Why I Wish Christians Would Argue MORE (No, Seriously)
By Trevin Wax
I wish Christians would argue more.
No, I’m not being sarcastic or saying this with an eye roll. I mean it.
I want Christians to argue more and fight less. To take it a step further, I’d even say that fighting less depends on our willingness to argue more and better.
To be clear, I’m not using the word “argue” in the sense that the apostle Paul did, when he instructed the Philippian church to “do everything without grumbling and arguing” (Phil 2:15). I don’t say “argue” in the sense of being quarrelsome or irritable or “loving the fight” of aggressive words.
I use the word “argue” in its classic sense: the ability to make or counter an argument that depends on logic and reason. To meet one argument with another. To argue with someone, civilly and respectfully, toward the discovery of truth.
Arguing vs. Quarreling
In his autobiography, G.K. Chesterton remarked that the bad thing about a quarrel is that it spoils a good argument! He hated when bad feelings overshadowed the making and countering of good arguments.
The ability to argue well is the hallmark of a civil society, and it should be the goal of thoughtful Christians. Chesterton provided a model of this in his frequent debates with George Bernard Shaw, a lifelong friend who saw the world almost completely differently than he did. The two of them argued, but they did not fight.
C.S. Lewis did the same. Michael Ward says Lewis “relished disagreement and debate.” He mentions one student, Derek Brewer, who remembered how Lewis would sometimes say, “I couldn’t disagree more!” But Lewis never “indicated he was offended or that Brewer was somehow unjustified in holding an opinion Lewis considered mistaken. Though they often differed, this led to a ‘fruitful dichotomy of attitudes,’ not to a chilling of their pedagogical relationship.”
Ward sums up Lewis’s approach:
“He could always distinguish the man from the man’s opinion, and he knew the difference between an argument and a quarrel. He would not allow himself to be betrayed into aggression.”
Why the Quarrels?
In This Is Our Time, I write that I’d love to see more arguing online, if by that we mean rational, reasonable intentions of persuading people to another point of view. Instead, we see quarreling online, where people are personally offended that someone else has a different opinion, so they dig in in order to defend the point of view they already accept.
Why does this happen? For three reasons…
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