For Christians, it typically does not take long to formulate an opinion about viewpoints we disagree with. I find too often though that people are quick to beat up on viewpoints they don’t agree with and cast them in the worst light possible. What’s worst is when that happens without having all the information.
For this reason, it is always a good idea to learn about competing viewpoints from people who actually advocate for that position. If we learn of that position from those already opposed to it, it’s pretty much like joining forces with the school bully who beats up on those they feel deserved to be beat up without any logical reason why that kid deserves bullying (not that anyone deserves bullying).
I wrote about this (here) a while ago after studying Origen in a theology elective, History of Exegesis. I had a certain concept of Origen’s exegesis that was completely blown out of the water having actually studied him. But that led me to three conclusions that I expound on in the article:
1) Always examine original sources
2) Temper your disagreement through fair analysis
3) Submit to learning
Often this means resisting the reactionary response. But also it means looking for ways to reconcile competing positions where possible in the interest of Christian harmony. Now some ideas are dangerous and threaten to uproot the tenets of the Christian faith. But we need to be careful even in this charge, especially when citing something as heresy since we will necessarily throw adherents under that bus. Asking the “so what?” question and following that out to it’s logical conclusion is always helpful.
First off, I like the pic; so appropriate.
Secondly, I used to do what you describe in the first paragraph. But off late, I am finding myself not doing that. Maybe that’s because I am beginning to read a little widely, and am listening to men like Dr. Bock, who is gracious even when disagreeing and even calling some wrong, but doing so in such a manner that you don’t even realize he’s calling you wrong!
I believe that such movement is a mature movement in our lives. But I know some will say we are being too loose or watered-down. I have learned so much over the past few years as I’ve engaged with Christians outside of what was my particular leaning. I still have a lot to learn and always will.