The Theological Golden Rule

Charles Taliaferro, in his chapter about natural theology in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, wrote about “the philosophical golden rule”.

I think humility in the context of the theism versus naturalism debate should be understood more along the lines of what may be described as the philosophical golden rule of treating other people’s philosophies in the way you would like yours to be treated. I suggest that humility involves stepping back from one’s own position and trying to evaluate and sympathetically consider the range of beliefs and evidence that can be arrayed in support for another position.

When I read this I thought that the same should hold in the sphere of theology. As individuals seeking to believe and proclaim the truth, we should be humble enough to treat other people’s theologies like we want ours to be treated. That is, we should respond with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Respect requires that we do our best to listen and understand others. We should think hard about their theology and how it relates to the theology presented to us in the scriptures. Furthermore, when we perceive what seems to us to be error, we should attempt to correct with humility and gentleness. Take the “wrong” shoe off of the other person’s foot for a second and slip it on. What if you are the wrong one? How would you like to be treated? Surely, you would want someone to listen carefully to you, striving to understand you, and to humbly and gently offer correction.

Remember the theological golden rule as you move on with your life: treat other people’s theologies like you want yours to be treated.

2 thoughts on “The Theological Golden Rule

  1. Good words of advice, but in my experience, the respect I show for others is generally not reciprocated. Even if we consider the opposing party’s template totally bunk, we should love the person enough to grant h/er the latitude to fully express h/erself.

    However, time and again, after I’ve sat patiently listening to a party express this or that opinion, I’ve been cut off after just a few words because the other party could not abide substantive disagreement. I’ve read books on the agreement that the other party would read a book of my recommendation, only to have said party back away from the agreement.

    There is no insecurity is truth. As somebody once said, we need not fear error so long as the truth is free to combat it.


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