Have you noticed people don’t really discuss things anymore? At least that’s what it seems like when you look on social media. People don’t discuss. People argue. They vilify anyone with an opposing view. Every opinion is extreme, and you are an extremist if you don’t agree with whatever extreme point of view they have.
Now, I’ve already written about how we should communicate online in my post “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” If you find yourself in a lot of heated arguments online, that post is a good place to start. For this post, I wanted to focus on a different type of argument, theological arguments – especially with other Christians.
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29Click to tweet
Theological debates are great. They educate, strengthen our faith, and improve our ability to witness to the world. Theological arguments are destructive. They have the potential to tear down, weaken faith, and ruin our witness to others. The big difference between the two is motivation. Debates are there for mutual edification and the search for truth. Debates become arguments when each person is mainly concerned with proving their opinion is right.
Why do so many theological discussions turn into arguments? Why does this happen when one of the tenets of Christianity is sharing the Good News in love? Well, theological beliefs are very personal and real to people. Emotions often run high. However, if we disagree with a person’s theology, we must disprove it by using facts in the Bible. Our emotions and our feelings are not relevant. The world may say to follow your heart, but the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Emotions, opinions, and feelings are great if they lead you to the truth, but they are not the truth themselves.
I don’t know about you, but my gut instincts have been wrong before… many times. My heart has been wrong before. I’ve been wrong about theology before. So, who am I helping if I argue my point to an extent that I’m just trying to prove myself right?
One of the best ways to make sure your debate never turns into an argument is to follow the guidelines of the Bible itself.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20
This one verse has so much wisdom that can be applied to debating theology with other Christians. We are “beloved brethren” first and foremost. We should treat each other that way. No matter what the topic or the emotions behind it, we should remember the other person is our brother or sister in Christ. We should interact with them out of love, not competition.
It’s human nature for us to speak first and listen later, but the Bible tells us to reverse that tendency and be “swift to hear, slow to speak.” We should eagerly listen to what the other person is saying. Then we should slow down, digest the information, and thoughtfully give them our reply. On a very practical note, one thing I like to do when replying to a question online is to write down my response, edit it, make sure my response is out of love, not anger, and then finally share it. The act of seeing my words and rereading them before replying helps me tremendously. Give it a try!
Remember, we are imperfect people. The Bible is true, but our interpretations of it are often flawed. We bring our own beliefs, experiences, and cultural expectations to the debate. That’s where a lot of misinterpretation happens. Context is key when it comes to the Bible. Do we change the Bible to meet the cultural standards of today? No. We need to understand the culture of the audience it was written to so we can understand the point and Truth it is presenting.
When debating theology, it’s important that we look to the Bible as the source of Truth and not to our own opinions. There have been many times when I don’t like what the Bible says. That does not make it untrue; it makes me wrong.
Brother, be willing to be proven wrong. Finding, understanding, and applying God’s Truth is far more important than making someone else think you’re right.
Family Radio Staff