Handling Disagreements With Civility and Love

Posted: February 9, 2014 in IFB

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



[Unfortunately, Ryan’s website is down temporarily. You can visit his site in a few days at http://www.ryan-hayden.com, and Twitter, https://twitter.com/rynhayden%5D

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.

  1. drjamesa says:

    As some can see, I have not been very kind sometimes even on this website. I will be editing some of my posts on this site as soon as I figure out how to edit the category titles LOL. I can make them, but can’t edit them.

  2. paperthinhymn says:

    Jumping to conclusions is a form of uncivility,
    agree? Such as my recent entry in the pulpit and pen about impossible dreams. That was uncalled for.

    • drjamesa says:

      Did you see me Tweet about that? I still believe it is ambiguous, but nevertheless I stated that since you clarified it, that I did not believe it to be heretical. But the way it is written, grammatically, makes it appear that in the midst of the problems with dreamers, after you ended a paragraph with a period it looks like the solution offered is in part, that Jesus did not die for our sins. I don’t know you, and considering that among Calvinists, Jesus actually did NOT die for the sins of all (Limited Atonement), I don’t think that in that context, and with the way that particular paragraph was written, that I was presumptuous in calling it heretical until you clarified.

      However, I attacked your view, I didn’t attack YOU for it, and even tweeted to Peter Lumpkins not to post my comment on it.

      But, I am going to attempt to be civil even if my critics refuse to reciprocate.

      • paperthinhymn says:

        Hi. yeah, I saw the tweet after I wrote that first comment, and wanted to reply here. I guess what concerned me is that because we don’t know each other, we are both professing believers, and so I think both of us deserve the benefit of a doubt, and we ought to assume the best intentions and motives for each other. I think you did some good research on Ergun, and so what I would have preferred to see from you is that you read my statement, and if it puzzled you, then perhaps you could do some research and read some other articles I posted before you sound off. Even after I reached out to you on twitter to explain that you were reading it wrong, you said that it made no difference. But despite that, even though I feel its 100% not ambiguous, I took the time to listen and clarified the post- because I don’t mind taking a few minutes to fix it and because I wanted to as an act of good faith.

        You’re IFB, I’m a layperson in a generic reformed church, and I don’t know much about southern baptist politics or personalities. Its been a learning experience and I don’t have any history with half the people I’m starting to track with and get to know, and responding to. I only have a little to go on, but i read, research, critically examine what the issue is, and then go from there. So in any case, I see that some of the people we associate with have clashed and are engaging in epic twitter battles. That’s fine. All I’m asking is that despite what is going on- because I have not sinned against you as far as I know- and if I have please forgive me, and I willingly forgive you over any sins you may have caused me, that we treat each other with a degree of civility and take care in how we treat each other.

        We may still attack each other’s position and get into scrums- that’s fine. You’re right that I’m reformed and I believe that Christ died for some, not all.- and I know you probably think that’s the craziest, unbiblical thing ever. Cool. I just ask that until one of us proves to be irrational and illogically feral in our responses to each other that we treat each other as brothers in Christ, give each other benefit of a doubt, and assume the best motives and intentions.

  3. I don’t believe that Christ Jesus died for some, not all. Because God says in His Word that He is not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance. Please don’t hear what I’m not saying: I am not saying that I believe that all WILL be saved. God has given man free will, and Jesus Himself said that the majority of people would choose the broad way that leads to destruction, not the narrow way which leads to Life. He also said that God created Hell for the devil and his angels. Obviously He didn’t prepare it for men. What a shame that so many reject Jesus and choose destruction.

  4. Not In The clique says:

    While I agree 100% with Godly civility, the fighting, anger, bitterness, and general discontent that pushes the sheep “over the edge” to ungodly behaviour is 99.9% of the time caused by ungodly pastors, deacons, trustees, sunday school teachers, and other church leaders who view themselves as a God ordained dictator to torment, humiliate, and exert their domination on the sheep, and the sheep are suppose to thank them for “scattering” them.

    There are so many people who use to go to church who have been “scattered” and spiritually anihilated by what Jesus Christ Himself called “hypocrits”, “hirelings”, “blind guides”, “wolves in sheeps clothing”, and “false prophets”. To call them contrary to what Jesus Christ Himself claimed them to be is calling Jesus Christ a liar.

    The church leadership of today, including Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches, want respect then they need to give respect.

    *Women and young girls do not want a spiritual leader named Hophni and Phinehas, and they should not have to worry about being raped by a pastor, deacon, or some other church leader. Yes! even Independent Fundamental Baptist Church leaders are notorious for raping women and young girls.

    *Sheep do not want to give their tithes and offerings so that the money (which is Gods money) can be laundered by the leadership for debaucherous reasons (like visiting a hoar house).

    *Sheep do not want to attend a church whose spiritual leaders “cook the books” to hide the money that is being “funneled” to the deacons failing school which has no ties to the church.

    *Sheep do not want their children attending a sunday school where the trustees/choir directors mother-in-law gloats every single sunday during sunday school lesson to children ages 3 to 12 about how she murdered her brother in cold blood with a gun and how she fooled the cops into believing it was an accident! Then she smiles when a little three year old breaks down in tears crying she doesn’t want to die.

