against debate

I love debate, and I think it’s incredibly unhelpful in 99% of all cases. That’s the conclusion of this post. Take it or leave it.

Ask my parents, siblings, and close friends. I will debate just about anything. My natural inclination is to stand up for what I believe in and to never back down. I like to fight to the finish, prove my point, and craft perfect comebacks.

I’m not alone. The Christian community often makes a great show of speaking out against wrong. We spew out dogmatic statements and quickly take sides. All in the name of “giving an answer.” As though a non-believer or misled Christian is going to suddenly realize the error of their ways, thanks to our argument, and say, “Oh. Wait a minute. You’re right.”

I’ve observed the success rates of debate in my own experience and in that of others, and I say it’s getting us 99% of nowhere.

Why? Because the Bible says, “Give an answer with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15), not “Fight, tooth and nail, until your opponent cowers in silence.” It says, “Speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), not “Throw it in their face, and don’t let them get a word in edgewise.”

While I’m not suggesting that we back down from the truth, I am suggesting that we drop the debate and come alongside our friends and “enemies” to kindly lead them to the truth for which we all aspire to attain. Yes, I said, “Come alongside.” That means, walk with them down the path of their seemingly illogical and unbiblical thinking till someone hits a brick wall and you both come face to face with truth.

Will they listen when you cut them off to tell them the things they need to hear? No, but they will listen when you engage in friendly conversation where the goal is love.

Will they be open to the truth when it is loud and obnoxious? No, but they will when it’s kind and gracious.

Will they care about what you say when they aren’t given a chance to speak? No, but they will when you show interest in their point of view.

There is a time and a place for debate. That’s where the 1% comes in. As for the other 99%, I challenge myself to be quick to hear and slow to speak. To make a bold statement by lovingly leading people to the truth that they’ll only see for themselves when God opens their eyes.

And who knows? Maybe sometimes I’ll discover I’m the one who needs to listen because I’m the one who has strayed. That’s not embarrassing. That’s a win.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that, whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. Jam 5:19-20

[image credit: flickr.com, journeyoftheword.com]


9 thoughts on “against debate

  1. I enjoy debate, but my style of debate is more like what you described as being good rather than the belligerent kind. I guess you could say I enjoy deep discussion with multiple points of view (which I call friendly debate or discussion), but I don’t care much for rude arguments.

    I’m open to listen to just about any point of view. I don’t change easily, but I do listen and discuss. When I disagree, we can call it debate and start comparing evidence and all that, but I hope it stays friendly even in disagreements because as you said, getting belligerent doesn’t help much of anything.

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    1. Good thoughts, Robert. I really like the idea of following my “opponent’s” viewpoint in order to challenge it, rather than maintaining opposing sides. A friend suggested that approach to me. It doesn’t come naturally, but I have found it to be much more profitable. I don’t change easily, either. But that’s another area in which I am trying to be more teachable and realize that there’s just as much chance that I’m wrong on a particular issue as any other believer. Thanks again for sharing.

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      1. Well, “not easily changing” doesn’t mean I can’t change, but it means if I’m going to change, it takes a good deal of new evidence as I don’t believe what I believe for nothing! I personally think that’s a good way to be.

        And yes, I believe follow the other’s point of view is a great idea. I do it often and generally call it playing the devil’s advocate lol. It helps me not only understand where they are coming from so that I can more easily discuss things with them but if maintain my view even after looking deeply into theirs, then it helps me be more steadfast in the faith 🙂

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  2. YES! Every word of this is so true. Especially that last remark. It’s so easy to think, “I’ve got it all together, I know the truth, so whenever I disagree with someone, naturally I am in the right.” Obviously, being imperfect, we can’t claim anything near that; and it’s when we have that attitude that we become obnoxious. Sad
    And yes, there is a time and place for debate, and (very occasionally) speaking out even if it offends. I’ve often said offensive things. But only on one occasion was it because God was telling me to. Interesting thing – on that one occasion, good results swiftly followed. I’m just so stubborn and selfish that I rarely listen that hard for God’s leading.

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  3. Lydia, I love this post. I’m certainly very straightforward when it comes to the truth, but I pray that I do it lovingly.

    I always try to remember a question from I got from William Fay in his book, “Share Jesus Without Fear,” “if you were wrong, would you want to know?” It’s not always appropriate, but at times it can allow you to find out if a person is really seeking truth. If the answer is yes, you can lovingly share truth with them while listening to them thoughtfully, as well.

    As Paul told Timothy, “23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2).

    I plan to share your post. Thanks for a great reminder!

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