DEBATE or ARGUMENT
A gentle response deflects fury,
but a harsh word makes tempers rise. Proverbs 15:1
When was the last time you engaged in a debate, or was that an argument? So many of us have a difficulty differentiating between the two. Each though serves a specific purpose and when we mix their intents, only trouble may arise.
A debate is a very planned and systematic discussion between two equals, each trying to persuade the other to a point of view. For example, when members of a parliament debate a bill, each one comes prepared to present the points which support her/his perspective. When they have finished presenting, it is the job of the entire parliament to judge whose ideas were of greater merit. We see this happen every day, when the House, Parliament, Assembly, Senate, or whatever governing body meets, and a ‘bill’ is introduced. The ruling side presents its perspective or rationale for introducing the ‘bill’ and the other side presents its rationale for opposing it. This goes on until the talking points have been exhausted or until the time for debate is exceeded.
An argument, on the other hand, has a much different purpose. An argument usually breaks out when someone’s expectations are not met and there was, in their minds, a reasonable expectation that they would be. For example, two men have made a deal, each with expectations of the other. When, for whatever reason, either man does not meet his side of the bargain, an argument usually erupts, with both men yelling, and sometimes screaming, at each other. Arguments may easily turn to violence, with one person or side doing damage to the other.
And this is the basic nature of each approach. A debate is civil; it has pre-set rules and follows a well-established order. Each side of a debate presents their positions clearly and succinctly and then allows the full body to decide who is correct.
An argument is a different ‘animal’ entirely. More than not, an argument is a battle of wills. Each side is trying to control the thinking and the behaviour of the other. We know how that often goes.
What does God think of arguing? His servant, Sha’ul, the Apostle Paul, represents God’s position very well, when he writes in 2 Timothy 2:23-25 – “But stay away from stupid and ignorant controversies — you know that they lead to fights, 24 and a slave of the Lord shouldn’t fight. On the contrary, he should be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and not resentful when mistreated. 25 Also he should be gentle as he corrects his opponents.” The following words encapsulate what God believes of arguments: ‘stupid and ignorant controversies’. God wishes us to be gentle, in kindness, when we correct others . Otherwise, we will never draw others to our side. In an argument, there is no ‘fair’; there is only ‘win’.
May the God of Avraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you richly.