I realize that I made some very serious charges yesterday in part one of this two part post. I realize that I feel very strongly about the actions of those who participated in this debate and my own presence there.
Let me say that this debate was the first one I have ever attended and it will be the last that I will ever attend if non-believers are involved. I have not ruled out the possibility of attending a “debate” between believers on non-essential doctrines or teachings held by various believers. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we shouldn’t have meetings with unbelievers in hopes of presenting the gospel in hopes of delivering them from darkness and deception.
I submit to you that false teachers were allowed to come into the Christian body and teach false and damnable doctrines denying the sufficiency of the savior to save, the veracity of both God and His Word, and the atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. I believe it should never have happened. God forbid that any who were “naive” as Paul spoke of in Romans sixteen were further deceived into darkness and deception.
Let me say, first of all, that I am not afraid of having my beliefs challenged by anybody. Anyone at any time can challenge me on a biblical truth or doctrine and I will take you through the interpretive process and show you how and why I believe that a particular and orthodox biblical doctrine or position is correct.
Nor am I afraid to take the time to sit with someone who is not a believer or who has been taught heretical doctrine and gently show them from scripture what the truth is. I will not enter into a debate where each side presents and opens with a statement supporting a position, defends the position with arguments, and then closes with a statement supporting a position that is heretical. That is a no “win” situation. These men were not present to hear information that might refute their position and then make a change, they were there to defend and deploy their heretical positions.
First, I am fully aware that the Apostle Paul would, upon arrival in a target city go into the Synagogues and reason with the Jews. Second, I am also aware that Paul reasoned with the unsaved citizens in Athens on Mars Hill. Paul did not debate with them, he reasoned with them, and he explained the Scriptures.
For example, in Acts 19:8, "And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God."
The word reasoning is the Greek Word, διαλεγομαι (dee-al-eg’-om-ahee). This word is used 13 times in the New Testament. Its primary meaning is first, "to think different thoughts with oneself." In other words, you think over a concept or idea in your mind by mulling it over, by looking at the different aspects of a thought or an idea.
Secondarily it carries over the same process with others. You present different thoughts, ideas, and aspects of something in a format designed for dialogue, not argument. The KJV and the RSV attempted to give the meaning of the word but probably did a disservice by translating it as dispute. Paul was not wrangling nor arguing but he was reasoning. He stated his point or proposition and then set out to prove his point with other scriptures, and other ways of looking at the same proposition.
Paul did not enter into an environment of "OK, I will argue my point then you get to argue your point and whoever is most persuasive wins.” I am sure he listened to the "other side" well enough and long enough to be able to refute with Scripture what was being said.
That is what we are to do as pastors/shepherds, we are charged with being able to gently, without being quarrelsome, use God's word to ελεγχω (el-eg’-kho) “to reprove, rebuke, and convict the false teacher” (Titus 1:9.) Again, we are not to allow the false teacher to present his argument in such a format as to persuade us or anyone else to their view point.
Another example of this can be found in Acts chapter thirteen, verses thirteen through verses fifty-two. Look at the language: in chapter thirteen the scriptures read that Paul and his companions went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. The rulers of the synagogue then said to Paul and his companions, “brothers if you have any words of encouragement for the people say it.”
Paul stood up and preached. He did not debate. He preached in such a manner that in verse forty-two the Jews asked them to speak the following Sabbath. In verse forty four Paul returned and spoke, this time stirring up envy with the Judaizers. However look at the results, in verse forty eight those who were appointed unto salvation were what? They were saved and the word of God spread through the region.
In Acts chapter seventeen Paul is alone in the city of Athens. As Paul looks around at the proliferation of idols he is grieved internally in his spirit. He went into a synagogue and reasoned, he discoursed, preached, taught, or conversed with the Jews. We know that this resulted in some ridicule of Paul but it also resulted in an invitation to further teach the truth.
What is my point? When one debates, one presents an argument defending a position or teachings. When one reasons, one conversationally or didactically presents truths for the purpose of converting an unbeliever to Christianity. There is a distinct difference.
