The Bible encourages debate
I'll be arguing that the Bible encourages debate. First round is for acceptance.
a) to contend in words
b) to discuss a question by considering opposed arguments
Thank you Impact94 for accepting my challenge. Let's get started.
Argument #1: The Patriarchs contended with God
I have two examples for this argument:
Both of these men are held up as righteous men to whom we can look up to for example. Cross reference John 8:39 which encourages the children of Abraham to do the works of Abraham. Neither were reprimanded for their actions, and Moses actually had measurable success in his contention.
If men are encouraged to follow in the footsteps of Abraham and Moses who contended with God, how much more should he be encouraged to contend with his fellow man. As noted above, this falls within the definition of debate--i.e. to contend with words.
Argument #2: Acts 15 council sets a model for theological decisions through debate
In Acts 15, we see that a number of the early church leaders gathered together to consider a certain matter, each bringing forth their opinions (verse 7). Through this process, a decision was made.
So, again, we see an example being put before us that encourages debate.
Argument #3: Contradiction necessitates debate
I will provide two examples and then explain the reasoning:
These contradictions raise questions which in turn require open discussion to answer. Without debate, the passages become meaningless, because meaning is not clear where there is apparent contradiction.
My opponent brings up that Moses and Abraham had righteously debated with God, yet are known as righteous men in biblical history - however, I refute this statement. Clearly in these verses, Abraham and Moses were not "debating" with God, and were in fact "bargaining" with God.
a) To negotiate the terms of an agreement.
b) To arrive at an agreement.
To bargain in this case implies seeing the opponent as correct, yet trying to ease their "decisionmaking" in the bargainer's favor - however, a "debate" implies disagreement and argument. If Abraham and Moses were in fact arguing with God, then this clearly would have been a sinful action according to the Bible, as the Bible clearly calls christians to "be at peace with everyone". More specifically, I would like to make a direct quotation of Romans 12:17-19, which states, "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "vengeance is mine; I will repay" says the Lord". Clearly, if Moses and Abraham were righteous men, they would have recognized God's authoritative stance on his ability to take vengeance upon sodom and gomorrah, as well as Isreal, and that Moses and Abraham would have been submissive to whatever decision God would have made at the time. I challenge my opponent to answer, if God refused their offers, would righteous men such as Moses and Abraham have continued to mock God's judgement by calling him out as being wrong, as debate tactics are usually used to imply? Something like this happened before in the Bible in Genesis 32:24-25, and it did not end will for the arguer (his arm was dislocated at the joint as a result).
I propose that the Bible calls for a more submissive attitude toward others, as it is implied in:
- Luke 6:29-30
- Matthew 5:38-40
- Matthew 26:51-52
- Luke 6:37
- And chapter 31 of Isaiah.
*Therefore, according to the Bible, it is the work of God to fight, to argue, to deem an ideology incorrect; not His humble servants, the christians.
Argument #2 Rebuttal:
I would like to bring up that, although it is true that they may have been in debate with the pharisees, such a counter example does not justify debate. Therefore, it must be true that if they were in debate with the pharisees, then it was an act of sin on their part. There are many examples in the Bible when a person committed a sin and received no due penalty for the sin. (i.e. Genesis 38:24 in due relationship to John 8:10-11).
I challenge my opponent to argue his/her position using direct "commandments" from the Bible, not "counter-examples". Counter-examples can be subjective, and are often used to justify practices in the Bible such as polygamy, murder, and deception - all of which are hateful to God.
*Therefore, I propose that it would be more fruitful to interpret the morals of the Bible by direct commandments given from the Bible, rather than using counter-examples.
Argument #3 Rebuttal.
During the times, these "contradictions" may have been necessary for the time and place of those involved. If we are to accept that the Bible is the infallible word of God, then there cannot be contradictions in the Bible, only "paradoxes" - truths which only seem to contradict each other, but actually lead to a higher truth. Therefore, these "contradictions" were not contradictory at all in their time and place, and they thereby do not require debate. I challenge my opponent to prove me otherwise.
*I propose that no debate is required with the Bible, which is interpreted by many to be the infallible word of God, and because it is the infallible word of God, it cannot have contradictions, but paradoxes, for "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Cor. 14:33).
