Reflections on the importance of formal debate as a means of sanctification and being salt and light
The recent setting and format for public comments during the El Paso County Commissioners meeting on Jan 23, 2023, in regard to their resolution of "Solidarity with Planned Parenthood" has led me to contemplate more on the importance of formal public debate on issues of great importance.
(to watch my speech against this resolution click here or below.)
Also, speaking to our County Commissioners has reminded me why I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a director in the Challenge program in Classical Conversations. It has been a blessing to my own growth and given me a greater context for understanding the importance of formal debate.
In the Classical Conversations Inc (CC) Challenge program, students are taught how to do Team Policy Debate and Lincoln Douglas debate. Formal debate is (overall) a lost virtue for our culture.
While I was presenting this past Monday, I didn't expect to be able to persuade all of the judges, but was pleasantly surprised that one changed his mind. It was about both challenging their evil resolution AND about planting seeds in the minds of those listening in person and online. It was about planting seeds that get them to be emboldened to stand for TRUE JUSTICE for the unborn and seeds of doubt towards Planned Parenthood's propaganda narrative that is anti-women, anti-justice, promotes situational ethics and weakens the moral conscience of our society.
With that said, this situation does have me reflecting more about this "lost tool of formal debate." Classical Christian education is all using and revitalizing these "lost tools" and reminding people that these "old paths" are good, beautiful, true and God honoring.
This tool trains the presenter to be careful with their words and time.
During the recent El Paso County Commissioners public comment portion, each person only had 5 minutes to present. In Team policy debate with CC, the students have 8 minutes to "Construct" their case for the affirmative or negative in response to the stated resolution. They also have a teammate to help them continue to "build" on their case for or against the resolution.
While preparing my speech for this past Monday, I used a rough version of the Team Policy debate grammar/outline we use in CC. I had to trim it down several times cause I only had 5 minutes. I was nervous out of my mind and just wanted to share the truth with these judges and anyone listening. It was the prayers of many saints, firm convictions in God's Word and His Spirit strengthening me that carried me every step.
I wanted to communicate the message clearly and use the tools I've learned as a CC director to communicate the goodness of true justice vs. their resolution of injustice. I've told several people afterwards that this resolution had so many logical fallacies that I wish there was an opportunity to address more of them.
So, I've been thinking more about the value of intentionally collaborating with others that understand the "grammar" of team policy debate format. This type of collaboration could lead to several people continuing to build upon my "first negative constructive" speech that I gave before the judges.
Granted, it should be noted that I think several other heartfelt and effective presentations WERE given this past Monday, for which I am very grateful for their boldness! Their boldness encouraged me greatly! I prayed for them and thanked them afterwards.
I'm NOT saying the other speeches were not good. They absolutely were good and almost all of them shared the gospel as well! Many of them were very effective and I praise God for that!
On this post I am simply sharing my reflections on the VALUE of people working together in these meetings to build several cohesive speeches for a constructive case against an evil resolution or law in a way that specifically complements and build upon each others arguments/case. On a smaller scale, this type of complementing other speeches happened unintentionally in various cases because we are in agreement on the value of life.
However, I'm talking about the value of an intentional collaborative effort during these opportunities.
There could be value in others having a case ready to either build upon their partners case or have several rebuttals to the affirmative case for a resolution like this. This is EXACTLY why we tell students in the Challenge program (1-IV) to prepare several notecards for both sides of an issue and then quickly organize their evidence to prepare a response to the arguments to the other side and further share evidence to support the main points/observations on your "constructive" side.
Semper Paratus! Always ready!
You never know when you might just have a few minutes to challenge the moral depravity of our culture.
So, in summary, I believe Christians should:
1. Train in rhetoric:
We should be consider training in speech and debate as a means for proclaiming the gospel and being "salt and light" in our culture.
2. Make the most of every opportunity in public and formal settings:
(when appropriate) Treat city council and Commissioner court comment times, like Team Policy debate and challenge evil resolution in a calm, reasoned, humble and clear manner.
3. Organize and promote more formal debates on significant topics
We should organize more formal debates and bring back this "Lost tool" in our culture. The formal debate "grammar" (how it works) gives the structure for a reasoned presentation and not just the typical yelling that you see people doing in various settings.
This is a VERY different approach from the presidential debates of the past few elections. Those aren't debates, nor do they reflect careful research and argumentation. That's quarrelling and Christians are called to avoid that type of behavior.
Sadly, too many Christians have seen THAT type of behavior and have decided to give up on the value of careful listening, persuasion, apologetics and formal debates altogether and instead just say "just serve people" and "don't worry about answering their false ideas of speaking the gospel....just love them." Consequently, they have abandoned a key way Christians should be "salt and light" in their culture. Our proclamation of the truth should be MORE than just words (serving) and a defense of the truth, but it should not be less. Lets serve people AND tell them the truth. Loving people MEANS we tell them the truth with gentleness and reverence before God (1 Peter 3:15).
4. Parents & Youth Pastors should work together to encourage This skill
Parents & Youth Pastors should encourage and create opportunities for students to grow in this skill of formal debate.
I believe this experience is vital whether or not a student will go into a career that will involve formal presentations and debating (lawyer, actor, apologists, etc.). The skills learned in formal debate, particularly the defense of Christianity and Christian morality, teach others the skills of careful reasoning, attentive listening, proper research & weighing ideas, logic, identifying logical fallacies, being concise in a presentation and the beauty and art of using every word to the Glory of God.
As a bit of a side note....this is another reason why I want to have a formal debate class (mainly older campers) during our classical Christian Apologetics student summer camp (Engage Truth Camp) and encourage parents to put their children in a Classical Christian education program!
Let's speak, read, think and persuade others to the glory of God! We live to know God and make him known!