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.
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?