3 THINGS TO REMEMBER BEFORE YOU CRITICIZE SOMEONE’S THEOLOGY
作者: Justin Taylor 翻译: Maria Marta
批评------切中要害-----是送给受批评者的礼物。（「爱你的人加的创伤是出于忠诚。」 箴廿七6a新译本） 我们应该乐于接受纠正和澄清我们思想某些误区的机会。我们对着镜子观看，模煳不清，我们所知道的只是一部分（林前十三12），但上帝把教师这个恩赐赐给教会, 教师通常比我们更清晰地看问题。在上帝的护理和普遍恩典中，祂也使用非信徒来批评我们的观点，以显露我们的逻辑错误或模凌两可之处。
详尽地解释一个全面的批评方法论------如果有这样的事情, 即使可以做得到, 也不可能在博客的文章中办到。但关于批评, 至少有三个值得记住的忠告：（1）在你批评之前, 先要了解明白；（2）在你如何批评中进行自我批评；（3）考虑你所批评的观点的替代方案。
1. 在你批评之前, 先要了解明白
艾德勒(Mortimer Adler) 在《如何阅读一本书》(How to Read a Book) 中阐述了重要的观点。
每一位作者都遭遇过受书评家批评的痛苦, 批评者并不觉得有必要首先要做前两个阶段的工作。（译按: 作者把阅读分为基础阅读、检视阅读、分析阅读和主题阅读四个层次。其中的分析阅读又分了解范围、理解内容、批判思考三个阶段。）很多时候, 批评者认为自己不必是一个读者，而是一个法官。每一位讲师也曾有过这样的体验, 被问及的具争议性的问题, 不是在明白他所说的话的基础上提出的。你可能记得有人对演讲者说话的情景, 不加思索, 一口气就把这些话说完，「我不明白你的意思，但我认为你错了。」
回应这类批评是没有任何实际意义的。唯一礼貌的做法是, 要求他们为你陈述你的立场，即他们所声称的, 具有挑战性的立场。如果他们不能做到令人满意，如果他们不能重述你所说的话，那麽你知道他们并不明白你的观点，你完全有理由忽略他们的批评。这些批评跟你风马牛不相及，因为所有的批评都必须在明白的基础上作出的。当你难得发现有一个人，他表示他了解明白你所说的话, 和你所做的事，那麽你可以为他的赞同而高兴, 或因他的反驳而焦虑不安。（第141-144）
这里, 对艾德勒的观点, 我认为我们必须至少增加一项警告。他假定受批评者所怀有的良好意图。在过去的十年中，我注意到有新解释或新立场的神学家, 不断抗议自己被误解。在某些时候，我们可能会判断神学家抗议得太多。但是, 如果连最谨慎周密和深思熟虑的批评也不了解明白受批评者的观点，那麽或许受批评者的观点本身是前后矛盾的。要明白和批评这些人的神学想法, 像试图「把果冻钉上牆」一样无法做到 , 这早已是老生常谈了，但这个比喻贴切, 也是原因所在。
然而，对于艾德勒的观点, 我们需要倾听的范围和注意的程度取决于我们。从圣经的角度来看，有道德的命令与阅读和批评行为紧紧地连在一起。耶稣告诉我, 愿意人怎样待我, 我就应当怎样待人，并且祂告诉我爱我的邻舍如同爱我自己-------和这包括我如何相互交流和批评。
摘录约翰傅瑞姆（John Frame）《如何写神学论文》（How to Write a Theological Paper）的一段话作为第二点:
当情况容许时, 要毫不犹豫地说：「可能」, 或甚至说「我不知道」。自我批评也会使你变得更加「有深度」。因为时常------或许向来-------受到反对才迫使我们重新思考我们的立场，超越自己的肤浅想法，全力应付真正深层的神学问题。
正如你预期到的,受到反对,你答复, 再受到反对,再回复，如此类推，你会发现自己不由自主地被推进「困难问题」的领域, 神学的深邃境界。
艾利克森（Millard J. Erickson）在他的《基督教神学》（Christian Theology）早期版本（第二版61页）补充强调一点：
在批评的过程中，在指定的观点中发现谬误是不足够的。每个人必须经常问：「什么是替代方案？」而且,「这个替代方案会遇到更少的困难？」约翰贝利（John Baillie）在一篇论文中讲述他严厉批评特殊的见解（a particular view）。他的教授评论：「每一种理论都有它的困难，但是你还没有考虑是否有其他的理论要比你所批评理论更少些困难。」
3 THINGS TO REMEMBER BEFORE YOU CRITICIZE SOMEONE’S THEOLOGY
Critique—done well—is a gift to the one being criticized. (“Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” Prov. 27:6a). We should welcome the opportunity to have our thinking corrected and clarified. We see see in a mirror dimly and we know only in part (1 Cor. 13:12), but God has gifted the church with teachers who often see things more clearly than we do at present. In God’s providence and through the gift of common grace he may also use unbelievers to critique our views, showing our logical mistakes or lack of clarity.
