I have seen and probably everyone who uses the internet has witnessed the poor communication we all have. Where, when, you ask? Specifically in the comment section of news stories, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.
I had this unfortunate experience recently and it wasn’t even as bad as the examples I have seen. A simple lack of clarification made a normal conversation into a debate. Social media lacks the nuance for heartfelt communication unless we take the time to be abundantly clear. Christians should be willing to be abundantly clear when they present themselves, especially when they present a Christian worldview. But what I have seen is that many Christians aren’t even clear on what that is.
Online we have a tendency to like that which agrees with us, which is normal, and seemingly hate that which disagrees with us, which is….a problem. Now sometimes hate is appropriate, if we are talking about say evil for instance. But most of the time in internet comment sections this doesn’t facilitate wholesome conversation. The problem is our strong emotions blind us from reason and we fail to actually have any meaningful conversation. (This is why it is said to avoid talking about politics and religion)
Now I am not interested in trying to fix the entire internet because the anonymity causes us all to act a bit different. It is like driving. We have a tendency to think “what can I get away with if nobody knows”. The problem is that the internet just makes us feel like nobody knows, but everyone does, and God knows all the more.
I however am only interested in this topic as far as when Christians try to debate. I can’t teach everyone manners, their mothers should have taught them that. This is part of the problem, we should know this, but even if not, it should be obvious from the pages of scripture. Our message gets muddied when love is nowhere on the field. Go read 1st Corinthians 13 again and see if loveless language will get you anywhere.
I have seen it time and time again a so-called Christian cussing out his opponent or simply misrepresenting Christianity. I know the easy answer is he is probably not a real Christian or at least not a very good one. Then someone else will say “you don’t lose you salvation if you cuss.” This is also what I am not saying nor talking about here. But, since you brought it up, if you are going to stand up for a cause you should probably understand something about what you are speaking up for. Ephesians 4:29 clearly prohibits this.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
The question is not really if he is or isn’t a Christian. The problem is on that platform, that medium, this person has claimed to be one. I have seen other instances where a so-called Christians claims that they are part of the body and then in the next line proceed to deny major doctrines and theology. They are the cool-laid-back-christian–very-lax-about-all-that-theology-stuff, but there is not much we can do about this other than hope that the individual actually gets saved.
But when you debate you are standing up for something. If the way you stand up for something undermines the very thing you are standing up for, you lose. If a presidential candidate answers all his questions perfectly but acts like a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins’ the whole time, he undermines his message. (thank you Elf) The bigger problem is when this happens for Christianity, because then we all lose. Even if people agree, even if you shouted down the opposition, even if you get more likes, even if you get re-tweeted on twitter, we lose. Because that is not the Christian message. Telling someone off does not convince anyone of your commitment to Christ. Disregarding parts of the Bible you don’t like or agree with only communicates your lack of understanding. What happens more often than not is that this language communicates that Christians and perhaps Christ himself are not very nice people nor very bright. That is a lose.
This is not how Christians talk about the faith. If you are a Christian learn this lesson: What we need are more actual Christians communicating as Christians do: biblically. That is humbly and with love, being in control of our speech and emotions. Accurately reflecting the Bible when speaking for it is also helpful.
But I would even dare say that quoting scripture to the unsaved person isn’t always useful to make your point either. Until the issue of the Gospel is addressed, that age-old question that Jesus asks “Who do you say that I am?” People outside the Christian faith are not going to see the Bible as a very compelling talking point. For that matter judging someone based on verses from a book that they never agreed to adhere to is another point to address. They may be ultimately accountable, but they don’t see it that way.
If the person we are debating does not buy into the Bible as authoritative, then stop using it to make them come around. They need to encounter Christ before the Bible has any appeal whatsoever. This is that whole bad communication part of it. On comment boards people incessantly just talk past each other. Here is my set of truth, and then there is yours, and never has any conversation happened.
If they aren’t interested in John 3:16 they most certainly aren’t going to be interested about what that verse says about a particular sin.
As Christians we need to be better at communicating our worldview. Our worldview always begins with a person. That person is Jesus. If we don’t start there then all we are is just a few more people wasting bandwidth.