I Gave Up on Arguing8:00 AM
There comes a point where an argument means literally nothing. When two people disagree and want the other person to agree with them, the conversation comes to a standstill. Nobody crosses the bridge when two people approach it from both sides and refuse to budge ground. That's a sign to stop talking and agree to disagree.
I can't believe I'm saying this -- agree to disagree. It seems like I'm surrendering to relativity, like I'm failing to defend the truth. "Let's agree to disagree" used to imply to me "It doesn't matter what you believe! I don't care! You don't need to care either!"
I've changed my mind on the implication of that phrase. It actually acknowledges the importance of truth. Truth is so important that it should only be considered with understanding and care, not bapped back and forth like a ping pong ball between Scripture verse paddles. It also acknowledges the reality of how people change their minds and the importance of faith.
In my experience, those who argue most strongly believe in something. If someone engages me in an argument and starts pushing back, that tips me off that I'm not dealing with someone who's merely curious and open to discovering the truth. She believes she's already discovered the truth. And if she believes something, it means she places faith in it as an important part of her overarching structure of belief. That's not something to just kick out of place during an impromptu late-night argument.
Several weeks ago, a friend out-of-blue invited me to dinner and asked me about my beliefs on the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. I had no problem sharing my opinion, but it quickly developed into not merely hearing what I had to say but wanting me to believe what he had to say about what he confidently knew to be true. In the end, he asked me, bewildered, "None of the verses I showed you makes you at all interested in changing your mind? You just rattled off responses and hardly considered what I had to say."
"No, not really," I apologized. "I've already studied this issue for years and come to my conclusions. Look, in the end, we've got to believe what we've got to believe."
He didn't like that answer. To be honest, a few years ago I wouldn't have liked that answer. But the reality is that in the end we must cling to what we believe to be true, even if someone else gives a good opposing belief. I have read many great, logical, Scriptural arguments for many different beliefs. I benefited from understanding those perspectives, and I respect those who hold a good, logical, Scriptural belief even if it differs from mine. At the same time, I am still compelled to believe the great, logical, Scriptural argument I find most convincing.
Truth doesn't exist in this intellectual vacuum to be debated back and forth. Truth is Christ. He's meant to be adored. He's meant to transform my life. If I'm willing to say a belief is true, then it's attached to my life and my spirituality in some way. When someone presses me to believe something differently, he's not pressing against a little logical part of my mind. He's pushing against the weight of my entire concept of spirituality. If I refuse to budge, that's why. I believe what I must believe is true regardless of whether other people feel compelled to believe the opposite.
This isn't close-minded, however. While I no longer wish to argue as much as I once did, I still wish to understand. I love discussing. I love other opinions. I love hearing what people believe in a less high-stakes situation as feeling pushed to change my mind and admit that I'm wrong. The Holy Spirit often changes my mind and heart when I listen to someone laying out what he believes, maybe entirely unaware that I believe differently. Just the mere proclamation of truth is powerful enough to change hearts.
I'm not here to change hearts. I can't. I've tried. I'm really bad at it. I only want to present what I believe is true and allow the Holy Spirit to do the pushing and shoving. More importantly, I want to believe what I believe to be true. On the internet, I want to preach to myself. I want to change my heart, not other people's. Even though there are a million and one opinions on the internet, I want to make sure that I am not the wrong person -- because I am the only person whose mind I can change.