Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

debating the truth



The practice of formal debating is an admission of the fact that we can choose to believe and therefore defend any side of an issue and potentially do so effectively. Formal debates are premised on the idea that there are two sides to an argument and that logical reasoning can support or deny either position.


Most people have never attended a formal debate of the type engaged by high school debate teams, much less been a debater personally. The political debates we see on TV are , perhaps, the only exposure most have to the art of debating., In that case, the audience is generally biased to one or the other viewpoint long before the debate begins.


The fact that, as human beings. we witness debates should temper our insistence that one side of an issue, mainly ours, is the only true and reasonable one. Those who have participated in formal debates and to a lesser degree those who have witnessed such contests can see that effective debate participants could in many cases easily flip to support the opposing proposition and do so effectively. The facts involved in a debate context are not necessarily even an element of contention but rather the interpretation of those facts and the conclusions drawn there from.


In most areas of national disagreement we witness the reality that different groups supposedly view the same data or information and draw different conclusions about proper action or response. Of course, national debates are often colored by a real reluctance by both sides of the argument to truly listen to opposing reasoning.


The essential point I am trying to illustrate here is the idea that each of us can and do pick a position on any issue and then choose to defend that position with a personal interpretation of the facts. Unavoidably, we almost always selectively emphasize favorable facts and largely ignore unfavorable ones. In doing so we engage in the art of debate, perhaps without consciously realizing that such engagement demands that we simultaneously recognize the existence of opposing views. Tjose opposing views are chosen and supported by the opposition in the same manner that our own views are chosen and defended. The choice of a side is a personal matter, driven by tradition, self interest, antagonism, or even an innate love of contentiousness in some cases.


Some of us, over the course of a lifetime, have seen our views on certain issues change dramatically. Something in our lives has forced a re-evaluation of longstanding beliefs and out of that effort, new opposing beliefs have evolved. Often these changes in position are driven by personal tragedy and adversity.  


Having undergone belief change personally, I find that I now am forced to admit that my belief system is not static and sacred. If I had to change before, how can I be sure I won't have to change again. Additionally, if where I am now is not a sacred place of absolute, unalterable truth, how can I condemn others who disagree with where I now am. The whole issue of personal change forces me to a state of heighten awareness and personal humility.


Debates, in whatever context, are nothing more than a reflection of human variation. If we insist on conformity of belief, we demand the unattainable and inevitably cause a great feeling of anxiety and frustration for ourselves and all those who can't see it our way.