Tag Archives: debate

Training, sparring, fighting

There are at least three elements that make up a solid defender of the Christian faith.

Training

You can’t fight if you don’t know how. You might be able to flail about, but you won’t be very effective. What’s worse is that you are just as likely to hurt yourself and those on your side than you are the enemy. Especially since part of the training process is developing the ability to tell the difference between friend and foe and properly take stock of a battlefield before charging off to engage the enemy.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. -2 Timothy 2:15

Sparring

The expression used of a 2nd lieutenant in the army is “butter bars”.

After completing OCS (Officer Candidate School), a large number of newly minted butter bars tend to think that they are General Patton reincarnated and have the belief that after months of schooling they know much more than 30 year combat hardened NCOs.

Like the army, we are prone to think that mere knowledge will be enough to face the enemy with, and unfortunately many (including myself) have rushed off into battle without spending the time to properly spar with our fellow brothers at arms first.

The reason for this is simple. We never want to go into battle without at least stress testing new tactics and ideas with our battle hardened comrades. Its better to find out that our armor and weapons aren’t up to snuff in the sparring ring where our opponent isn’t seeking to do permanent damage than it is to discover our shortcomings as the knife is plunged deep into our heart by a true enemy.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17

Fighting

All the training and sparring in the world is pointless if it is not ultimately employed on the field of battle.

The primary means of advancing the kingdom of Christ is through winning the hearts and minds of those around us who have been captured by the enemies of false teaching and sensuous pleasure.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. -Ephesians 6:12

Because of this, it is incumbent on us to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) to engage the enemy wherever we find him, in whatever form he happens to be in.1

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5

As we fight, it is important to keep in mind that the enemy is not “flesh and blood”. So when we are interacting with a non-Christian we should treat them with the utmost respect and civility. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight with every fiber of our being the thoughts and practices that have captured them.

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. -G. K. Chesterton

At the same time

Training, sparring, and fighting should be ongoing activities in each Christian’s life. Some might object that new Christians shouldn’t be rushed into battle for fear of their being cut down. To that I propose that we “go to the lions” and teach our new recruits how to fight by going with them into minor skirmishes. Part of the role of a mature Christian should be designating and delegating strategic targets of opportunity for less mature Christians.

However it is incumbent on all Christians to charge the gates of hell in order to advance the kingdom of Christ here on earth.

  1. I’m using the personal pronoun “he” here to refer to anything that “sets itself up against the knowledge of God”. []
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Self defeating arguements

A self-defeating argument or idea are propositional statements whose falsehood is a logical consequence of the act or situation of holding them to be true.

Sometimes the best way to argue against a world view, like moral relativism or unbridled skepticism, is to simply show how the proponents’ propositional truth claims defeat themselves. Like the statement “there is no objective truth” when uttered by a post modernist is logically self defeating and should be exposed for what it is. Sloppy thinking.

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Does a Good God Exist? Dembski vs Hitchens

[HT Eye on Apologetics]

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Debate: Does the Universe have a purpose?

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Women in the Bible and the Qur’an

When casting light on the low view of women put forth in the Koran, it is popular for opponents to say something along the lines of “Oh yeah? Well what about the low view of women in the Bible?!”. So in an attempt to dispel the myth that the Bible and the Koran are in any way similar as to their views on women, I want to present the

From Mary Jo Sharp’s site:

Debate Topic: “Women: The Qur’an and The Bible

MARY JO SHARP BIO:
Mary Jo Sharp is a former atheist from the Pacific Northwest who thought religion was for the weak-minded. She now holds a Masters in Christian Apologetics from Biola University and is the first woman to become a Certified Apologetics Instructor through the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Mary Jo has spoken to numerous groups, including audiences of over 1,000 people. Some of her speaking engagements include: The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma State and Youth Evangelism Conferences, the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia Youth Evangelism Conference, The Southern Baptists of Texas Evangelism and Leadership Conferences, and the Evangelical Theological Society National Conference. Mary Jo administrates the website, Confident Christianity, and the Facebook group, Two Chix Apologetics, where she engages people from around the world in dialogue concerning the truth of Christianity.

DR. TABASUM HUSSAIN BIO:
Dr. Hussain. Born and raised in London, England, she acquired a BSc(HONS) in Biological Sciences at the University of Westminster, an MSc in Advanced Neuroscience at University College London, and lived in Australia for six years acquiring a PhD in Psychological Medicine (Neuroscience) at Monash University, Victoria. Recently settled with family in Toronto, Canada. Outside of her profession she has developed an interest over the years in Muslim-Christian Apologetics. Dr. Hussain has recently become a member of the Muslim Debate Initiative to become more involved in debate/dialogue focusing on women’s issues in the Bible vs the Quran.