I look forward to your rebuttal.
Thank you for your rebuttal. You've made some excellent points, however, I still believe there is a strong case for debate in the Bible.
I want to start by acknowledging the point my opponent made after argument #2, namely that counter-examples alone do not constitute proof since they can be used to justify sin. This is a valid observation, therefore, I shall do my best in any examples to show that the Bible does indicate that the example is not sin.
On to the arguments!
My opponent claims that the contentions that Abraham and Moses had with God were not "debates" but rather "bargainings." The claim is that a "debate" implies disagreement and argument which are not present during these contentions.
I would contend that Abraham and Moses did indeed debate with God--that they disagreed with God's decision and argued with Him.
In the example of Abraham, we see that Abraham brings up the subject of justice and argues that what God is planning to do is unjust: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?"
The example of Moses is even more clear. God makes a decision to destroy Israel and Moses expresses disagreement: "O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people." Mose then proceeds to make his case, his argument against God's decision calling the misinterpretation of the Egyptians and the memory of the Patriarchs to his side. Moses also explicitly calls on God to relent from His anger. These are all the signs of a clear debate. Both disagreement and argument (as my opponent called for in the definition of debate) are clearly represented.
My opponent asked the question as to whether Moses and Abraham would have continued to mock God's judgment had He not relented "as debate tactics are usually used to imply." However, I would contend that this question does not address the question of whether or not it was a debate, but rather who the winner of the debate would be. A debate has three possible outcomes:
Side A comes to agree with side B
Side B comes to agree with side A
Both sides agree to disagree
In the Biblical narratives I have presented, we see that God concedes to men. If the men conceded to God, it would be no less a debate. In fact, we have such an example in the Bible--namely, the story of Job. We find in Job speaking in Job 13:15 "Though he slay me, I will hope in him, yet I will argue my ways to his face." Here, Job states himself that he is arguing with God, even to the point of placing his own life at risk. At the end of this debate, Job concedes to God's argument. We also find that in all of this Job did not sin but spoke what is right (Job 42:7). Rather it was Job's friends who tried to oppose Job's argument who were in need of a sin offering (Job 42:8-9). So, we have yet another example of debate with God being condoned in Scripture, only this time where God wins the debate.
My opponent also cites the example of Jacob's wrestling in Genesis 32 as an example of why we should not contend with God. However, he omits the fact that Jacob was also blessed through his struggle. In fact, the angel said to Jacob, "You have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed" (Gen. 32:28). Clearly, contending with the Almighty does not come without its risks, but neither is it without potential reward.
*I have shown now four examples of men contending with God and in every example it is clear that debate was looked favorably upon (whether God or man "won" the debate).
Rebuttal of opponent's argument for a more submissive attitude towards others:
My opponent cites Romans 12 as evidence that the Bible opposes debate. We see that the verse clearly calls for peace among men, but I would ask my opponent: Are peace and debate mutually exclusive? Are we not debating peacefully now? In refraining from calling each other names or letting emotion get the better of us, we are contending with each other over an issue peacefully; and when we are done we will exchange a virtual handshake as a sign of that peace. Even if we end up agreeing to disagree.
Similarly, my opponent's other Bible references are about harmful violence (physical or otherwise). Again, does debate imply harmful violence? Rather than eliminating debate altogether, I would suggest that these verses place limits on how a debate should be conducted (much like this website has rules of conduct).
My opponent has rightly stated that examples are not evidence enough when it is not clear the the example was not in sin. I will concede on this point as I do not believe I can adequately prove that the Acts 15 example in condoned by Scripture.
My opponent asked for clear Scriptural commands as evidence. I will provide the following:
"...always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect," (1 Peter 3:15)
This example not only shows a command to be ready to argue for the faith, but also places limits on how it is to be done, bringing the verses that my opponent brought into clearer context.
My opponent has pointed out my poor word choice with the word "contradiction." However, even if we call them "paradoxes", I maintain my point. The paradoxes need to be reconciled in order to make sense of them. As my opponent stated, these are truths "which only seem to contradict each other, but actually lead to a higher truth." But what is that higher truth and how do we come to know it? These higher truths are not clearly stated and therefore require study and debate to bring them out.
