Militancy in the Defense
of Truth
The Value of Debate

Larry Ray Hafley


Rather than relying upon Webster's Dictionary to define "militancy," we shall direct our attention to the definition, description, and demonstration of Divine revelation.

First, Jude defined the term when he said that we "should earnestly contend for the faith" (Jude 3). Second, Paul described militancy when he said, "We were bold in our God to declare unto you the gospel of God with much contention" (1 Thess. 2:2). Further, by way of description, he said, "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4, 5--NASB). Third, militancy was demonstrated by Elijah in his debate with the prophets of Baal (1 Kgs. 18), by Jesus in his discussions with the Jews (Matt. 12:22-30; 21:23-46; 22:15-46; John 8), and by the disciples in their disputes (Acts 6:10-7:60; 13:16-52; 17:2-10; 19:8, 9, 23; 28:22-29). After reading and savoring the implicit implications of the Scriptures cited, if one still does not know what it means to be militant in the defense of truth, Webster will be of little help.

(Let it be understood that a debate is not the only way to be militant in the defense of the truth. Our study concerns religious debating because that is the assigned topic.)

Is It "Right" To Debate?

"The Bible," it is alleged "condemns debates." This is not true. Yes, the Bible forbids ungodly quarrels, wrangling, and strife (Rom. 1:29; 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:20). However, it does not prohibit an exchange of views, or discussions of discordant positions (Acts 28:22-30). If so, the Lord himself, along with his disciples, stands condemned, for they engaged in sharp, often heated, debate (Matt. 21:23-46; 22:15-46; John 8; Acts 6:10-7:60; 13:16-52). In Jerusalem, for example, Paul and Barnabas engaged in a great amount of dissension and debate (Acts 15:2--NASB). "Dissension" is elsewhere translated "uproar" (Acts 19:40; Cf. Mk. 15:7). "Disputation," or "debate," is also a very intense word, indicating sharp, pointed exchanges and arguments.

"But," some will say, "2 Timothy 2:24, 25, says, 'And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing them that oppose themselves.'"

True enough, but in the same context, (1) the apostle spoke of enduring "hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." He spoke also of being involved in warfare (2 Tim. 2:2, 3). A soldier is the very image of aggression and militancy. (2) He spoke of striving for victory as an athlete in competition (v. 5). An athlete symbolizes vigorous, intense desire and effort (1 Cor. 9:24-27). (3) Observe the blunt description of the error of Hymanaeus and Philetus (vv. 16-18). "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymanaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some." Paul named the men, cited their error in direct and bold terms, and showed its evil effect. Did he violate his own admonition to be gentle and meek "in instructing those that oppose themselves"? No, and neither do we when we militantly assail and assault "every false way." (4) Immediately following verses 24, 25, there follows a pointed, detailed picture of "evil men and seducers" (3:1-5, 13). The apostle spoke plainly of "silly women" and of "men of corrupt minds" who "resist the truth" (3:8). He said that this "sort" are those who will not "endure sound doctrine," but who will "turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (4:2-4). Did he violate the standard of 2:24, 25, when he did so? (5) Finally, he named and accused Demas and Alexander the coppersmith (4:10, 14, 15). Were Paul's accusations and "name calling" contrary to the spirit of Christ and of 2:24, 25? Who will say they were?

Since Paul did not disobey 2 Timothy 2:24, 25 when he militantly chided and challenged men and their errors, neither do we do so when we do the same things in the warfare of debate and the competition, the striving, of controversy. As my mother says, "You can make a sin out of nearly anything." Of course, that includes debating, but an open, public Bible discussion is not wrong in and of itself. "They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them" (Prov. 28:4). "And every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God" (John 3:20, 21).

Characteristics Of Honorable, Militant Debate

By a study of a few Biblical debates, we shall learn the nature and character of a godly defense of the truth.

(1) Elijah's Debate With The Prophets Of Baal (1 Kgs. 18). Though this debate was held 2,800 years ago, it contains certain elements that characterize conflict in debates to this day.

