***This is the conclusion of my To Be a Christian debate with Trevor Blake.The terms can be found here, Blake’s opening here, my opening here, Blake’s response here, my response here, and finally Blake’s conclusion here. If you enjoyed the debate, please consider donating to Samaritan Purse.***
To be a Christian is to love Christ, to repent your sins, and to obey him by loving others. That is all that is needed to be Christian.
Throughout the debate Trevor has argued that Christians must understand and explain every detail of theology or the entirety of Christianity can be ignored. Christianity does not work like that.
Christianity is Christ, everything else is details. It is true faith in Christ that saves, nothing else.
Belief is necessary, understanding is not. The only theology one has to accept to be a Christian is the Nicene Creed, a rather simple document containing rather simple statements. Other more complex theology may be helpful (or it may be hindering), but it is not necessary for a Christian to know or to understand. Christianity is neither a complex nor elite religion, it is the good news of salvation for the masses.
As for the No True Scotsman in the Sky, God defines good. God is good. To talk about good apart from God is non-nonsensical babbling.
Trevor brags how his knowledge of the scriptures is greater than mine, and it might be so, but it is irrelevant. What use is knowledge without understanding?
This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’ (Matthew 13:13-15 ESV)
What use is understanding without wisdom?
Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” (Proverbs 1:20-33 ESV)
What use is wisdom without practice? He that hears the Word but does not put it into practice is no better off than he who does not hear the Word.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25 ESV)
Trevor struggles with finding the median point between specificity and generality, thinking this is a fault of mine or of Christians in general. Instead, he must realize there he is looking for a median that doesn’t exist. One must see both the forest and the trees at once to build a house: seeing only the former one knows only a green sea of leaves from which no house can be built and seeing only the latter one wonders how it can possibly be enough wood to build a house.
He claims I contradict myself “from one sentence to the next“, showing only that he sees not the forest. One cannot declare a house impossible after viewing only two trees, while blinding oneself to the trees behind them.
But Trevor is correct in that if he understood the scriptures he would believe. Trevor believes “men do what they do, then use rationality to rationalize what they did,” yet he does not apply that to himself here. In pride he thinks himself wiser than men and so blinds himself.
Wisdom cries out, but he refuses to hear; he closes his eyes and in the darkness sees only foolishness. To become wise, he must first become a fool. He boasts of winning, yet the only prize worth having he does not humble himself to pursue.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31 ESV)
So, humble yourself, open your eyes and see, repent your sins, and beg Christ for His mercy for the Kingdom of Heaven draws near.
I think I held up well in the debate. I can not think of any arguments that I would have liked to have made differently. Whether I won or not is up to the audience, but I have a feeling it will probably line up along religious lines, as ‘who won?’ questions in debates usually do. Personally, I will have considered it a win if even one person is drawn closer to Christ.
I did try to work on my rhetoric, while trying to avoid personal attacks or insults, I think I succeeded. There were some writing errors and dropped sentences that usually plague my work, but there were less than usual as I did because I did do more self-editing than usual.
Thoughts on the Debate Format
I think a bit more time between each response would have been helpful, especially given that I stick to a posting schedule. I found myself barely squeaking by within the 5 days; a full week would have been better.
One more opportunity for response (so: Opening, Response, Response, Conclusion) might have allowed for a more thorough flushing out of ideas.
I think simultaneous posting would have been better, so we were each responding to one post. For my opening I was unsure if I should respond to Trevor’s opening or not and for my response I was unsure if I should just respond to his opening, or to both his opening and response. So either simultaneous posting, or defininf exactly what to respond to before hand. Another problem, was that by going second I got a significant advantage, especially in such a short debate, in by being able to reply to more of Trevor’s side, while Trevor is not even going to be able to respond to my conclusion within the confines of the debate.
‘To Be a Christian’ was a rather broad topic; a more focused topic may have allowed for a more focused debate.
On the Comments
I thought there would be more comments on the debate then there actually were. I guess I overestimated the . One thing I did note for future debates is that the comments can potentially impact the debates, especially if the debate goes longer than ours did. I think in future debates, the debaters should discuss whether comments should be opened or closed.
Here’s a few responses to the comments:
I am not a Catholic. Even if I was, I was specifically trying to avoid a sectarian view of Christianity, and I was avoiding taking a stance on controversial theological topics. I was trying to display what Lewis referred to as Mere Christianity.
I forgot to tell Blake to to edit his misspelling as Exfernal asked.
In response to Exfernal’s question I did not address the issue of the paternal grandfather of Jesus. I will briefly do so now.
The most common belief is that the two different genealogies are due to one being Joesph’s and the other Mary’s (even though it is claimed as Joseph’s due to cultural factors) . Another belief is that one was Joseph’s direct line, while the other was the royal line. Another thing to consider is that Jewish genealogy is not always direct, generations are sometimes skipped depending on the purpose of the genealogy.
Whatever the exact reason for the discrepancy, the more important thing to note is that many early Christians were Jews and would have been knowledgeable of Jewish genealogical traditions, yet they did not reject the Gospels due to the discrepancies between the two genealogies, so the differences were something that would have made sense to and been accepted by Jews of that time.