Conversation VS Debate


Jan and I went for the Titanic shot…We had a good laugh…

This is a journal that I wrote of an thought provoking experience I had while sailing across the Atlantic a few weeks ago. Thought it fit with the last story about “Speaker’s Corner.”

Ironic that my title is one of debate, when I am prepared to make a point against it. Just a reason for further conversation I suppose.

As I sit trying to work on my book proposal that I need to finish sooner than later, I am consumed by a conversation that is transpiring right behind me.

My wife is constantly catching me tuning into the conversations of those around us when we are at a meal or sitting in a public setting. There is some inherited curiosity that I simply can’t resist from time to time. I don’t like to think of myself as a nosy person who has to be part of everyone’s “business,” but I guess I figure if one is to talk loud enough in a public setting that I can hear them they are giving me the go ahead to listen in. Anyway, not an attribute that I am proud of…

I am sitting in a lounge of a cruise looking at one of the most breath taking views I could ask for. I am in a chair that looks right over the bow of the ship and all I can see if a vast expanse of dark blue water, a multi colored late afternoon sky and lightly dusted clouds. Incredible.

There are two older folks sitting behind me with the apparent intention of playing some from of bridge or cribbage. One is about a 55 year old male and the other a 70ish female. It is evident through their conversation that they are not in a relationship, but recent acquaintances.

There conversation begins to take an interesting turn when I hear the guy describe his role of being a teacher of Christian Apologetics. In fact, I can honestly say, until I heard those words I wasn’t listening to a thing they were saying. From this point on in their conversation, it becomes very one sided.

It is obvious that they have different believes on science, history, evolution, etc…The gentleman begins about a 30 minute rant about his accurate “Christian” understandings of the world and the inaccurate belief systems of the rest of the world. His arguments are almost delivered in a sarcastic and condescending way. It was obvious that he had this “talk” prepared as he went from one point to the next. As can be imagined he was overpowering her with his canned intellect and left her with very little to say or argue back. It was as though her posture went from an interested participant to a defensive and discouraged opponent. As the conversation continued my heart began to break.

The gentleman’s arguments where very convincing and he even was using scripture from time to time to make a point. At one point he paraphrased the passage in I Peter 3, that says Christians should be prepared to have an answer for everything. It is very apparent that he has spent a lot of time doing his best have ALL the answers.

I am a proponent of sharing my faith with others through conversation. A mutual dialog that isn’t centered on intellect or convincing argument, but rather on the sharing of stories and experiences that form our view and/or relationship with Jesus. I’m not saying this is the ONLY way to share with others, but forcing data onto a confused or unwanting person doesn’t seem to be what Jesus meant when He told us told us to share the Good News.

What really discouraged me was finding out that this woman who was taking this “Apologetics data beating” was a women that my wife and I had had some great interactions with earlier in the week. In fact we were planning on sharing a meal together with her and her husband later in the week. Hearing this “conversation” she was having, I can’t help but imagine that she will be more closed off than ever from the transformational and highly relational message of Jesus.

Hopefully I am wrong, but can’t help but vent some frustration towards “my own” in our willingness to self righteously offer data rather than simply share a life lived with Jesus through healthy and very mutual conversation. Maybe we can learn from this and begin to love people towards the Kingdom in new and creative ways in a hopeful/inviting posture rather than one of intellectual defense.

2 Responses to Conversation VS Debate
  1. tom

    did you end up meeting with that woman later? did you talk? did you run into that dude anymore?

  2. Chip Johnson

    Your description of sitting at the bow of the ship staring at the vast ocean reminds me of a certain pond I used to know.