The Pragmatic Spiritual Conversational Style

Unlike the Charismatic Spiritual Conversational Style (SCS) and the Quoter SCS, the Pragmatic SCS is chiefly interested in what works. Those who use this style of conversation have a nuts-and-bolts approach to life. Appeals to personal revelation do not impress them. Neither do quotes from the Bible. They want to see what is working and what has proven to be successful in the lives of the people with whom they converse. This, they believe, is where truth lies.

Those who hold to the Pragmatic SCS believe that there are no easy answers to the countless theological questions that have raged in the church for the last seventeen centuries. Rather than quibbling about “correct doctrine,” the Pragmatic SCS focuses his or her sights on what is working in the real world. With this in mind, the Pragmatic SCS is concerned less with academic differences and centers more on actual practice. Pragmatics are willing to “agree to disagree” over theological matters.

Of course, this approach does not sit well with those who are less charitable and more militant in spirit, insisting upon resolving their differences “for the sake of the truth.” While this sounds noble, it more often than not actually tends toward division and harsh feelings. Nevertheless, the Pragmatic SCS is always pressing the question “How has this truth worked in your life, in your church, etc.?”

Those who do not use the Pragmatic SCS feel uncomfortable with this approach. They believe that such a rearrangement of the conversational furniture betrays the authority of Scripture. Since the Pragmatic style is more concerned with outward effects, it pays less attention to doctrinal precision. Hence, when a Quoter cites a text from Matthew, the Pragmatic isn’t satisfied. He or she wants to know “How does this work out in real life?” Their conviction is that evaluating the practical outworking of a given belief is much richer than merely quoting a biblical text and less likely to short out the conversation.

Those who use different stylistic conventions argue that the Pragmatic approach rests upon shaky ground as a basis for one’s beliefs. They feel that just because a belief may appear to have practical utility, that doesn’t mean it’s valid or divinely approved. Thus when Quoters and Pragmatics have conversations, both seek to cajole each other into rearranging the boundaries of the conversation so that the other person is conversing according to their playbook. This is largely true with the Charismatic as well, for if God hasn’t spoken something directly to his or her conversational partner, the Charismatic is apt to reject it, regardless of its practical utility or biblical merit.

It must be stressed at this point that not all who hold to the Pragmatic SCS work with the same premise. For some Pragmatics, the notion of success is a self-evident idea that’s measured by outward metrics like numbers, size, budget, attendance, conversions, etc. For others, the concept of success lies in following Christ and being conformed to His image. However, because of the strong appeal to success and workability, these two versions of the Pragmatic SCS are often indistinguishable by other SCSs.

From Revise Us Again by Frank Viola, author

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