I love Scripture and I grew up Baptist. That’s like a double whammy on knowing the Bible. I used to arrogantly take pride in knowing the Bible and being a Christian apologist (a person who argues in defense or justification of something like a doctrine or theology, etc), and I do believe in defending the faith, but at the end of the day, all this going back and forth on facebook statuses and groups was pointless, fruitless, and no one really ever left edified.
I know I run the risk of being ridiculed for not actively engaging in debate. But I’m much more concerned with hope, unity, evangelism, and fruit than I am with my critics. There are times when on some major issues (think trinity, gospel, cross, salvation) I feel compelled to step in and do my best to present truth in love, but by and large here are some reasons you won’t see me discussing many theological differences in the comments.
1) It Produces ZERO Hope
Undoubtedly, I will get an email from someone reading the title of this blog that says ‘haven’t you read 1 Peter 3:15 where it says to ‘always be ready with a defense.’ My response is always the same. I ask ‘did you finish reading that verse? What about the next one?’ The purpose of apologetics as described in this verse is to explain the great HOPE that we have in Christ!
‘Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.’ (1 Peter 3:15 NLT)
Our hope in Jesus and truth should undergird our explanation of our doctrine, not our desire to destroy someone else’s theology and punch it full of holes, especially in the public arena. Do I believe in the absolute truth of the Gospel. Yes! And because of that I’m able to defend it from the position of hope. Many people I see ‘defending’ peripheral doctrines much less precious than the cross do so like a pit bull ferociously defending a piece of meat.
You can’t produce hope when you are tearing your brother down in a Facebook comment! Which brings me to 1 Peter 3:16.
‘But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear.’ (1 Peter 3:16a)
So many people, pastors and leaders included, are constantly communicating the state of their spiritual immaturity on my newsfeed because rather than message someone in love about a dispute they write a disrespectful novel on someone’s comments because they disagree and then slap a band aid on it at the end by saying ‘this was all in love.’ No it wasn’t man!
Truth is truth no matter how it’s communicated, but as Christians our responsibility isn’t just to communicate truth, but to present it and defend it in a gentle and respectful way. Now, Jesus did deal with the Pharisees in ways that we might consider ‘not gentle.’ A few things just to chew on for that: 1) Jesus ‘called out’ the pharisees on their lives. He even said ‘do as they say, not as they do.’ His contention with them wasn’t primarily theological, it dealt with the bad legalistic mindsets that undergirded their good theology. 2) He wept over them. Jesus wasn’t a facebook troll waiting for an opportunity to be the ‘doctrine police.’ If you are one of those guys, when was the last time you wept over the state of the people you’re replying to instead of just thinking to yourself ‘this guy’s an idiot.’ Where’s the hope in that?
2) It Does Harm to Unity
I’ve been privileged to minister in churches of many different denominations. Do you know why I was welcomed in their pulpits? Because even though we may disagree on other doctrines, we make MUCH of the cross and we are all going to the same heaven!
Do you really think the body needs another comment thread to create more disunity than it already has? Do you know what causes this? Arrogrance and theological pride. A need to be right. When I was arguing in theological groups and ‘helping’ people out by bringing correction with my keyboard the underlying thought was ‘I’m right, they’re wrong, and I NEED to tell them!’ It’s a savior complex!
For some reason, doctrine Nazis think it’s their sole responsibility to save the comment readers from their minor error…and I really shouldn’t even say ‘error’ because most of the time it’s just a difference in how they interpret a certain text, and most of the time it’s doing nothing to negate the major doctrines we hold dear. All it’s doing is splintering the body of Christ and feeding a Facebook theologian’s bloated ego.
One of our life’s goals, and certainly in a world as wishy washy as social media, should be to present a blossoming, unified, and solid bride to a lost world and lost facebook friends. Which brings me to the next reason I don’t argue on Facebook.
