By Tom Gilson
We’ve got a problem, folks. You and me both.
I hate to have to say it so bluntly, and maybe you’re the exception to the rule, but honestly, I’ve hardly ever seen anyone on Facebook following Christ’s example in the way they debate unbelievers. Our debate approach just isn’t Christlike.
And I’d like to mount a campaign to put an end to it. Because we’re doing it wrong everywhere, and it’s not doing the cause of Christ any good.
I realize that’s a strong statement, but I think it holds up to examination.
Defining the Problem
I’m not saying we’re always unkind or unloving. That’s not the problem I’m talking about.
I’ve seen fellow believers treating adversaries with great patience. I’ve seen Christians using sound, rational arguments. I’ve even seen something that looks a lot like love, as well as it could be expressed via social media. That’s partly Christlike, and it’s commendable, but it’s still not the way Christ modeled for us.
I’ve done a very careful study of how Jesus engaged with his adversaries. I wrote it up in a short book titled How Would Jesus Blog? Answering Online Adversaries Jesus’ Way (Kindle; Nook; Paperback). I just lowered the Kindle price to just $.99, and I dropped the paperback price by $2.00, too, because I want the word to spread: We’re going about this online debate thing the wrong way.
How It Goes Wrong
I think everyone who tries online debate knows it usually goes wrong. Quick answers get quick retorts, it turns snarky, no one budges an inch, much time is wasted, and it all just ends up looking like nasty.
It’s easy to blame the other side: They won’t listen, they won’t see how uninformed their arguments are, they parrot one another’s talking points without understanding. All of this is generally true. But we’re as involved in the mess as they are, and we can’t shrug off our own responsibility for it.
So how do we avoid it? Do we retreat and yield them the field? No, not at all! Jesus never retreated. But he never took part in any long, drawn-out arguments with adversaries, either…
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