Thank you again for taking the time to engage in this debate. I have enjoyed the challenge. With that said, the last word is yours. I look forward to your reply.
"Are we not debating peacefully now?"
It is with this observation that I concede to having committed an act of sin by actively debating, and it is at this point that I want it to be publicly known that I will be attending church very soon to beg forgiveness from the Lord our Savior - but first I simply must finish this discussion, because I must point out that my opponent is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Argument #1 Rebuttal:
On a more serious note, I want to critique my opponent's understanding of debate and bargaining in relationship to God in the examples of Moses and Abraham. I want to point out that my opponent stated that, in the Biblical narratives he/she had presented, "we see that God concedes to men." However, I want to make it clear that this is simply not the case. To imply that a man of finite human knowledge could effectively enter a debate with an omniscient, omnipotent God, and have that omniscient, omnipotent God concede that a finite human being was correct all along is blasphemous to the Christian faith, as it implies that mankind has the potential to have an intellectual capacity which is greater than their Creator. This is a flaw that, I believe, even an Atheist could recognize. It is with great remorse that I point out that what my opponent has brought up is an example of Open Theism - a heretical belief that God is not an infinite power, but merely a superior yet vulnerable power.
Of course, I do not want to stray too off topic here... Again, my opponent has used a counter-example when he/she used this quote:
"In the example of Abraham, we see that Abraham brings up the subject of justice and argues that what God is planning to do is unjust: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?""
My greatest concern of all here is not so much that my opponent failed to use direct commandments from the Bible alone rather than to use counter-examples from scripture, but moreso what my opponent seems to be implying. If we are to assume that God is the judge of the Earth, then we must also assume that it is God who decides what is just and what is unjust - not Abraham. It is not the place of the Christian nor the Jew to tell God how to act. So again, I want to point out that these counter-examples are indeed subjective and may be used to justify incorrect courses of action or belief. Besides, This is not to mention that God is unchanging (psalm 102:25-27), and therefore could not have changed His mind on what He was going to do in either situation, because an omniscient God would have known exactly what He was going to accomplish through these scenarios. Again, an unchanging God could not lose a debate, lest He concede and change his mind - which would be a direct violation of His unchanging nature. Returning to my opponents example, if Abraham and Moses were indeed righteous men as the Bible claims, then they must have not been arguing with God in these cases, but rather, they must have been attempting to come to an agreement with God; and in so doing, they must have been bargaining with God, not debating, for an omniscient God could not possibly lose a debate with a finite human being.
As per the account of Jacob, God would have known beforehand that Jacob would refuse His command, and had punished Jacob as a result by dislodging his shoulder - however, God may have seen that Jacob did deserve this blessing anyhow (as God had promised this blessing to Jacob earlier) and so Jacob did receive the said blessing.
As per the account of Job, I fear my opponent is misled. In Job 40:1-2, God - manifesting Himself in a fearsom storm - demands His accuser to speak, and Job responds directly afterwards. For the rest of the chapter, God intensely questions Job; clearly this was to humble him.
Argument #2 Rebuttal:
My opponent does not seem to have truly defended debate with this verse, as this verse cleary seems to state that it is good to make a defense for your beliefs, but not necessarily to attack another's, as is usually accomplished in a debate. In this case, I would like to point out 2 Timothy 2:16 "But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness," as well as 2 Timothy 2:23-25, which states "Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth." Furthermore, I would also like to point out Philippians 2:14-16, which states "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain."
These verses clearly show that debate leads to argument, and arguments leads to the corruption of the spirit, and because of this, debate is unpleasing to the God of the Bible.
Argument #3 Rebuttal:
My opponent challenged my to answer what this "higher truth" derived from paradoxes actually is, and how we come to know them. My answer is simple; it would behoove the readers of the Bible to read and compare the verses of the Bible together to discover their meaning. Again, if the Bible is the infallible Word of God, and God is not the author of confusion, then this certainly can be done. No debate is necessary.
Thank you as well for this interesting debate - I had the chance to taking a position that is not what I truly believe to be true, and I enjoyed the challenge of defending it.
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