Theological Debate in the Twittersphere

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I haven’t been tweeting for long, but I must say that I have really enjoyed it!  I have made some friends and had very challenging conversation.  One such conversation occurred late last night, however it did not end well.  Not sure what really happened, but I think that I may have stepped into something.  Below is the complete exchange that I had with John Harrison (aka @tragic_pizza).

To give our conversation context, this was not our first exchange.  Even where we disagree, John has been very gracious with me and I hope I have been with him.  This particular evening I had observed that there was a fairly strong conversation going on between he and another twitter user (mentioned below).  As you can see below, I did not engage John, but rather commented to another user, Khad Young, regarding his reading of Acts 10:15.

NOTE FOR NON-TWEETERS: you can send public replies to people by using the “@” symbol along with the other person’s user name.  In the following conversation my tweets will appear in blue and John’s will be in orange.  Each tweet is followed by a link directly to Twitter so that you can verify that I have not changed any of the text of any of the responses.

  • But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” (Acts 10:15) #outlawpreachers Former abominations. link
  • @khad I don’t think that is what that verse means. link
  • @lunchboxsw Read the context. It absolutely means that. link
  • @khad I did read context… this is about the ceremonially unclean and the acceptance of Gentiles… not “abomination” link
  • @lunchboxsw Wait, ****only**** about accepting Gentiles??? REALLY??? Fascinating way to limit God. link
  • @tragic_pizzaUh, “limiting God” … dude! I am talking about the context of the passage… geesh! link
  • @lunchboxswAs am I. Read the whole thing. Ac 10:34b-35, Peter’s conclusion. Just Gentiles? Nope. link
  • @tragic_pizzaand btw, accepting Gentiles WAS a HUGE deal!!! The passage is about anything but limits! link
  • @lunchboxsw Of course it was a huge deal. Acceptance is the point. Read that last sentence again. Think about it. link
  • @tragic_pizza Uh, I think anything else that is there for you is what you are reading into the text… God does not show favoritism… YES!! link
  • @tragic_pizza btw the accusation u make against @j146 is not accurate… and may I say it is projection! It’s all or nothing my friend. link
  • @lunchboxswOK, then. I will begin to dig out the part of my mind which applies logic and reason, and return to my days as a Fundie. link
  • @tragic_pizza You argue against the Law, but u forget that “love” IS the Law… what you are leaving out is the gospel! link
  • @lunchboxsw WHERE AM I LEAVING OUT THE GOSPEL??? WHERE??? link
  • @tragic_pizza U leave out human depravity… the fact that we are all sinners; n that context u miss the gospel b/c it’s meaningless w/o Law link
  • @lunchboxsw I’m waiting to see where I have ignored or left out the Gospel. link
  • @lunchboxsw Oh, I see. I have to define my words YOUR way or I am outside of the Gospel. Instructive. link
  • @tragic_pizza Matthew 22:34-40… from Jesus’ own lips: Love is Law… and if you miss that you miss the whole point of the gospel link
  • @lunchboxsw ooooooooh, your way is the Only Way!!!! Nice!!! link
  • @tragic_pizza My way… excuse me, but that is the way of Christ… again Matthew 22:34-40 link
  • @lunchboxsw You are confusing me (which may be the point). How the bright Hell am I ignoring the Gospel???? Say it instead of being coy. link
  • @tragic_pizza “thinking for themselves” is the issue… Romans 3 teaches that none of us are righteous… we cannot rely on ourselves link
  • @tragic_pizza Let me just say that you and all the #outlawpreachers are in my prayers. link
  • @lunchboxsw Cute. Answer the question link
  • @tragic_pizzaI have… don’t know how to be any more clear… certainly not trying to be coy…. g’night. link
  • @lunchboxsw OK. Goodbye. link
  • Wow! I got blocked by @tragic_pizza and @RickWarren…. no one said that defending your faith would not come with casualities! link

This was obviously not my shining moment.  In fact I am rather embarrassed by some of my comments, and the summary of the experience (the last tweet) was certainly not respectful and out of line.  As I said above, John and I have been very gracious to one another in our discussions.  I did not use discernment and understanding, and for that I am truly sorry.

What I Tried To Say…

To summarize, my intention was to point out a very subtle but very strong distinction in Christian theology.  Many Christians, including myself, have confused several concepts regarding the Law and the Gospel message, as distinction that is nearly 500 years old, as old as the Protestant church.  I think that it is a good characterization of those who are associated with the Outlaw Preachers to say that they separate the concepts of love and Law, commenting that it is the way of Christ and that it is a rejection of legalism.  No doubt legalism needs to be expunged from our churches, but it does not change the fact love and the Law are the same thing.  Jesus made this clear in the passage that I referenced above (Matthew 22:34-40) where he tells the people who to love God and our neighbors summarizes the Law and the prophets.

Where I was apparently unclear in the Twitter conversation is that I was not attempting to accuse John of leaving out the Gospel, instead my attempt was to make the point that without the context of the Law, the Gospel loses its power.  The Gospel teaches that grace is a gift from God, and that we cannot deserve it.  It is the Law that brings to light our need for God’s grace, and that need does not die once grace is given. 

In regard to love, I do not think that it is a stretch to say that it is impossible for us as humans to love perfectly.  Speaking for myself, there are always better ways to love, even when it comes to my wife and my dearest friends.  What Jesus did when he summarized the Law with love is make it impossible.  I do not need to be told what I need to do, because no matter what I do I can never be perfect.  The book of James makes it clear that failure to follow the Law perfectly makes us guilty of the entire Law before a perfect God.  The Gospel is that even as Christians none of us is righteous (Romans 3), but it is Christ’s righteousness that covers our nakedness before God.

As Christians we seek to continue to follow the Law, because it is the Law that tells us what God expects.  However, we knowingly do not follow it to perfection, after all that it is impossible and futile, especially in the light of God’s grace through Jesus.  Rather we follow the Law as a joyful expression of the regenerative work that Christ has done and is doing in us.

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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

2 responses to “Theological Debate in the Twittersphere

  • Saskia

    That’s why twitter isn’t useful for everything. Trying to explain viewpoints in 140 characters or less isn’t reasonable at all. Would you debate theology per text message? Probably not.

  • Aaron

    If I have said that, then I have misspoken. I have had a great time and had great conversations via Twitter. It is as much an issue with being clear on Twitter as it is on IM, facebook, email, on the phone, or face-to-face. They all have their foibles. It is important to understand the constraints of whatever form of communication you are using and use it to its best advantage.

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