We are going to post an article written by Ryan Hayden, an independent Baptist pastor out of Matoon, Illinois, USA, as I believe it is a well-written treatise on how to deal with disagreements and differences in a manner that yet glorifies God while still conveying disapproval of sin. Ryan Hayden is a very under-rated author that does not really get the attention he deserves, and he has often mentioned some things to me that caught me in the middle of some of my own heated moments.
Recently I have engaged in some debates and disagreements, and while I believe I have maintained my “cool”, there are moments when I get so disgusted in the manner in which another Christian “rebukes” another Christian and then acts pious and hypocritical in their approach, that I have often nearly crossed the line myself, and sometimes have crossed the line ever the desire to win an argument because I was angry and wanted to make the person ‘get’ my point of view.
I would like to think that I can treat people the way I would treat my wife or children. I have a few disagreements with my wife from time to time, but I would NEVER call her “stupid” or “a dummy” (especially since I’m usually the one that’s wrong!) or even raise my voice to her. My children also have never heard me raise my voice to them in anger-ever. Should we treat our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ any different?
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” 1 Timothy 5:1-2
As Dave Miller recently Tweeted, “We should rebuke sin without sinning”. Some folks just don’t seem to understand that Christ is just as concerned about HOW we confront others as what we are confronting them about and why. They seem to think that as long as you have the right to put the perpetrators in handcuffs, you have the right to beat a confession and repentance out of them. I am not going to point fingers in this article because I need to hear it as much as they do-and I hope they are listening.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1
Dr. James Ach
MAKING SENSE IN THE NOISE MACHINE-Ryan Hayden
One of the things that I’ve found as I’ve written in various places on the internet is that most people don’t know how to express opposition civilly and intelligently. The web is full of name calling, attacks on character, us-versus-them cheerleading, and “the world is coming to an end if” types of arguments. In other words, when faced with ideas or information that makes us uncomfortable, most of us don’t know how to oppose the ideas, so we oppose the people who present them.
This kind of defensive opposition really does no good. When we get defensive, our ideological opponents get defensive. When we bring out the cruise missile of an insult, they start looking for weapons of mass destruction of their own. All you end up with are bruised egos and a bigger divide.
I find it helpful on the internet to always strive to be idea driven. Here’s what I mean:
Attack ideas, not people.
The other day I put a letter to the editor in the newspaper about some homosexual rights legislation being pushed through our state assembly. I didn’t call anybody names. I didn’t write anything that hadn’t been verified. Yet, I couldn’t believe the comments on the newspaper website. Apparently, being opposed to gay marriage for religious reasons makes me a hater, a fear monger and a bigot. Also, plenty of people are glad that I am not their pastor, and glad to let me know.
The common thread in 96% of the negative comments was that the commenters were attacking me, and saying nothing about what I wrote.
One comment was different, it’s author stated disagreement and then pointed out what he saw as a flaw in my argument. I thanked him for his comment, did some research, and rethought what I’d said. He didn’t change my mind about the whole argument, but he changed my mind about one part of it.
Nothing good comes from attacking people for having an opinion. Attack the opinion itself, try to show what’s wrong with it, but don’t attack people.
Which brings me to another part of being idea driven:
Try to change peoples mind, not make people look bad.
One of the negative side effects of the internet is the polarization of our society. We all tend to develop an us verses them mentality and as a result “defeat them” becomes a goal. In the book of Acts, we see Paul going to synagogues and city squares, and in all of those places, he faced instant opposition. We never read where Paul went into attack mode and tried to make the Jews or Gentiles feel stupid or look bad for having bad ideas, rather, we see him working hard and long reasoning with people to persuade them about the truth of Jesus Christ. (Acts 17:2, 2 Cor. 5:11)
In any ideological battle we should remember that we aren’t after casualties, but converts. You can’t get converts if you can’t keep an audience in the first place. This is why being idea driven is so important.
Remember the wisdom from Proverbs:
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.” Proverbs 15:1–2
“By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.” Proverbs 25:15
It applies to the internet too.
Avoid the taboos of civil argument.
Some of you may have studied debate or logic in school, I did not. I went through high school, college and some graduate school before I learned on my own that their have been rules governing civil discourse for hundreds of years. If you take the time to do a quick study of the “logical fallacies” and you try to apply that knowledge, I guarantee your conversation will be elevated to a whole new level.
Here are some of the main ones (there are many more):
- ad hominem attacks – attacking the person, not the idea. (i.e. “The only thing that you just proved is that you’re an idiot.”)
- false-dichotomies – assuming that there are only two possibilities, when there could be more. (i.e. “Either you are a conservative or a liberal.”)
- guilt by association – assuming because an idea is associated with a person or other idea, it is false. (i.e. “Adolf Hitler said that once, it must be evil.”)
- straw men – attacking an argument that nobody holds to make yourself look good. (i.e. “Lordship salvation people believe that once you are saved you never sin and live in perfect submission to Christ.”)
I’ve found this list on the carm.org website to be very helpful. (I know little about their organization and just found this via a google search. So don’t view the link as an endorsement.) [EDITORS NOTE: Matt Slick of CARM is an above average apologist although we do not agree with nor endorse his views on Calvinism or the modern versions.]
If I cannot make an argument in a way that is levelheaded or logical, then I must…
Consider the possibility that I am wrong.
Obviously, as a Christian I am going to accept scripture as rock solid and not question it. But if the cause I am espousing is extra-biblical (economic politics for example) and I can’t discuss it logically in an idea centric way. I might need to admit to myself that either 1) I don’t know enough about this topic to be discussing it in a public forum or 2) I might be wrong.
I’ve found that when I approach a discussion trying to change people’s minds, sometimes my mind is changed, and that’s not a bad thing.
(You might also like this post: Liberals are Fundamentalists Too)* [see note below]
Do have your own ideas about civil discourse or being idea driven on the internet. Please, let me know in the comments.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: I have read this article and it is showing how liberals who criticize believers, particularly fundamentalists, have their own methods of fundamentalism that is fundamental to their liberalism.