Are Public Debates Appropriate?

I’ve been reading some threads here that discuss debates between Protestants and Catholics. Are such debates really appropriate? The purpose of a debate is to win. It seems that when we approach questions regarding God, Salvation and Eternity the purpose of our discussions should be to discover the Truth. The question of who wins or loses a debate is answered by who possess the most oratory skill rather than who most understands the Truth.

It seems, based on what I’ve read, that many of these debates devolve into personal attacks and insults. It also seems that most are held before either predominantly Catholic or predominantly Protestant audiences with people cheering for their side and jeering the other rather than trying to understand.

Truth is not determined by who stumps his or her opponent, who gets in the most zingers, who shouts the loudest, who can quote the most Scripture or who has the best delivery. The Truth is what it is regardless of the skill of the person speaking it. Truth is not determined by debate. Truth is discovered by prayer, study and humility.

So, in light of the other threads discussing who won which debate, and in light of my comments I ask…Should we be debating at all?

If you walked up to Jesus and told Him that the Real Presence is hog wash and you have a better theory, what do you think He’d tell you? He wouldn’t make personal attacks but He would surely clear you up in a hurry. Jesus debated many times with the Pharasees and Scribes. Done with love and proper context we must share the Truth even though it may cause hurt feelings. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites. Maybe this doesn’t sound too good but it was deemed necessary to promote His message. See 1Peter 3:15) God Bless…:slight_smile:

There are times where a moderated public debate may slow down otherwise negative activity in a free for all type fight:

Debate Proposal: Sungenis vs. Palm, Michael, Forrest, et.s, al.

Mark Wyatt

I agree with you. All we can do is present the Gospel and the rest is up to God. If you go into a conversation with the attitude of Im going to prove this person wrong–then in my opinion you have already lost. If you go into a debate/discussion with the attitude Im just going to present the Gospel–then you have won.

We cant debate anyone into believing our way.:frowning:

Fair enough, but we’re not Jesus, and we’re not living in 1st century times. We know who Jesus was, and what he came to do. The people Jesus was speaking to had no clue. My point is that people who truly want to learn have tons of resources to pick from (this website being one of them). People who want to debate generally just want to show how much they already know. Does anyone have any evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, of a Protestant going to one of these debates and then converting because of it? Or vice-versa if the Catholic “lost”?

Answering someone’s sincere questions is very different from deliberately picking a fight. If your seatmate on an airplane asked you whether you’ve accepted Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior of course you should explain your faith to him. But if he asks you to meet him at baggage claim to argue in front of the rest of the passengers…maybe a different story. Would people be listening for the Truth, or for the one liners?

Exactly. You can’t shout, shame or argue someone into the Kingdom.

I hope the pro-debaters will keep posting. I’d like to know their positions.

Shal we debate them?:stuck_out_tongue: :wink:

In the context you have explained here you are correct. Although I do have to admit that when a fundamentalist tells me that our Blessed Mother was a sinner, had more children and doesn’t deserve any more honor than any biblical person, I have to hold my tongue. But you are right. Picking fights doesn’t convert. But we must continue to spread the Gospel and I don’t believe that that is limited to first century Christianity.

I don’t think Jesus debated with the Pharisees, He taught and He answered their questions, and He asked them pointed questions.

He didn’t tell His disciples to debate, He told them that if people didn’t listen to them to walk away and shake the dust off their feet.

ve been reading some threads here that discuss debates between Protestants and Catholics. Are such debates really appropriate? The purpose of a debate is to win. .

I would say they are not only desirable but absolutely essential if we are to grow.

Debate is not only about winning, it is also about causing us to have to stop and think! In taking the time to stop and think ‘reflecting’ we often find old ideas challenged. Persuasive arguements can and do change us in how we think construe and assimilate the world and our perceptions of it. It possesses the power to cause enormous change and even conversion from deep seated ideologies to new and sometimes ‘not so new’ but ideas we had just not previously given time to considering as plausible and rational alternatives.

Truth is not determined by debate. Truth is discovered by prayer, study and humility

Truth exists as an external reality but for it to be useful to us, must be internally absorbed. This is achieved in three ways:

1.;ogical truth whereby the mind logically comes to a unity of conclusion from things outside the mind

2.metaphysical or ontological truth whereby things conform to the mind

3.moral truth whereby what is said is in harmony with what is in one’s mind.

If a person’s conscience is true even if they do not agree with your concept of truth, the psersons subjective can often be ‘pursuaded’ to correspond to objective reality whereby true conversion takes place.

