Saturday, February 05, 2005

Argument for Argument's Sake

I like to argue.

More importantly, I like to argue and win.

Call it the intellectual equivalent of making someone else look bad to make yourself look good. It's one of the reasons, sadly enough, that I'm such an avid reader of all things theological; I want to be able to offer an answer to folks about why Christ is God, why the Church matters and why Orthodoxy embodies all of those things and always has. I have my pet answers for why this or that belief doesn't hold any water and have rehearsed them multiple times. And what's so sad about all of this is that it makes precious little difference, if any, to those who don't really want my answers in the first place. I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm so busy preparing arguments that I forget to listen to the questions of others.

These people who don't really want my illuminating answers come in various forms...there's the mostly areligious or nominally religious guy who doesn't even think about God all that often, much less dwell on Him and the study of Him. Then there're the hyper-devout folks who already have strong beliefs about God (as I have) and are either simply asking different questions or are themselves not interested in my answers because of their own.

It is with this latter group that I usually butt heads in an (apparent) exercise in futility. Veiled as a simple, honest exchange of ideas, both I and my "opponents" (what a lovely way to relate to another person!) for the most part only become further entrenched in our belief system, merely spinning our wheels in each other's direction and not going anywhere. More importantly, we're not connecting.

I need to stop hunting down arguments. I need to stop buttonholing people with "whatabout...?" questions concerning their faith when they were merely trying to find a shirt in their size, thank you very much. I definitely need to stop debating with folks who have no interest in what the faith offers. For the most part--though it strengthens my own grasp of why I believe what I believe--I ought to pray for willing hearts to come my way and pray for mercy that I be the sort of person who makes hard hearts more willing. Then and only then could an approach ever work.

The Athonite monk was walking along and was greeted by a Greek young man who loudly demanded, "Give me one reason to believe in God!" The opportunity was golden, according to many. The Athonite was silent for a moment, then calmly answered, "No," and continued on his way.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pedro, it's Donna Rose, from OCnet :)

Regarding this latest post, I've been there, done that. For a small handful of years I had a friend who did not think he believed in God, let alone Christianity. As a result, I relished the discussions we had, because he presented a challenge, and I later realized a threat, to all I believed. We are no longer friends really, for reasons unrelated to theology, but upon reflection I realized that our relationship had been very unhealthy for me spiritually, mostly because my ability to get him to admit my ideas and beliefs WERE possible was what validated them for me on some level. I have now, thankfully, reached a point where I no longer need to justify what I know to be True to any man or woman. I think this occurred right as I encountered the Orthodox Church, actually, because I found in her the blessed existence of Truth whether the world outside believed It to be or not. Most of NYC (relatively speaking) doesn't think there is any truth in Orthodox Church - most haven't even heard of it! And yet the Orthodox Church exists, as does her Truth, and will simply and humbly continue to do so until the end of time, unthreatened by anything going on outside her doors. It is a very comforting thought, which frees me from my prior self-inflicted obligation to justify Truth to the world. Truth will go on existing without any such justification, and in that I have found peace. :)

Sorry for the long post - I have a lot of free time on my hands tonight. :)

Fr. David said...

Hey, that's cool, Donna; thanks for posting!

Yeah--seems like sometimes we zealous witnessers seem to get such a literal "rush" from convincing other people that we're right that it becomes a validation of our faith, another proof or further conviction to *ourselves* that it's right.

And it may not even be the ONLY proof to us that is IS right, but even if it gets to the point of influencing us at ALL...I'm beginning to see how that can be a dangerous thing.

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is Alan.

I can relate to what you're saying (and danged if I don't detect a little bit of reference to myself in this post!).

This seems to be one side of the issue, the other side being the desire always to argue. Clearly the middle ground is preferable... perhaps you might think about the cases where "arguing" (I rarely use that word, unless I feel it's valid; usually my own 'exchanges' w/ people are just that - exchanges, discussions, or at the strongest, 'debates') might be quite profitable.

I guess I'm just curious about how you define "to argue" in your first line. That would be most enlightening indeed.

Grace and peace,

Fr. David said...

Mostly by "argue" I mean what you call "debate," I think.

I guess where the line is for me is when one can't answer the question "can I take 'No' for an answer" with a "Yes." In other words, if someone doesn't want to hear my words, can I just let it go without having to have the other person see it my way?

Also, I have to be careful about dealing with people (yes, Alan, that's plural) who are content simply to go around the same ideological, philosophical and theological trees again and again with no hint of anyone's belief ever really changing. While it may be intellectually stimulating, 1) it saps a lot of time from your days, and 2) if one's goal is the changing of the other's belief, it may be (and far more often, it is) an exercise in futility.

As long as these pitfalls are avoided, however, and one can stay free of passions and emotions while laying forth one's own opinion, not expecting or requiring any particular reaction from the one to whom it's given, then the "free exchange of ideas" is to be encouraged.

Unfortunately, I personally find myself quite often unable to comply with the above paragraph.

Thanks for posting, bro.