Debate Run Amuck
By Sharon Norris Elliott
Discussion and debate can be a good thing; however, there does come a time to bring a discussion to an end, a debate to a conclusion. Even in an academic debate competition, one side wins and one side loses.
Debate strategists use various tactics to present compelling arguments designed to win a dispute. From the opening statement to the closing argument, successful debaters mingle logic, humor, and passion as they influence their audience to agree with their point of view.
In Acts chapter 17, we find Paul in Athens and “his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols” (verse 16, NKJ). So while in the marketplace one day, some philosophers encountered him and decided they wanted to hear what he had to say. This was not unusual because “… all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing” Acts 17:21 (NKJ).
As if in a formal academic debate, Paul defended the truth of the gospel with intelligence, wit, and flair.
Paul’s opening was logical and compelling:
“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you” Acts 17:22-23.
He deconstructs their continuous debating habits and search for new things by making clear the real God. There is no more need to search and debate:
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men… so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him…” Acts 17:24-27.
Then his closing statement ends with a slightly modified reiteration of his primary points and examines the human condition:
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” Acts 17:30-31.
When confronting our present society, we must do nothing less than Paul did in Athens. As truth merchants and defenders of the faith, it is our duty to deal head on with our present “times of ignorance,” and put a period on the end of the debate about who the real God is. Yes, engage the culture. Start with what it understands, and then proclaim the One it does not understand: God, in the person of Jesus Christ.
©2011 Sharon Norris Elliott, used with permission.
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