Our world is full of arguments. We don’t seem to handle disagreement very well any more. I’m not sure any generation ever really has. But a lot of folks today seem to think that people with the most serious of disagreements somehow can “agree to disagree.”
In response to that old saw, Beth Newman, professor of theology and ethics at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, has an excellent word:
“The draw of this statement is that we do not want others to force their beliefs on us. And yet, in practice, “to agree to disagree” typically means that we’re going to table questions of truth, or relegate them to the private, non-public sphere.
“A philosopher colleague of mine tells his students at the beginning of each semester: “We’re not going to agree to disagree. We’re just going to disagree.” He means by this that we’re going to keep the public conversation going because a truth is at stake. …
“Disagreement can be a form of care. Conflict can be consistent with charity. The kind of love Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape, love of the other that goes beyond expectation of return. Agape includes love of enemy; it rests on the assumption that we will have adversaries. It cannot therefore mean that such love is ultimately for the purpose of simply “getting along.”
“You can’t have love without truth. The kind of love that Paul refers to is grounded in and made possible by a particular way of life. Such a way is centered on the faithful worship of God in Christ through the Spirit. Love and truth are not our possessions to be coercively defended but gifts to be received and graciously shared.”
The rest of Beth’s essay is posted over at CounterCulture.