Part one

Part two:

Part three:

Part four:

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Is Mormonism a legitimate Christian denomination?

[HT Brian Auten]

Mormons rarely debate their beliefs in public, and in this epic clash on the topic of whether Mormonism can legitimately be considered a Christian denomination. Here is the audio courtesy of Bring to You Apologetics.

If you like Dr Martin’s work here, you might want to consider buying his excellent counter-cult book, Kingdom of the Cults.

The Pilgrim has an interesting comment:

In 2005, Van Hale publicly announced that he cannot accept the Book of Mormon as real history about real people (see here). I’m not sure if his debate years earlier with Dr. Martin brought him to that point, but you never know.

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Handbook for explosive subjects

explosionRecently our small church decided to take on the controversial topic of homosexuality. Not in spite of the controversy, but because of it.

Now I realize that many of you will read that and think that we are intentionally trying to be divisive and unloving but the reality is that our goals are quite the opposite.  Our aim in discussing this topic is to learn how to handle conflict in a more Christlike manner. How to maintain unity in the midst of sharp differences without compromising our deeply held beliefs but, at the same time, while still loving each other and maintaining a humble and teachable spirit.

Why risk the hurt, pain, sorrow, division, etc.?

I’ve been party to a number of debates that have gone sour. Many that have gone past the point of not only wounding feelings and damaging long-held relationships to outright hatred. I’ve been party to some debates that have ended up putting a wedge in otherwise deep and intimate relationships (or so I thought) to the point where I haven’t talked to them in years (except for the occasional sniping).

I share that to let you know that I take very seriously the risks and dangers inherent in what I’m proposing. I understand that we are playing with fire and that some will get burned. However, as Augustine mentions in his famous “City of God” in reference to those who don’t wish to examine Christianity for fear of being converted (and I’ll paraphrase): Standing far off from the sun not only keeps you from getting sunburned, but it also prevents you from enjoying it’s warmth.

Intimacy comes with risks.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we are content to remain at a superficial level or if we want to risk going deeper and get to know each other in a more meaningful sense.

This is a serious question and a scary proposition for many people because it also means that, while we get to know others we are likely to find out they are far more broken than we have bargained for.

We will also find out that we are far less saintly than we like to imagine.

Love is messy.

How do we plan on accomplishing this?

If our chief concern were mere unity and superficial agreement, then we certainly would not take this path. However our goal is truth, whom we also believe to be a person in the form of Jesus Christ.1

In this respect, I believe that our only hope of surviving, and indeed thriving, is to keep our eyes firmly fixed on three main truths found in Scripture when it comes to controversy.

Mind the logs in our eyes

Jesus told us that before we take on the responsibility2 of correcting others we ought to first examine ourselves. Likewise we are told by James that our own evil desires are the source of the divisions among us (not the topic!) and that accordingly our tongues are among the greatest weapons of mass destruction known to man.

In our quest for truth we have to keep our finiteness in mind and remain teachable, no matter how convinced we are that we are right.

One seminary professor put it to his students this way: What would it take to convince you to walk away from the faith? If you answer is nothing then you should reexamine Scripture because yours is not the faith of the Bible.

Put simply, people who can never be persuaded or shown wrong are incapable of intimacy and do not value truth.

Stick to the facts

Since we are not omniscient we have no insight into the intentions of others and, as such, all of our arguments must be constrained to the realm of facts, reason, and evidence.

Not having either a theological degree or a computer science degree (my other love) I’ve learned to rely on facts and well formed arguments when making my case. Since I can’t use the “well this is how I was taught to do it in/by …” approach (which I’ve also found doesn’t work even if you insert the most prestigious names), I have to essentially rely upon tactics that are meant to persuade, as opposed to force, the other person to convince them of my position on any given topic. What I’ve also found using this approach is that quite often the other person will have something I hadn’t considered to bring to the table which, while derailing me from my original point for a time, adds to both of our understandings rather than subtracting from it.

So if we are to have any hope of getting to and understanding the truth (which is what we should be seeking after as of paramount importance)  we need to exhaustively study any subject we hope to engage in3 and we need to limit our comments and questions to the subject at hand4.

