Many people do not think debating with other Christians or unbelievers is wise or good. Many think it is unbiblical and will not work at all. I do not think that this is an accurate statement or belief. I believe that we are to do this as faithful Christians. So, is debating, or reasoning with people, biblical? I think it is.
I think it is because as we see in Acts (17:2,17; 18:4,19; 24:25) Paul was reasoning with the Jews and in the synagogue. I would be willing to bet there was debate. He presented why Christ is Messiah and they probably argued back. Also, we see that Paul was “appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). Peter also said to be ready to give a defense (1 Peter 3:15). Adding to this, Jude said that we are to “contend earnestly for the faith” (3).
Since we see so many examples from within Scripture of Paul doing this exact thing, it seems he certainly thought it was reasonable and right. Peter believed the same thing, not to mention Jude the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ himself thought it appropriate to do so.
One must stop and think for a minute about what a Christian does. A Christian is to go and share the gospel and seek to see people come to salvation. Paul stated that he did not shrink back from declaring the whole counsel of God to people everywhere (Acts 20:27). Neither should we, and when we do, debate is likely to happen.
We are also commanded to love others as ourselves in many places throughout the New Testament. If we love someone we will strive to get them to see the light in their lives before it is too late.
Getting people to see the light is exactly what debating is. Many people, though, will still say things like, “Nobody comes to faith through arguments”, or “people don’t want the truth but what works for them.” The first one is patently false and the second one may be true, but it is exactly why we must reason and debate with people. William Lane Craig, one of the strongest Christian philosophers and apologists for the faith says that the “attitude expressed in these statements is both shortsighted and mistaken” (Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed, 16). I agree.
Craig states a little further on in the same book that most people who think this way have succumbed to false expectations (22). They think that when they are debating and reasoning for the faith that many people should believe. But when they do not, they see this as a failed experiment to be abandoned like a two-week-old sandwich. But this is wrong. Paul did not always win many people to the faith (c.f. Acts 17:32-34), but if just one believes through our debates and reasoning, we have a massive victory. As Craig states perfectly, “every person is precious to God, a person for whom Christ died” (22). He further states that one person can have a massive impact on society at large using C.S. Lewis as an example. Many people have been influenced by the work of this one man, not to mention the influence of one apostle Paul on the Christian faith. One is enough to encourage someone to take on anything, I believe anyway.
We must stand strong for the faith and share it with all. If a debate arises we must stand and give a reason and continue to share Christ diligently. This is even crucial within our own ranks. We within Christendom have differing views. We should discuss and even debate one another on these because, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). If we do this correctly all involved will grow and gain deeper wisdom.
Even though I think debating is good and commanded and will sharpen us, we are to do it with “meekness” and love (1 Peter 3:15). If we do it in this style regardless of the outcome, we have obeyed our Lord and loved God with our all and our neighbor the same (Matt. 22:37-39). We have loved our Lord with our all because we did not shy away from sharing Him with all regardless of the situation. We stood firm for Him and gave reasons for believing. But we also stood firm in our love of our neighbor because we shared “The Truth” with them (John 14:6). This is true even if it was with another brother or sister in Christ.
But remember we must do this with love and gentleness or else we will do nothing more than create enemies from within and without, and be nothing more than a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). This we must strive to never do because we already have enough enemies in this world. Know that to debate and discuss is good and right to do as a believer. It is something that we must do if we are to reach the world with Christ. Debating and reasoning is the ultimate act of love to a dying world that needs Jesus Christ.