How To Disagree Agreeably

Here are Tim Keller, Michael Horton and Matt Chandler telling us how it’s done. One piece of advice is particularly helpful. They highlight the importance of limiting criticism to positions actually held by your opponent. Don’t confuse your opponent’s view with what you see to be the necessary entailments of his view. For example, you may think that consistent Arminianism leads to open theism, but it is uncharitable and unfair to describe all Arminians as open theists.

(HT: Justin Taylor)


  • Ron Dodson

    This is good stuff; the problem is that Mike and Tim (especially Mike) doesn’t follow his own instruction.

    Horton has been incredibly harsh and personal with all who don’t follow his Meredith Kline version of Reformed Dogmatics, with its strange fusion of Neo-Lutheran Law/Gospel Dichotomy, semi-gnostic amillennialism and framework hypothesis, and such. I love the ideas, but Mike has been an opportunist in these debates.

    I have personally supported Modern Ref and bought many of Mike and Tim’s books, but this missive elicits nothing but a snort from me. Go get “Putting Amazing Back into Grace”, but don’t act like the author.

  • Donald Johnson

    I found this useful.

    Here’s a few more I learned the hard way.

    1. Assume the best until proven otherwise.

    2. Do not think someone who does not believe in some teaching can explain that teaching as well as someone who believes it. In other words, try to get taught from the horse’s mouth. Let each teach in their own words.

  • Chris Taylor

    When you point out a ‘slippery slope’, at the very least, you are highlighting the ‘necessary entailments’ of your opponent’s view?

    Even if you don’t confuse the current state of your opponent’s view from the likely future state, it seems that your opponent will be offended and will not find your arguments very winsome.

  • Denny Burk


    It’s not unkind to point out what one feels is the logical entailment of an opposing view. What it unkind is attributing to an opponent what you think is the implication of of his view. I think the difference between those two things is all the difference in the world.

    If an Arminian says to me, “You’re a Calvinist, and you believe that God is the author of evil,” I’m likely to take offense. If that same Arminian says, “Calvinism makes God the author of evil. I know you don’t believe that God is the author of evil, but I do think that Calvinism logically leads there,” I’m not going to take offense.


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