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The Power of Discussion


What is discussion? Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines it as "consideration of a question in open and usually informal debate." This definition is starkly different from when, in 1828, Noah Webster himself defined it as "Debate; disquisition; the agitation of a point or subject with a view to elicit truth; the treating of a subject by argument, to clear it of difficulties, and separate truth from falsehood." These two very different definitions almost sum up what I am addressing in this blog today.

In 1828, Mr. Webster, recognized that the point of discussion was to reach truth. I also like that he adds that it should clear away any difficulties. When reading this it becomes clear that discussion was a way to answer people's questions leaving no falsehoods behind to later confuse them. Participants could bring up all the "but what about" and "but I heard" rebuttals they wanted to and still, in proper discussion, those would also be answered so that all that was left was truth to be easily understood.

Discussion today is much different. The modern definition speaks nothing of truth. Some may say that it is implied, but I would argue that it purposefully omits it. The old definition mentions truth twice but the modern one only suggests that discussion is an open group consideration of a question. I looked up the definition of 'consider' because I thought maybe it meant in some way to answer or to arrive at truth. But, neither was the case. It simply means to ponder, weigh in one's mind, seriously think about, etc. So, I wonder what happened. Are people no longer looking for answers to their questions. How is it that people find satisfaction in the assumption that all their questions about life are simply rhetorical ones?

It's no secret that every generation wants to be better than the one before it. It's also common knowledge that most teens rebel at some point or another and get it into their heads that they know more than their parents do. I suspect that many in this modern generation have become convinced that they can become better than their parents' generation. Some people are teaching that this is a real possibility and that it starts by simply rejecting virtually everything that they have been taught by them. From there, words are redefined for we don't even want to assume that we can arrive at a better solution if we use the same definitions or the same words. Old terms are made out to be bad while new ones are glorified. Since truth in most cases has been widely understood, let us start to question it again but this time lets not arrive at an answer lest we only come full circle and be at the same truth again. Or, worse yet, we arrive at the wrong answer and we are proven wrong later.

Ahh, the safety of the non-answer. This is when you just fail to answer a question. Some people do it more slyly than others by not making it apparent that they are doing so, but others are just frustratingly obvious. Some people purposefully fail to answer questions so as not to be proven wrong, so as not to lose the support of those who won't agree with them, and to seem thoughtful and open-minded. It's how you remain accepted by the largest number of people. People tend to accept those who refuse to say anything that challenges the beliefs of those who listen.

When in a discussion group, it is important to see that the discussion is moving towards truth. Otherwise, all that is happening is a merry-go-round of rhetorical talk. Is there more that happens, though, besides the lack of finding truth. Could it be a descent instead of a lateral move? Let's see what the Bible says. 2 Timothy 2:14 states, "...Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen." Verses 16 and 17 go on to say, "Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene." Verses 23 through 26 say, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."

It seems pretty clear that there is indeed a descent. Discussion that leads to anything besides truth can, in fact, lead to destruction. A man named John MacArthur put it very well when he describes the empty words that John speaks of, "Paul also called it 'empty', which means it has no benefit--it yields no return. But empty words soon become evil words because empty words are like a vacuum. I have a vacuum in my garage I use to clean the car. Once in a while it sucks up something I don't want it to, like a pen or some coins. That's what happens with a vacuum--whatever gets near it rushes in. Empty words become evil words because they suck up sin. Useless talk on useless matters becomes wicked talk. Words that are not of God soon become unholy words."

The Emergent church embraces discussion without answers. They recognize that answers divide people. But, they do not want division. They want unity. This sounds good on the surface, but truth does divide as Noah Webster points out in the definition of discussion. He said, "separate truth from falsehood" when he states the goal of discussion reaching truth. Truth will divide people into two groups; those who are right and those who are wrong. We cannot leave truth behind for the sake of peace.

An emergent church blog I found when Googling 'power of discussion' brought me to this blog site. The author is describing a youth "church service" where she tries something somewhat new with the kids and lets them discuss a specific grouping of verses in 1 Corinthians. She is excited about the results which were that the kids discussed it mostly by themselves. She admits that she had no control over what was being said. While I agree that students learn better through interaction, they cannot be left to determine what is right and what is wrong on their own. Having God's Word open to them during the discussion is good, but the Emergent Church is notorious for disallowing anyone to arrive at an answer. They say that everyone's opinion has value, but that is only as long as that opinion leaves room for self-doubt. Furthermore, it's the opinion that is elevated above biblical truth.

False doctrine is any doctrine that does not align with the biblical truths. Many of these false doctrines will seem biblical but they only adhere to certain principles and ignore the biblical context that defines them for what they mean. Paul goes on to say in 2 Timothy 3 that there will be times in the last days when people are terrible. These terrible people will have a form of godliness, but will deny its power. He instructs us, "Have nothing to do with them." He also says about them that they are "always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth"

In chapter 4 he says, "For the time will come that men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."

Speaking of myths, ever heard of walking the labyrinth? A quick Google search will show this ancient practice as symbolic of the journey to the center of yourself. It puts self above all which is an ultra-humanistic view. The bible says quite the opposite and states that we must die to self and be born again through Jesus Christ. And that, even after being born again, we are not ourselves but God's.

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