How to have charitable debates and disagreements:
There are plenty of topics which people can get very passionate about. Here I want to look at Christians and at least one of their hot-potato debate issues. All sorts of theological matters have and will be the subject of massive discussion, debate and controversy, but eschatology is certainly one of them.
Let me say that this article actually started out as a longish comment in reply to some recent discussions about articles I had penned on this site. Two of my most recent pieces were on the second coming of Christ. As is expected, folks came along with comments, interested in sharing their points of view. And that is fine.
However, in the interests of clarification, I had made a number of brief bullet points in reply. But as my reply grew in length, it seemed worthwhile to turn it into a full-scale article. In part this is useful because instead of me repeating myself over and over again on certain things, I can just point folks to an article like this, and let them know that this is where I stand on such things. So what follows is how I was going to respond to some of my friends who had sent in comments:
Thanks guys. Given that this is my site, perhaps I can make plain what I actually have clearly said on this issue of eschatology and how it might be debated here. What follows I have actually stated often before, so this might help draw it all together and be a place to summarise things.
-I of course believe that eschatology is a very important theological and biblical issue. All Christians should as well. And with nearly 60 articles on my site devoted to these topics, that should be an indication of this. Everything that Scripture teaches and discusses is what Christians should teach and discuss as well.
-Most Christians rightly recognise that there are core biblical doctrines which must be affirmed, and others that we can agree to disagree on. The deity of Christ and the Trinity would be examples of the former where we must draw a line in the sand. Some key doctrines are nonnegotiable.
But one’s views on all sorts of things, including church government, styles of worship, and so on are really secondary doctrines. I believe this is true of so many of the eschatology debates. One’s views on the millennium, or the rapture (and if there even is one), and who might be the Antichrist, etc, would belong in the latter category as well. See more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/10/27/on-theological-differences/
Also see this piece: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/09/21/the-madness-of-majoring-in-minors/
-Trouble can arise when some folks think eschatology is a life and death doctrine, and one that determines whether one is a real Christian or not – especially their particular take on things. I do not accept that view, and when such folks come here I tend to want them to wind things up soon enough.
-Some Christians just love to argue, full stop, be it about eschatology or some other issue. While we should be passionate about truth, some folks are just passionate about their own points of view, and they are always ready to come out swinging and have the last word on everything. I am not always thrilled with such folks. See more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/07/17/on-theological-pugilism-christian-maturity-and-humility/
-Some Christians believe that only their views are correct, and everyone else is wrong, full stop, whether it be about eschatology or some other issue. They are not very humble or teachable, and instead can be quite arrogant. I am not always thrilled with such folks. See here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/01/perilous-pitfalls-unteachable-spirit/
-Some Christians have their pet peeves, be it about eschatology or some other theological issue. They have a bee in their bonnet and will keep going on and on and on, even when a topic may already have been pretty well discussed. I am not always thrilled with such folks.
-There are obviously plenty of sites that exist for people who feel compelled to argue their fave views on eschatology – they are welcome to go there. Since some folks just really seem to want to push their views on the end times, there are many forums where they can do this day and night!
-When I do write a piece on eschatology, then folks can of course come along and have their discussions and debates (assuming they follow my general commenting rules). Thus comments should normally match the topic of my article. Quite often however people will go radically off topic on various articles, and that is not very helpful.
-Yes it is true that on a few controversial issues I have made my preferences clear. One of them concerns the neverending sectarian arguments and debates. Catholics will always want to argue with Protestants, and vice versa. I have stated my position on this many times.
Since there already exist plenty of sites where such debates can take place, I prefer the arguments not be all repeated here. I have made it crystal clear that I am a Protestant evangelical, and so I have very real theological differences with my Catholic friends. But I do have many Catholic friends.
As I often say, some of my favourite people and some of my favourite authors are Catholics. They can be a favourite source of quotations, and I have worked closely with so many of them, especially in the culture wars and so on. But I have written about this elsewhere as well: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/06/17/defence-protestantism-response-catholic-friends/
And see more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/01/07/im-a-nicene-christian/
-Some critics – often secular left trolls – try to claim that I censor other points of view, or do not like having debates on subjects. Given the thousands of comments here from my critics and opponents, this is clearly not the case. However, my commenting rules do make clear what my boundaries are. And if comments are way off topic, or just become too repetitive, heated and unedifying, I will likely try to wrap up a particular thread.
-And because I do sometimes seek to keep discussions in order and not dragging on forever, some Christians will also accuse me of stifling debate. Again, I beg to differ, and the above comments should help explain a bit where I am coming from. I have every reason to sometimes curtail an interminable argument that seems to be getting nowhere, or that seems to be generating far more heat than light.
-I have written entire articles on all of the above points, and on some I have here provided the relevant links. So all this has been covered before. But I often find the need to repeat myself it seems. So hopefully the above helps explain where I am coming from and how I seek to do things on my site.
-If all of this upsets some of you, or is not to your liking, well, you can always set up your own website and do things differently, including arguing to your heart’s content if that is what you so prefer. But this is, at the end of the day, my site, and I think I have the right to run it as I see fit.
Hopefully this has clarified my stance (if that was in fact necessary) on some of these matters.
As to the topic at hand, I can heartily say this: Maranatha!