Guest editorial by Tim Hester, minister, Theo, Miss., church

This past week I had the great and unique opportunity to attend a Bible discussion or debate in Meridian, Miss. As I sat there and heard both sides present their arguments I thought about what a learning opportunity was being afforded to those who were present and being missed by those who were absent.

Debates or Bible discussions of this sort used to be common and popular in our communities. Yet, like many things, they have fallen by the wayside.

Many today do not like the debate format because they are looking for a declared winner or loser within the debate. Debates, though, are not sporting events like a boxing match where points are earned and knock-outs are awarded.

Debates are an opportunity for two sides with differing beliefs to come together and present their beliefs with supporting evidence for those beliefs.

We find this happening repeatedly within the New Testament where men of God took the opportunity to discuss God’s word openly with those who opposed their teaching (Matt. 22:15-46; Acts 15:2-7; Acts 17:17; Acts 19:8-10; Gal. 2:11).

Although one speaker will generally do a better job in defense of his teaching than the other one, they are not the true winners of a debate. The true winners of any Bible discussion in which the truth is presented are those who listen to that truth and respond positively to it.

These listeners are like those of Berea (Acts 17:11), in that they do not accept the words of some man but instead they search out God’s word to see what is and what is not so.

Others do not like debates because they feel that debates are nothing more than organized fights. These people do not like the bold defense of the gospel which often must come from those in a debate.

In the New Testament we find at least 21 times where the manner in which the truth is both taught and defended is described as either bold, boldly, boldness, or embolden.

It is true that we must speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but at times it is out of love for both the truth and the souls of men that we must be more bold in our defense of God’s word.

We find that this to be case with Paul when he withstood Peter when he came to Antioch (Gal. 2:11).

The aim of a debater is not to belittle his opponent, nor to be offensive to him, but to defend his belief to the best of his ability.

What many do not realize is that religious debates go on every day. In personal Bible studies, Bible classes, at work and on the streets, anywhere the two views of God’s word is discussed and studied in some sense a debate.