First, false charges precipitated the debate (v. 17). Ahab charged Elijah with being a troublemaker, the cause of Israel's national problems. This perception of Elijah was broadcast in order to obscure and hide Ahab's guilt in forsaking "the commandments of the Lord." It also served to cause some to be suspicious of Elijah, and, therefore, not give him a fair hearing. Whenever men are "contentious and do not obey the truth," we may expect to find similar misrepresentations against those who faithfully live and preach the word of God (Cf. Matt. 11:19; Acts 24:4, 5; 3 Jn. 10).

Second, the specific issue and subject at hand clearly was set forth. "If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him" (v. 21). Well worded and defined topics or propositions are an asset to profitable discussions.

Third, it was mutually agreed as to the nature and source of the evidence to be used to prove the case in question (vv. 23, 24). The Elijah--Baal debate demanded a visible demonstration. Thus, it is not out of order to insist that those who claim that their God presently works in the same miraculous manner should be able to exhibit such obvious displays of divine power. (Pentecostalism, are you listening?)

Fourth, strong and intense feelings were evident on both sides of the dispute (vv. 26-28). This should come as no surprise. When faith in who is truly the only living God determines the salvation and destiny of our souls, surely any challenge to it must be accompanied with a steadfast, determined defense. A debate is not a game; it is not a joke; it is not to see who is the best at verbal repartee, or who has the quickest wit. It is a deadly serious work, worthy of our deepest concentration, energy, and effort.

Fifth, harsh, sarcastic things were said. Elijah severely chided and "mocked" his opponents (v. 27). Often, when this occurs in a debate, some turn aside and condemn all debates as ungodly affairs. At times, whether in debate or not, gospel teachers must "rebuke" (chide, censure severely, admonish, charge sharply) those who hear them (2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:15). Each situation must be judged on its own merits as to the appropriate level of rebuke, but, as Elijah's example shows, there are times when it is expedient to do so. The Lord did (Matt. 23). The apostles did (Acts 13:10; Gal. 2:11-14; 5:12--NASB). Can we afford to do less when the truth and the souls of men are on the line?

What is a puzzle is that some would condemn Elijah for mocking the prophets of Baal, but those same people would not lift a lip in condemnation of Ahab's false charge against Elijah (v. 17)! They say they believe in Elijah's God and not in Ahab's Baal, but they criticize Elijah's defense and utter nary a peep against Ahab's accursed accusation! Why is that?

Further, let it be duly noted that what Elijah did and said that day, he did at the behest of God. "I have," he said, "done all these things at thy word" (v. 36). Yes, even the mocking and execution of his debate opponents was at the request of God! That ought to cause us to soberly reflect on the seriousness of the fight between truth and error. Indeed, "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31)!

(2) The Debate Of Jesus With The Pharisees (Matt. 12:22-30). Deep down in their souls, the Pharisees knew what the miracles of Jesus confirmed. Nicodemus quite candidly said it best, "We know that thou are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (Jn. 3:2; Cf. 9:33; Acts 4:16; 6:7). Thus, when Jesus healed the blind, speechless man, the logical question arose, "Is not this the Son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." The debate was on.

Let us analyze Jesus' analysis. His reply proceeded along three lines of evidence. First, that of refutation; secondly, that of declaration; thirdly, that of demonstration. Of the Lord's approach, G. Campbell Morgan said, "He revealed in his answer, first, the folly of their suggestion;secondly, the inconsistency thereof; thirdly, the willful rebellion that induced it; fourthly, the blindness which caused it; and, finally, their complicity with Satan logically, and in such a way that they could not reply, He ended up by inferentially charging up them complicity with Satan" (G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According To Matthew, p. 129).

Assuming that we may agree that Jesus maintained and upheld the true nature and character of honorable controversy, let us consider his manner and methods.

First, the refutation:

"(1) 'You admit that in the kingdom of evil Satan is ruler, and that demons are his subjects and his agents in carrying out his purposes. Now, if it is Satan in me that cast out this demon, then Satan is making war upon himself; his kingdom is divided against itself, and, of course, it will be overthrown and brought to desolation.'

