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Just a Debate?

There are lots of good things to appreciate regarding Lads to Leaders participation. One area is the debate program. Like many collegiate mock debate programs, Lads requires that participants formally argue both sides of a proposed issue. When the debate topic is doctrinal, that makes for some interesting conversations.

One year the topic was “baptism, immersion in water, is essential for salvation.” Of course, we know that the Bible does in fact clearly teach that concept (Acts 2:38, 1 Pet. 3:21, Acts 22:16, etc.). But since part of the debate process requires the team to argue both sides then they also had to argue against baptism being necessary.

In my personal coaching strategy, we never considered any formal negative arguments until we had thoroughly studied the positive case until it was understood and rock solid. Remember, this is a program to prepare our children to know the truth and to strengthen them to serve the Lord. We didn’t want to introduce confusion or misconceptions until they had a solid grasp of the truth. But then it was time to work on the negative.

As a rule, the teens at first find the whole concept of even making a negative argument to be somewhat disconcerting and they don’t like it. But as they work through various possibilities and negative arguments they discover something interesting - - when not arguing truth, you don’t actually have to be true. Which means when making the negative case we misapply scripture. We misinterpret words and concepts. We twist the meaning of texts, ask misleading questions and use misdirected illustrations. They soon come to realize that it is a LOT easier to make stuff up that’s wrong, than to prove what is true. Which is EXACTLY why we ALWAYS learned the truth FIRST!

One parent, after listening to our teens present their negative case in the baptism debate said she had family and friends with various religious associations with whom she had recently been talking about religion. She said that many of our negative arguments were the true beliefs of her family and friends.

The reality is that when our youth, or we ourselves, prepare to debate the truth, there will be people who hold to those false views in real life.

Isaiah said that Israelites, called on the name of the Lord God, but not in truth or righteousness,” (Is. 48:1). Jesus told his disciples that “the truth will make you free,” (Jn. 8:32), but lies and error will not. “Buy the truth, and do not sell it,” (Prov. 23:23) is a worthy goal indeed!

Tim Orbison


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