Dec 9, 2014

The Lack of Love in Our Arguments

As a person that is interested in defending the Christian faith, a part of what I am trying to grow in is sharing arguments for different aspects of what I believe, from the existence of God to why we can believe that Jesus really did rise from the grave.  Here is my problem: I am not much into arguing with anyone.  Honestly, I try my best to avoid confrontation.  Now, that is not to say that I will not speak my mind if I need to and I do not allow anyone to step over me, but I like to hear people's ideas and beliefs, then share my own in a calm conversation.  I have watched some debates between Christian theists and atheists and I have seen comments that may something similar to: "These debates will not change anyone's mind."  But I am not sure that I would agree completely because I believe that a major part of debating is to hear other sides looking at the same issue.  Who knows who will hear something that they might not have heard before and they go back to the "drawing board" and take time to rethink their position on some things.  You never know.  Plus, if public debates are ever shut down completely, then those in the Christian faith should worry all the more because that will close the door on any kind of open dialogue with the world (those who do not adhere to the Christian faith).

I must say that disparaging remarks made about another's worldview is never helpful when anyone's presenting their polemic against that worldview.  I look at some YouTube videos and think how sad it is that many of the "performers" have what appears to be a strong desire to belittle those who do not share their view on anything from religion to science.  It does happen with those who call themselves Christians, but many more times, I find that videos made by the "YouTube atheist" tend to be about showing very little care about being respectful in disagreement, but strives to be sarcastic and insensitive to the believer. Yes, I know that someone might see me as being a bit too sensitive, because of the whole "sticks and stones" philosophy, but I think sarcastic tones of speech or degrading and demeaning vocabulary does nothing for anyone to "win" an argument.  After hearing Dr. Richard Dawkins say that he believes atheists should ridicule and mock others for their beliefs at the Reason Rally held back in 2012, it makes sense to me why many atheists would feel the need to go this route.  But the Christian has no excuse to use this kind of a behavior as a means to get across a point of view, even if the nonreligious person is doing it to you.

Love should always be our motive to explain why we believe to others what we believe as servants of Jesus the Christ.  I think it will be essential to sharing our faith (evangelizing) to remember that we want to see this person accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.  We will need to accept that some people will not want to hear our points of view, or they might be so captivated by their own intelligence that they cannot hear anything you are saying to them about faith.  I believe, as Christians, we ought to learn ways in how to bow out of an argument gracefully, without appearing as if we have lost just because we could not give great premises in our argument and we lacked some key foundation in our logic.  God's existence is not based on how well we deliver intelligent ideas of reason or profound, rational and cohesive points of natural theology, God's existence is as unmovable as the gravity that keeps our feet firmly in the ground and He does not vanish (as some sort of hypothesis) when we can no longer bring other 'evidences' of Him to the table.  God is Love and His existence is steeped in love, along with judgement and His other attributes, and He desires that we share His Love with those around us in the presentation of ourselves.  Therefore, we are to present ourselves in a Christ-like manner, and let God do the rest.

One must ask himself/herself: is it possible to love the very person that I am in heated disagreement with?


Evan Minton said...

Pretty good article. I liked it and wholeheartedly agree with you. If we cannot present a rational defense for the Christian faith and be kind and respectful of the other person simultaneously, then we might as well not do it at all. For one thing, it disobeys the command of 1 Peter 3:15. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to not only present a defense, but also to do it “with gentleness and respect”. The next verse suggests that if we do it with “Gentleness and respect” then “so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” In other words, those who slander us throughout the entire debate might feel bad about the way they treated us if we respond to all of their invectives in a calm and kind manner. “Gee, I treated this Christian like scum and yet he was nice to me the whole time. I think I should apologize” or something like that. Now that’s not a reason why we should do it, but I think the apostle Peter is just mentioning one of the consequences of such “gentleness and respect”.

By the way, The Bible says this in another place as well. It says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:2. And later said “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” – Proverbs 25:15

2 Timothy 2:24-26 says “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the devil’s snare, having been taken captive by him to his will.”

So, over and over again, we’re commanded to be gracious, gentle, respectful, and non-quarrelsome to all who oppose us. It's good to remind our brothers and sisters in Christ of this fact. As William Lane Craig often says "We can give a defense without being defensive. We can give an argument without being argumentative."

I think you made a couple of typing errors though. You said “We will need to accept that some people will not want to hear our points of view or they might be so captivated by their own intelligence that they cannot hear anything you are saying to them faith.” – you said “them faith” when I think you meant “their faith”.

You also said “God's existence is as unmovable as the gravity that keeps our feet firmly in the ground and He does vanish (as some sort of hypothesis) when we can no longer bring other 'evidences' of Him to the table.” – You said “He does vanish” when I think you meant to type “He does NOT vanish”.

Don’t feel bad about that though. I make mistakes like this all the time….even though I often proof read my blog posts like 6 or 7 times. I always miss some spelling error, grammatical error, or typo which I have to go fix. :-)

Maria Bowie said...

Your article is timely, relevant and thought-provoking. It challenges us to rise up to the standards of God, which we are empowered to do by His Holy Spirit, rather than fall under the weakness of our flesh. I think that how we approach the issue of debating or defending our faith is based on whether we try to stand on the strength of our own intellect or allow God to enable us to speak the truth fearlessly as we should (Ephesians 6:19-20). He has promised us that we do not need to worry about what we are to say: Matthew 10:19: “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.”

I have been on both sides of the issue of defending my faith: arguing with my intellect, failing miserably, and destroying any opportunity to revisit the subject matter later versus speaking the truth in love which left the door open for future discussions. When I did not respond in like manner to the acrimony, I saw God’s word play out right before my eyes when the other person later admitted to being ashamed of their conduct because I didn’t pick up “sticks and stones.” I’m not trying to commend myself, but I just want to say that God’s way does work.

I agree with Evan Minton’s commentary and the scriptural foundation which he uses to support it. I also have had the same issue with typos appearing after I had carefully scrutinized my work. (I HATE TYPOS!!! So please forgive any that may appear in this writing.) It helps to have a pair of fresh eyes review your content because it’s a known fact that the brain sees what is supposed to be there over what actually is. That’s especially true when we review what we have written ourselves, our mind will fill in what is missing, like the word “not” or seeing an “r” where there should be a “t”, etc.

I am so excited to see what God is going to do through you. I pray Psalm 90 for you: “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on [you]; establish the work of [your] hands for [you]— yes, establish the work of [your] hands.”

Luke Nix said...

Jerome, good article. I echo what Evan and Maria already said.

Kimberly said...

*handclaps* Nicely written! :-)