"We Exchanged Trenchant But Civil Remarks"

Carl Trueman is nearly fifty. He'd have to be old like that, because he recently had a public and passionate disagreement with another gray-hair at an academic conference and both were civil to each other the entire time. What is more, no one made him pay a social price for taking an unpopular stand. This is not the sort of thing people born after 1980 are capable of.

It was almost as if...as if...

I can hardly say it...

People who disagree with each other can be honestly civil with each other.
I spent the first half of last week at a seminar at an Ivy League divinity school, where a friend and I gave a presentation on ministry and media. I had resolved before speaking that I would refer early on in my presentation to the fact that I belong to a denomination which does not ordain women. My discussion of ministry would be incomplete if I didn't mention this subject, though I knew my comment would draw fire at a seminar with ordained women present.  
Sure enough, one of the women ministers present challenged me with some vigor on my position. For a few minutes we exchanged trenchant but civil remarks on the subject.We each spoke our minds, neither persuaded the other, and then we moved on to the larger matter in hand: The use of modern media in the church. The matter of my opposition to women’s ordination never came up again in the remaining two days of the seminar.  
Later that evening, a young research student commented to me that it was amazing to see such a trenchant but respectful disagreement on an issue that typically arouses visceral passions. He added that he and those of his generation had “no idea” (his phrase, if I recall) how such things should be done. Later in the week, my youngest son confirmed that he too had never seen civil disagreement on a matter of importance in the university classroom.
You can read the rest of this fantasy from Trueman here.

You can read about the refusal, used as weapon, to understand or treat with dignity one's opponents here.


  1. As someone born in 1983, on the cusp of Gen X and Millennials, I find myself fitting in both and neither category on several subjects. In this case, I find myself saying, "Ugh, those stupid Millennials don't even know how to have a civil disagreement. I don't even get how they can be so obtuse."

    Jokes aside, I do find myself knowing that "trenchant but civil remarks" are ideal but struggling with finding the tools to use them. I have some friends in the church born in 1979 (thankfully- whew!) who are trying to bring back the whole "vigorous disagreement in the classroom followed by friendly conversation in the pub" idea. Nothing like going to church on Sunday morning with someone you know doesn't believe in a seven day creation to teach you how to love and respect a dissenter.

    I must add that the church in its various forms has not always been a friend to civil discourse. I have heard so many sermons belittling those who disagree on many political issues, throwing up straw men as they preach to the choir. We all get further entrenched in our own ideas (or those handed to us from the pulpit) while the dissenters, if they are even present, are silenced by the dogma. I call out the church because I love the church, and while (and perhaps because) I want to see nothing but the truth being preached, I want her to be cleansed of thought police too.


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