I’m a big fan of reasonable discourse. I’ve been going to lunch with a few friends from seminary and we basically spend an hour a week debating. It’s AWESOME! We are united by the gospel, and we know that just because we disagree about certain theological topics, we don’t hate each other. We have in-depth discussions, most recently about “the kingdom” and whether or not it’s here now.
I noticed at our last lunch, that some people at the next table kept looking over at us (me in particular, because I talk loudly about theology). The look was not one of horror or disgust. It wasn’t them looking over as if to say “Shut up, you louts!” The look was one of intrigue. To my eye, they seemed generally interested in the fact that we were friends, who disagreed passionately. We were arguing, but we weren’t getting angry. Such an occurrence has become an anomaly in our culture, and I think it made them curious.
Disagreeing is Good
This post is a simple affirmation of the fact that disagreeing is good. Really, this whole blog is about asking the question “why?” about what you believe and disagreeing rightly. As I say in the “About the Blogger and the Blog” section “My ultimate goal is to make people THINK! I want people to know what they believe and WHY they believe it. If I cause you to think (even if you disagree with my conclusions), I’ve achieved my goal. I’m much happier with an atheist who knows why he believes what he believes, than a Christian who doesn’t.”
The most common argumentation tactic I run into, online and otherwise, is to simply get offended when met with a valid point by the opposition. This is disagreeing wrongly.
When talking about abortion, instead of responding to my claim that “it is always immoral to kill a human because of convenience,” I get some variation of, “How dare you call it convenient!”
When talking about socialism, instead of responding to my claim that, “Equality of outcome is an inherently immoral goal,” I get some variation of, “How dare you! I can’t even right now! You’re calling me evil!”
When trying to preach the gospel, instead of responding to my claim that, “You and I are sinners, deserving the sheer wrath of God, and eternal punishment for our rebellion against a being so righteous and holy, but God being rich in mercy sent his son to die on the cross so that whoever believes can be saved,” I get, “How dare you! I can’t even! I’m sorry, I need to calm down right now because you’re breaking my heart that you’re so intolerant! I’m not a bad person!”
I dare just like this. You can even. Go ahead and catch your breath, pick up the pieces of your broken heart, come to grips with my intolerance… and then evaluate the truth claim!
The worst part? We, myself included, let them get away with it.
The Gospel is the Best Offense
I submit to you, dear Christian reader, that when a person tries to dodge or ignore the truth of the gospel, by working up a frenzy of emotion or leaning on your empathy, resist the temptation to ease off your point.
I know it’s hard to preach the truth that all people, Jews and Gentiles, have sinned against a holy and righteous God and deserve to go to hell. We humans deserve death and torment. That’s a tough sell… but we cannot downplay the severity of the condition, because it is true. The severity of the condition is what quantifies, for us, the goodness of the grace. Yes it’s a tough sell; so it’s a good thing we’re not selling. God is the one who saves, we Christians are just the vessels of the message. We are not “convincing” anyone to believe. We are telling them the facts that they must believe to be saved, and letting God do the convincing on His own.
We must not give in to our emotional side that wants to say, “I’m sorry, you’re right, you’re not that bad.” Equally, we must not give in to our emotional side that wants to shout the person down and hurl obscenities at them for clinging so strongly to their rebellion.
We must calmly, resolutely, and winsomely continue to speak the truth, because it is loving to do so.
And you will end up offending, because the gospel is an inherently offensive message to a person who views himself as god. This should give us a small glimpse of the offense we give, in our sinfulness, to the one who is actually God. We should not try to be offensive, but we should not be surprised by the offense that is inevitably taken by the rebel who worships the great god of “me.”
Unfortunately, we’ve let the taking of offense become a great defense. We need to get back to the original phrase “The best defense is a good offense.” If you’ll allow me to engage in some wordplay, I think the goodest offense you can give is the gospel. It literally means good news. It is literally something which offends but is good. It’s a good offense. So, your best “defense” in argumentation, your best point of resistance to a person whose idol is himself, someone who does not yet bow the knee to a holy God, is to call him out on his sinful self-idolatry. The best defense is to offend him for the good, and keep preaching the message of the gospel. “We are sinners saved only by God’s grace.”