Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Charitable Reading

No one can force you to read people charitably, giving them the benefit of the doubt when they are ambiguous or make statements that sound heterodox. Indeed, even if you want to read charitably, you may not find it easy, particularly if you are a person prone to perpetual suspicion. It may be a habit you have to cultivate by careful practice of extending grace to those you read, especially when you don't feel they deserve it.

If you choose to exercise charity, you can still note red flags - statements that raise some suspicion or doubt about the charitable assumptions you are giving the author. Reading people charitably is not the same thing as automatically accepting everything they say as correct, or being blind to their potential faults.

Charitable reading should lead to a response of speaking the truth in love. In other words, charitable reading can lead to charitable responses. Those responses can be critical responses, but they need not be caustic responses.

Christian duty demands charitable reading and responses, particularly when it comes to the brethren, and most of all when it comes to elders. This duty, however, has to be fulfilled in the heart, a place where no church discipline can fully penetrate.

When you are trying to read charitably and you come to a head-scratching comment from the author, ask yourself: how could that be understood in an orthodox way? am I missing some context that would make that statement legitimate? Avoid rushing to judgment, but instead exercise circumspection.

Don't be afraid to ask the author what he meant, if you can. This should be done in an honest and forthright way of trying to identify the author's intent. The goal is not to trap the author, but simply to discern what he actually meant by what he said. The goal is not harass or accuse the author, but instead to flesh out the meaning, identify the context, and perhaps define the nuance that the author may have been intending.

With dead or famous authors, this won't always be possible. You may have to investigate for yourself what this person said in the context and on other occasions about the same subject.

When you see a red flag, and you are considering whether this red flag is more than just a red flag, consider the gravity of the fault implied. If the conclusion would be simply that the person is an inexact speaker or has a minor error in doctrine, that's one thing. If the conclusion is that the speaker is a lost person, or a deliberate wolf in sheep's clothing, that's a more serious situation.

The more serious the situation, the more it behooves us to make sure we are correct before leveling a charge. While "innocent until proven guilty" may only be mandatory when you're on a jury, it's a handy reference for us to use in life. Moreover, while for minor things we may simply express a conclusion when we're persuaded it is correct, it would be wise for us to use a higher standard when a more serious charge is being made.

Does charity demand that we always use "beyond a reasonable doubt"? That's not my contention. Rather I'm suggesting that we should use discernment in the use of our tongue. James warns us of the dangers of the uncontrolled use of our tongues. We need to tame that monster, and it's no easy task.

Proverbs 10:19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

Ecclesiastes 5:2-7
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.



michael said...

Seems those words conform with these:::>

Tit 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,
Tit 3:2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
Tit 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
Tit 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
Tit 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Tit 3:6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Tit 3:7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

I can't say for sure because it is such a mystery but I'd say those Words from Titus and the following Words from Job show us God is a Savior and wants those He saves to be charitable in word and deed to all men:::>

Job 33:14 For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it.
Job 33:15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds,
Job 33:16 then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings,
Job 33:17 that he may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man;
Job 33:18 he keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.
Job 33:19 "Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones,
Job 33:20 so that his life loathes bread, and his appetite the choicest food.
Job 33:21 His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out.
Job 33:22 His soul draws near the pit, and his life to those who bring death.
Job 33:23 If there be for him an angel, a mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him,
Job 33:24 and he is merciful to him, and says, 'Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom;
Job 33:25 let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor';
Job 33:26 then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness.
Job 33:27 He sings before men and says: 'I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me.
Job 33:28 He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.'
Job 33:29 "Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man,
Job 33:30 to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

TFan, I have engaged R2k proponents and I have asked clarifying questions about R2k. You have as well.

I do not think either you or myself have been uncharitable towards the substance of their positions.