Each person has a particular way in which he learns best. Some learn best by way of visuals such as power point presentations, images on a television screen, and things of this sort. Others learn best by shear effort at perseverance in reading difficult material and others, still, learn best through controversy (debates). This latter is a good way for me to learn. I learn when issues are analyzed and proponents of issues are put through the “crucible” of controversy or critical examination. Oral debates and debate books are very useful tools in learning because we learn not only what particular issues divide people, but also how the individual issues stand up to scrutiny. I value the debates I have in book form, and when I am old and gray, these books will still be on my shelf for they will certainly keep my mind active.

Not long ago (April 2009), I traveled to the Chicago area (Schaumburg) for a public oral debate on an issue that divided two religious men; that issue was the nature of man in relationship to God’s saving grace. Before I arrived, I received a courtesy call from the local preacher about one of the participant’s withdrawal from the debate (a Baptist preacher). I learned that he withdrew because he could no longer defend the proposition he signed to defend. After receiving the call, I reflected on two things: first, it was disappointing that he withdrew on a Thursday before the debate was to begin the following Monday; second, it was good that the denominational preacher had actually learned that the position he agreed to defend did not measure up to the truth of God’s word, and thus was indefensible.

Because the debate was so near to time of start, the Baptist preacher sent a letter of apology to the local preacher and the other participant in the debate. I was fortunate enough to read that letter of apology, and took special note of what he said. As it turns out, the Baptist preacher was strongly encouraged by another Baptist preacher not to be involved in the debate, and it was not because of the weakness of the proposition he signed on to defend. The reason he was encouraged strongly against participation was along this line: “…my reservations about the debate were confirmed when he [his preacher friend] warned me not to go through with the debate. He pastored down south where your group is larger, and he said one method for drawing converts is through these debates. I spoke with others who cofirmed [sic] this.”

This is the first of a three part series. Be sure to look for parts two and three to read the conclusion of this piece.