Master Debators

Nate Bebout September 17, 2010

Around 1440 AD a revolutionary device was invented that would completely change the world. It was the printing press and it radically shifted the way human beings gathered and refined their understanding of the world around them. Information, opinions, and literature could be distributed much faster and at a much higher volume now that the labor-intensive work of the scribe was replaced by the hum of an efficient machine. Some would later argue that this same device almost single handedly launched humanity into the Modern Age, one in which reason, facts, and logic reigned supreme.

This is our history. In many ways, this is our legacy. Before the rise of the printing press, that is to say the rise of mass-produced knowledge, the world was a different place indeed. Emotions, faith, intelligence, and philosophy all played an important part of a person’s development. After Modernity began to truly take root in society however, one value rose above its counterparts and claimed dominance and supremacy: logic. The ability to reason, to think, to provide a succinct and clear presentation of the facts – these were now the sole virtues the Modern mind sought to pursue. The church was no exception.

Why do I bring up this random piece of history? Because in order to understand our culture, and the mental landscape of our country I believe it is important to look at where our ideas about the world were formed.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why are people so argumentative?” Or, “Why are Americans so opinionated?” The simple answer would be to say that it is because we are arrogant. The more complex answer, the one that I believe to be true, is that we have been trained to believe (over hundreds of years) that to possess knowledge and to logically defend those truths is the only way to have true belief. We view the person who disagrees with us then, not only as a logical opponent, but also as an enemy to what we stand for because if you’re not for us, you’re against us.

So we argue. We argue a lot. Whether it’s politics, religion, economics, sports, or preferred brand of deodorant, we like to think that our worldview is the correct one. We intellectually beat “sinners” over the head with our memory verses and our ontological arguments – hoping, I suppose, to win them to Jesus through the power of our minds and the persuasion of our words.

I love the parables Jesus shares in Luke 15. The point of each one is that those things that are lost are valuable… inherently so. I love this idea that Jesus presents us with in these passages – that the lost should be pursued, searched for, and welcomed when they return home from their rebellion: something that requires relational investment and zero logical chop-busting. We have to care. We have to believe that the lesbian, the pedophile, the drug dealer, and the atheist are in and of themselves valuable to God. Then, and only then, we will be able to abandon our weapons of debate and logic and actually celebrate with the Father when a lost son returns home.

Tags: debate, logic
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