Retired Professor Larry Hurtado has called for the end of scholarly debates in the biblical sphere. I wholeheartedly agree with his concerns. Many bloggers tend to fall into this trap. Repeatedly, I notice unhealthy obsession to score debate points on a topic or against a favorite opponent. Yes, a Christian needs to stand for correct principles, doctrines (the faith), and associates (other godly Christians). A Christian needs to also stand against evil entities (see Eph. 6. 10-18) and false teachings and teachers. However, a Christian’s walk should be holistic and not eccentric: 1 Thess. 5.23-24-Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this.
Dr. Hurtado observes the all-or-nothing nature of debates fails to reveal nuances of these complex studies. He is is a debater himself but refrains so listeners may evaluate the arguments carefully and by merit. Here is his post:
A Plea for Round-Table Discussion, not Debates
My posting about the publication of the interestingly early fragment of GMark elicited a number of comments, a few of which caused me to wonder about the persons writing them. One, for example, citing the erroneous claims of a first-century fragment of GMark made in some public fora over the last couple of years, kept alleging these were lies and the speakers liars.
I won’t publish the comment. For one thing the language of “lying”, “liars” would, in a good many courts, likely be deemed libel. And if I published the comment I could be judged complicit in the libel. But also, how does somebody who simply repeats what they’ve been told become thereby a liar?
This kind of vituperation clearly reflects an aspect of what is now called the “culture wars” afflicting the USA. People on both sides of what they see as the chasm of differences give no quarter to the other side. It’s not quite (yet) as crazy as Northern Ireland during the “troubles” in the 70s-80s, but the analogy does come to mind, as far as mindsets are concerned. North of the 49th parallel and on this side of the Atlantic, it all seems so bizarre.
Part of the problem, I think, is that many American “Evangelicals” unthinkingly link themselves also to so-called “conservative” political and social stances (when, actually, there is no necessary connection . . . at all). So if someone appears to affirm some kind of traditional Christian theology, others (who espouse more “liberal/progressive” stances on the social issues) will quickly label him/her as “the enemy”. And those espousing a “conservative” stance will likewise demonize those who take a different view.
But back to the fragment of the GMark. The erroneous claims about the GMark fragment were sometimes made in the context of a public debate, which seems to have become a now-staple feature of what passes for scholarly discussion in some circles. Now, I was a very successful high-school debater (top level in the National Forensic League), and I know how to debate. But I don’t do debates on issues that are scholarly in nature. Debating is a win/lose contest, little subtlety or complexity allowed. It doesn’t make for the sort of careful consideration of matters that is most often required. It certainly doesn’t allow for people to grow, develop/alter their understanding of matters.
Why not, instead, have round-table discussions, in which participants of various points of view could air their position, and engage more in dialogue with those of other views? A round-table (if properly run) allows people to talk to those of other viewpoints. There’s no win or lose, just an effort to try to understand one another, and, hopefully, clarify issues. Participants can remain in disagreement thereafter, but a round-table ought to encourage respect (essential) for others, and careful presentations of viewpoints.
Just a thought.