Closed-Minded Debate

Uh, what’s the point?

Closed-minded debate is what takes place between one or more contestants with no intention of changing point-of-view on the subject at hand.

While it may afford some entertainment for the participants and/or spectator-lurkers, of what real value is it?

It’s kind of like idling an engine for a few hours just to generate heat. No actual work gets done; no real result accrues from it.

How do you recognize when closed-minded debate is taking place? (Especially if you happen to be involved, and of the open-minded variety?)

  • The closed-minded debater will not concede any point. After all, he is right; why should he?
  • The closed-minded debater will insist on framing the issue/wording the question. This is to her advantage.
  • The closed-minded debater will frame the issue / word the question in personal terms if possible. This is to his advantage, as it opens to the door to personal attack as a diversion.
  • The closed-minded debater will make use of diversions frequently when unable to respond logically and accurately to a point made by her opponent.
  • The closed-minded debater will divert to side issues (relevant or not) in order to lengthen the discussion. (Some dogs bark because they like to hear the sound of their own voices. My neighbor has one.)
  • The closed-minded debater will show no interest in learning; learning is not the point. The closed-minded debater will show no interest in consensus; consensus is not the point. Winning is paramount. After all, he is right; why should he show such interest in collaboration with someone who is wrong?
  • The closed-minded debater will only recognize authorities and commentators who agree with her, and will discredit (substantively or not, usually not) those referenced by her opponent.
  • The closed-minded debater will only be able to see facts and citations of authorities one way, the way presently seen, and no other possibilities.
  • The closed-minded debater will accuse his opponent: of evading, of illogic, of intellectual dishonesty. After all, she is right; why shouldn’t she?
  • The closed-minded debater will frequently take offense at comments made with no intention of offending. This establishes power and calls into question his opponent’s character and therefore (ostensibly) generates sympathy for himself among the spectator-lurkers. No comment is too small to be magnified into a personal insult. This is also, often, a diversion.
  • The closed-minded debater will show little regard for conversational or personal ethic in the process. As stated before, winning is paramount; and when one is right, the end justifies the means.
  • The closed-minded debater will not be persuaded. Will. Not. Be. Persuaded.

These are fairly widespread tactics; you’ll see them all over the Web and on every so-called news network. What is truly disappointing to this believer is the size of the culture of closed-minded debate within Christendom. Believers –who of all people should be the first to understand the difference between faith and fact; the necessity of being open-minded and selfless with others; the victory that comes through saying “I was wrong” — seem to be among the very worst in many instances.

Their language may not (or may!) be as offensive, but their utter contempt for those who disagree with them on dearly-held beliefs — whether well-founded or not — is absolutely unmistakable … whether by another believer, or someone who does not believer, does not know the Story, has never really even heard of Jesus of Nazareth (other than as part of a curse or epithet).

Christian discourse should be light-years above simply civil discourse. It should be persuasive in its humility, its love and its deep concern for others above self. It should be unyielding in matters of faith, and understanding in matters of opinion, and sufficiently mature in spirit to discern them.

I have gone past being weary of the level of discourse among believers that I’ve seen (and, sadly, been a part of) and my tolerance for it has reached an all-time low.

So I’ve set some goals for myself when I feel drawn (or sucked) into closed-minded debate:

  • I will not be the closed-minded party.
  • I will love and pray for the one(s) who disagree(s) with me.
  • I will not argue matters of opinion anymore. You’re entitled to my opinion any time you like it; just read it here. I’ll be glad to read yours. I’ll probably be secretly delighted that we’re alike or different in certain ways because I believe that such commonality and diversity will both enrich and strengthen the body of believers. But I’m not going to go into hours and paragraphs and billions of pixels over something we don’t have to agree upon.
  • I will argue matters of faith. When I encounter something that challenges faith, has the potential to enlighten or strengthen or deepen it, I will argue it and argue it passionately.
  • I will admit when I am wrong. And I am frequently wrong.
  • I will continue to tell you when something is my opinion, my conclusion … and when something is simply the fact as virtually everyone else in the known universe agrees upon it, citing reference when possible.
  • I will do my best to discern the difference between those two.
  • I will concede my opponent’s points when they are correct. Hey, it happens.
  • I will always try to be a brother to a sibling in Christ, a fellow believer, and share fellowship with her.
  • I will always try to be a brother to someone who does not believe, and share fellowship with him as well.
  • I will continue to believe that Jesus loves without precondition, which is my example to follow.
  • If I cannot foresee a worthwhile outcome, I reserve the right to not participate in a challenged debate at all. I may well ask the challenger: “Is there really a possibility that either of us is going to change the other’s mind on this matter? If not, is there really any point in proceding?”

Well, that’s my short list. It’s a start.

But I think it’s a good one.

