Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 19, 1956

Are Debates Sinful?

Melvin Rose, Red Bluff, California

Frequently we are told that a public religious debate is sinful and un-Christian. It is alleged that such meetings are harmful and that they "engender strife" rather than do good. In the opinion of many, a debate is nothing but a public brawl, where wrangling and quarreling are given license. Mention the word and they picture two enraged preachers hurling scripture at each other before the gaze of a much perplexed audience.

Such an attitude toward a debate is exaggerated, of course. While we must admit that tempers are lost occasionally, and that debaters act or behave unseemly sometimes, we still insist that such conduct, however reprehensible, does not curse the debate itself. We cannot conclude that religious debating is inherently evil, for such is not the case. Let us see.

It is said of the preacher Apollos, "who spake and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, — "

"And when he was minded to pass over into Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him; and when he was come, he helped them much that had believed through grace; for he powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." (Acts 18:27-28.)

In this single verse we can find all the essential parts of a modem religious debate.

1. An Affirmant — the preacher, Apollos.

2. Affirmative burden — confute the Jews: i.e., disprove them.

3. The Negative — the Jews.

4. The Authority — the Scriptures.

5. The Proposition (thing debated) — that Jesus is the Christ.

6. The Setting or place — in Public.

7. The Result of debate — helped them much that had believed!

How can we oppose religious debates, public or private, in the face of such a passage? Did Apollos sin? Was he un-Christian? Did he cause strife and hinder the Cause of Christ? Even so, if modern debates are wrong?