The Twitter age has, quite frankly, encouraged poor interaction when disagreement arises. Our inability to communicate online is inextricably linked to our failure to think in any way other than soundbites and Tweets. We find ourselves proudly strapped into our respective thought patterns, dismissive of any rigorous criticisms that come against our most cherished convictions, and insecure—because we know we cannot defend ourselves in any meaningful way. These ingredients result in absolutely crippling responses, making any civil or productive conversation impossible. From ad hominem attacks on the critics to one-liner dismissals of entire articles; pride, dismissal, and insecurity lead only to virtual train wrecks.
This type of behavior can be seen coming from those of classical, presuppositional, or even completely indifferent persuasions. However, the classical theist especially has no reason to act like this. It does not help our case to call our opponents “Marxists” right out the gate. It’s not even right to begin with the allegation of “Fideism” if it’s not first shown to be the case. Unfortunately, we are so used to beginning our dialogue with an overt attack before we address the faults of any one position in detail.
This is because it’s easy to hurl attacks of this kind toward people from behind a keyboard. It’s easy to demean a person’s reputation before you’ve bought them a cup of coffee. Calling into question one’s salvation, a person’s commitment to Protestant orthodoxy, or accusing people of dishonesty without evidence (which itself is dishonest) is all well and good for those who cannot defend their position and for those who do not recognize there’s a human being on the other side of the screen. Classical theism, if consistently adhered to and understood by its people, leaves one without excuse to engage in this kind of trivial behavior. Here is why:
Classical Theism Is Not Proud
If we have the answers, we have them because God is Who He is, that is, good. God is good and by virtue of His goodness, in grace, His people have the answers they need to defend the hope they have within them. As classical theists, we should understand our contingency—our total dependence upon the first Cause of the created world. This fact alone is enough to render one without reason to boast in him or herself. We become irrational and inconsistent with our own convictions when we adopt an attitude of pride and arrogance.
All things not God are contingent. They are like dust being held together by the Word of His power. If God ceased sustaining His creation, we would not just disintegrate; everything would cease to exist en toto. Thus, when we are tempted to counter our opponents with a show of our pride or arrogance, when we want to appear that we are above others, we must only call to mind our contingency and our wholesale dependence upon the Triune God of Scripture.
Classical Theism Is Not Dismissive
Again, if we have the answers—by the grace of God—we should not dismiss critiques of our system. The milieu of the the social media atmosphere of our day is to offer one-liners which are supposed to dismiss entire systems of thought. This is a massive problem mainly because it renders any meaningful discussion absolutely impossible. As classical theists, our position affords us the opportunity to graciously interact with our critics and provides us with the resources to respond in a powerful and effective way.
We have the history, we have the intellectual prowess, and we have both special and natural revelation on our side. There is no reason to be dismissive. We can provide responses just as well as we can provide critiques. If someone works hard to criticize our position, we owe them careful consideration and a thoughtful, precise response. We have the tools, there’s no excuse to be dismissive of other’s hard work.
Classical Theism Is Not Insecure
Classical theists have no reason to be nasty.
If we have the arsenal of answers, provided by God’s grace, there is no reason to demean others by slandering them or trying to make them look bad, on a personal level, in front of others. We can soar over the temptations to drag people down and instead interact with their positions. It’s their positions we want to destroy, ultimately, not the people. In obedience to Christ’s two greatest commandments, we are joyfully obligated to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and the other—which is like the first—to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
These holy commandments require us to love our neighbors—to love our opponents. We, therefore, must seek to deconstruct their positions rather than attempting to deconstruct our opponent’s self-esteem or their personal reputations. There is nothing wrong with calling a position what it is, so long as it can be proven. But, there is everything wrong with spitefully calling people names or making false accusations against them so that they appear to be incredible in front of their peers.
Classical theists do not have to be prideful, dismissive, or insecure. In fact, to be any of these things is to commit sin against the most high God and against our opponents, who are made in the image of God. If our position is true, if it’s the intellectual gold standard as many think it to be, we can interact with humility, concern and consideration, and confidence—knowing what has been committed to us by the grace of God, knowing our opponents are made in the image of God, and knowing the prestigious history of our tradition and its effectiveness in shutting the mouth of the antichrist at both an intellectual and lay level for hundreds of years.