straw man” arguments, and villainizing or “demonizing” the “other side”, as this “shuts down” dialogue and creates “enemies”.  It’s similar to the “God told me” language that some use which doesn’t facilitate dialogue because we are not allowed to “argue with God”.

Finally – Conversely, conceding a point to keep the peace is not a dialogical virtue. Nor is a wishy-washy anything goes tolerance.  There is truth and there is error. But we find the truth not by proclamation or intimidation, but by patient and thoughtful persuasion. One of our most admired leaders, Bill Johnson, has stated that God will never contradict His word, but He might contradict “your understanding” of His Word.   I hope you’ll join the dialogue and be a part of a learning community.  Thanks!!!

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