Thursday, 12 May 2011

Debate vs dialogue

When presenting the gospel - in an evangelistic setting, or speaking/preaching, or one-on-one, or whatever - what's the better "posture" to take: a "robust" posture of a debate, or a "friendly" posture of dialogue?

The benefit of a debate is it permits us to make universal claims: "this is reality, take it or leave it." That agrees with the nature of the gospel - Jesus really is Lord of all, whether we like it or not. And it also agrees with the examples of proclamation in the book of Acts.

The problem with a debate is it scares people who are timid or uncertain of their own beliefs - Christian or atheist or whatever - and therefore potentially shuts down true questioning and searching through intimidation rather than conviction. Also, it potentially reinforces a grumpy, doctrinaire preconception of Christianity.

The benefit of a dialogue is it invites people to "walk inside my worldview" without making absolute claims of right/wrong. That agrees with post-modern love of narrative and discussion, and its suspicion of universal truth-claims.

But that's also its detriment: Jesus' Lordship is not actually up for discussion. Also, is it deceptive to not using a method that agrees with the nature of our message? That is, if we don't really think Jesus' Lordship is negotiable, is it deceptive to present it in a way that suggests it is?

Thoughts, anyone...?

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