Monday, April 09, 2012
The Pendulum: The Great (Or Not So Great) Debate
For most of my life I've swung between being highly argumentative and doing anything to avoid a fight. I wish I could get some balance.
So, are debates helpful or a hindrance...particularly when it comes to faith issues?
Sometimes it is good to have faith-related debates. Whether it is between two Christians, or a Christian and a non-Christian, it is good to hear others' points of view and be stretched and challenged. To be frank, some Christians have been raised in a bubble and need to be exposed to others who don't share their faith. They need to know why they believe what they do and not just because it's what their parents or church taught them. Sometimes hearing different points of view can make you realise you were wrong all along, or it can strengthen you in your views. Both of these outcomes can be beneficial in the right context.
I think we should definitely ask questions. We should not be content knowing little, but there reaches a point where we need to realise that we cannot know what God knows. We are finite, limited beings. We cannot understand everything there is to know about God. He has revealed to us what we need to know, but then He asks us to trust Him. The Bible shows how trustworthy He has been throughout history, and so He is completely worthy of our trust. But some people don't want to trust. They are proud of themselves for questioning everything rather than actually seeking answers. They are like children answering every explanation with, "Why?".
There are times when debates are not helpful. I know of Christians who have been so rattled by meeting a very argumentative person of differing beliefs that their own faith has been badly shaken. Nobody should want to hold on to a faith that has no reason or merit, but sometimes all sorts of seeds of doubts can be sown in new believers and it can be devastating. The Bible tells Christians not to be yoked to false teachers. Therefore, walking away can be a wiser option.
One thing I'm slowly learning is that the motivation behind the argument is super important. Is the person actually interested in your point of view, or are they just picking a fight (i.e. they already know what your point of view is and just want to have a go at you about it)? I think that's one of the reasons I seek to stay out of a lot of debates these days. I'm just worn out by the thought of a debate that goes on and on, gets nasty, and achieves nothing. Some people get their energy by fighting...it's like caffeine to them. I just can't be bothered anymore. It's easier to just ask them at the beginning, "Are you really interested in my point of view, or are you just wanting an argument?" Often they will be quite taken aback by this upfront question and retreat, saving you a lot of hassle. I'm getting better at realising who the argumentative people on Facebook are and avoiding their 'baits'. I refuse to get sucked in and I don't think that Facebook is a very good place for debates anyway. I would rather speak to someone privately or in a small group - not with several hundred potential 'lurkers' looking on having a good old scoff at people getting stuck into it.
Some statements require a response. False teaching in the church needs to be confronted. But a lot of other subjects are just not worth debating. I need God's wisdom to know when to step in so I don't become too argumentative or too passive. I know I'm unlikely to change my mind about some things and so are they...so there's no point. All you can do is pray or agree to disagree...and move on.