In a given situation, should I indulge in a debate over evolution vs
creation, doctrine vs doctrine, or over arguments over reasons
for belief? I tend to get into these a lot. I know about what Paul Wrote
to Timothy about stupid and foolish arguments. but what about when Jesus
said “if you acknowledge me before men, I will acknowledge you before my
Father”.. What should I do in these situations?
This is obviously a matter of opinion, and the answer will depend on the
situation. I can think of one passage which is relevant. Titus 3:9 says,
“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and
quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. The
passage goes on to condemn divisiveness, as those who tend to be
argumentative also tend to be divisive. Paul could have added that such
quarrels can destroy friendships and can ultimately destroy the faith of
saints. This passage, in context, is about controversies and debates
between believers, but I believe the principle applies to arguments with
outsiders as well. The key to this passage is that some arguments over
unimportant matters are unprofitable and useless. They are useless, at
least partly because the subject is not important, and partly because such
debates are almost never settled with the debaters coming to agreement.
I do not see how you can use the saying of Jesus about “acknowledging me
before men” as an excuse for arguing or debating. If a situaiton arises
in which you have an opportunity to express your conviction, go for it.
However, if your sharing of your conviction leads to an argument, you have
then moved into a situation in which the Titus 3:9 passage is relevant.
I do not believe that debates and discussions over evolution/creation or
over doctrine are absolutely ruled out as sinful by this passage. What I
get from this passage is that when we find ourselves in debates, we should
always be asking ourselves if the argument is likely to be fruitful.
Often such discussions are mainly about our pride. They are about winning
the argument. Even if the debate is not about winning the discussion, it
can be “unprofitable and useless.” It is my opinion that with the whole
creation/evolution debate, arguments are almost never helpful. The
question of how long ago the creation occurred and the issue of how much
God might have used evolution to create the species currently in existence
is clearly not an important matter. Therefore, they definitely are not
worth arguing and creating hard feelings over. When people try to engage
me in a debate over such issues, I nearly always respectfully decline. As
for doctrinal questions, clearly, some doctrines are important (the nature
of Jesus, the mode of salvation, the role of faith and grace and so
forth), while some are not important (how often we should share the Lord’s
Supper, the specifics of how we organize our worship services, pre- vs
post- vs amilennialism and so forth). Even with important doctrines,
arguments or debates can still be useless. Those who get into heated
discussions should always be asking themselves if this is about their
pride or if there is any chance the discussion might, in the end, be
John Oakes, PhD.