Socrates, Society, and the Church

3 01 2010

The December 19th issue of The Economist includes an intriguing article that undertakes to guess what Socrates would think about America today. Socrates was opposed to “eristic” debate – “wherever people are talking not to discover truth but to win.” I’ve often felt like much of America’ public dialogue is completely unhelpful for this reason, and the article pegs this with a quote from a 1968 article by Stringfellow Barr:

There is a pathos in television dialogue: the rapid exchange of monologues that fail to find the issue, like ships passing in the night. The reiterated preface, ‘I think that…,’ as if it mattered who held the opinion rather than which opinion is worth holding; the impressive personal vanity that prevents each ‘discussant’ from really listening to another speaker.

How often can theological debates among evangelicals, or even church decision-making processes, be characterized by “the rapid exchange of monologues that fail to find the issue?” How often are we more committed to appearing correct (saving face?) than we are to understanding what is true or best? Do we really listen to someone who disagrees with us?

Oh for the humility of Christ to esteem one another more important than ourselves; to be quick to hear and slow to speak; to love truth more than we love being right.



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