As a theology grad student, I read a ton of stuff about religion, theology, and doctrine from a wide variety of sources. I also hear a lot of podcasts, sermons and devotionals. And some of the stuff I read and hear is really, really good, but some of it I’m not too sure about and some stuff I think is absolutely wrong.
There was a time in my life when I was greatly disturbed anytime someone disagreed with me about theology, and felt a compulsion to try to convince them that I was right. I still feel this way at times especially if the issue at hand is one that I think is of essential importance.
That being said, I have come to understand something which I think is very important: I can still respect someone’s opinion even if I disagree with it.
Sounds pretty simple right? And it is simple, but it’s not all that easy—just look at all the religious, political, and cultural debates that surround us and see how often respect is completely left out of them.
When it comes to matters of theology, even if I disagree with you, I can respect your opinion if the following two characteristics are true:
(1) You are a person of integrity. Maybe this is obvious, but I’m going to tend to be skeptical about what you’re telling me if you’re not a very good person. If I don’t see the Fruit of Spirit in your life, why would I think that you have an exemplary understanding of the character and nature of God?
(2) Your viewpoint is not shallow. I am not going to be impressed with your argument if it is based on some hunch or feeling or tradition or something your pastor told you that you cannot support with Scripture. If we have a difference of opinion about how a particular biblical passage should be interpreted, that’s a different issue, but if you’re making no attempt to be anchored to the Word in the first place, we’re going to have a problem.
If you meet these two qualifications, we might disagree on some things (and we almost certainly will), but I can still respect you despite those disagreements.