Rules for debating biblical doctrine

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Herald, Jun 27, 2013.

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  1. Herald

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    Which is more important, the form of debate or the substance of debate? Keep in mind that when debating biblical doctrine the goal should never be to win the debate as an academic exercise. Biblical truth is not reduced to an Oxford-style debate format where the most thumbs up win. A more skilled debater may win the contest and still be completely wrong in his position.

    Now, the title of this thread is not meant to put in place a binding set of rules for the BB. It is, however, meant to focus on what is most important when discussing God's word. How should we approach doctrinal debate? What things make for profitable debate? What things make for unprofitable debate? When has a debate reached its natural conclusion? When and why should you pull out of a debate? My thoughts on this are not exclusive or exhaustive, but I think it is a good discussion to have given the general tone in this forum. So, here are is my initial contribution to the discussion:

    Our attitude

    We are discussing the Word of God. We are discussing holy words. 1 Peter 4:11 states, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God..." In other words we need to take great care in what we say about the Word of God. We are putting ourselves in the position of teachers when we speak dogmatically to others. As teachers we should remember James 3:1, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."

    Our knowledge

    I am treading carefully here. One can discuss the Bible without teaching it. We learn by asking questions. But sometimes individuals will try to speak with authority when they are not equipped to do so. Using myself as a personal example; I am very unsettled on my eschatological position. I can discuss the topic in a general sense, agreeing that Jesus is coming again. But I typically find myself as a bystander in eschatological discussions precisely because I am unsettled on the matter. We should know what we are commenting on before we assume a position of authority on the topic.

    Our motive

    Why are we engaging in debate? Are we passionately contending for the truth, or are we just interested in seeing our words on a screen? Keep in mind that I am not talking about conversation. I am focusing my attention on debate. Is our goal to champion God's truth or to win points? Is there a board member we want to take digs at? Debate is an effective method of taking shots at another; especially if one is better at debate methods than another. But do such actions glorify God? I think the answer is obvious. Debate over biblical doctrine should focus on the substance of the topic at hand, not on one's personal feelings towards another debater.

    When has a debate reached it's natural conclusion?

    When all sides have exhausted their arguments and repetition sets in. When nothing new is being added to the discussion it is time to thank the other person(s) and move on.

    When and why should you pull out of a debate?

    When a debate goes off topic and is not able to get back on topic. When a debate turns personal and insults replace profitable discussion. Why? Because to continue the debate under those circumstances is just a waste of time.

    Like I said earlier, this is not meant to be an exhaustive treatment on debating biblical doctrine.
     
    #1 Herald, Jun 27, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2013
  2. JohnDeereFan

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    Great post. Maybe we can get the mods to make it a sticky.
     
  3. Herald

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    Develop thick skin

    Just because a discussion may become vigorous does not mean it is personal. Attacking one's position does not mean you are attacking them personally. If you call someone a moron or an idiot, then yes, you have attacked them personally. But if you sharply criticize what they believe with a convincing counter argument, it is not necessarily personal. If you find yourself being easily offended by the fair arguments of your opponent then online debate may be something you should avoid.
     
  4. Salty

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    #4 Salty, Jun 27, 2013
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  5. Van

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    Lets see, questioning an opponents qualifications and character, rather than addressing his or her biblical viewpoint, is tantamount to judging another man's [Christ's] servant.

    Putting words in their mouth, saying what they did not say, is to claim to be a mind reader, obvious not the ploy of a truth teller.

    Failing to answer questions after asking questions and expecting an answer is to not do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

    A debate's goal is to illuminate the truth, so misrepresentation, strawmen, and obfuscation demonstrates truth is not the goal.

    Any assertion of doctrine should include somewhere at least once in the thread the specific biblical reference. Statements like you view demeans God add heat and not light to the debate.
     
  6. Mexdeaf

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    I would suggest adding Treat the other person with respect.

