Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thoughts On Debate

Recently, and especially in light of the past few months of various conversations I've had, an interesting realization struck me that I felt I should write out in full. And frankly, once I got a better understanding of what is taking shape in many a circle of knowledge.
Today we have lost the art of discussion, differences, and debates. Yes, hear me out on this one.
A major theme among people today, and especially within the church, is the idea of the necessity of unity. And also the need to avoid disagreements and differences at any cost. So often you hear something along these lines, “I don't do debates/arguments because 1) It gets nowhere, or 2) It just creates discord among people.”
Putting aside the massive move towards post-modernism that has taken shape in our world, with everyone almost literally running away from any kind of open and bold stance and differing opinions. No one seems as if they can hold a firm, pointed view on anything without compromising it for the sake of someone's feelings, or simply avoiding stating thoughts altogether on some subjects for fear of causing divisions.
We have become afraid of disagreements. What is wrong with this? Let me be the first to day that personal anger or slander against another person is wrong, without a doubt, and any discussion or debate that deteriorates into a personal slashing festival is absolutely ungodly to the highest degree. Above all, we must preserve unity and avoid harming any brother or sister in Christ.
But since when has having a firm belief in something, stating it, or debating it hindered that? Since when has having a discussion about any contentious topic become a source of discord and division? Since we became stupid, essentially.
If you look at history, and particularly within the church, we were a people that thrived on differing opinions, discussions with different viewpoints, and even debate at times. Offering different viewpoints, opposing ideas, or simply discussing differences or any topic has become somewhat taboo in our world these days. Back then, it was an essential part of education!
And rightly so! While we must avoid personal anger and slander, we lose so much for avoiding disagreements and conflicting opinions! For one, think of all the information you lose. So much of your education is lost. The academic necessity of being exposed to different viewpoints is something I shouldn't have to tell you! No education is good until it has been exposed to differing knowledge, tried and tested. Being made aware of other ideas besides your own, of opposing arguments, tells you about other people, their lives, and beliefs.
Secondly, healthy debate and discussion teaches you to defend and carefully examine your own beliefs. Anyone who has been challenged on their viewpoint knows this. Only when your arguments are attacked by an opposing idea do you really have to dig to come up with a defense, or better, the truth. Debate teaches you not only other ideas and exposes you to other worldviews, but also teaches you to defend your own, and well. You why you believe what you believe!
And finally…so much knowledge is lost! Without academic debate, educational study and discussion, and ideas with counter-ideas being created and studied, we lose the art of speech and debate! And such an art it is, a science and an art! The satisfaction of a well placed argument, carefully worded speech or beautifully spoken idea is something I don't need to convey to you. Besides it's beauty, the importance of academic debate to sharpen and educate yourself can't be overestimated!
Now of course, I often see people that honestly cannot debate. These days, let me be blunt: We are such a pathetically weak people. We cannot have a disagreement or difference of opinion without either hotly defending it, taking it personally, or compromising to agree. People simply can't seem to disagree without getting feelings involved. Becoming too angry and hurtful, getting frustrated at constant disagreement, or simply avoiding conflict. Is this healthy? No, not at all. But I think this is more due to immature, uncontrolled people than to the practice itself, don't you think? A honest debate, speech, or study does not need or mean a personal hurt or hit, or some pride issue of ours. A perfectly logical, scientific, even artistic discussion can be had without letting personal feelings and agendas get in the way.
So why do we fear this healthy activity? I believe in general (myself included,) we need to grow up, and get real.

Phil. 4:13


  1. Master Amaras, you have expressed very excellent points on the virtues and necessities of debate.

  2. Great thoughts, Alex. You made me think. ;)

  3. I've long held this "principle" of sorts whenever I'm debating some point with someone:

    Do not get emotional.

    Period. It doesn't matter how deep you hold your particular belief on a particular subject, you can not let feelings enter the conversation. You have to be able to THINK, and you can't do that when you're emotional and defensive. Because that is what happens when you get get defensive.


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