Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Handling Theological Disagreement I Learned in Kindergarten

1. Don’t gang up on anyone.

2. Don’t be a bully.

3. Don’t scream or throw a tantrum.

4. Don’t make fun of anyone.

5. Don’t make up lies to get your way.

6. Don’t try to make others look foolish.

7. Don’t say things when you are angry.

8. Don’t say things when you are tired.

9. No scratching or biting.

10. Respect others.

11. Work as a team.

12. Take turns listening and speaking.

  • shnhdsn

    Maybe also: 12) Don’t shrink an argument down into a snarky internet meme/webcomic. If you agree with it, you laugh and scoff at how moronic the opposition is; if you disagree, you are furious at the oversimplified caricature of your position. And it’s hard to win someone over by mocking them…

    • shnhdsn

      I guess that should be 13). Not so good at that whole counting thing.

  • Randy

    Nice post, Peter. 7 & 8 works for all areas of life, I have found; whether it is job related, marriage, dealing with your kids, etc.

    • peteenns

      Indeed. All of life.

  • Dan Reid

    Good reminders, Pete. Good for editors to keep in mind. At 7 and 8 it’s good to get your pillow out of your cubby and take a nap.

  • Larry S

    Don’t forget #13. No Farting

    • http://theendofevil.wordpress.com Patrick

      False! Farting is the capstone of an excellent argument!

  • Juniper

    Snacks and breaks are good. @Larry – there are places in the world where farting is high comedy. :)
    I think it boils down to number two.

  • David Hull

    How does Jesus’ engagement with the Pharisees and various other opponents and some of Paul’s more sarcastic rhetoric play into your understanding of theological disagreement, particularly given the socio-historical forms of dispute in honor-shame cultures?

  • Larry S

    Thanks Patrick and Juniper. I stand corrected.

    I am on the Board of a Recovery Society. I’ve observed the “no farting” rule posted on the wall for the small group rules. Other rules include: no side talking, stay awake, no wearing sunglasses.

    Perhaps when we engage in theological debate we should be governed by the behavioral rules applied to addicts in recovery.

  • http://craigvick.wordpress.com Craig Vick

    Self criticism is key. I don’t have a kindergarten rule for that but I can offer a kindergarten story. I was at a friend’s house for dinner. He had two sons, one five (Robbie) the other four (Daniel). After we prayed before eating, Robbie said, “Dad, Daniel didn’t close his eyes when we prayed.” The wise father responded, “How do you know that?”

  • Matt Thornton

    #13 – Recall that, on the internet, everyone is your neighbor?

  • rvs

    Being required to nap next to theological adversaries might be a good thing, too.

  • Derek

    I really need to work on #9…

  • Jim V

    I’m sorry, Dr. Enns, but I wish I could say that on this blog you have practiced these principles when you criticize your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with whom you disagree (especially Evangelicals), but I can’t. I’ve notice that since you’ve started your blog (at your prior site), and especially after your departure from Westminster, I have read more and more posts that violate numbers 4, 6 and 11. If violations of these principles alone could be placed on a 1 to 10 scale, I would say that you are a 5 or 6. Many of your academic colleagues who have similarly left Christian institutions, or criticize their conservative Christian brothers and sisters who defend Evangelicalism, or called themselves “post-Evangelical” are perhaps further on the scale (Kenton Sparks is a full on 10 for each), but you’re traveling along at a nice clip.

    • peteenns

      So, professor, you’re giving me a B? I’ll take it.

      • Jim V

        I believe your response to a student who has your intelligence and gifts would be, “don’t settle for a B. You are capable of much better and I have seen you do much better in this class.”

  • Phil Miller

    6. Don’t try to make others look foolish.

    Because most of them don’t need your help to accomplish that… :-)

  • http://www.shirleyshowalter.com Shirley Hershey Showalter

    Just found you and your blog from a link Richard Kauffman placed on FB. Love what you are doing here. Will check back in again.

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  • http://lisesletters.wordpress.com Lise

    In the words of Anne Lamott, “You could have cracked walnuts with my self-righteousness.” Would that we were all as self-aware and repentant when our behavior misses the mark…

  • http://lisesletters.wordpress.com Lise

    And just clarifying that I am speaking totally in the abstract here – not directing my comment at anyone other than myself. :)

  • Adri

    I sure wish Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary followed, well…any of these. My husband is a former doctoral student at SWBTS, but left after another student “tattled” on him that he didn’t affirm inerrancy. He was fired from his job at the library as a writing tutor and pulled into the head admin’s offices where they, in so many words, accused him of not being a Christian at all and “did our church know about his position?” Oh, he was also told he was an embarrassment to the school. I understand defending tradition. I understand defending what you believe in. I do not understand being a bully. Especially when “they will know us by our love for each other.”