Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Terminology Tuesday: Irenics

Irenics: The practice of debating and discussing Christian doctrines with other Christians who are theologically orthodox but with whom there are matters of genuine theological disagreement. It involves the friendly but rigorous task of doing theological reflection together within the community of faith. Irenics stands in contrast to polemics, which is the practice of debating, discussing and refuting the positions of those who stand outside the accepted orthodox boundaries of Christian theology yet who insist on calling themselves Christian.1

1. Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 68.

4 comments :

pds said...

Thanks, its always good to understand terminology.

Scott Hayden said...

People within the same church sometimes fear irenics. For example, when I broached an upcoming tense topic, a colleague suggested that we should pray and fast about it, but hinted that it would be a waste of time to debate Biblical interpretations. Could you suggest a process for irencis within a church body or governing body?

Anonymous said...

> "Irenics stands in contrast to polemics, which is the practice of debating, discussing and refuting the positions of those who stand outside the accepted orthodox boundaries of Christian theology yet who insist on calling themselves Christian."

I don't know about this definition of polemics. Remember the Jay Smith interview. He said something that I found very helpful. He said,

"No, and I think this gets back to the question of apologetics and polemics. Polemics is going on the offense and that’s when you confront the traditions, you confront the Koran, you confront the prophet’s example. There are very few of us that should ever get into that battle. That is not for the people out there, and I hope the listeners are really listening to me on this."

He also said:

"Please do not use polemics unless you’re trained to! Unless you have had the training, you’ve had the background, ‘coz once you start using polemics, you’re gonna do two things. ..."

I think Smith is spot-on with pointing out that polemics is not just about dialogue with people who call themselves Christians. Additionally, you really need to know your stuff big time when you do polemics. Historically missionaries in many quarters have made a mess of things by using polemics as their starting point. A better starting point:

"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." ~ John 12:32

Start with what you know best and ought to know best.

~ Raj

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this wonderful information!

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