It’s a difficult business to argue as a Christian, not least because, when one argues with non-Christians, one is sometimes the only person attempting to fulfill a standard.
There are a few dozen ways I might already be misunderstood. Most obviously, for those in general society, which is largely not interested in being rational, arguing usually means “shouting angrily at each other.” Or at least in involves angry opposition. By “arguing” I mean “rationally explaining, supporting, and discussing a conclusion.” An “argument,” in this sense, is just an explanation of why one believes a thing.
Which brings me to the second possible misunderstanding. I’m not saying that it’s difficult to argue as a Christian because perhaps Christianity is irrational, or because perhaps we don’t have reasons for believing what we believe. Christianity is actually rational, and Christians have reasons for believing what we believe. In fact it bothers me whenever people suggest that their religion is somehow separate from reason. (e.g. “I don’t need reasons, I just believe it.”)
Nor is it the case that Christianity depends upon either particularly few arguments or particularly weak arguments. In fact, the arguments for Christianity are significantly more numerous than those against it, and are at least as strong.
So what in the world do I mean? I mean that arguing with a person has to be an expression of love for that person. That is how one argues as a Christian. We reason with people in such a way that our words and our bearing and our motives are Christ-like. (Or, as necessary, when we are wrong we admit it so that we may become more Christ-like through correction.) That’s a difficult business.
It isn’t made easier by people who seem intent on being obnoxious. I should probably find that particularly “convicting,” to use the cliché Christian language, because I am precisely the sort of person who has spent most of my life trying to be obnoxious. Or at least I was obnoxious, whether or not I tried.
There’s a certain failure made evident by expressing my frustration in a public forum. I would delete it, but, you know, the rules. (What a terrible and silly attempt at a sentence. One should not try to type using colloquial spoken syntax.)
Either way, this is something with which I struggle: how do I best love those with whom I argue? (Or debate, if that word is clearer.)
Also, let me say again in praise of William (if he is reading this), that he is a charming interlocutor. I thanked him for his patience before, and have sadly given him significant chances to continue displaying it, but he has been nothing but gracious and thoughtful.
I am nearly out of time. This seems an entirely trivial reflection, and I’m not sure why anyone is interested in it, but if you have made it this far and are thinking of leaving comments on my blog or writing to me or whatever, here is a bit of advice or a few requests:
1.) Being angry and inflammatory is most likely not going to help you make your point. Also, it’s going to hurt my feelings and confuse me. I won’t know how to respond to you and will worry about it.
2.) My wife will notice that I’m worried and she’ll tell me to delete your comment. I’ll realize that she has a good point, because she’s awesome, and then your comment won’t be posted. (Admittedly, this isn’t really a second item on the list. Now I just have numbered paragraphs.)
3.) Be patient. I will respond, but it will take a long time. Partially this is because I’m busy. The rest is that I’m taking your comment probably more seriously than you are, and am trying to treat you with respect.
4.) In the background, my son is crying. This means my time is cut short.