The economic and socio-cultural direction of modern Australian society has drastically changed since the new millennium.
Economic fortunes have been tied up with Asian interests, while most of modern Australian culture and social philosophy have been imported and appropriated from Europe, the US, and Britain.
There is more awareness about sensitive issues, yet there is little response to the consequences of this paradigm shift. Philosophies of pragmatism have taken the place of truth. Rapid progression has cast aside much-needed public debate over options for reform.
This inevitably leads to a conflict between competing ideologies and philosophies on various issues in society. This is evidenced by the recent changes in both social and moral teaching, and not just of governments—Christians and churches are being caught up in the moral revolution.
Harnessing the power of debate
Australia (and other many other countries) has inherited great intellectual traditions—with the added benefit of utilising the tool of debate to critique societal change.
By debate, I do not mean the 'Q&A style' appeal to constituents on national television, rather a proper debate between two individuals representing differing opinions.
This style of debate can be presented in a civil and respectful manner without the need to resort to vilification of the opposition that so frequently happens in our media.
The recent debate on voluntary euthanasia hosted by the Catholic Society of Sydney University is a brilliant example of a civil exchange. The debate between Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Dr Peter Singer featured measured dialogue from both sides—a stark contrast with over-impassioned behaviour frequently exhibited by activists.
Why should a Christian be concerned with debate?
In Matthew chapter 10, verse 16 Christ tells his disciples to be as shrewd as snakes and as simple as doves.
The Apostle Peter also reminds us in 1 Peter chapter 3, verse 15:
But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame.
The premise of debate is to stand up and present evidence for why you believe or why you think a certain way.
We inherit these ideas from the ancient Greeks, and for Christians we do this with a balance of wisdom and love, following the example of the early church. The early church showed it is possible to fiercely defend sacred doctrine while showing love toward others of other positions, and without unnecessary compromise.
A life beyond reproach
Debating is just one among a selection of tools at our disposal. While we shouldn't shy away from engaging in debate, it is likely to be the last option for me when it comes to trying to convince someone to agree with me or believe what I believe.
It is crucial we act on what we say—showing we believe. To frame every conversation or interaction as a debate locks us into a 'win or lose' framework, and can fool us into placing the burden of success on our own skills or rhetoric.
We need to remember that it is God who bears the act of conversion. God calls us to be part of this process by faithfully sharing our lives with others, even if we are not expert debaters.
But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
- Acts chapter 19, verse 9.
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
- Titus chapter 3, verse 9.
Jack Liang is studying Commerce and Arts at Macquarie University, he is part of a family of five, his hobbies include computer gaming, football and reading church history. He currently attends the English Ministry service at the Campsie Chinese Congregational Church.
Jack Liang's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jack-liang.html