Triumphalist Arguments And Theological Dialogue

A byproduct of social media is that the degree of separation it provides makes some feel emboldened to speak (or post) in ways they might not if they were sitting across a table from someone. Quite often this takes the form of what I refer to as either a “triumphalist” tweet, or a “peremptory” post. That is, the words are designed as a slam-dunk on a (potential) opponent (the triumphalist) or the thought is expressed to forestall any sort of nuanced or qualified reply. The only ones it will elicit are either a hearty “Amen!” or a condemnation for the small-mindedness of the poster.
For example, to say “Jesus didn’t die on the cross merely to make salvation possible” seems but to invite those with a certain view of salvation to clap in agreement, or perhaps it may provoke an angry reply. But what it does not seem designed to do is either persuade anyone or to invite dialogue. One could say it is the statement of a position, but with no supporting arguments. 
I am reminded of the Scottish theologian John Cameron, who was a professor of at the Academy of Saumur, France during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In his book, The Extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus, G. Michael Thomas notes this about Cameron: “The impression received is that he really wanted to persuade his readers rather than merely attack them and justify his own position.”[1] We could use more Camerons today.
This is not to suggest one shouldn’t hold to theological positions firmly, or we should be less persuaded of the truth of a given view. On the contrary, when with thorough research and much reading on all sides of a question you arrive at confidence, this allows you to react with calm and peace. Moreover, it gives you the freedom to eschew the sort of interaction where the point is only to incite.
To be sure, there are truths in Scripture that one can put forth most boldly, such as “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” It includes nearly any verse of Scripture, as well. Such are not the cases I have in mind.
I use the above example on the death of Christ as an example because it is frequent that differing views on the extent of the atonement are the fodder of such interactions. But the topic is far too complex to summarize in a single tweet, or a few, for that matter. The literature on the question is formidable, and requires a synthesis of a lot of biblical data. Only then can one arrive at a coherent position. There are other topics of theology that are likewise multifaceted, complex, and require a good bit of reading and consideration. If we are passionate about such things, it behooves us to not only do that research, but to present those findings irenically. But when someone engages in social media pugilism, it’s an invitation to pass by, rather than engage. I encourage those who, like John Cameron, are interested in persuasion, to adopt a different tactic in our theological engagement.
[1] G. Michael Thomas, The Extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus (Carlisle, Paternoster, 1997), 175.

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