Controversy entails the use of argument. Unfortunately, some confuse argument with argument. What do I mean by this?
In debate, an argument is a reason or reasons given for or against a particular proposition. Using argumentation involves the process of reasoning, forming reasons, making inductions, drawing conclusions, and applying these to the proposition under discussion. In this sense, the term argument has no negative connotation. It is a part of the reasoning process itself; and it helps one to form a position in a logical, reasonable manner.
On the other hand, the word argument often carries a negative connotation. In this sense one just argues with another by disagreeing or objecting. This type of argument has no solid reasons attached to it. It carries no logical flow. It is merely expressing an opinion that differs from another, but provides no valid reason why it is right other than the say-so of the individual.
An argument, in the proper sense, is a reasonable and honorable endeavor. However, an argument in the negative sense is worthless and frustrating. Let me illustrate the difference.
A proper argument is usually stated as a well thought out reason. For example, the following is such an argument:
God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Add Jacob.
God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Therefore, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are living.
This is essentially the argument Jesus made on behalf of life after death. (Matthew 22:23-32). It is logical and makes a point very well. His stated premises that even the Sadducees would accept; and the conclusion was inevitable. The crowds were astonished. This is an example of a well reasoned argument.
On the other hand, an argument, negatively is often just an interjection of objections. These can vary from "your wrong" to "your stupid", Kids are often heard arguing this way. How many times do you hear kids yelling at each other, Yes! No! Yes! No! Im right; your wrong. There is no sense; there is no reason. It is just a yelling match to see who can hold out the longest.
Yet adults do this, too. In the face of a controversial issue, they may just state an objection and insult the one they object to; but they give no real argument, properly speaking. They may call into question the intelligence of the other person; they may indicate that anyone who cant see it their way is and idiot. But they still offer no logical reason or argumentation for the position they hold. They may be nice about their objection, stating that they just think this is the way it is. But they still make no real argument for or against the proposition. They state a position as is it was a fact, but they give no valid evidence or reason to back it up. Any evidence to the contrary of their position is simply written off with no thought of actually considering it.
I think we are seeing this more and more. Logical argumentation is a difficult process. I requires critical thinking. It requires challenging our own thinking and attempting to formulate a position in a logical and concise manner. It is much easier just to object and leave it that way, feeling frustrated because the other person is just being stubborn. Then due to their frustration, they will say something to the effect that they dont want to argue about this or that. Clearly they are using the argue in a negative sense, even though they have not really not attempted to make a logical argument, they are ready to quit arguing. And the discussion ends with no improvement by anyone.
Christians are to use their minds. They are to think things out and through. They are to use their process of critical thinking to make sound judgments about right and wrong. (Hebrews 5:14). The subjects Christians deal with are often controversial, bound to spark disagreement. If you are going to disagree with someone, then do it in an honorable way. Employ the proper use of argument; dont just argue by stating an objection and then insinuating that the other person is a fool. Engage the mind. Formulate proper arguments, and then logically state the reasons for or against a particular position with clarity and honor. If all participants in a discussion will do this, it will be much more pleasant and challenging than just getting into an argument. Of all people, Christians ought to demonstrate their reasonableness in all manners.
by Doy Moyer
This article from Focus Magazine, February 2001
Doy preaches in Clovis, California