Eric Chabot of Think Apologetics posted this on Facebook.
It’s a medium-length read. I want to highlight one problem – the problem of pastors never showing their work.
Around this point, it can start to dawn on one that many church leaders have only been trained in forms of discourse such as the sermon and, to a much lesser extent, the essay. Both forms privilege a single voice—their voice—and don’t provide a natural space for response, questioning, and challenge. Their opinions have been assumed to be superior to opposing viewpoints, but have never been demonstrated to be so. While they may have spoken or written about opposing voices, they are quite unaccustomed to speaking or writing to them (not to mention listening to or being cross-examined by them). There are benefits to the fact that the sermon is a form of discourse that doesn’t invite interruption or talking back, but not when this is the only form of discourse its practitioners are adept in.
Many church leaders have been raised and trained in ideologically homogenous cultures or contexts that discouraged oppositional discourse. Many have been protected from hostile perspectives that might unsettle their faith. Throughout, their theological opinions and voices have been given a privileged status, immune from challenge. Nominal challenges could be brushed off by a reassertion of the monologue. They were safe to speak about and habitually misrepresent other voices to their hearers and readers, without needing to worry about those voices ever enjoying the power to answer them back. Many of the more widely read members of their congregations may have had an inkling of the weakness of their positions in the past: the Internet just makes it more apparent.
A system is only as effective as its weakest component in a particular operation. The same is true of the human mind and the communities formed around thinkers. Where the capacity of agonistic reasoning is lacking, all else can be compromised. If one’s opinion has never been subjected to and tried by rigorous cross-examination, it probably isn’t worth much. If one lacks the capacity to keep a level head when one’s views are challenged, one’s voice will be of limited use in most real world situations, where dialogue and dispute is the norm and where we have to think in conversation with people who disagree with us.
The teachers of the Church provide the members of the Church with a model for their own thinking. The teacher of the Church does not just teach others what to believe, but also how to believe, and the process by which one arrives at a theological position. This is one reason why it is crucial that teachers ‘show their working’ on a regular basis. When teaching from a biblical text, for instance, the teacher isn’t just teaching the meaning of that particular text, but how Scripture should be approached and interpreted more generally. An essential part of the teaching that the members of any church need is that of dealing with opposing viewpoints. One way or another, every church provides such teaching. However, the lesson conveyed in all too many churches is that opposing voices are to be dismissed, ignored, or ‘answered’ with a reactive reassertion of the dogmatic line, rather than a reasoned response.
This is probably the biggest thing that annoys me about church. Being talked at by somebody who never explains why they believe what they believe, and who never answers criticisms to what they believe. They don’t want to show their work. I really don’t like that. Being forced to sit still and silent while someone else talks.
In math class, you don’t get any marks for just writing the correct answer to a non-trivial problems. You have to show the steps that led to your answer. I think talking about why we believe, though, can be agitating to some people who are there in church to be comforted and to have feelings and emotions. So that’s probably why pastors don’t show their work, because it disrupts the comfort / happiness vibe. Still though, I think it would be a good idea for us (and I mean me, too!) to get better at hearing voices on the other side. The way I usually do this is by watching debates and reading debate books. I like there to be two sides interacting. I get annoyed when there is only one side. That’s why I prefer reading evidential apologetics to philosophical theology and I prefer philosophical theology to devotional reading (A.W. Tozer and G. K. Chesterton are the worst things to read in my view, and most men I know can’t stand reading them). The more testable something is, the easier it is on me. I don’t like to be preached at about things that can’t be tested. It annoys me, even if I agree with it.