"The people could see the truth of his statement, and they would be slow to believe that Satan is foolish enough to overthrow himself. Hence, they must look to some other source for the power that cast out this demon. Whence this power?

"(2) 'You all believe and claim that some people can cast out demons. Your own sons claim this power and practice exorcism.' (Jesus did not mean these "sons" did actually cast out demons, but he was simply making an argument on their own claim--refuting them by the ad hominem process.) 'Are you ready to say that your sons get their power from Satan? If not, you then admit the possibility of this being done by divine power and actually claim such power for your sons. Then with what consistency can you deny it to me? If you sanction the casting out of demons by divine power as an ordinary thing among your sons, why do you attribute this miracle to satanic power, as though such a thing never happened by divine power? Your own friends, your sons, prove your allegation against me in this instance false.'

"The people were compelled to see that point, and the Pharisees felt it to their utter undoing. The people could see that it was prejudice against Jesus that would cause the Pharisees to deny to him that which they claimed for others."

Second, the declaration.

"(3) 'You cannot say that I did this by natural, human power; for Satan is stronger than man, as you know. A man cannot enter into a strong man's house and spoil his goods unless he first binds or overpowers the strong man. To do that, he would, of course, have to be stronger than the strong man. This I have done. In this case Satan is the strong man, the afflicted man is his house, and the evil spirit with the man were his goods. I have shown myself stronger than Satan, for I entered in, bound him, and spoiled his goods. What power is superior to Satan? The divine power only. Therefore, I did this by the Spirit of God.'"

Third, the demonstration.

"(4) 'Since I have shown that I did this miracle by the Spirit of God, you must admit that I have divine sanction, and, of course, my claim is true. Instead of being in league with Satan, I am in communion with God. Therefore, the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you--it is at hand, just as I have been telling you in my preaching.'

"Jesus has now completed his argument, and he drives home the conclusion: 'Here is a manifestation of divine power, and you have not been able successfully to deny it. It is the Spirit of God in me that did this. You must, therefore, accept me and believe what I preach, or else reject me and blaspheme the Holy Spirit" (G.C. Brewer, Contending For The Faith, Pp. 240, 241).

As this debate of Jesus reveals, honorable, militant defense of the faith involves:

(1) Not only refuting error, but also showing its folly and inconsistency. This was an embarrassment to the Pharisees. It made them appear in a bad light. Perhaps some were led to "feel sorry" for the badly defeated Pharisees. Still, Jesus unsparingly unmasked their hypocrisy and iniquity. Effective debate is characterized by such militancy.

(2) It also includes the use of what some would call "overkill." Any single one of Jesus' remarks routed the claim of the Pharisees, but he relentlessly pounded their absurd charge with several sledge hammer blows. There should be no apology for overwhelming, undeniable argument in debate. Opponents of the Son of God must be fought, not merely to maintain the status quo, or come out with a "draw," but to completely vanquish and destroy their positions and doctrines (Deut. 7:2-5; Jer. 1:10; 2 Cor. 10:3-5).

(3) After the obliteration of every vestige of error's contentions, an appeal to the truth on the terms of "unconditional surrender" must be made. At least, that is what Jesus said. "Jesus put it to them straight: 'He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.' Now 'be a pig or a puppy; be a man or a mouse.' ' You have seen this miracle, and you cannot deny it or explain it except to refer it to the Holy Spirit. Therefore, you must accept it for full value, or else reject it entirely'" (Ibid., Pp. 241, 242).

Could it be that the reason debates do very little good in the eyes of many is because these attributes are missing? Or, if they are there, do squeamish brethren "apologize" for the truth when it has been preached and lessen the impact of its devastating power? My friends, if you want to eat bacon, you must drown out the dreadful squeal of a stuck pig! If you want truth to emerge victorious, you cannot sympathize with error when it pleas for sympathy. As the late A. Hugh Clark once lamented, "How much harm has been done by the untaught by their apologies for the truth when it has been preached" (Sermons, Hoyt Houchen, editor, p. 114).

