Today someone close to me emailed screen shots of a theological conversation from Facebook. It was an example of terrible theology. I don’t say it was terrible theology because I disagreed with it. It was poor logic. Religious cliches rather than biblical references or theological assertions. And it was barren of conversational skill.
When I think about theological work, or congregational life, or even the challenges facing our society, conversation skills emerge as a priority. I’m not trying to take cheap shots at another exercise in theological futility on Facebook. I’m saying we need to have these very sorts of conversations, and the quality of our lives and our thinking requires that we take conversation seriously enough to get better at it.
What fosters conversation? What shuts conversation down? How can we nourish and deepen the specific conversations and the overarching conversation of our community, whether that is the gospel community or the geographic community?
I’m not suggesting that our theology should be determined by conversation. But I do wonder if we can not converse well with others, what that lack of conversational skills, with those who share so many of our same cultural assumptions, says about our ability to converse with ancient biblical texts so far removed from our time and place to say nothing of conversing with God who is so intensely Other (or holy) than us. If I can not exercise the most basic interpretive and interpersonal skills with someone who lives a few doors down from me, what is the chance I can read Ancient Near Eastern literature well or dialogue in meditation and prayer with the Almighty?
Conversation might be one of those basic paradigms that applies across the communities that we are part of and the roles we play in those communities. And better conversation skills might benefit all of us. Even those of us arguing theology on Facebook.