How to Win a Doctrinal Argument

By Justin Johnson

Can you hear it? It’s the cacophonous sound of doctrinal arguments all over the internet and in church buildings across the country.

If there has been one tradition that can define Christianity from the very first century it is the age old tradition of doctrinal war. One group quotes a few verses and the other volleys with their own interpretation. At this point the 2 Peter 1:20 bomb is used to destroy any thought about any passage which is not “accepted truth”.

The most exciting arguments typically include name calling like “ignorant”, “heretic”, and “cult”. After these battles each side will declare the other is not saved, and will stop their ministry towards one another. After which they both agree to a common understanding of 2 Cor 6:14-15 and cease talking unless the others’ back is turned.

Meanwhile, a dozen other people have fled the church like children from fighting parents believing doctrine is the cause of such behavior. Victory: Satan.

Why do Christians Fight?

Pride. Nothing else, but pride (Prov 13:10, 1 Tim 6:3-4). Doctrine saves, and pride destroys. Yet, pride is not easily eradicated especially among the sanctified. But does this mean we should not stand with conviction for doctrinal truth?

Of course not (1 Tim 1:3). Even the apostles engaged in heated doctrinal contentions with each other such as in Acts 15:1-2 where Paul did not back down for an hour from the truth of the gospel (Gal 2:5). It was not until Peter gave credence to Paul’s apostleship that contention waned (Gal 2:7-9). We should hold fast to the truth and not sit idly by when it is attacked (Titus 1:9).

How to Win a Doctrinal Argument?

So, how do you win the argument with your uncle Fred about water baptism?

“…be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves;” – 2 Tim 2:24b-25a

Gentle – This is not weakness, it is the strength to be calm in the potential storm of an argument. It means to be tame and not wild. Do not hurl accusations and insults. Instead, demonstrate grace (Titus 3:1-3).

Apt to teach – Good teachers understand that motivated students can learn the material if it is explained correctly. If Uncle Fred does not understand then perhaps it is your fault. If you are the problem, stop.

Patient – When it seems to be dragging on set another time to discuss. A stand for truth demands consistency because it takes time for persuasion to occur. Initially, people are more often convinced by a “feeling” than by a flawless logical proof. They are often secretly looking to see if you practice what you preach. Prove that the doctrine works: be patient.

Always avoid strife. It is not profitable. Before people will learn right division (2 Tim 2:15) we must stop arguing with them, and learn to become able teachers with patience (2 Tim 2:14). The verse says to study to shew thyself approved, not to prove the others wrong.

“Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself…” – 2 Tim 2:14-15a

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Published: August 7, 2010
Last Modified: September 7, 2016
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