There are some people who are quite keen and adept at winning debates. I think I used to try to be that way, and at least I thought it was important to some extent. Now as I get older and reflect over time, I’m beginning to think it’s less important, not that important, maybe not of much importance at all.
I think very few people have been won over, who have lost an argument. Now if it is done clearly in love, with some good give and take on both sides, at least the former being clearly the case, then over time the seeds planted could change one’s heart and mind. But by and large I think the debate mentality can be ego driven so that truth is not really what it’s all about as much as winning a contest. We know one could win a debate and yet not really have the substance of truth on their side.
Paul did debate, a debate that was in-house concerning the one faith. And he won over many Jews as a result. So did Apollos, who was quite adept at this. But I’m wondering more about those outside of the faith. I’m not sure I see any scriptural precedent in which debating such did any good, though I would think it could, depending.
I prefer to think in terms of sharing, as much preferable to debating. In the sharing, there may well end up being elements of debate, as the two share concerning their particular faith (or lack thereof). But by and large, those times would simply be sharing with each other, and in terms of a witness. I share what’s important, essential and central to my life and why, and what difference that makes. And I seek to listen well to someone else do the same. And I let them have the last word, and maybe even let it seem that they have won the debate, while doing the best I can to present the faith, or my faith.
And Peter tells us that we’re to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask us about the hope we have, to do so with gentleness and respect. We witness from the witness of Jesus’ resurrection, our lives being in a long chain of changed lives because of that. And we believe the gospel of Christ is the power of salvation to all who believe. The good news that Jesus is King has a power all its own. Our ability to defend it may do some good, but we have to be careful that we don’t get in the way of a message which has a power all its own, and simply needs to be proclaimed, shared as a witness.
In the end it is God through Jesus by the Spirit who changes hearts and minds. Who keeps us in his love and care, so that we continue to have and be a witness. Even though we may not be able to win a single argument. God continues to do his good work in the world, even through us in Jesus for the good of the world.