That is in essence a truism which lies beneath and underpins a lot of my threads.

So you see, both truth… and some of my absurd contributions in these forum are not as ambiguous as might appear, but an honest attempt to open debate with the intent not of ‘the best side winning’ but to challenge induce reflection and open up the possiblity of conversion from deep-seated prejudice and pre-conceived opinions towards a realisation of Objective reality ‘truth’ that can only be found in debate.:thumbsup:

He just called them hypocrites. That’s kinda like debating their teachings. When Jesus threw out the money changers in His Father’s house I believe that to be a public display of disagreement with those who didn’t recognize the house of prayer. So I repectfully disagree with you. Jesus publicly proclaimed His message and never watered anything down for ecumenism. And we are to imitate Jesus with love and compassion. We are not in this to win arguments but we are in this to assist the Holy Spirit in winning souls.

The book of Acts and the epistles make it clear that Paul argued/debated many times. Paul tells Timothy that a bishop must not be quarellsome. But Paul also says that a bishop must be able to refute those who contradict sound doctrine.[See 1 Tim 3:1-3 & Tit 1:7]

The apostle Peter says, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

It would seem that debating is important but all must be governed by charity. If we win an argument but lose the person we have gained nothing. We have instead lost that which we were seeking.

Somehow your post brings to mind those taped debates between apologists that are floating about the internet. I am fairly uninterested in those. Usually I am seeking information, human contact, or something else. Debates aren’t the greatest source of information. I’d rather see a concise positive argument. However, I do like the Summa, which provides answers to a list of objections.

I do think there is a place for answers, and for challenges!

Greetings Legal Eagle,

I must disagree slightly. Truth is not discovered solely by the factors you mentioned. The simple fact that the Body of Christ is broken into competing denominations, proves that Truth does not come internally.

Debate is necessary. Our legal system is built on it. Facts must be presented and debated (countered) to discover the truth. That’s all we can ask from a debate - facts - especially facts that we did not find in our prayer and study. I have learned tremendously from listening and reading the debates of the past few years and Q&A books like Radio Replies.

But since the debates of recent years have turned into self-serving grand standing, your question is legitimate.

I hold fast to the fact that the Catholic apologist is a DEFENDER of his faith. Certain well known Protestant apologists arrear to be OFFENDERS - debating any one for any reason. I don’t appreciate Catholic apologists who seek out the fight. But when we are challenged, we must stand up for the Word of Christ by providing the facts and countering any false gospel.

Sincerely in Christ,

I would prefer to say Catholic apologist is a True Believer and we tell the truth.

We are not here to win the debate, but to educate others with our truth faith and to help them see their misunderstanding about Catholic.

I don’t think we’re allowed to debate Catholic Doctrine with protestants.

Could you be more specific?

This is what I’m talking about. I certianly agree (see above) that if asked we should be ready willing and able to defend our faith. It’s these pitched battles that I think are inappropriate. I don’t believe that there is any Biblical evidence to suggest that Jesus or St. Paul or St. Peter or even St. Stephen participated in a scheduled debate the way we understand the term today. They certianly didn’t “stalk” people around the internet trying to pick a fight.

I asked before, let me ask again…Does anybody know anyone who has converted from Protestant to Catholic or vice versa because of one of these scheduled public debates? I realize these debates may be intellectully stimulating or even fun. But, in 21st century America, are they truly useful? Is the attitude that goes into trying to win a debate truly Christian?

That is certianly correct. However, I question whether Truth can be discovered through the debate format. Remember, schools have debating teams the same way they have football teams. People go to debates for the same reasons they go to football games. The participants want to win. The spectators want to be entertained. This no way to approach God.

Now I KNOW that debate among Christians is inappropriate. If Truth is discovered in the workings of the legal system it’s only by accident. It ain’t by design!!


By a decree of Alexander IV (1254-1261) inserted in “Sextus Decretalium”, Lib. V, c. ii, and still in force, all laymen are forbidden, under threat of excommunication to dispute publicly or privately with heretics on the Catholic Faith.

The text reads: “Inhibemus quoque, ne cuiquam laicæ personæ liceat publice vel privatim de fide catholicâ disputare. Qui vero contra fecerit, excommunicationis laqueo innodetur.”

The translation:

“We furthermore forbid any lay person to engage in dispute, either private or public, concerning the Catholic Faith. Whosoever shall act contrary to this decree, let him be bound in the fetters of excommunication.”


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