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25 thoughts on “Closed-Minded Debate

  1. Keith that is a very good analysis. I do not like debates and do try to avoid them like the plague. I do try to respond to brethren or sisteren … not always but I have carried on lots of correspondence. I have found over the years that God has used me to bless and others I have simply been disfellowshipped. If that happens it will not be because of me though. I really appreciate your “I will” commitments. May they be for all of us.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  2. I think you should be more open minded toward the closed minded. If you don’t agree I will have to start working through your bullet points above to make my case in a follow up comment.

  3. Keith, the point of debate is not to convince your opponent, but your audiance. I really have my doubts that Mitt, is going to fall down, and tell Newt, (you are right, you would make the best President)

  4. kb, if we are debating politics who cares, your opinion may be as valid as mine. The problem that comes from debating matters of faith is my opinion and your opinion don’t matter. To be truth seekers we must be narrow minded, the way that leads to righteousness is narrow, narrow is the gate. Broad thinkers in matters of faith will enter by the wide gate. I’m just narrow minded enough to believe that Jesus knew what he was talking about and that I can understand if I choose too. I’m narrow minded enough to follow His ways and obey His commands. I’m narrow minded enough to understand that all the so called religious thinkers of our day may not know what their talking about. I’m narrow minded enough to beleive that there is but one way, one faith, one baptism. Jesus himself was narrow minded, “He said no comes to the Father except through Me.” He also said “believe in Me.” How can we believe in Him and reject what He has said? Is that not what “broad” thinkers are doing?

    • Jeff, I join you in being narrow-minded regarding the faith of scripture … but not to the point of being closed-minded. The closed-minded person cannot entertain the possibility that he is wrong.

      With all due respect, they tend to throw around phrases like “I’m narrow minded enough to understand that all the so called religious thinkers of our day may not know what their [sic] talking about.”

      All of them? Does that mean that everything they believe may be invalid?

      When you say “I’m just narrow minded enough to believe that Jesus knew what he was talking about and that I can understand if I choose too [sic]” does that mean that you closed-mindedly understand everything that Jesus ever said, perfectly? Or that you are open-minded to possibilities about what some of His difficult sayings might mean? Or that you are narrow-minded to consider only the opinions of a few select people regarding them?

      And what if they’re wrong? Doesn’t that make you wrong too, even though you chose to understand?

  5. To be closed minded to me, is to seek and understand Jesus and what He taught, giving heed to inspired writers. when “man” speaks, we judge what he says according to scripture. When Christ speaks we should be narrow minded enough to beleive what He says. We shouldn’t be open minded enough to guess as to what He didn’t say. We shouldn’t give man’s words the atface value we do Christ’s. I don’t beleive I said all religious thinkers are always wrong. I simply stated that they can be wrong, where Christ cannot be. We should be open to God’s eternal truths, and closed minded to man’s broadness. And kb I will never understand everything Jesus ever said perfectly, but I will be narrow minded enough to try to understand what He said, as opposed to what some “man” says He said. To be narrow minded is to have the mind of Christ, a mind we as followers are to have. We as followers are to be of one mind, the mind of Christ. We strive to understand as He did, not man. Sounds rather narrow to me.

  6. I want to try…..key word there is TRY…….and deal with narrow minded people the same way Jesus did. Of course he could read their minds and hearts, which I cannot do. Therefore, If I am going to err, I want to err on the side of giving them the grace that I have been given.
    Great post! DU

  7. DU, I am going to assume that your post is directed toward me, so let me respond this way. But first kb, you said, “And what if their wrong? Doesn’t that make you wrong too? even if you chose to understand? First of all I chose to listen to Christ first, I makeup my mind based on what He has said, I’m being narrow minded in that I limit the influences that I have concerning God’s word. I am willing to listen to anyone, but I am always going to test what they say against God’s word. In scripture its called discerning the spirits or testing the spirts. I will always test what man says. If I chose to accept what man says and they are wrong kb, then I really don’t understand God’s word. I beleive with all my heart that God has provided mankind with a understandable message. We chose to believe it or not. We chose to make it harder than it needs to be, why? because we don’t like the message in most cases. And yes DU, God’s grace has appeared before all men. We must be narrow minded enough to accept it. Which to me means, focused, willing to accept what He says and forsake all others, (ie narrow minded} The world loves “broadness”, because man’s wisdom is more inclussive and tolerates more. Jesus was very narrow minded, remember Matt 23, the woe chapter, I don’t think He was trying to tickle their ears do you? The Pharisees where very broad minded, did they not go beyond God’s word as well as ignor parts? The wisdom of man was in play, the broadness of their thinking. When it comes to God’s word I proudly wear the label “narrow minded”. I’m narrow minded enough to believe what I read.

    Jesus was trying to tickle their ears do you?

  8. One more thing, I believe the word was “open minded” which would mean, open or willing to accept whatever as truth. “narrow minded” not willing to accept or believe just anything as truth.

  9. You had no reason to assume that DU’s comment was directed to you, Jeff.

    And if you define the terms, brother, of course you’ll win any argument. I don’t accept those definitions. So we really don’t have common ground to discuss, I’m afraid.

