For Argument's Sake

Recently I started a dialogue with another believer on some doctrinal issues relating to a passage in Hebrews. See Popular Theology entries. In his second response he said that he did not believe that argument over the interpretation of Scripture edifies a believer nor does it build unity.

There is some truth in the fact that we should not be argumentative and fighting but this demonstrates how limited the vocabulary of most people. Our vocabulary limitations are not just in the number and types of words people know and use but in the many connotations a word may have based on how it is used. To argue can mean to have an argument or fight about something. It is also used to present reasons for a subject or to present evidence.

Arguing is as essential when dealing with matters of truth. If it weren't truth would be determined by whoever sits in the judges seat or preaches from the pulpit. In fact that is often the case. A preacher officer in some organization or some speaker will use his power to present things that would otherwise be countered or even dig at someone in a captive audience sort of getting the last word.

The concept of free speech in this country addresses this type of power directly. Our governmental representation and our legal system are protected by this concept. When lawyers represent a client they argue the case. The system is designed to arrive at the truth. Arguing is our civil way of determining what is right or wrong. Unfortunately this illustrates the problem in society and within the church.

People are unwilling to defend what they believe. When someone disagrees them they will change the subject rather than defend their belief. They are afraid people will not like them. They may also be afraid of the truth that they may wrong on something.

So what does the Bible say about arguing? That should be the test for believers; what does the Bible say or illustrate. Throughout scripture defends the God of the Bible. In the New Testament much of Jesus' ministry was in contrast with the teaching and practice of the Pharisees. Jesus continually presented issues to them that provoked them. He confronted them with issues and welcomed their response even though they rarely had anything to say in response. They didn't care for the Truth so they crucified Him.

In the first century it was common for Jews to debate scripture in the synagogues. That's why Paul was so frequently went there to present the gospel. To say that they argued may in fact be an understatement. (See Acts 14)

Some of Paul's instructions to churches and students included encouragements to defend the faith and expose those that did not teach sound doctrine. Reprove correct (2 Timothy 2). Not only should we argue but we should be well "prepared" to defend our faith (1 Peter). Most of the New Testament IS argument for sound doctrine from Galatians (Saved by grace not works) through the end of the Bible.

There is even a branch of theology apologetics that is concerned with the defense of Christian doctrines. One popular tape series of presentations given in some churches called The Truth Project give reasons to believers why they should consider the Christian world view and be able to defend it.

Summary Our lives are controlled by society and formal religion. We believe things because we are told them. Instead we should be searching the scriptures. Discussions whether you call them debates dialogues defense or arguments do in fact edify build or enable the church to defend the truth of the gospel.

The biggest reason that the church doesn't have more influence in our society may be because modern church efforts are in sales and marketing. It's a business not unlike the insurance business where the leaders are more interested in building churches and membership than teaching preaching and defending the truth of the faith.

In the book Dining With the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts With Modernity Os Guiness talks about how easy it is for the church to disassociate itself from true Christianity in order to survive and grow. But it's not just in the megachurch. The wannabes are following their lead. Also worth (and fun) reading is Nathaniel Hawthorne's Celestial Railroad which is included in the Os Guiness book. It is also available on line at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/512.

 

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