Both sides in the debate I attended presented very definite arguments of what they believed to be true about their topic. The Catholic Apologist argued very clearly and forcefully that Scripture was not sufficient and needed to be supplemented by Councils and Pope, both whose authority must be submitted to on any subject including purgatory. Pagitt argued very articulately and persuasively with the use of allegorical and spiritualizing principles of hermeneutics and deny the reality of judgment, punishment, and hell.
Why would we have heretical and unsaved individuals teaching in a forceful and argumentative manner designed to undermine the accuracy of the truth? Dr. Sungenis passionately presented what he believed to be truths in an attempt to prove the doctrine of purgatory. Doug Pagitt passionately and very articulately presented false truths in order to substantiate his position regarding the fact that hell is not real.
What was Paul worried about? Was he worried that God couldn’t take care of himself? Was he worried that the truth would somehow be emasculated? No, what Paul was worried about was, “…by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.” You see, “both sides,” the believers and non-believers had their “respective posse or adherents” in the audience. This means that those who have been deceived by false teaching were further confirmed in darkness and those who may have been “on the fence” could have been pushed into deception and lies.
It would have been one thing, and by the way the right thing to invite Dr. Sungenis and/or Doug Pagitt to a meeting, service, dinner, or get-together and present the gospel to each one of them. If and when questions were brought up or a defense of why either Sungenis or Pagitt believed what they believed, then sound biblical doctrine could be applied to their false beliefs.
I know we are to contend (Jude 3) for the faith. We are to put up a vigorous defense for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not believe this includes debate, at least in the format I witnessed this past Friday and Saturday. That was not contending, it was disdainfully, disrespectfully, and disjointedly an argument where neither side heard, absorbed, or contemplated what was presented.
Although all four men professed friendship, respect, and affection for each other the forum was adversarial. I don't know how this format could possibly lend itself to effectual reasoning with the truth. I don’t know how the Holy Spirit would choose to breathe out the glories of God in this environment.
Let me address some very good questions from my friend Pastor Scott Weldon of Faith Baptist Church in Missouri:
First, I have not listened to a debate with Dr. James White. I have heard his radio program a number of times and I have a few books he has authored. I had always respected him. I am not a covenant theologian nor do I hold to covenant theology, although I very solidly affirm the five SOLAS, the doctrines of grace, and the sovereignty of God.
I was amazed that an apologist, radio host, and Elder would behave as he did. First let me say, he was cooler, collected, calmer, and more courteous than I would have been. Yet, even he at times was rude, disdainful, and demeaning and argumentative - not the characteristics that Elders must have (gentle, non-quarrelsome, able to teach, persuade, convict, etc.)
Second question Scott, what I witnessed was not the expected outcome based off of my presupposition going into the meeting. I apparently was naive. I did not expect Elders to argue nor did I expect such egregious and patently false doctrine to be presented in order to be believed and/or accepted.
I have never really looked at the rules of debate. I did not realize that each side would be given 20 minutes to make an opening statement about the topic, then given 15 or 20 minutes to rebut the other side and then time for some "cross-examination" that was more like toddlers on the playground saying repeatedly, "Yes you did, no I didn't, yes you did, no I didn't."
I naively thought error might be presented but the truth would be convincingly, triumphantly, gloriously, passionately presented and would prevail as a champion over the error. This did not happen. It especially did not happen in the second debate where false teacher/heretic Doug Pagitt cleaned the clock of the Lutheran apologist. False doctrine triumphed in the debacle, oops I meant debate.
Well, I bared and shared my heart with you. My friend knows how I feel and went to the Scriptures himself and came to the same conclusion. He has since emailed Chris Rosebrough and informed him of his convictions. These convictions my friend Bryan came to are based on these Scriptures, take a look at them. (2 Peter 2:1; 2 Cor 11:13-15; Romans 16:17 and 2 John 10)
Well, I don’t think I am 5150 (to be detained or held involuntarily for a psychiatric evaluation in order to determine if a person is a danger to himself or to others at large.)
Hopefully I have shared with you my heart concerning the danger of bringing false teachers and doctrine into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Unfortunately the SITREP (situation report) on this event was MUBAR, Messed Up Beyond All Recognition.