    I believe with all of my heart that God gave us an understandable message … that part of scripture which we need to understand is as clear as can be. Some of it is not, and it’s just arrogance to say that one has all the answers to what every item of scripture means. It’s further arrogance to insist that only those who have that full understanding can be saved.

    It’s important to be able to discern the difference between what scripture says and what man says it means. On that point, we definitely agree.

    And since the post actually discusses the difference between closed-minded and open-minded debate, what you’ve said about being narrow-minded really has little relevance to it. You chose to reject the definitions that I outlined in the post, so there was never really anything for us to discuss.

    In a way, I envy your pride in being narrow-minded, closed-minded; whatever you wish to call yourself. I wish I could have absolute certainty about the meaning of every single scripture. I don’t. I don’t believe anyone really does, on this world. That’s not “broadness.” That’s just realistic.

  10. kb, I never said I had all the answers, my point along has been I know where the answers are. They are found in God’s word. They are not found in the mind of man. I don’t believe I ever said a man has to have a full understanding to be saved. I do believe a man needs to understand the gospel message and respond to it in obedience to be in a saved condition. Then his life is spent searching God’s word, learning how He would have us live and worship Him. Always striving to know Him more fully. Is this not what we are having, an open and closed minded debate? You call me arrogant because I believe I have all the answers, I don’t, but the bible does, and too believe that is indeed narrow mindedness. We can know the truth and it will set us free. I really think we are back to your not accepting the idea that there are absolute truths, truths that we can grasp and understand. The narrow way to interpret the bible would be to let the bible interpret itself, when we come to a difficult passage, we then go to another on the same topic and figure out the meaning. The broadway or open minded way would be to turn to man and his wisdom.

    Maybe you need to define the terms “open minded and closed minded more clearly. I could only speculate on there meaning by the context.

    • Forgive my delay in responding, Jeff, but it has taken me a little time to stop laughing.

      Surely in every line of this post I have described what I feel defines the closed-minded debater. And it does not require someone of consummately ligical reasoning ability to deduce that an open-minded debater would be represented by the opposite of these characteristics.

      I appreciate the holiday gift of amusement. Merry Christmas, brother.

  11. kb, have you ever read one of your ramblings, when you talk out of both sides of your mouth its hard to follow.
    You said, ” What is truly disappointing to this believer is the size of the culture of the closed minded debate within christiandom-Believers who of all people should be the first to understand the difference between fact and faith.”
    As a believer we should understand that our faith, or the faith taught in scripture is not a blind faith, it is built on biblical fact or it is not faith. We base our faith on what scripture teaches. Remember kb, “faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God.” This is the narrow mindedness or closed mindedness God desires us to have. I understand what you mean by a closed minded debater. It is what you are hinting at about being open minded that catches my interest. I see words such as open and closed minded used as you have used them and I see them as buzz words, red flags, used to set an agenda, to promote change in an attempt to influence people and how they reguard biblical truths. You say we can’t possiblely understand all of God’s truths, and it’s pure arrogance to think so, therefore we need to be more open, to what man might think. Your suggesting since that is a “fact”, let us be more open, let us open up the debate, let us broaden our thinking, let man come to a consensus and we will call it ok. This is open mindedness in the religious world. God desires us to live by every God breathed word, to narrow our thinking. As far as God’s word is concerned the debate is closed. We either accept it or we don’t. We must be open to God’s truths and narrow minded as to what man thinks wisdom is. I know that in todays world of political correctness it is a wonderful thing to be seen as open minded, but of things spiritual, we must narrow our thinking and do as God has instructed. For narrow is the way that leads to life, broad is the way that leads to destruction.

  12. Jeff, you said: “You suggest … let man come to a consensus and we will call it ok.” I didn’t say that at all. I didn’t suggest it at all.

    I will suggest that you read between the lines to see what you want to see and judge whom you wish to judge and accuse whom you wish to accuse.

    In fact, I’ll just say it right out.

    I hope you don’t do that with scripture.

  13. In your 6th point, you stated, ” the closed minded debater will show no interest in consensus” I take from that that you put great stock in what man thinks. To be open to what the majority thinks. My only point would be, God desires us to be narrow minded when it comes to things spiritual.

    • Jeff, you and I have a consensus on one of the most important facts in the universe: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Don’t you think it makes sense to emphasize the important? Isn’t it at least possible that’s what I meant?

      How many times have I written in this very blog to the effect that what man thinks is pointless next to what God says?

      Yet you read this post and suddenly assume that what I find most important is what man says?

  14. kb, It would depend on what you deem important. If its just the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, I would say the devil and demons believe that and they tremble. To believe in Jesus involves more than accepting the fact that He is the Son of God. We must accept all that He taught and humbly follow Him with a faithful obedience. Thus the importance of being narrow minded. Our unity, our being of one mind, our one accord, all depends upon our acceptance of His will. Our willingness to follow as He has directed. The broad thinker or the open minded person would tells us we are all headed the same direction, don’t sweat the small stuff. I would say if we say we believe in Jesus and reject what we deem as the small stuff, can we really say I believe?

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