Theology, Labels, and Making Assumptions

You encounter a person and there is a label attached to them. It may be progressive or evangelical or charismatic or reformed. Does that label tell you everything you need to know about their beliefs?

Labels are useful but limited in explanatory power.

The truth is that most of the labels used by Christians today are fairly large umbrellas under which there is a fair bit of diversity.

For example, you might meet a progressive Christian. That person may have a completely orthodox theology, affirming the Apostle’s and Nicene Creed or they may reject the death of Christ and some other historic beliefs.

You may meet an evangelical. That person may be very conservative, rejecting women as pastors, may be a young earth creationist, and hold to a strict doctrine of inerrancy. Or they might actually be a female pastor who believes in evolution and may have a more nuanced understanding of the authority of Scripture.

I won’t go so far as to say that labels tell us nothing about a person but they do not tell us everything.

The best practice is to ask questions and to actually listen to the answers. And when I say listen, I do not mean for the purpose of refuting them. Listen to actually learn what they believe.

But what if what they say doesn’t fit with what the book you read or that podcast you listened to or that video you watched said that “people like that” believe? Take what the person you are talking to says as the final word on what they believe.

I have notice that people on the right and the left are equally guilty of making assumptions based on labels. “All progressives are like this.” “All evangelicals are like that.” Usually the assumptions are negative.

Use the labels as a starting point for conversation, not as an end point. We all might discover that we don’t know near as much as what we thought.

The post Theology, Labels, and Making Assumptions appeared first on Stephen J. Bedard.


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