I. Sparring

What is a tendency in the professor will become a heresy in the student.
— Dr. Ferris “Chip” McDaniel

We called it “sparring.” It was one of the favorite pastimes on our seminary campus. If you were bored, or simply together with people who “enjoyed discussing things”, you could bring up a controversial theological topic and watch them have at it. Often someone would play the devil’s advocate and needle his friends about their viewpoint. Sometimes there were people who truly stood on the other side of the question and were arguing their position from a sincere heart. At times the discussion would get personal, tempers would flare and personal insults might be exchanged (though in a “loving” and “Christian” manner), and the discussion would terminate with the angry parties stalking off, muttering to themselves how narrow-minded their counterparts were. By dinner time usually the debaters would have reconciled somewhat, but they’d still be touchy about their pet theological subject.

Well, we were seminary students, after all. Discussing the minutiae of Christian theology was bread and butter, light and air to us, much like it might be to a student in a Jewish Yeshiva. We were being trained for this, for “accurately handling the word of truth,”1 for defending the Faith, for making sure that people did not introduce heresy into the Church or alter her time-honored doctrines and systems. Fortunately, we were able to remain friends despite our sometimes violently differing theological viewpoints. But I have found that not to be the case with many every-day Christians.

Your average Christian layperson, regardless of which flavor of Christianity he or she belongs to, will often cling to a certain theological viewpoint without ever having thought through all of the implications of it and they will defend it viciously, not allowing any flaws to be pointed out in it. They are the death commandos of their Christian theology, those who would rather die than be shown that there are any weaknesses in their understanding of Truth. And it is in a great part to these beloved brothers and sisters that I am writing.

  • 1. II Timothy 2:15