Rules of Engagement for Giving Our Opinions


Brothers and Sisters,

There are times when we are asked for our opinions on certain doctrinal topics or some current event. I wonder if we treat both of these categories in the same way in our responses?

By that I mean, do we answer a question about something objective in the Bible with the same confidence as we would give our opinion on some hot topic related to something that is happening in our community, country, or world?

While I think we have been given sound wisdom in how to answer the first category, I think there is still much wisdom often missing in our response to the second. We may be tempted to give thoughts on “disputable matters” as strongly as we would on Scriptural truths, and doing so might be very unhelpful. Certainly there are ample examples of people who have had strong thoughts on a variety of matters and then lost fellowship with other believers and disgraced themselves as they expressed their opinions. This should not be.

In a recent article, Andy Farmer writes about a lecture he gave on a Christian response to Critical Theory. A college student engaged him afterwards with some very specific and insightful questions, because to her this subject had some very real implications. Farmer was reminded that his responses were impactful, and he needed to know where Scripture was specific and where it was more general - where his opinions might be based on Scripture but not specificallydirected by Scripture.

Andy Farmer writes, “Talk to any of my friends and you’ll know I don’t mind sharing my opinions about almost anything, but as a pastor I don’t want to be known by my opinions.” I think there is good wisdom in that - having well researched and thoughtful opinions but not known by our opinions. Sometimes wisdom is to keep silent and sometimes it is to speak little, while other times it means speaking strongly for the glory of God and the good of His church.

Here are Farmer’s “rules of engagement” when asked to respond to an event or a topic. Click on this link to see them expanded and explained:

1. Is This an Issue of Conscience?

2. What Is My Position?

3. What Is My Perspective?

4. What Is My Opinion?

He finishes with this:

We all have opinions. I have opinions on everything…. I’m happy to debate opinions as long as they stay opinions. Maybe the way you express your opinion will cause me to question mine. Maybe my opinion will make you more confident in your own. What I want to do, particularly in this contentious age, is to take my opinion lightly—to put it into play humbly and to engage over it graciously.

Proverbs 15:23 says, “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” This is a way I try to make apt answers in challenging seasons.

I hope that is helpful as we seek to respond wisely to the world in which we live.