(3) The Debate And Defense Of Stephen Before The Jewish Council (Acts 6:10-7:60). As is the case in many disputes, lying, slander, and false accusations were incorporated in the arsenal of error (Acts 6:10-14). Despite those negative, dishonorable attachments, let us study the honorable, militant defense of Stephen.

First, Stephen appealed to his audience regarding those things which neither denied (Acts 7:2f.). This assists in focusing on the particular issue of difference. The call of Abraham and the history of the patriarchs were not called in question. Paul used the same tact in Acts 13:16-23.

In like manner, when discussing, for example, the place of water baptism in the plan of pardon, it is helpful to show that all agree that salvation is by the blood of Christ, or by grace through faith, as Paul expressed it. Or, to cite another case, when studying the "Jesus Only" doctrine of the Oneness Pentecostals, it is useful to point out that we both agree that there is "one God," not three, and that Jesus is indeed, God, or Deity. These and other related matters serve to keep the discussion on the particular issue at hand.

Second, Stephen constantly referred to Scripture throughout his defense. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). This was the course Jesus pursued (Lk. 24:25-27, 44). All honorable debate will have as its central feature a consistent reference to Scripture, to "book, chapter, and verse." It is the first and last court of appeal, the only sure, certain, authentic authority (Cf. Lk. 16:29-31). Because of his profuse use of Scripture, should we charge Stephen with "bibliolatry"? Should we criticize him for using "too many" Scriptures?

Third, Stephen not only appealed to the Scriptures, but he also applied them to the present situation and circumstance--"Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it" (Acts 7:51-53). While it is crucial to directly apply the Scriptures to a specific case, it is very controversial. Many seem to think it is acceptable to preach the principles of truth, but that it is somehow "unChristian," "uncharitable," or "unloving" to make a specific, indictment and charge of error.

If that be so, was Jesus lacking in love when he did so (Matt. 15:2-14; 21:45; Cf. Mk. 7:6-13)? Was Paul devoid of "Christian charity" when he specifically and directly indicted his fellow apostle (Gal. 2:11-14)? Was Stephen in the case immediately cited? In this same connection, what about the examples of Nathan and John the Baptist? Were they, too, "unloving" when they applied the truth to a particular setting (2 Sam. 12:7; Matt. 14:4)?

It will not do to say that those men could make the application "because they were inspired," and we are not (Matt. 7:15, 20). Even "uninspired" men must "try" or test what they hear by the word of God (1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Jn. 4:1, 6; Rev. 2:2). Besides, if it be assumed that "inspiration" is the determining factor, and that Stephen was so inspired, what "worse" results could an "uninspired" man achieve than those which came upon Stephen (Acts 7:54-60)!

Consequently, all worthy discussions, even those that involve unpleasant repercussions, will seek to establish common ground, appeal to Scripture, and make clear and definitive application to the case under review.

(4) The Defense Of Paul To The Synagogue In Antioch Of Pisidia (Acts 13:14-52). Without taking the time to mark the common facets of this occasion to the other defenses discussed above, we may turn our attention to other, singular features which characterize honorable, militant defense of the faith.

First, Paul declared the universal call of the gospel. He addressed, not only the Jews, but "whosoever among you (that) feareth God". The truth is not geographically defined; it is not confined to any race or nation of men, but to "every creature," to "all nations" (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15; Acts 10:34, 35; Rom. 10:13). Whether a man dwells in a palatial palace or in a crude hut, or whether he inhabits an igloo or a marble mansion, "to you is the word of this salvation sent" (Acts 13:26).

Second, he centered all hope in the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul's arguments were founded, bounded, and surrounded by Christ. The purposes, promises, and prophecies of the Old Testament all cited the coming Christ (Acts 13:17-23, 27-37). The recent work of John pointed to Christ (Acts 13:24, 25). Paul's conclusion had Christ at its core--"Therefore, men and brethren, through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins" (Acts 13:38). All militant defense of the truth winds and threads its way to Christ (1 Cor. 2:2-5)!