3) But Did Anyone Get Saved
A number of years ago I literally wept reading a comment thread THAT I WAS APART OF where a non-Christian commented on a heated debate saying “this s**t is why I don’t want to be a Christian. You are always arguing over stuff no one cares about.” This thought, coupled with some prayer, is really why I changed my degree from Biblical Studies and Biblical Languages to Pastoral Ministries. God confronted me over this comment!
God said ‘you love to argue, but I need you to just love.’
I don’t want to undermine scholarship. I’m trying to get this Master’s done before my grace for school runs out! But God said to me, how is knowing Greek going to help you be a better leader and love people more effectively? The same applies to social media! How is being able to dismantle the argument of a brother that you’ve turned into an opponent going to further the gospel and help anyone know Jesus better? How is your 78 comments going back and forth, at each others throats cuz that ‘this is in love’ band aid is crap…how’s that helping the person reading this thinking ‘I don’t want any part of this.’
If we argued in real life like we do with people we don’t even know on Facebook…someone is getting arrested at the end of it. We make ourselves look like intelligent idiots!
Our lives, even our social media lives, should be evangelistic and encouraging at the core. You can challenge belief systems without being spiteful. If you couldn’t Peter wouldn’t have said to defend your hope with gentleness and respect. We don’t need more Facebook prophets doing harm. We need Spirit filled preaching in pulpits from men and women of integrity and Spirit guided coffee dates with people we are actually in a trusting relationship with! That’s how people get saved.
4) I Never Saw Fruit
John 15 is clear…when there is no fruit, cut it off! Do you remember the hateful ‘back and forth’ theological discussion that led to you getting saved? Neither do I.
Do you remember feeling the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit while you were reading two pastors duke it out over tongues on Facebook? Yea, me either.
Not only is there no fruit in the lives of the people that wasted ten minutes reading the thread, but there’s also no edification in my own life or the person I’m arguing with. I can say this solidly. I know the Bible and I know how to argue really well. Maybe I should have been a lawyer. But at the end of the day you know what. They still believed what they believed before we started talking, and I can’t think of one time that a social media argument resulted in any life change in my life whatsoever. I would venture that for every person that takes a theological nugget from an argument there are ten more that walk away with less hope.
Now, what kind of fruit is that? Other than wasted time formulating my response to cut deeper than theirs, in love of course, dashing the hope that is contained in whatever doctrines we were dissecting, destroying the unity of the church in our small sphere of influence, and, at least in one case, turning someone off to the Gospel of Jesus.
Not only did I not see fruit in the discussion, but the wasted time I spent messed up mindset and productivity for the whole day. Some people waste hours watching TV. I used to waste hours arguing.
You can present truth that will produce fruit on Facebook without allowing every challenging post you have to be turned into a theological circus. Let me share some tips I’ve found helpful on how to do this effectively.
- Keep posting challenging content. Just change how you word it. You can usually present the same truth in a way that doesn’t invite debate. Not arguing with people doesn’t mean you have to water down anything.
- Make friends with the ‘delete’ button. I refuse to have my feed polluted with people looking to disagree. I used to just not respond, but I found followers taking up on my behalf and pretty soon I have a debate I’m not even a part of going on. I’ve learned to just quickly delete comments when people are looking to debate.
- When I delete a comment I send a message to the person inviting them to discuss it in message form. Most will not want to because they want their ‘voice to be heard’ and they wanted to use my status to do so. Some are open to discussing but 95% of the time we just end up agreeing to disagree. If they get testy or spiteful in messages I just cut it off and quit responding. I care more about my heart than proving them wrong. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called a false prophet and a wolf because I quit discussing eschatology with someone that thinks if you’re pre-trib you’re going to hell. Sheesh.
- Don’t put controversial content up before you go to sleep. I’ve done this more than once and woken up to a good status I have to delete because I value unity so much.
- Stow your ego. Facebook is hardly the place to flaunt your theological prowess. Right or wrong, anyone with google can argue theology on here!
- Lastly, View social media as a tool to impact lives. Not a forum to prove you’re right.
Got anything to add? Let me know why you do or don’t argue on Facebook in the comments. What are some things you do to help?