    Using mocking words and portraying a superior attitude does not help your argument. We are supposed to teach others kindly and gently- 2 Timothy 2:24-26.

    And yes, I fall short on that many times also.
     
  7. Pastor_Bob

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    Great thoughts. Perhaps another addition would be to exercise grace when others disagree with you. Some take it very personal indeed when someone disagrees with them. Then, I've noticed that when that member takes a defensive tone, his/her friends jump to his/her defense and address the one who disagrees with their friend. That is when chaos breaks out and the reader has to wade through several meaningless posts to get to the meat of the discussion. Who knew so many people where interested in that specific topic? They weren't until their friend's feathers were ruffled.

    It's like what happened on Facebook earlier this week - Who knew there were so many hockey fans?! Not one mention of hockey until the Blackhawks won the Stanley cup, then they came out of the woodwork. Crude analogy, I realize.
     
  8. Arbo

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    Thanks for saying what I have often thought. I suspect that I have a simpler faith than many who post on the theology threads and tend to shy away from asking questions because of some of the attitudes I have encountered more than once.
     
  9. DrJamesAch

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    That sounds like a wonderful idea! I know how dedicated you are. Living in Georgetown and going to Georgetown Baptist Church 150 miles away! Now that's dedication :)
     
  10. Herald

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    Agreed. It is a two way street though.
     
    #10 Herald, Jun 27, 2013
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  11. Herald

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    Respond biblically and respect dissenting views

    Our opinion on, let us say 'baptism', is not worth much if a case cannot be made from Scripture. But what if we disagree with someone who has done a good job of putting forth a biblical argument for their position? Well, so long as their position is not outside the bounds of orthodoxy we should respect their position. Respect does not mean agree. Respect means an appreciation that the other person is taking the subject at hand seriously. I mentioned baptism as an example. Suppose Joe believes baptism should be administered upon a credible profession of faith irregardless of age. Greg believes baptism should be withheld until an age of accountability to make sure the individual understands what they are doing. There are good, God-fearing Baptists who are either side of that issue. If Joe and Greg present well thought out biblical defenses, should not they be taken seriously and treat each other with respect?
     
  12. JohnDeereFan

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    What in the world are you blathering on about now?
     
  13. Revmitchell

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    Apparently you need to go back and reread the op.
     
  14. DrJamesAch

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    I'm trying to be nice. It's a compliment :) Your profile said you lived in Georgetown, MD and that you attended Georgetown Baptist Church. The closest Georgetown Baptist Church to Georgetown is 150 miles away in Pocomoke City. Just admiring your commitment in traveling so far to attend church. Lighten up!:smilewinkgrin:
     
  15. JohnDeereFan

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    Actually, our church is about six miles away and you wouldn't be nice to me if somebody held a gun to your head, much less compliment me.
     
  16. JohnDeereFan

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    I have read it. It does nothing to explain what he's talking about.
     
  17. DrJamesAch

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    Now that's just downright mean.

    Well those Google employees need to be fired! No wonder I get lost every time I'm in America. A Hundred and Fifty miles off from the only Georgetown Baptist Church on the map is a HUGE mistake. You should contact Google and let them know there's a major error in their algorithms.

    I was even going to offer to help get your wife's Twitter account back since somebody hacked it. But if you are going to be mean to me, I'll wait until you calm down.

    Here's Googles contact info to inform them about mistakes http://support.google.com/earth/bin/request.py?&contact_type=data
     
    #17 DrJamesAch, Jun 27, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2013
  18. Revmitchell

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    Which does not explain you having agreed with the op and them posting that which was contrary to what you agreed with.
     
  19. JohnDeereFan

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    I would strongly advise you to think twice before you start badmouthing my wife.
     
  20. DrJamesAch

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    I didn't badmouth her: again, stop with the reading things into what other people said. I said her Twitter account was hacked which is obvious. Go look at all the spam adds that are being posted from it.
     
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