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A Model for Theological Debate

The debate between Arminians and Calvinists is commonly (and unfortunately) marked by lack of charity and abundance of vitriol. For one reason or another, this disagreement seems particularly ripe for attracting harsh and unhelpful words. In light of this, I was pleased to see this interview from John Starke, of The Gospel Coalition, with Fred Sanders (pictured), a systematic theologian and associate professor at the Torrey Honors Institute of Biola University. The discussion between Starke, a Calvinist, and Sanders, a Wesleyan-Arminian, is full of grace and respect. Sanders acknowledges what he finds to be the weaknesses of Calvinism with care avoiding unfair and mean-spirited criticisms. He is even willing to admit that he has felt the draw of the Calvinist perspective. Starke conducts the interview demonstrating immense respect for Sanders despite their theological differences.

I call attention to this interview because I take it to be a model for fruitful Christian dialogue and even debate over those matters on which the faithful disagree. If we could strive to see the strengths of the other side and attempt to discover what might have in common, then our differences (real as they are) would be set in their proper context. Let’s take a cue from Sanders and Starke. We will undoubtedly be increasingly faithful representatives both of our common faith and the particular theological traditions we claim.

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