Critique done poorly—whether through overstatement, misunderstanding, caricature—is a losing proposition for all. It undermines the credibility of the critic and deprives the one being criticized from the opportunity to improve his or her position.
It’s impossible in a blog post to set forth a comprehensive methodology of critique—if such a thing can even be done. But there are at least three exhortations worth remembering about criticism: (1) understand before you critique; (2) be self-critical in how you critique; (3) consider the alternatives of what you are critiquing.
1. UNDERSTAND BEFORE YOU CRITIQUE
Mortimer Adler makes the important point in How to Read a Book:
Every author has had the experience of suffering book reviews by critic who did not feel obligated to do the work of the first two stages first. The critic too often thinks he does not have to be a reader as well as a judge. Every lecturer has also had the experience of having critical questions asked that were not based on any understanding of what he had said. You yourself may remember an occasion where someone said to a speaker, in one breath or at most two, “I don’t know what you mean, but I think you’re wrong.”
There is actually no point in answering critics of this sort. The only polite thing to do is to ask them to state your position for you, the position they claim to be challenging. If they cannot do it satisfactorily, if they cannot repeat what you have said in their own words, you know that they do not understand, and you are entirely justified in ignoring their criticisms. They are irrelevant, as all criticism must be that is not based on understanding. When you find the rare person who shows that he understands what you are saying as well as you do, then you can delight in his agreement or be seriously disturbed by his dissent. (pp. 144-145)
I do think we have to add at least one caveat to Adler’s perspective here. He is assuming goodwill upon the part of the one being criticized. In the last decade or so I’ve noticed theologians with novel interpretations or positions who perpetually protest that they are being misunderstood. At some point, we might judge that the theologian doth protest too much. If not even the most careful and considerate critiques can understand one’s point, it may be that there is some incoherence to the point itself. The idea that understanding and critiquing the theology of some folks is “like trying to nail jello to a wall” has now become a cliche—but the metaphor is apt and exists for a reason.
Nevertheless, Alder’s perspective is one we need to hear and to heed in so far as it depends on us. Viewed from a biblical perspective, there are moral imperatives bound up with the act of reading and critiquing. Jesus tells me to do unto others as I would have done unto me, and he tells me to love my neighbor as I love myself—and this includes how I interact and critique.
2. BE SELF-CRITICAL
John Frame, in a piece on “How to Write a Theological Paper,” makes the second point:
Before and during your writing, anticipate objections. If you are criticizing Barth, imagine Barth looking over your shoulder, reading your manuscript, giving his reactions. This point is crucial. A truly self-critical attitude can save you from unclarity and unsound arguments. It will also keep you from arrogance and unwarranted dogmatism—faults common to all theology (liberal as well as conservative).
Don’t hesitate to say “probably” or even “I don’t know” when the circumstances warrant. Self-criticism will also make you more “profound.” For often—perhaps usually—it is objections that force us to rethink our positions, to get beyond our superficial ideas, to wrestle with the really deep theological issues.
As you anticipate objections to your replies to objections to your replies, and so forth, you will find yourself being pushed irresistibly into the realm of the “difficult questions,” the theological profundities.
In self-criticism the creative use of the theological imagination is tremendously important. Keep asking such questions as these.
(a) Can I take my source’s idea in a more favorable sense? A less favorable one?
(b) Does my idea provide the only escape from the difficulty, or are there others?
(c) In trying to escape from one bad extreme, am I in danger of falling into a different evil on the other side?
(d) Can I think of some counter-examples to my generalizations?
(e) Must I clarify my concepts, lest they be misunderstood?
(f) Will my conclusion be controversial and thus require more argument than I had planned?
3. OFFER YOUR ALTERNATIVE
Millard Erickson, in an earlier edition of his Christian Theology (p. 61 in the 2nd edition) emphasizes an additional point:
In criticism it is not sufficient to find flaws in a given view. One must always ask, “What is the alternative?” and, “Does the alternative have fewer difficulties?” John Baillie tells of writing a paper in which he severely criticized a particular view. His professor commented, “Every theory has its difficulties, but you have not considered whether any other theory has less difficulties than the one you have criticized.”
Good criticism is hard work, and it’s necessary work until Christ returns. The above three points won’t prevent us from making every mistake, but they will help us be better critics and therefore better servants of God and truth.