The Art of Christian Statesmanship–Part 2

   In the previous post in this series, I listed some negative aspects of debates that I have observed in theological debates that have taken place around the blogosphere. In the discussion that followed, some excellent points were made concerning right motives in debating and in the methods we employ while engaging in debate.

   I want to share with you some principles that I am trying to keep in mind when I engage in debates. As the Apostle Paul stated in Philippians, “I count not myself to have apprehended.” I am still learning to apply these, and at times my fleshly nature still rises up and works against these principles, but they are the goal to which I strive.

1.  I will assume that my opponent is a brother or sister in Christ. Unless I am debating and atheist or someone from a different religion, I am not going to assume that differences in interpretation of scripture arbitrarily mean they are not saved. Thus, I am going to give them the respect that the Bible says is due between children of God.

2.  I will remember that my goal should be edification.If I am only trying to prove that I am right and my opponent is wrong, then I will never achieve this goal. I cannot presumptiously excuse ungracious language or behavior simply because I think I am right. I must define a “win” as being the edification of the one whom I am debating. I do not have to compromise to achieve this, but I must be kind, gentle, meek, patient, temperate and above all, loving as I express what I believe to be the truth.

3.  I will remember the likelihood that my remarks are being read by unbelievers. I do not want my comments to be so vitriolic that they would harm the testimony of Christ and hinder someone from coming to Him.

4.  I will remember that I am not perfect and still have much to learn. Just because I have believed something all my life does not mean that it is true. Truth is defined by God’s Word alone, and even the brightest of theologians can be mistaken. If they can be wrong, who am I to think I have a monopoly on truth? Along those same lines, I will try to remember that just because my opponent may be wrong on one point does not mean that he is wrong all the time.

5.  I will remember that my ultimate goal will be the glory of God. Before I fire off that fiery response, I should ask myself, “Will God be glorified in this?” If I am trying to make myself appear intelligent, wise or superior to my opponent, I will be operating from the wrong motive and will be prone to use methods and language that do not glorify the Savior.

   As I said, I am learning these principles. I am ashamed to say that I have learned their importance because of my own shortcomings as much as those I have observed in others. By God’s grace, I intend, however, to adhere to them as closely as possible from now on.

   May Christ be glorified in all I say and do.

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15 responses to “The Art of Christian Statesmanship–Part 2

  1. Excellent guidelines!

    “even the brightest of theologians can be mistaken.”

    I think it’s also important to remember (in most theological debates) that very intelligent people have taken the opposite side. Therefore, the position I’m arguing against is not because of inferior knowledge or intelligence.

    Something I frequently notice (and not just in debates, but sermons, lectures, writings, etc.) is an intellectual disdain for those who disagree.

    Again, good thoughts.

  2. Add my Amen to Nephos thoughts. We have to keep our eye on the prize in all things and especially in debate where the temptation to be proud is so great. I really would prefer doing righteousness to being right! 😉

  3. Gordon,

    First of all, I think this is an excellent piece. I am enjoying this series tremendously.

    I’ve been thinking about debate and dialog alot recently. I know that many times we desire to debate people or dialog with people in order to prove that we are right. And, we think we “win” when the other person agrees with us, or can’t disprove our arguments.

    Lately, I’ve been thinking about this differently. I no longer consider it my goal to change anyone’s mind. I can’t do that. Instead, I try to honestly communicate what I believe. Then, (and this is the new part for me) I try to honestly and sincerely understand the other person’s belief while at the same time trying to assure that they understand what I am saying. In other words, I am starting to see this as more of a dialog than I did before.

    There may be times when, through dialog, the other person changes his or her beliefs. There also may be times when I change my belief. Usually, neither one of us changes our beliefs, but we understand each other better.

    I can’t expect someone to seriously consider what I have to say unless I am also willing to seriously consider what they have to say.

    -Alan

  4. Great thoughts, Cameron. I wonder if the intellectual disdain sometimes stems from insecurity with our own position.

    KC, you said that you would prefer doing righteousness to being right, that is an outstanding statement.

    Alan, thanks so much for your thoughts on this. You stated very clearly what I hope will come across in this series. I have learned much through discussions/debates/dialogues and I hope to have continued access to that forum of learning.

    Arriving at a better understanding of an opponent’s position as well as our own is a good thing.

  5. I am so glad to read your thoughts on this. There was one blog (Christian) that I used to read regularly, but some of the back and forth between commenters became so stinging and bitter that I just quit reading it.

    I believe in being able to disagree, but not when it comes to tearing the other person down.

  6. These are very good thoughts that I appreciate when I make a comment on a post? I sometimes have to watch myself and because someone says something that is displeasing or ugly words then I no longer try to read their blogs? But we all must realize that young ears that take interest in learning from Gods words thru these posts by reading them , just as I mentioned on my site the other day ? We should be proud of our youngsters that want to learn more about Gods words ? Blessings To All. Ron.

  7. I must define a “win” as being the edification of the one whom I am debating.

    That statement is worth more than the whole rest of the post put together (which is worth a great deal to begin with). Excellently said, brother.

  8. Beverly, being able to disagree agreeably is a mark of maturity in my mind.

    Ron, there are indeed some children who read these blogs. We need to be mindful of that and set a Christ-like example for them to follow.

    Steve, you are very kind, my friend.

  9. Allow me to quote what a fellow brother said to me recently,

    “It’s not so much about the views you hold, it’s how you hold them”

    It’s not enough to speak the truth. Didn’t Paul say that he spoke “the truth in love” Eph 4:15

    Good post!

  10. Armen, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s nice to have you visit here.

  11. Tim A. Blankenship

    Gordon,
    More great advice.
    You do this quite well.
    Keep up the good words.

  12. Great stuff, something we can all learn from.

    Thanks,

    Doug

  13. Steve Sensenig hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head.

    Nice Job!

  14. Thanks, Bro. TA.

    Glad to hear from you Doug.

    Thank you, Joe. Steve has been known to do that from time to time. 😉

  15. And then there are the other times……. 😉

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