This has the appearance of an inviting question. One where whoever is asking is interested in what the other person’s position in a debate. I’ve been asked that question on a variety of occasions.

On same-sex marriage.

On predestination.

On transubstantiation.

On pre- or post-lactarianism.


Asking it, though, is making a double statement. On the one side, when I ask it, I admit that other views than my own are held. There’s little surprise, then, that people tend to enquire about my views on divisive issues.

But on the other side, when I hear someone answer that question, one of two things happen. Either they seem to fall on “my” side of the debate and I think “great” and get excited that someone agrees with me. Or they hold a different view, and then I directly consider that other view as something which is essentially alien. I box it in as “the opinion of someone else”, which does not affect me at all. I end up only using it to label the other person as a defender of “the other side” and, once I’ve done that, I can use that label as an excuse to dismiss anything they might have to say.

It’s a natural tendency we have always had. We try to form bonds and to associate with those who agree with us. We tend to listen to those who agree with us, and to build walls against those who disagree with us. But if we keep on doing that – and in a connected world, it is much easier to do so – we will never truly communicate.

Of course, there are sometimes legitimate reasons for you to ask about my views; or for me to ask about your views. But in those cases, the phrasing is awkward at best, and at its worst, it encourages the subconscious use of labels and the dismissal of their answer – from the moment onwards when I’ve found a label to attach them to.

So if I want to make you a cup of tea just the way you like it, I might ask “How do you take your tea?”, rather than “What are your views on pre- or post-lactarianism?” (1). If I have a hard time understanding how a loving God might predestine some people to hell; and how an almighty God leaves room for free will; I might just state those problems and ask “Can you help me to understand this?” rather than ask “What are your views on predestination?” In short, involve yourself in the conversation.

And if you’re on the receiving end of a “what are your views” question, be careful not to box yourself in. Do not start the answer as “I’m a Calvinist” or “I’m an Arminian” (I sometimes do, but that’s as a last recourse), and avoid being put in a box. Resist answering the question and ask why they are asking the question. Involve them (and their views). A deep, meaningful conversation is quite likely to follow.

If we are called to unity (in diversity!) let’s not try to create dividing lines where they are unnecessary and unhelpful. Let us speak with one another, informing one another in love.

So in the coming week, why not try to make sure that when you’re asking someone for their views on an issue, you’re not just trying to box them in?

(1) By the way, unless the tea is brewed in the mug, only pre-lactarianism is correct. But we must show mercy to the unenlightened post-lactarians.