How did this get started? Well, ColorStorm wrote a post that indicates he is a bit hurt, Why mock that which we do not understand? seems to have written his post in response to Electronic sin and The Day The Earth Stood Still by Running the Race. Since I would prefer to leave this tempest in a teapot, I am not going to take sides. Nevertheless, I thought it might be a good idea to initiate a Christian debate on debate, that is, what is the point of debate?

Where to start? What looks like some good, Christian ground-rules for debate? Lately I have been listening to R. C. Sproul and this subject came up, Why Apologetics?. So I borrowed some material.

Where does the Bible say we need to be decent apologists for Christianity? Here is the Bible passage most cited to give a reason for apologetics.

1 Peter 3:14-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

Note the object for giving a defense. Did Peter say our defense would persuade anyone? No. Peter wanted the integrity of our defense to shame the accusers of Christians.

Here is what Reformation theologian, John Calvin, observed.

Still, however, it is preposterous to attempt, by discussion, to rear up a full faith in Scripture. True, were I called to contend with the craftiest despisers of God, I trust, though I am not possessed of the highest ability or eloquence, I should not find it difficult to stop their obstreperous mouths; I could, without much ado, put down the boastings which they mutter in corners, were anything to be gained by refuting their cavils. But although we may maintain the sacred Word of God against gainsayers, it does not follow that we shall forthwith implant the certainty which faith requires in their hearts. Profane men think that religion rests only on opinion, and, therefore, that they may not believe foolishly, or on slight grounds, desire and insist to have it proved by reason that Moses and the prophets were divinely inspired. But I answer, that the testimony of the Spirit is superior to reason. For as God alone can properly bear witness to his own words, so these words will not obtain full credit in the hearts of men, until they are sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit. (from here)

What Peter wrote and Calvin explained is that apologetics is useful for stopping the mouths of the obstreperous. Observe that Calvin is talking about the beliefs of Christians about holy scripture. He is not talking about debating other subjects. Nevertheless, we can just as stubborn about our beliefs with respect to other subjects. Therefore, in response to a heckler, I left this comment.

March 10, 2019 at 12:28 pm

The irony of you lecturing ColorStorm on this subject…….

When we don’t want to be convinced, we cannot be convinced.

Proof” doesn’t always convince, does it? A patient thought he was dead. His psychiatrist stood him before a mirror and had him repeat many times, “Dead men don’t bleed.” Then the doctor stuck a pin in the patient’s finger and made it bleed a little. “See?” the doctor said triumphantly. The patient exclaimed, “Yes, I see — dead men bleed after all!” (www.smithvillechurch.org/html/upbraided_for_unbelief.html)

There are more elaborate versions of the joke. In some the fellow who ridiculously believes he is dead is even taken to a morgue and shown a dead body that doesn’t bleed, but no proof (or evidence) is sufficient for him.

That’s apparently why God only requires Christians to instruct their children and spread the Gospel. We can provide evidence for the Gospel, but we cannot prove something to another person’s satisfaction, not when they refuse to believe.

So what about ColorStorm’s refusal to believe that the earth is a sphere orbiting the sun? Since that matter has no eternal significance, it doesn’t merit much concern. The fate of your soul, however, merits great concern. Still, whether you can be convinced is ultimately between you and God. Therefore, there is a point when debate serves no purpose.

So at what point should debate stop — should our obstreperous mouths be stopped? What keeps us from stopping when we should stop? Pride is the source of the vast majority of our sins. I must admit I enjoy hearing myself talk (and seeing what I write), and I am greatly disappointed IN OTHERS when they don’t agree with ME. Prideful fools will continue to march even after angels have beat a hasty retreat. That is, it takes a great deal of effort to rein myself in, and I wish I had been more successful. I have learned that I usually have less reason to regret my silence than my words.

Only the bitter fruit of long experience has taught me that others don’t see my brilliance as I want them to see it. I may think others need to hear or read my words, but others often don’t. Therefore, before I speak or write I have spent most of my life learning the hard way I need to think more first. Now I am learning to pray more. Will God approve? Even if God approves, does my audience actually need to hear my words or read what I have to say? Or does my pride just insist I say what I want to say? Hard to tell sometimes. When our pride demands a voice, who is completely objective?

84 thoughts on “WHY DEBATE?

  1. I’ve been reading a book lately on the history of the evangelical movement. The central struggle in that history is similar to the argument here. At one extreme of the struggle are atheist rationalists who idolize science as the only truth and at the other are fundamentalists who similarly idolize the literalism in scripture as the only truth. Stuck in the middle and at various positions on a continuum somewhere between the specious claims to inerrancy of two extremes are the rest of us. As Christians we spiritually share more in common with the fundamentalist than the atheist so brotherly love tells us not to reject them from the most profound communion of truth in the Body of Christ. On the other hand, many here apparently feel that that science denying ignorance also hurts the Christian apologist’s cause of spreading that good news to a public that is increasingly lured to materialism and turned off by the basic hypocracy toward truth that science denying appears to exemplify.

    From this debate, it appears that this struggle is far from resolved. But is that struggle really important?

    Correct me if I’m wrong Tom, but you don’t seem to think it is. However, if Christian literalist fundamentalism is turning much of the Western World away from the more profound truths in scripture, isn’t that a problem? Look at the frustration of your fellow Christians with CS here. Is it really a tempest in a teapot if your fellow evangelicals here seriously think that CS’s blind stubbornness is actually hurting the cause of unifying and growing the Body of Christ?

    Just asking, not arguing either way because I myself am not certain of the answer to the dilemma.

    1. @tsalmon

      I think some people forget that God made each person to be a unique individual. The us versus them thing does not much matter.

      One problem with putting politicians in charge of education is that politicians are prone to see things as us versus them. Divide and conquer. They are happy to educate us us to think that way.

      If we are allowed to shop for our ideas in the market place (without government favoritism), we may not pick the best idea (we won’t ever completely agree), but each of us will have a better opportunity to see all sides of the argument.

      Is there some kind of us versus them? Sort of. God will eventually divide the sheep from the goats. As a Christian, my job is to spread the Gospel. I don’t divide the sheep from the goats. I just have to figure out how to get around those people who would stifle the spread of the Gospel.

      ColorStorm may be confused about some scientific issues, but he seems to have accepted Jesus as his Savior. Most likely I will spend eternity with him. So I am suppose to begin eternity with a brother by ostracizing him? I don’t think so.

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