A book we’ve been discussing about heresies brings to the surface how Christians have debated heresies and heretics. There is a subtle theme in this book that heresies can be discussed rationally, even when one believes deeply that a given view is contrary to Christian orthodoxy and potentially subversive to the gospel. At times, though, the language level escalates, passions inflame, and deep lines are drawn.
There are reasons for this, and it might be worth our time to think about why the language level escalates. At the purest level, one’s passions are inflamed for pastoral or theological or theological reasons: someone is teaching something that is dangerous to the Christian faith and someone wants the warning flags to be waved high in the area.
Some people get worked up because they are the worked-up kinds of folks. In other words, they are passionate folks and almost any debate gets the person worked up. But there’s at least one more reason…
I read it the other night in one of my favorite books: James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (Everyman’s Library)
. A certain Mr. Murray spoke of the ancients who could discuss anything with measured control. Johnson countered Murray that it was because they didn’t believe deeply enough.
Then he says this: “Every man who attacks my belief, diminishes in some degree my confidence in it, and therefore makes me uneasy; and I am angry with him who makes me uneasy. Those only who believed in revelation have been angry at having their faith called in question; because they only had something upon which they could rest as matter of fact” (636).
Does animated emotion in debate indicate one’s own beliefs are not as confident as one thinks?
It is worth considering this anytime we find ourselves angered in debate.