Third, Paul specifically warned of false plans or systems of justification--"And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39). Often, it is not sufficient to show the truth, the right way of redemption and forgiveness, but it is also essential that false ways be specifically named and denied, as Paul did. It is honorable to do so, or else Paul was dishonorable. Paul followed the same course in Romans 10:1-17 when he showed that the Jew could not be justified by his own plan of righteousness but only by submission and obedience to God's plan of making men righteous; that is, by "the word of faith" as preached by the apostles (Rom. 1:16; 6:17, 18; 10:10:1-3, 16).

Thus, when men today advocate false plans or systems of making men righteous, their particular denominational base, whether it be Protestant or Catholic, whether it be Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons, must be exposed and opposed (Eph. 5:11). Whether it be the espousers of salvation by faith only, or those who preach an unconditional salvation by grace, or those who seek to add the works of men, all must be identified, doctrinally dissected, and contrasted with true justification by grace through faith. Honorable defense can do no less (Matt. 7:21-27; Titus 1:14; Jude 3, 4).

Fourth, the apostle concluded with stern words of warning, "Behold you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; for I am accomplishing a work in your days, a work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you" (Acts 13:41--NASB). If it be thought "out of place" at best, or "tactless and rude" at worst to challenge those whom one is attempting to convert,which describes Paul? Was he merely acting "out of place," or was he "tactless and rude"?

When the forces of opposition to the faith hardened, Paul's words were upgraded from stern to sharp and severe. Said he, "Seeing ye put it (the word of this salvation; the grace of God; the word of God--vv.26, 43, 44) from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). Earlier, in the same chapter, similar words of militant rebuke were administered to one who opposed the truth. "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord" (Acts 13:10--NASB)?

But we are warned that such harsh language detracts from "honorable" debate and makes it impossible to convert those in error. Of course, tact, wisdom, judgment, and discretion must be used at all times. "In doctrine (we must show) uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned" (Titus 2:7, 8). Our words must be spoken with grace, "seasoned with salt, that ye might know how ye ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:6). In short, we must speak "the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). However, to say that language which chides and chafes a teacher of error is a deterrent to truth is obviously false. Jesus sorely derided and berated some of his opponents (Matt. 11:20-24; 15:12-14; 23:29-33; Lk. 4:28; 11:45). Honorable defense of the faith does not preclude such language. Rather, events, as the cases above illustrate, may make it mandatory (Cf. Acts 28:25-28). "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech" (2 Cor. 3:12).

Fifth, honorable and militant defense of the faith may find one alienated and separated from "devout women of prominence and leading men of the city" (Acts 13:50). Civic leaders, the socially elite, reputable men of commerce, and highly respected religious authorities may be those who most adamantly and ardently oppose the faith (Jn. 7:48; Acts 4:26, 27; 5:17; 19:24-29). This is not a goal of controversy, but it may be a galling and appalling consequence of it. It was often the case with the prophets, the Lord, and the apostles (Matt. 23:31; Lk. 13:34; Acts 7:51, 52; 24:4, 5). When it occurs, some see it as proof of something dishonorable or erroneous in one's manner or method, or in the message itself. As the example of Paul in Acts 13 clearly illustrates, neither may be the case.

The Value Of Honorable, Militant Debate

"The truth," James P. Needham once said, " has a greater opportunity to suffer in a debate than in nearly any other form of teaching." Public debates have great value, but they are also fraught with great danger. Unprepared, unskilled men of truth may meet artful advocates of error. When they do, disaster may be the result. Not everyone may have the ability to debate. One may be able to debate in one area of knowledge but not in another. Some may be better at written debate than oral debate and vice versa. A given situation may make a public debate inexpedient for a time.

Every manner of teaching has its limitations and drawbacks. Must we, though, cease to"teach and preach Jesus Christ" because there is some danger in doing so? No (Acts 5:40-42)!

The Value Of Debate

Understanding that religious debates have their "down side," what are some of the positive things to be obtained?

