Beware the Straw Man!
There are a lot of reasons in this life for people to disagree. We are all different. We have different convictions, tastes, attitudes, feelings, likes, dislikes, etc. For this reason we also have a lot of labels that define (roughly) us categorically.
For example, think of the last time that you saw a personality test. Have you done a DISC model test before? When you have answered many random questions the test tells you your categorical title. It also tells you your personality “horoscope” as it details how you may act in different situations. If you are like me there is much that corresponds to me, but also much that does not.
I have never met a person that fits neatly into the category, or label, that is applied to their beliefs. As a front-runner member of the “Millenial” club, I share many characteristics with Gen X AND even the Boomers! Labels are general, not specific. They are meant to give a broad description, not a specific definition.
In the church we have ongoing debates regarding labels that have been created over church history. You surely will recognize some of them. You have Catholics and Protestants, Protestants and Evangelical Protestants, Baptists and Methodists, Inerrantists and “errantists,” conservatives and moderates, Free Will and Predenstination, Calvinists and non-Calvinists, Pre-millenialists and A-millenialists, and on and on it goes. If every Christian had to wear a coat that displayed all of their labels can you imagine how ridiculous our appearance would be?
The fact is that labels can be good. They do offer a level of accountability and unity. For instance, you can confidently join in ministry and fellowship with people and/or organizations based on the “labels” that they are associated with.
Some differences are necessary and others are very important. Our differences help us grow as we are refined through graceful debate and conversation.
One of the greatest causes (my opinion) of unnecessary, sinful, and dividing conflict in the church is the awful use of Straw Man arguments. If this is a new phrase for you, a Straw Man argument is one that does not focus on the specific ideas of the actual person you are debating, but rather on a made-up person (straw man) who believes in ridiculous things that you choose to debate. Example? Have you ever heard that Calvinists don’t believe in missions and evangelism? Or that non-Calvinists don’t believe in the sovereignty of God? Both are false depictions of the other side set up as “straw men” for the sake of winning a debate. Both are real possibilities of each camp, but not the norm. History reveals in this debate that the modern missions movement was started by Calvinists! William Carey, Lottie Moon, Adoniram Judson, etc… History also reveals that non-Calvinist’s like the Wesley’s very much believed in the sovereignty of God!
Here is the point of the post: Differences ARE important, but also important is the way in which we disagree.
- Take time to engage with the person you disagree with rather than engaging a misrepresented “label.”
- Love the person by showing grace.
- Examine your thoughts within your “label” and truly understand your beliefs.
- Join in ministry with those you disagree with on non-Gospel issues knowing that you will spend eternity with them in heaven praising our Father.
- Stop identifying yourself by your labels and start finding your identity by one label “Child of God.”
Obedience is Mine. The Results are His.