Whether it’s Mark O’Driscolls pansies or John MacArthur’s fire, it’s safe to say there is a massive spectrum of views when it comes to theology and all aspects of it. Blogs with claims, counter-claims, reverse claims; all passionately put forward and defended are all over the internet and often leave the feeling of “can we conduct these with a little more decorum please?” Internet and decorum are not words synonymous with each other , but there is a wider issue of the tactics used. The current model of discussion is the “trench warfare/throwing bombs”; both sides dug in and just launching volleys at each other. This makes respectful discussion very difficult but how exactly do we move on from this? How do we meet in the middle? Calling for more respectful dialogue is easy, actually getting there is the hard part.
The main topics that I am involved in and therefore see this the most in is Genesis/Young Earth Creationism. I try to find places where we agree to form a base from which to work from. In the context of Genesis though, it doesn’t seem to make good reading;
- Both sides absolutely believe they have the truth….
- So both sides absolutely believe the other is wrong (sounds obvious but goes un-noticed in the “all opinions are valid” stance) 
- Both sides believe the other is mis-using the Bible/using it for their own ends and not taking it seriously
- Both sides believe the other viewpoint is potentially (or already is) dangerous
Not exactly positive shared stances. The only positive is that both sides are concerned with how the Bible is used. These shared values are very much about disdain for the other side, mistrust of them, but these alone don’t seem enough to warrant the vitriol that’s dished out. Maybe they are but I believe it may be due to the way the individual faith has been built and is sustained. Old stone archways are held together by gravity and friction, all focused around the keystone locking it all in place. The arch is reliant on the individual stones and if any one is removed or weakened then the whole arch collapses. I think faith for some has been built in a similar manner with the arch being eternal salvation with Christ. Each stone is an aspect of their faith with their interpretation of the Bible being the keystone (I say interpretation, they’ll see it as the Bible). If any one of these is removed then their salvation is gone and they spend an eternity in hell (which is probably one of those stones). Furthermore, they see the arch of those who disagree as already collapsed and this concerns them because of the consequences as they see it. If the possibility of even just discussing the merits of alternative viewpoints threatens this arch then they understandably don’t venture out.
Respectful discourse is not about getting someone to agree with you, but how do you meet in the middle with someone who’s too afraid of the consequences if they do? Short answer is you can’t, to meet someone requires them to actually be there. Some may think I’m giving them too much credit and offering excuses for them. As I said earlier, there’s a lot of mistrust around so I’m just trying to see things from their perspective. Could be that they simply believe they have the truth and have no need/desire to meet in any middle ground. As an administrator of a forum put it; “I will not allow anyone to teach what goes against the truth” There’s simply no negotiating with people who take that kind of stance. All we can do is go into the middle and wait; praying and encouraging they meet you there, keep offering refutations and be reasonable in the meantime.
It’s the best we can do.