Debating is something quite old. The Greeks spent much time debating systems of philosophy, religion, new ideas, seeming nearly insatiable in their desire for the “new thing”, and nearly anything that came to their attention. These were the conditions in Athens when the Apostle Paul arrived. Please read Acts 17:15-32 for the description of the action. Here Paul taught on six points:
- God is not the made but the maker
- God has guided history
- Humans were created to instinctively long for God
- That the days of ignorance are past
- The day of judgment is coming
- The Resurrection, is the proof of the preeminence of Christ
Why do I bring this up?
If we are to confront, someone, to contradict their position, we must be ready to debate. To win a debate one must consistently use logic, be factually accurate. Passion and emotion for the subject debated may be a part of the persuasion, presenting the issue in a superior way (context), that reaches a resolution. We must know our subject, but we must also know the position of the opposing debater, as well as he or she does.
Here in Acts chapter seventeen we gain such great insight into the process of proper debate discussion, the formation of debate points. In addition, we find that the Apostle Paul knew of whom he spoke to and found himself ready for the challenge. As well, those philosophers knew Paul, they described him as a Babbler, a seed picker, this definition was used to describe birds or a sponger. And so was that they applied this appellation to men who gathered scraps of information from others, the Apostle Paul is an example for us all in preparation for spreading the Good News and for the proffering the Laws of God’s Word as a life-line to a people drunken and drowning in their own solutions.
The Apostle Paul was facing two different schools of philosophy. The Epicureans generally denied, that the world was made, or governed, by God; that there no rewards or punishments for men after death and held that pleasure was the highest good. While the Stoics believed that you should be free from passion and moved by neither joy or grief, pleasure or pain, yet frequently it conducted the individual to melancholy and often suicide; they were Fatalists and Pantheists. Therefore, Paul addresses those beliefs in the above mentioned six points. That day he was mocked, yet others said they would hear him again on the subject.
Isn’t that all that we can hope and pray for; that in our contact with the non-believer, and those Christians that seem so opposite from our world view, those that may be ignorant of the Gospel plan, and the very laws of God, that they would take the opportunity to listen? It may result in mocking or in hatred from those we speak to, that’s okay, Jesus told us to expect as much. But it may also end with another opportunity for us to speak our heart and mind. Ah, but, if we are weak in our answers, lacking strength in our stream of logic, or if we lose our cool and change from reason to anger, our chance may be over, hope averted, knowledge darkened. Why? Because we have failed our commission to be ready with an answer (Colossians 4:6, 1 Peter 3:15), maybe our speech was not seasoned with the grace of God, or maybe we lacked civility.
You may say that debate is not for Christians (that is most probably because of the Greek word used for debate in the New Testament: Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20 where “debate” means to quarrel, yet in Jude, verse 3, “contend” means to struggle. In Acts 17:17, Paul disputed or said thoroughly, discussed in argument or exhortation, but I wish to draw our attention not only to the aforementioned Colossians 4:6 and 1 Peter 3:15, yet more Scriptures which implore us to be ready to answer:1 Corinthians 9:3, Ephesians 4:29, Titus 2:8, Ecclesiastes 10:12, Philippians 1:27 and Colossians 3:16. All of these Scripture and many more instruct us to contend for the Faith, to be ready answer the corruption which has invaded the Church. This “answer” we are to have, is not intended for petty doctrinal squabbles, nor to embarrass a single person, but is to be directed to the correction of sin and heretical teaching.
So, let us be wise, yet gentle, informed and prepared for what lies ahead. For as the early church faced Gnosticism, arguments based on sophistry, yet more still, the blind guide, the power seeker, the money hungry, the sin-excuser, and so on and so on, we too shall face our share of false prophets, false teachers and false doctrines. Many of these ideas and teachings will be based on well-intentioned ideals, others of course will be of direct Worldly influences.
Much of the filthy dogma we hear today from pulpits across America and from the mouths of Wolves in sheep’s clothing, and the babes whom they have fooled, have inveigled themselves into the Church. And as a badger or wolverine have burrowed in and are in self-protection mode. Yet, in other cases these lies of Hell, have been welcomed by the Church, and the adulation and acceptance of the World is sought and highly prized.
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, this is our battle ground, against the vagaries of the World and the deceptions of the Devil now embedded in the Church. But be encouraged my friends as we stand for Him, our risen Savior, Jesus Christ, if we are equipped in and by Him we will be more than conquerors against the lies and subtleties of the World and Satan.
By the way, as an endnote of Christian debate, were you aware that the most successful debate team over the last dozen years, which went to the American Collegiate Moot Court Association Championships came from the small Christian school, Patrick Henry College? They have won ten championships, including 2017.
 (John 15:18) If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
(John 15:19) If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
 (Colossians 4:6) Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
(1 Peter 3:15) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
 (Romans 1:29) Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
(2 Corinthians 12:20) For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envying, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:
 (Jude 1:3) Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
 (Acts 17:17) Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
 (1 Corinthians 9:3) Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
(Ephesians 4:29) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
(Titus 2:8) Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
(Ecclesiastes 10:12) The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.
(Philippians 1:27) Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
(Colossians 3:16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.