Above all else, love

This is far easier said than done, of course, but our whole goal of intentionally discussing such a controversial issue is to strengthen and expand the free-flow of communication between us. After all, if we claim to be the members of the same body we should understand that our head, that is Christ, was extremely divisive in his day when it came to the ruling religious majority but yet he managed to do so in a spirit of truth and love. Consequently, Ephesians 4:15 tells us that we should “speak the truth in love”.

Coupled with the description in 1 Corinthians 13 of what love is, and using the example Jesus himself set, we should weigh our comments and arguments against what we know of those we are talking with. This has the dual benefit of also helping us more effectively engage the world around us (that is, people in the world around us) by teaching us to temper the truth we are convicted of from our diligent study.

The road marked out ahead of us is not going to be easy, and we covet any and all prayers on our behalf as we walk through this minefield. However we also know the pearl we hope to gain, that is real and genuine community centered on the truth with a  willingness and ability to engage each other and grow spiritually, is certainly worth the cost.

Ultimately the charge to pick up our crosses and engage in explosive (and often hurtful) subjects can be stated this way:

Jesus didn’t leave us where he found us, so the least we can do for our brethren is not to leave them the where we find them.

Happy debating!

  1. Incidentally, even non-christians have noted the inconstancy and illogical way in which passages such as Titus 3:10 have frequently been used to quell “divisive people” rather than taking these as an opportunity for genuine growth. []
  2. Notice I said “before”, not “if”. One of the greatest misconceptions in the Christian community today is that we are not supposed to judge. Quite the opposite. We are to judge well according to John 7:24. []
  3. This also means we should have a broad range of subjects we can speak intelligently on if we hope to do anything more than remain silent in most conversations that happen around us. Being learned in several subjects also has the added benefit of making us better and more interesting conversationalists which, surprisingly, makes people more interested in talking with us. This is a large part of the answer to overcoming the common fear of sharing our faith with others. []
  4. The funny thing about rabbit trails is that they never, or very rarely, lead you anywhere productive. I think Paul would agree that an ordered meeting would include a clear discussion on one topic at a time so that everyone can keep up and participate. []
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On discipleship

Recently I was reminded of the importance of discipleship by a pastor in a small, rural church. While preaching on discipleship he made the observation that much of it (that is, discipleship) is done outside the walls of the Church building and accordingly, it is up to us, the congregation/body of Christ, to figure out and then live out what is commonly considered the great commission. Most think the great commission hinges on going and evangelizing. While these are indeed important, the text in Matthew 28:16-20 indicates that it is discipleship that is to be the primary mission and focus of God’s people. This makes sense, since evangelizing is only the beginning where as discipleship is a lengthy, ongoing process designed to be an integral part in our sanctification.

We readily recognize the importance of discipleship, but we often overlook the most common methods used throughout Scripture to actually accomplish what is otherwise a quite elusive and mysterious task.

Discussion, debate, and reflection, are often seen as negative within the body of Christ. Unfortunately there has certainly been much discussion and debate that has been very harmful to all parties involved (not to mention to the truth and unity that should otherwise characterize the body of Christ). However I think we too often overlook the importance such  otherwise potentially divisive concepts have had placed on them by none other than Jesus himself.

We are told in many places where Jesus discussed what he had just preached with his disciples. We are also told how he readily debated anyone who came to him with an honest1 question. Jesus himself often used provocative questions and comments in order to teach his disciples.

I think we do ourselves a disservice and severely stunt our growth if we shy away from the admittedly difficult task of asking and answering and wrestling with questions and topics.  I think our tendency2 to mishandle sensitive topics, which generally in turn devolve into shouting matches and damaged feelings and relationships, speaks more about us than it does the subjects we still, at the end of the day, need to deal with.

My prayer for the body of Christ is that we will come back to a clearer understanding of the importance and function of debate and discussion. There are far too many questions and far too much accumulated wisdom for us to, in the name of “unity”3 avoid the difficult questions and tasks (such as the often messy process of intimacy) required for true discipleship.

  1. I add the qualifier here of an honest question because it is clear that Jesus had no qualms about diffusing and deflecting questions whose clear intention was entrapment rather than enlightenment. []
  2. Notice I use the plural form of the first person here to indicate myself as well, I don’t think anyone is immune to these pitfalls nor has anyone that I am aware of outside of Christ “arrived” at a state of perfection when it comes to handling dicey issues. []
  3. Unity at the expense of truth and growth is not real Biblical unity. []
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