Reading theologians who disagree with you can be hard.
But I would wager that your favorite theologian got to where he was because he wasn’t afraid of studying those who disagreed with him. The reality is that we all have theological blind spots when it comes to certain issues. Reading different theologians can help us locate and correct these blind spots.
When studying a topic, we should search the Scriptures first. We must spend a lot of time wrestling with the Scriptures that are relevant to that topic. It is only then that we can look at commentaries and theologians to see the various views on that topic.
If we are honest though, there are certain pet theologians and commentaries that we run to when we have questions about doctrine. This is certainly not a bad thing. But if this is our only method of study, then we are limiting ourselves in many ways.
3 Benefits of Reading Different Theologians
Here are 3 benefits of reading theologians who disagree with you:
1. It will help refine your own positions.
If you think about the Creeds of the church, they usually arose in response to a heretical teaching. Incorrect doctrine helped the church clearly define doctrines like the deity of Christ and the Trinity. It will also help you see where the weaknesses of your viewpoint lie so that you can better refine your position. Additionally, you may realize that you misinterpreted certain passages to make them line up with your view.
2. It will help you engage other people’s viewpoints.
If you have been around theological or philosophical discussions, you have probably heard the term “strawman” at some point. The strawman fallacy is where your opponent refutes a position that you don’t support. This usually happens because your opponent doesn’t understand your position.
Many times these types of theological discussions never get off the ground. If you correctly understand another person’s position, however, you will be able to explain your objections clearly and will have more fruitful dialogue.
3. You will develop charity for people with different theological positions.
When I was a young Christian, I thought that people who were a part of any denomination other than Baptist weren’t true Christians. After making friends with people in other denominations, I realized that they were Christians too. They may have had a different view of baptism than me, but they loved the same Jesus that I did.
I also came to see that these people used the same Bible to defend their positions. Here I learned to be more charitable with people who disagreed with me. Unfortunately, many Christians today lack any kind of charity when having theological discussions!
In closing, our goal in studying theology is to bring glory to God. It is not something that we should take lightly. When you read theologians that you don’t agree with, you will grow significantly in your understanding of theology. When having conversations with your brother and sisters in Christ over theological issues, do so in a loving way.
The church doesn’t need any smug theologians.
And as you push forward in your studies, may you embody this maxim:
“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.”