I've been having some interesting conversations over the past few days about differing views within the church. Everyone knows that it's not hard to find numerous disagreements in the body wherever you choose to look. Some of my conversations have been about specific issues like whether certain spiritual gifts operate today, or whether or not woman should be pastors and teachers. Yeah, I know, the easy issues.
Some of the more interesting conversations I've had, however, are the one's that have brought into question the nature of argument itself. I find that some people are really up for a discussion when the opportunity comes around, while some get upset at the very idea of disagreement. This has really forced me to ask myself some questions.
There are some movements in the church today that have really grown impatient with the amount of division that argument has allegedly caused in the church. Some even grow impatient and annoyed when the subject of doctrinal discussion is brought up at all. I've read several books that seem to have been trying to lure the Christian of today out of the more "divisive" forms of church and into a more tolerant and friendly environment. A place where people don't show off their ego by arguing all the time, and where there is true unity. I have to ask, however, is argument really just a result of pride? Is a church without argument really what God is asking us to aim toward?
Something that I find interesting is that when someone has taken the time to form an opinion over a long period of time with hard work and study, they have no trouble talking about the knowledge they have. Some of these people have humble attitudes, some don't, but I've never seen this kind of person want to keep all of that knowledge somewhere hidden where no one can see it. If, for example, someone has worked hard to find out how to buy the best computer possible, they should be eager to jump into a conversation where someone seems to be about to make a poor choice. Some people find reason to be prideful about their knowledge in an area like this, but that shouldn't keep someone from listening to them.
I find that when someone seems to want to shy away from an argument, very often it isn't because of the presence of humility, but because of the absence of knowledge about the topic. Very often if someone has no wish to argue, it is because they have no argument to offer. So, if someone doesn't have knowledge about a certain topic, why wouldn't they want to talk about it? Shouldn't they want to take the opportunity to increase their knowledge? I even find myself guilty of this at times. It seems to me that the reason so many of us shy away from an argument is, quite simply, fear.
Perhaps someone wants to convince me that the Bible isn't the word of God, or that my faith isn't credible and the arguments against their points that I have studied just aren't coming to mind. This often leads to an uncomfortableness on my part. I don't want to argue anymore because I am afraid. Why would someone become afraid in the midst of an argument like this? It seems to me that if someone will not argue, it doesn't show humility, but an agenda. We as Christians should admit that we have an agenda. We have beliefs that we do not want to let go of. But is our faith based on evidence that we can present or are we walking with blind faith? This doesn't just apply to our evangelism but to our doctrine that we discuss with fellow believers. I believe that just as we should understand our core beliefs to point that we should be able to discuss them without fear, we should be able to discuss our beliefs about other doctrines without fear as well.
The question I have is that when there is a movement that constantly argues against argument itself in the church, what should we conclude about that movement? Are they showing that they have humility, or do they have an agenda that requires us to put our doctrines aside? Often in books I've read by these authors, there usually does seem to be a trend of making doctrine a secondary issue. They'll say things like, "Sure, doctrine is important, but..." and that "but" can lead in many different directions. I understand where they're coming from. Too often we get so caught up in "thinking" that we stop "doing." But shouldn't our doctrine be the thing drives our actions rather than the thing we must put aside before we have actions?
Perhaps the problem is not with argument. Perhaps the problem is with the pride and fear that keeps us from allowing an argument to change or opinions. In order for an argument to be an argument at all, both parties must be willing to take into account what the other person says. They must be willing to allow what is said to change what they think if the evidences presented requires it. If this willingness is not there, then arguments lead to quarreling, and quarreling is what leads to division. Doesn't the proposition of arguing under this definition require a certain amount of humility? Who then has the issue with pride? Someone eager to argue, or someone who refuses to argue? Which will truly cause lasting division in the end? Which will truly cause lasting unity?