While many of us assume theological debates and discussions were birthed with the creation of the internet, they are a much older phenomena. Since the birth of Christianity, people have gathered with an intent to specifically define what we should believe. Many people today are very annoyed and frustrated by theological discussions, especially online. In the format that these “discussions” take, I can see why people get frustrated. There is much animosity and name-calling. Instead of desiring to learn and teach, many simply quarrel and push their party line. Instead of politely talking about ideas many simply ridicule a person who holds such ideas.
Because of the wrong way people talk about doctrine or some stupid arguments out there (Titus 3:9), some people often want to stop all discussion of the Bible and just “live” or “love” This is not a Biblical solution, as Scripture does say doctrine is important (Titus 1:9, 2:1; 1 Timothy 4:16). While talking about Christianity the Apostle Peter does tell us to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you ”yet he also says “But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Paul also excepts Christians to give answers, but to do so with grace (Col 4:6). Below are some bad arguments that always come up in discussions that get rid of the “grace, gentleness, and respect.” Whatever the issue is don’t use these personal attack types of “arguments.”
1. “You are a heretic!”
Most people that use this phrase, don’t really know what kind of ideas can truly be counted as heresy, they just assume that if someone disagrees with them, that’s reason enough. Usually they throw it out when they can’t prove someone wrong by reason or Scripture. Instead of discussing ideas, they simply vilify the person. In my (short) life I have never seen someone respond with “Oh dear me, so sorry, you are so right, I shall recant at once.” If indeed someone is dabbling in true heresy (Jesus is not God, salvation by works, etc), you can politely say “if I am understanding you right, you are denying (_______). Yet all Christians agree this is an essential belief in Christianity.”
2. “If you believe that, soon you will become a homosexual!”
I heard this one when discussing the idea that Christians have the liberty to “redeem Halloween” as a day to be open to neighbors for Gospel reasons. The response from a few people was that I would soon be a homosexual. As of this moment, I can report that I still love my wife. There really is nothing connecting the two ideas. People like Billy Graham and John Piper have been “redeeming Halloween” for many years, both are still quite heterosexual. This argument is all about associating someone with a “worse” position in order to disprove him/her. It doesn’t deal with ideas, it tries to smear persons with a second, far worse idea to prove they are bad for talking about the first one.
3. “Everyone who knows the Bible knows that you are wrong!”
Frankly, every time I heard this, the accuser was not in a majority position of Christianity, but only counted their friends or their church. There is more to evangelical Christianity than your circle of friends. Either way, in history there have been many times where the majority has been wrong. At the time of Luther’s reforms, the majority was wrong. Today we all admit that buying salvation is not Biblical at all. Indeed, many used that same argument against Luther. Instead of engaging an idea, they simply stated their majority was correct. When the new Pentecostal movement was birthed in 1905, the majority literally believed and wrote Jesus was coming back in their lifetime. That majority is all in the afterlife now and were wrong on that issue.
4. “You are not honoring God with this stuff!”
Not only does this idea state that you are a bad, bad, bad person, but it also subtly implies that not only your actions are bad, but so are your motives. It attacks the person and the persons motives instead of dealing with the idea. God is glorified when people take His Word very seriously. In most of these discussions both parties want to do that or at least pay lip service to God’s word. In most cases the issue are not those that will dishonor God. Though there are things that might not be honoring to God, and if that’s the case, patiently and politely explain, from the Bible, why this is so, don’t simply accuse someone’s deepest motives.
5. “Let’s evangelize instead of this useless discussion!”
Every once in a while someone comes along and makes both parties feel shamed and stupid. This person usually takes the high moral road and by doing so makes everyone except himself wrong. The biggest problem with this argument, is that it sets up theology as being against evangelism, when in fact evangelism must flow from a correctly Gospel centered theology. There may be a discussion about an issue that will either cause a church to die or thrive, about truth or falsehood, and this ‘smart’ person interrupts with “evangelism is more important.” More important than doctrine? Then it follows that its good to evangelize people into the Mormon or Catholic faith, as long as we are “evangelizing”? The problem is that this “evangelism instead of theology” is itself a theological argument. It is a bad one, an unbiblical one, yet it is one. It is a doctrinal statement that says “our act of telling people to turn to ‘Jesus’ is more important than correctly knowing who Jesus is and what He wants for our life.”
Gently and peacefully strive for unity in the fundamentals of the faith, and agree to charity and civility while discussing the secondary issues.