(1) Discussion permits both sides of a position to be heard or considered (Acts 17:2, 3, 11; 28:23, 24). It is likely that the Athenians idolaters had never been exposed to arguments sustaining the "one true God" concept (Acts 17:16-32). Paul "disputed" with them on this point.

Today, many in so called "Christendom" may never have thought of the "one true church" concept of Scripture (1 Cor. 12:13, 20; Eph. 2:16; 4:4). Some who would never attend a meeting might attend a debate to hear it discussed. Of course, the same thing is true with respect to any number of Bible subjects. Pentecostals may never consent to hear a sermon against their doctrines on Holy Spirit baptism, tongues, and miracles, but they will come to a debate on those issues. Advocates of salvation by faith only may not ever hear the truth preached on salvation by grace through faith lest it be in a public debate. This is part of the value of a debate.

(2) Christians are able to see the stark contrast between Bible truth and denominational error. Often, after a debate, believers have said, "I thought I knew what our differences were, but I did not truly understand how great those differences were!" Christians may lead "sheltered" lives and be unaware of the reality of deadly error in the religious world. A debate opens their eyes and frequently renews their zeal to teach others. After a debate, one lady said, "Thank you for my children." She told of how her children "having been 'raised in the church,' " now had a clear understanding of how pernicious error can be and how precious the truth is.

(3) Generally, debates reveal their own value and significance. Some who oppose religious discussions often are pleasantly surprised to see that they can be conducted without any blood being shed! Other than cases in the New Testament, how many religious discussions have you ever heard that resulted in physical violence and bodily harm? Even if one is able to cite such a case, it does not mitigate against the value of debate. Though Paul's endless series of disputes lead to civil strife, riots, and physical violence, he did not cease to have them. Neither should we.

(4) In Titus 1:10, 11, the Spirit spoke of a certain sect, or denomination, and he called its name--"the circumcision." Then he said, "Whose mouths must be stopped." A debate affords an opportunity to stop the mouths of some "whose mouths must be stopped." Though none may be immediately or directly converted, a discussion is of value if all it does is staple together the lips and tongues of error. Do not underestimate this particular value of honorable debate! Error is emboldened when it is unchallenged, unopposed. The agents of our "adversary, the devil" often are like their father. They are cowardly and will flee the scene when confronted. Though they may not be swayed or converted, it is a victory for truth when their mouths are muzzled and their lips are made limp and lame.

(5) Debates do good in that they reveal the "schemes," the "devices" of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11). Erroneous doctrines, lies spoken in hypocrisy, often are camouflaged "with good words and fair speeches." Therefore, "Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matt. 7:15). A debate helps to reveal the subtle sophistry of "the spirit of lawlessness." Paul spoke of this work in 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5. Cleverly arranged arguments are constructed like fortresses. The weapons of our warfare in the arsenal of truth must be employed to cast them down, lay them waste, and bring every thought into captivity unto the obedience of Christ. "Wherefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith" (Titus 1:13).

CONCLUSION: Perhaps every form of teaching, every means of honorable, militant defense of the truth, has its own particular "down side" or "drawback." Debates are no exception. Let us not, though, fail to use any medium simply because of its potentially negative aspects. Avoid the abuses as much as possible (Rom. 12:18). Understand, too, that not all allegedly "bad" results connected with a debate are therefore evil. Despite the ugly reaction to Jesus and the apostles, there was nothing inherently "wrong" or sinful in their manner and methods (Matt. 12:14). Their debates led to many unfortunate and regrettable events, but the fault was not theirs (Cf. Acts 7:51-60). In other words, debate and discussion are not to be abandoned because some "set all the city on an uproar," or because opponents make the minds of others "evil affected against the brethren" (Acts 14:2; 17:5).

True "watchmen shall lift up the voice" (Isa. 52:8). They will "cry aloud (and) spare not" (Isa. 58:1). They will not "keep...silence," for they are honorably and militantly "set for the defense of the gospel (Isa. 62:6; Phil. 1:17).


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