Why Dialogue is Better Than Argument

Most of my friends from college might recall the reputation I had for picking fights. Despite the fact that I called myself a pacifist, I loved to get into arguments with people nitpicking little things or suggesting topics so I could tell them they were wrong. My friend Jim and I once got into a huge shouting match which led to a hole in the wall of our suite by another frustrated roommate. Needless to say, I knew how to make tempers flare easily.

Fortunately, in the almost two years I’ve been out of school, I’ve grown up a little. There are times where I feel the urge to just outright yell at people how wrong they might be (mostly Twilight fans and people who whine about how they don’t like the church), but I keep my mouth shut and move on instead of intentionally provoking shouting matches. Anyway, this isn’t about me…

This is another point lifted out of Wright’s introduction that I found to be an excellent point regarding Christian scholarship and the fighting that occurs therein.  When he wrote his book on St. Paul, most Christians stuck to publishing a few articles (or, in Piper’s case, a book) about how wrong he was and how he’d gone off the deep end doctrinally (hence his  severe annoyance with bloggers).  Piper was at least kind enough to submit his rebuttal to Wright himself, and Wright returned the favor with his own 11,000 word response (which, I have a hunch, led to Justification).  All of these people did this without actually speaking to Wright or writing to him to discuss the matter.

The point is there’s no actual dialogue taking place through all of this. This is a key problem with Christian scholarship in a lot of ways: we sit in our camps, our schools of though, and sort of yell at each other across no-man’s land about how heretical or unbiblical the other camps are being.  There are occasional meetings that take place, but often only with people who will see things MOSTLY as we do.  The only time we don’t is when we dialogue with an atheist, and that’s mostly just because both sides are trying to make the other sound stupid.

Why does this happen?  Because our worldviews get challenged whenever someone says something slightly out of tune with the music we hear all the time.  Fortunately, the same Guy is playing the guitar, and He knows more tunes than we give him credit for.

Wright calls it “asking for the fish of the gospel, and getting the scorpion of scholarly infighting.” While no ideology has complete and total harmony amongst its subscribers, you’d think that, being unified in Christ, we’d stop fighting like little children over a baseball on the playground (especially when it takes 18 to play a full game).  Though there are important things to stand on, and important things to discuss, how we act matters not only to one another, but to those looking in too.  Me?  I’m tired of looking like a blowhard.

Who’s all in favor of dialoguing over shouting?



One thought on “Why Dialogue is Better Than Argument

  1. I feel that this is a problem with 90% of groups, stretching well beyond Christianity (and religion, for that matter.) We’ve been taught to be right and / or prove someone else wrong, instead of presenting our views / opinions / gathered facts, listening to another side, and each taking something away. Part of this, possibly, is from the fact that we (society) also encourage the value of fact-less opinion as at least equal to fact-based opinion, which takes away the possibility of, as you say, dialoguing, (IE, rational debate / discussion) and leads to staunchly defending a viewpoint that you’ve arrived at, rather than accepting the possibility that something was overlooked and your viewpoint might stand a little tweaking. Or, of course, even without changing one’s own personal opinions and beliefs, coming to a better understanding why someone else holds different views / understand those views with a deep and more empathetic knowledge.

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