I recently participated in an online debate with an atheist. It’s rather long, but you can read it here if you wish. It was a profitable experience and when I have time, I would like to do it again.
I used to think of “debates” as unfriendly and unproductive, kind of like a war where neither side is going to win. But this time, I did the debate not for the purpose of convincing someone I was right, but for the purposes of learning to communicate better, and building relationships. I used to think that debates would destroy relationships, but I found out that is not true. Bad debates destroy relationships; but good debates build relationships. Neither I nor the other guy were able to convince each other of anything in the debate, but I found some areas where I need to learn to talk more clearly, and I also gained new familiarity and respect for atheists as people.
In America, we’re noticing that people who disagree with each other are having more and more difficulty talking with each other about the thing they disagree on. People have less and less desire to talk honestly with others who disagree with them. People are less and less convincible. This is terrible. In the introduction to his book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, puts it this way:
Those who believe in God and Christianity are out to “impose their beliefs on the rest of us” and “turn back the clock” to a less enlightened time. Those who don’t believe are “enemies of truth” and “purveyors of relativism and permissiveness.” We don’t reason with the other side; we only denounce.
We need to talk with people who disagree with us, be willing to learn from them, and be nice about it.
Good stuff, Luke. I agree wholeheartedly. I remember reading “Teaching to Change Lives” by Howard Hendricks, and he mentioned this 80 year old friend he had. She loved to shake things up by not only asking thought-provoking questions, but her belief was that, “Hey, if we can’t get into a discussion, then I’m gonna start an argument.” 🙂
It’s healthy, it’s necessary, and too many of us avoid controversy (or don’t know how to separate the actual relationship from the argument itself). I know I need to work on this…