Evangelism

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The Debate

[See also pp. 301-306, “Meeting Prejudice and Opposition.”]

God Is Seldom Glorified—In some cases, it may be necessary to meet a proud boaster against the truth of God in open debate; but generally these discussions, either oral or written, result in more harm than good.—Testimonies For The Church 3:213 (1872). Ev 162.1

Discussions cannot always be avoided.... People who love to see opponents combat, may clamor for discussion. Others, who have a desire to hear the evidences on both sides, may urge discussion in all honesty of motive; but whenever discussions can be avoided, they should be.... God is seldom glorified or the truth advanced in these combats.—Testimonies For The Church 3:424 (1875). Ev 162.2

Opposers Must Sometimes Be Met—There are occasions where their glaring misrepresentations will have to be met. When this is the case, it should be done promptly and briefly, and we should then pass on to our work.—Testimonies For The Church 3:37 (1872). Ev 162.3

To Meet Defiance but Not Defy—In the presentation of unpopular truth, which involves a heavy cross, preachers should be careful that every word is as God would have it. Their words should never cut. They should present the truth in humility, with the deepest love for souls, and an earnest desire for their salvation, and let the truth cut. They should not defy ministers of other denominations, and seek to provoke a debate. They should not stand in a position like that of Goliath when he defied the armies of Israel. Israel did not defy Goliath but Goliath made his proud boasts against God and His people. The defying, the boasting, and the railing must come from the opposers of truth, who act the Goliath. But none of this spirit should be seen in those whom God has sent forth to proclaim the last message of warning to a doomed world.... Ev 162.4

If they, like David, are brought into a position where God's cause really calls for them to meet a defier of Israel, and if they go forth in the strength of God, relying wholly upon Him, He will carry them through, and cause His truth to triumph gloriously. Christ has given us an example. “Yet Michael the Archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”—Testimonies For The Church 3:218-220 (1872). Ev 163.1

Controversial Spirit Lays Weak Foundation—The spirit of debate, of controversy, is a device of Satan to stir up combativeness, and thus eclipse the truth as it is in Jesus. Many have thus been repulsed instead of being won to Christ.... Ev 163.2

A controversial spirit is encouraged. Many dwell almost exclusively upon doctrinal subjects, while the nature of true piety, experimental Godliness, receives little attention. Jesus, His love and grace, His self-denial and self-sacrifice, His meekness and forbearance, are not brought before the people as they should be. The errors existing everywhere have, like parasites, fastened their deadly poison upon the boughs of truth and in many minds have become identified with it; many who accept the truth teach it in a harsh spirit. A false conception of it is given to the people, and the truth is made of no effect to those whose hearts are not softened and subdued by the Holy Spirit.... Ev 163.3

It is essential for all to discern and appreciate the truth; therefore it is of the greatest importance that the seed of the Word should fall into soil prepared for its reception. The question with us individually should be, How shall we sow the precious seed of truth so that it shall not be lost, but spring up and produce a harvest, that sheaves may be brought to the master?—The Review and Herald, February 9, 1892. Ev 164.1

Danger of Excitement and Rapid Decision—If the interest steadily increases, and the people move understandingly, not from impulse, but from principle, the interest is much more healthy and durable than it is where a great excitement and interest are created suddenly, and the feelings are excited by listening to a debate, a sharp contest on both sides of the question, for and against the truth. Fierce opposition is thus created, positions are taken, and rapid decisions made. A feverish state of things is the result. Calm consideration and judgment are wanting. Let this excitement subside, or let reaction take place by indiscreet management, and the interest can never be raised again. The feelings and sympathies of the people were stirred, but their consciences were not convicted, their hearts were not broken and humbled before God.—Testimonies For The Church 3:218 (1872). Ev 164.2

Presenting Truth to Prejudiced Minds—God's ministers should not count the opportunity of engaging in discussion a great privilege. All points of our faith are not to be borne to the front and presented before the prejudiced crowds.... The truths that we hold in common should be dwelt upon first, and the confidence of the hearers obtained.—Testimonies For The Church 3:426 (1875). Ev 164.3

In Debate We Meet Satan—Ministers who contend with opposers of the truth of God, do not have to meet men merely, but Satan and his host of evil angels. Satan watches for a chance to get the advantage of ministers who are advocating the truth, and when they cease to put their entire trust in God, and their words are not in the spirit and love of Christ, the angels of God cannot strengthen and enlighten them. They leave them to their own strength, and evil angels press in their darkness; for this reason, the opponents of the truth sometimes seem to have the advantage, and the discussion does more harm than real good.—Testimonies For The Church 3:220, 221 (1872). Ev 165.1

If Debate Cannot Be Avoided—Whenever it is necessary for the advancement of the cause of truth and the glory of God, that an opponent be met, how carefully, and with what humility should they [the advocates of truth] go into the conflict. With heartsearching, confession of sin, and earnest prayer, and often fasting for a time, they should entreat that God would especially help them, and give His saving, precious truth a glorious victory, that error might appear in its true deformity, and its advocates be completely discomfited.... Ev 165.2

Never should you enter upon a discussion, where so much is at stake, relying upon your aptness to handle strong arguments. If it cannot be well avoided, enter the conflict, but enter upon it with firm trust in God, and in the spirit of humility, in the spirit of Jesus, who has bidden you learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart.—Testimonies For The Church 1:624, 626 (1867). Ev 165.3

Present the Truth—The best way to deal with error is to present the truth, and leave wild ideas to die for want of notice. Contrasted with truth, the weakness of error is made apparent to every intelligent mind. The more the erroneous assertions of opposers, and of those who rise up among us to deceive souls, are repeated, the better the cause of error is served. The more publicity is given to the suggestions of Satan, the better pleased is his Satanic majesty.—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 165 (1892). Ev 166.1

Use Only Sound Arguments—It is important that in defending the doctrines which we consider fundamental articles of faith, we should never allow ourselves to employ arguments that are not wholly sound. These may avail to silence an opposer, but they do not honor the truth. We should present sound arguments, that will not only silence our opponents, but will bear the closest and most searching scrutiny. Ev 166.2

With those who have educated themselves as debaters, there is great danger that they will not handle the Word of God with fairness. In meeting an opponent, it should be our earnest effort to present subjects in such a manner as to awaken conviction in his mind, instead of seeking merely to give confidence to the believer.—Testimonies For The Church 5:708 (1889). Ev 166.3

Lay Off the Pugilistic Armor—Those who bear the most solemn message ever given to our world must lay off the pugilistic armor, and put on the armor of Christ's righteousness. We have no need to work in our own finite individuality, for then the angels of God stand back and leave us to carry on the warfare alone. When will our ministers learn of Jesus? Our preparation to meet opponents or to minister to the people must be obtained of God at the throne of heavenly grace. Here, in receiving the grace of God, our own incompetence is seen and acknowledged. The dignity and glory of Christ is our strength. The Holy Spirit's guidance leads us into all truth. The Holy Spirit takes the things of God and shows them unto us, conveying them as a living power into the obedient heart. We then have the faith that works by love and purifies the soul, which takes the perfect impress of its Author.—Letter 21a, 1895. Ev 166.4