I've noticed something lately. As I've “flexed” my theological muscles and entered into some debates at work or on Twitter/Facebook, I've realized that real debates bother me deeply. For example, I got into a rather heavy argument with a fellow Sailor about the existence of God. It's very difficult to prove the existence of our Father, and I was up against a wall on more than one occasion. I was bothered about that for several days. Still am really.
Recently, an argument (that I referenced on a previous blog post) on Twitter really got me going. The guy I was arguing with was a Christian, which makes me feel even worse. Christians should be able to debate and then make up and walk away. We're Christians, right?
Three days later and that guy has stopped talking to me, but I don't know if he's just preparing another round of questions that I won't want to answer (he's too political for my taste). If he does, I'll have to call him out on his misinterpretation of scripture meant for Israel. I'm hoping it doesn't come to that. (As an update...he has unfollowed me on Twitter. I reciprocated the action.)
I realize my problem with apologetics and debating in general. My problem is that I expect that the arguments will remain respectful, that the sides will realize their differences, and that they will shake hands upon completion of the debate. It is, after all, what happens in structured debate. This, however, is not often the case in real life. And as I can't stand uncomfortable situations, I loathe debating now.
My heart's desire is to tell the world about Jesus Christ. What they do with him is up to them, but I know how I feel about the issue. I've been able to share my faith with many people at my command (No MRFF problems here) and I'm grateful for the experiences. What I'm not grateful for is the feeling in the pit of my stomach when real debates take place.
I asked Nathan, who is also a PhD student in educational psychology at Kansas University, to weigh in on the subject. He suggests handling the feelings of real debate by remembering what a debate is really about - compromise. A real debate is not about winning or losing. Especially if you're in a competitive environment (high school debate tournaments, presidential or mayoral elections, etc.), it's hard to see debate as anything other than winning something. "Yet, in real life, it is not that simple. There aren't really winners and losers. There are a lot of partials. Theology aside, there are very few instances of clearly defined rights and wrongs. The issue that you're having, from the sound of it, is both rhetorical and psychological.
"It is rhetorical because, as I described above, both of you are looking to win the debate instead of looking for a compromise. There are probably some truths in between both sides of arguments, which is usually where most truths are located. Hardly ever is the truth found in the extremes, especially involving politics. For instance, I tend to be adamantly against the death penalty because I don't believe it is my calling to ever judge another person's life. Yet that position is not, from what I know at least, completely backed up by the Bible. There are plenty of instances where a death penalty was not only appropriate, but commanded by God. So am I disobeying God by following what I believe is my "true" conviction to protect life? You tell me. I am willing to compromise that there might be times in which death could be an appropriate sentence; however, I will never allow myself to sit on that jury unless I'm forced by death myself to do so.
"The issue also seems to be psychological, and here is where I am not trying to sound harsh by any means. It looks like this is becoming a fight for pride. Again, think about winning and losing. If your Christian friend is trying to rebut you at every turn, most likely there's a wound festering. Maybe on both sides. Humans are a very proud species, and part of that is the ultimate price of sin. Psychologically, then, it is hard for us to step down from our positions at times and realize that we might not have the full answer, or that we might actually be wrong (or at least not completely correct). Now, I say all these things not to indict; rather, I say them because I have only been given the information above."
Nate continues, "I am saddened that so many Christians are involved in many of the "debates" that you and your friend are involved in. Sure, a good debate is worth the investment. Bu a good debate should, as you put it, be respectful of various viewpoints, and it should not seek one right answer. Instead, a good debate will allow for multiple solutions, all of which might be good options. Maybe one is better than the rest, but it could be that all options are viable. Individuals get so stuck in their self-made ruts of ideologies that they cannot see past their own brainwashed theories. This is what debate coaches are supposed to teach their students, but 1) not every student becomes a master, and 2) many debate coaches are stuck in the same rut. We create ruts like this: "God-fearing, gun-owning Christian lives in this home." So if I don't own guns, can I not be God-fearing? Or how about the "God hates fags" slogan that I'm sure you are aware of floating around. Did not Jesus himself hang out with the worst of sinners of the time period? If that is the case, and if we are going to label any individuals as being the worst of sinners, shouldn't Christians be all about loving and living with those individuals? Anyway, just my thoughts."
He concluded by saying that, "In the end, a good debate should end up asking more questions than answering. If it doesn't, or you can't come up with multiple, respectful truths, then you're probably not having a debate. You're throwing around arguments with no real intention of persuading anyone else or being persuaded of anything else yourself."
Thanks Nate. I for one am going to start reviewing how I “debate” with people regarding my faith.