How to Stop Having Harmful Theological Discussions

Last week I posted about the relationship theology has with ethics. I mentioned that having an accurate view of who God is, shapes our actions. With this being true, I urged that we should pursue a deeper understanding of who God is through theological study.

However, when we study theology, another issue comes up. Many followers of Christ, who equally love Christ and believe in the inerrancy of the scriptures, disagree on many issues. Often times, studying theology with a hostile perspective can drive a deeper wedge into an already segmented Christian culture (1 Tim 6:4-5). That which was meant to unite and grow the church divides it.

With this in mind, something that has been helpful is following a chart I was taught at Cru’s Institute of Biblical studies.

Hills to Die On

The top section represents our convictions. These ideas are the essentials of the faith that all Christians in all denominations agree on. An idea that qualifies as a conviction is a theological principle that pertains to salvation. Ideas like Christ’s death for our sins, the inerrancy of Scripture and the doctrine of the Trinity are conviction level ideas.

The second section represents persuasions. From my experience, these ideas often cause the most division. Persuasions are ideas that are important theological points, but not believing a certain way doesn’t mean you aren’t a Christian. A belief about the millennial reign of Christ, your persuasion about the doctrine of election, and the use of miraculous gifts are all examples of this level.

Lastly, the bottom section represents opinions. People among the same denomination can have differing opinions but unite for the greater good of God’s glory. Opinions are often stylistic to worship or ministry. How many elders, how often we do communion or the type of music you use are all examples.

I find this chart to be an effective tool and use it frequently on campus at Oklahoma State when teaching the Bible to students from many denominational backgrounds. With a richer understanding of this chart, we can unite as the body of Christ under our convictions and respect each other’s persuasions and opinions.

Take a step toward unity by applying this chart to your theological framework. It has greatly benefited me to do so. Also, leave a comment below about where a theological principle fits on the chart. This will help us all to see where any different ideas end up on the chart.


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