Yes, you read correctly. I wish Apostolics would debate. I know that many Apostolic preachers would rather a dentist pull their teeth without anesthesia than to debate. I am not speaking about Apostolics debating non-apostolics; I am speaking about intramural debate. I think that we have a need to formally debate our differences. My reasons are as follows:
- IT CAN BE DONE IN A RESPECTFUL WAY: I will illustrate this point with one example. Dr. James White and Dr. Michael Brown are the perfect model of respectful debate. White and Brown have teamed up in debate against Unitarians and others. They consider each other brothers in Christ. They share both Christian fellowship and personal friendship. Not only have they team debated against others, but the have also had formal debates against each other. As far as I know, they have debated Calvinism and cessationism. They prefaced those debates by informing their audiences that they were brothers in Christ and that the issues were in-house debates. Apostolic brothers and sisters, we need this kind of discussion among us. We need to develop the ability to disagree publicly with one another in a respectful way. We are disagreeing publically with each other now; we are just not doing it in a respectful and Christian way. Instead of doing in a formal, public, regulated way, we are doing it by taking potshots at each other from pulpits when our targets are not present. For those of you that think public regulated debate would be dangerous, I submit that what we are presently doing is infinitely more dangerous.
- MANY OTHER GROUPS DO IT: Almost every other Christian demographic is debating the relevant issues. These debates are reaching to highest level of theological academia. There are many debates and panel discussions being held on a number of different issues. Perhaps one of the hottest topics being discussed in contemporary Christianity is the doctrine of hell (pun absolutely intended). Theologians of every denominational strip are weighing in on this and many other issues. The question is, if these groups are doing it, why can't we as Apostolics? I will give my opinions in a later blog as to why I think we don't. Brothers and sisters, we have brilliant minds among us. It is a shame that we can't provide a venue where these great minds can weigh in from different perspectives on the same issues in the same venue.
- WE ARE DISAGREEING ANYWAY: This is perhaps the most significant of these points. We are discussing our differences already. The problem is that we are doing it in unhealthy and unethical ways that are leading to misrepresentation, false witness and division. We are sitting around conference tables making claims about preachers with whom we have little to no relationship. I have witnessed innumerable accounts of men totally distorting the views of others (including my own). I will confess to having done this myself. And I regret each and every time that I have. I have watched preachers on social media attack other preachers by claiming that they believe a certain doctrine when I knew they did not. Misrepresentation resulted from one man pouring his definition into the other persons terms. Or they heard a key phrase and instead of letting that man define his term for himself they assumed that he meant the same thing by it that another person who used that term meant. My point is this: since we are disagreeing anyway, why not do it in a way that allows both persons to represent fairly what they believe in their own words. Brothers and sisters, it is almost impossible to portray what someone else believes without distorting it is some way. We have almost an irresistible tendency to build strawmen arguments against the other person's view so that we can cleverly knock or burn it down. It is a much more difficult task to refute another man's view when he is arguing it in his own words. We must change this if we hope to survive as a movement. Finally, since we are disagreeing anyway, let's do it redemptively and respectfully
NOTE: If you disagree with debating, but comment contrary to what I have posted, that would be debating. :)