I love a good debate! Sadly, good debates are exceedingly rare! Ideally, the concept of a good debate is when two equally prepared, equally competent debaters put forth their best ideas "to compete" against each other. The true debate is between the merits of the ideas them selves and should not be between the persons putting forth the ideas.
The perfect example of this is found in 1 Kings 18. Elijah challenges the 450 prophets of Baal to "prove their case." All Israel was gathered to Mount Carmel to witness the debate. Elijah set up the conflict with the challenge that it was time to stop wondering who was really God, verse 21. The prophets of Baal claimed Baal was the powerful god. Elijah claimed that God was God. Who was right? That was the purpose of the debate. The format of the debate was simplicity itself; they would prepare a sacrifice to be offered but call on Baal and/or God to actually light the fire. Whichever one could light the fire was obviously, truly, God.
Few modern debates have ever been so clearly defined and never so clearly proven. Debate at its heart is the thorough understanding of a topic, from both sides. A debater, properly prepared, can argue force fully against a position and also argue force fully for the position. For a number of years I was privileged to introduce this concept to some of our teenagers as a function of the Lads to Leaders program. They were at first genuinely unsettled by the notion that they would be required to argue against, for example, baptism as being necessary for salvation or oppose the weekly practice of the Lord's Supper. However, being able to do so caused them to come to genuinely under stand the nature and truth of the topic. What disappointed me most, in many of the teams that we faced in competition, was how often their "wrong" positions were better prepared and argued than their "right" positions. Making them better prepared to attack the Bible than defend it and thus missing the whole point of the debate! The reason why the prophets of Baal lost their "debate" with Elijah was not
because Elijah was a better debater but because their position was wrong!
- Tim Orbison