With the events of the recent weeks, you are likely finding yourself having conversations with non believers (some awkward, but mostly good) about what you believe about the current cultural milieu. This is a good thing, we believers should welcome robust debate as we argue for the truth of the Gospel.
“Debating and arguing are not a good thing, and never leads a person to truth or Christ”
Admit it, some of thought that very same thing when you read what I said. You read the words debate and argue as something that is against the Gospel or faith. I want to dismiss that in your head as nonsense. What do you think you do when you have a two sided discussion with anyone on a topic you don’t agree on? You are debating and arguing. They are good things. This is what lawyers do in a courtroom: they debate the evidence by presenting an argument. See? It is a very good thing. However, there is a very sad and dangerous anti intellectualism that has crept into the church. People have adopted the “you cannot reason people into faith, that is God’s job. You just let God deal with their heart”. Question: what do you think that Paul did on every Sabbath during his ministry? He went to the synagogues to reason (debate and argue) with the Jews. Likewise he went to the place of the secular minds to debate and reason as well. This is why God told Isaiah “come let us reason together” (1:18). Jesus likewise got into these kinds of discussion during His ministry. If you really think that this is a bad thing, you have conceded that humanity can no longer think. If that is your worldview, you might as well end it now, there is absolutely no hope for anyone. By the way, what do you suppose evangelism is? It is, at the core, telling someone that what they believe is wrong, and that you know the truth. Debate and argument.
Now that we have that cleared up, I want to share with you some things you need to know in order to debate and argue successfully and fruitfully,
1- A good argument can do 2 things. First, show why the opposing view is unsatisfactory, and does not hold the test of truth. Second, show why your own view is satisfactory, and withstands the test of truth. BTW, if you find that your own view fails, you need to re examine it and start over.
2- The person making the truth claim has the burden of proof. This is one of the more tragic mistakes I see people making. Someone makes a claim against Christians, then puts the Christian on defense by making them show why the claim they made isn’t true. If someone makes a claim against your beliefs, have them show why it is true. They have the burden of proof. Likewise, if you make the truth claim, back it up
3- Stick to the topic at hand. Again, another tragic mistake Christians find themselves wrapped up in. It is common, you make a claim, the other person responds with something unrelated. And by the time you respond to the unrelated claim, a third claim appears. You are doing nothing but chasing rabbits. When I debate with someone I hold them to the topic. If there is something else they want to discuss, I’ll put that on hold and get to it when we finish up. Stick to the topic!
4- Answering a question with another question is a really cool tactic if your name is Buddha or Jesus (of Nazareth). But it stinks when trying to get to truth. Answer a question with the answer. or else its round and round and round
Answering a question with another question is a really cool tactic if your name is Buddha or Jesus (of Nazareth)
5- Ad Hominem, Ad Hominem, Ad Homimen! This is a term used when a person attacks you instead of your argument. It goes something like this, “You superstitious Christians are such hypocrites!”. Ok, so now we know how you feel, let’s get back to the subject. Don’t call names, it’s not becoming and it is intellectually lazy. Usually a person resorts to name calling when they cannot defeat a truth claim. This is meant to put you in defense, don’t fall for it, nor use it.
6- Be polite. There is nothing wrong with being nice. But don’t mistake being nice for being less than truthful. Recently I was having a pretty good discussion with someone who up and made the claim that religious people have hindered progress every step of the way. I know factually that is incorrect, patently. I was nice, but did not let him off the hook. I was nice, but not easy. You can do it too.
7- Don’t accept people’s claims as obvious, unless it really is obvious (the sky is blue, the moon is roundish, you get the picture). But when people make big claims, ask them how they know. This is especially true of skeptics who claim they have really studied the Bible. You’ll find out by asking some pretty basic questions that anyone who really HAS studied the Bible should know that they probably won’t. They are most likely parroting something a well known skeptic has said, or they have been to www.billybobthescholarskeptic.com (no, that is not actually a website, just made it up).
8- If you cannot answer something, then don’t. And admit you cannot. “I don’t know” is not the worst thing you can say. It does demonstrate that you are an honest and genuine person.
9- If you realize that after some discussion that things really aren’t going anywhere, disengage. Perhaps they simply aren’t listening and thinking (no, I don’t agree with the premise that “ God isn’t dealing with them at that time”. There is no time God isn’t dealing with any person, much less a lost one).
Be joyful in obedience. Jude wrote that we are to contend for the faith (debate and argue). The world needs it, worse than you might believe.
Contending with you,