What is a caricature? Merriam-Webster defines it as “exaggeration by means of often ludicrous distortion of parts or characteristics” When done with theological positions, exaggerations and distortions are usually a result of shallow or non-existent interaction with the positions being characterized. Instead broad-brushed generalizations are formed, usually because of opponents views, which are not carefully interacted with either!
To be fair, I’m also picking on my own theological persuasion camp just there’s no bias. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with a position, it drives me nuts when it is not treated fairly. And the only way we can do that is to actually engage with competing ideas and their proponents with the intent on understanding. Building strawmen doesn’t count.
Also, there is typically a range of belief within a particular position that often gets neglected when making sweeping generalized allegations.
So in no particular order…
1) Unconditional election in Calvinism means we are robots who God forces to choose him. No Calvinist believes this or advocates it. Ask and read them and they’ll tell you the human will is involved. But the will is subject to illumination that only the Spirit can bring.
2) Cessationists don’t believe in miracles or the work of the Holy Spirit. No, what cessationists don’t believe is that miraculous events are defined by gifts in the present. Cessationist actually have such a high view of God that they believe he’s powerful enough to speak through his written word and can still govern affairs without the extras. And most cessationists really do believe in miracles and that the Holy Spirit is very much active! But again there is a range.
3) Arminians promote me-centered theology. Not as far as Wesley is concerned, or any other Arminian who truly loves the Lord and seeks to honor his Word and His church.
4) Egalitarians don’t have a high view of Scripture and seek to support their agenda. Two words: Gordon Fee and hermeutics. Nuff said. Oh wait, two more – mutual submission. Can we please concede that there are Christ-honoring folks on both sides of the equation who are submitted to his authority?
5) Complementarians just want to control and repress women. Well maybe some do, but that is a result of a sinful heart not complementarianism. Also, there is a range of what complementarians believe with respect to women but the bottom line is respecting an order that is believed that God put in place.
6) Dispensationalists believe in 2 ways of salvation. Not that Scofield or Chafer advocated this, but the statement ignores the string of modifications since them. Put Gerstner down and read something actually written by Dispensationalists today, many of whom don’t even ascribe to the earlier articulations of Dispensationalism that garners the 2 ways charge. (I was reminded by this article that Dispensationalists can be just as bad with Covenant Theology)
7) The creeds are man-made and unbiblical. Well they were created by men based based on what is biblical. This was because what the witness of Scripture said about God was being challenged by folks who didn’t believe it. God always used men, even to write his word. Let’s give him, and the creeds, more credit.
I’ll throw in an 8th one that’s come across my radar lately and has produced the same result. Consider it a bonus!
8) Church hierarchy systems are not scriptural and imposed on the church to control people: hmmm, are we challenging abuse of what some have done in the name of pastoring (while really not doing that) or the system of having shepherds as guardians and nourishers of Christ’s church? Think about that.
Well, I’d be surprised if my list was wholeheartedly embraced. I suspect there will be disagreement. But the bottom line is to be fair.