    *Elderly sheep living on a budget so tight that after tithing their 10%, they have to decide whether to pay the rent and forgo their blood pressure and insulin prescription or get the medicine and end up homeless do not want threatened by the pastor to turn their whole social security check over to the church to send a sunday school teachers belligerent and violent children to the Wilds. Speaking of which, sheep do not want to attend a church where the sunday school teachers oldest son just got out of prison for drugs and is now peddling in the church, 16 year old daughter violently kicks disabled women in the church, 13 year old daughter steals cheats and lies, and the 10 year old boy goes into violent fits during sunday school because the teachers are mean and unfair to him which causes top quality teachers to quit.

    *Sheep do not want to attend a church that has a revival where the men gather in one location supposedly to pray for revival, but instead, spend the prayer time telling obscene, vulgar, disgusting, jokes and stories of “good times” (yes! Independent Fundamental Baptist!!!!!). Sheep do not want to attend a church where the majority of women, led by the pastors wife refuse to pray for revival because it’s not as fun as gossipping about other women in the church.

    *Sheep do not want to attend a church where they come in glorifying and praising the Lord by telling people in the church about how the Lord blessed them only for the choir director/trustee to rudely interupt so he can tell everybody about the “wonderful piece of wood” and all the plans he has for it. Nor do the sheep want to hear about how “wonderful” his i-phone is.

    *The sheep do not want to attend a church where the choir directors wife rips and destroys the choir books, laughing and mocking anybody who finds destroying Gods music offensive.

    The sheep have been “crying” to the leadership for decades about the terrible injustices and atrocities perpetuated by church leaderships of all denominations (yes, including Independent Fundamental Baptist), and the pastors who have been given the responsibility and calling by God Jesus Christ Holy Spirit to “feed my sheep” and to protect His sheep, have ignored the cries of the sheep and even “swept” the scandals under the rug, threatened the sheep to keep silent, accusing the sheep of “asking for it”, excommunicating the sheep (yes, even Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches), holding the sheep prisoner until they agree to keep silent (yes, even Independent Fundamental Baptist churches), giving sermons about the sheep being “burdens” to humiliate them and intimidate any other sheep who may be considering calling out the leaders sin (this happened in an Independent Fundamental Baptist church I use to attend).

    As I said in the second paragraph above, there are so many sheep who use to go to church whose civil God glorifying disagreements fell on deaf ears by the pastor (yes, even in the Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches). The majority of them became atheists because the “hypocrits”, “blind guides”, “wolves in sheeps clothing”, “false prophets”, and “hirelings” convinced them that God Jesus Christ Holy Spirit commanded their “scattering”. I have found that the trauma and pain inflicted by the leadership has blinded them so much that they can’t seem to separate God Jesus Christ Holy Spirit from the “hypocrits”, “hirelings”, blind guides”, “wolves in sheeps clothing”, and “false prophets” .

    Others, like myself, who did not give up on God Jesus Christ Holy Spirit do not attend any church, but instead worship Him in private and get together with two or three other people either at home or some place like McDonalds. As it says “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I.” It’s not 200 nor 300 in Tim Tebows/ super bowl/ soccer championship/etc. name.

    The Independent Fundamental Baptist (and every other denomination) leadership has nobody but themselves to blame for the lack of respect. All the decades the sheep cried to you and you all turned your backs, plugged your ears, closed your eyes, and walked away. Well, the Master has heard the cries of “BAAAAAAAAAH”………”BAAAAAAAHHHHHH”……………… “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”…………..”BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”

    Eventhough you have ignored the growing severity of the “BAAAAHS”, God Jesus Christ Holy Spirit has not:

    *The church roles are dropping in such a fast rate.

    *The number of people claiming a faith is dropping as fast.

    *Atheism is now the number one group.

    *Churches of all denominations (including Independent Fundamental Baptist) are struggling financially.

    *Less and less church members are inviting people to church because they don’t want them physically and psychologically abused like them.

    *All these results are contributing to churches having to close their doors. God Jesus Christ Holy Spirit will NEVER die. Instead, Christians will worship like the new Christians after Jesus Ascension had to. The terrible persecution of their day, wherever they scattered to they met new people and invited them into their tent to hear about Jesus. Then the Romans would come and they would scatter many times never seeing each other again but they all would meet new people and tell them of Jesus inside their little tents. There was no such thing as a permanent church.

    How can any of you expect God Jesus Christ Holy Spirit’ blessings upon the church and upon your lives with your wickedness?

    Don’t blame the sheep that God Jesus Christ Holy Spirit called and entrusted you with feeding and protecting His sheep. The sheep are not responsible for your failure. There is no trusting sheep that has ever nor will ever come to you and say: “please turn me over to the hirelings, wolves in sheeps clothing, false prophets, hypocrits, and blind guides.” In order to be respected, you have to be respectful.

    • drjamesa says:

      I will respond more to this in depth later, but I will add one thought that for me sums up my thoughts as a whole:

      “He that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” James 4:17

      A Christian has no excuse regardless how others treat them, even if the pastor is derelict in his duties, the believer must do what he knows to be right whether or not anyone else around them does right or not.

      • Not In The clique says:

        Esther 4:13-14: Esther 7: 3-10

        The whole book of Amos

        The James 4:17 verse “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” also applies to “derelict” pastors and leaders. Nowhere in this verse does it say the verse applies only to sheep and neither does it say the pastors and other leadership are exempt from “doing good”.

        No mans words supercede God Jesus Christ Holy Spirit’ Holy Word, but, if the above are not good enough, then take the advice of the following two men (who I never met):

        “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing”. ——Edmund Burke

        “Pruning is not pleasant, but it is productive”. ——-Alan Yoho

Leave Godly Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s