(by Lisa Robinson)
Actually, I think this list is also applicable to investigation as well. It is based on observations over time on various blogs, discussions boards, personal interaction and concerning various topics (Lest anyone think I am singling them out).
Don’t assume that the other person is ignorant of what God has revealed through scripture or does not understand what scripture is communicating simply because they don’t agree with you.
Don’t attack the other person personally or suggest their lack of understanding must be due to some character flaw.
Don’t assume you know exactly what a person believes unless they tell you. There is a thing called prejudice.
Don’t assume that you understand everything there is to know about the doctrinal or theological system that you have rejected. What is taught at the popular or preaching level may or may not be honest to what is actually espoused or provides a fair treatment to variations of that position.
Don’t project your experiences as being explanatory of the whole or what is normative. What you experienced may or may not be representative of a particular doctrinal or theological system or church tradition.
Don’t continually use the platform of your tradition, doctrinal bent or theological conclusions as the cure all answer for whatever is being discussed, unless the conversation warrants it. Continual interjections distracts from the discussion.
Don’t assume that your tradition or system has ALL the answers to what God has revealed. There is something to be said for epistemological humility.
Don’t throw out an entire system of thought because of diagreements with a portion of it. There is something to be gleaned from anyone willing to understand what is being communicated in scripture.
Don’t assume that you know everything and are right about everything.
Don’t mock the other person for holding to a position you think is ridiculous
Don’t wield your convictions as THE sword of truth. That is reserved for the bible.
Don’t take a caustic tone, when someone does not agree with you.
Do set the tone of gracious discussion
Do understand that we will always sift our findings through the colandar of experience, church tradition and personality bent.
Do be respectful and understanding that others will have their colandars too.
Do listen to what the other person has to say about why they believe what they believe it.
Do use your experience to share how it is that you have come to certain conclusions.
Do understand that we do not all use the same theological method, particular across the three Christian traditions.
Do understand that there will be certain tensions in scripture that cannot be easily explained away, no matter how many have tried.
Do ask the person you disagree with to support what they are saying by scripture and how they understand it
Do readily admit ignorance, especially when demonstrated that you may not have all the answers.
Do share results of honest and thorough investigation of competing positions and why you gravitate towards one over the other. Emphasis on the word thorough, which is also objective and fair born of extensive research based on what advocates have actually espoused. Strawmen don’t count.
Do try to decipher what is worth fighting for and what is not, what is more central to Christian orthodoxy and what is not.
Are there any others you can think of?
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials liberty and in all things charity” – Augustine