Some of you may read that title and wonder, “How can you argue more and quarrel less? Aren’t they the same thing?” And you’d be on to something, if I was using ‘argue’ in the common sense of heated debate. But I’m not. Instead, what I’m referring to is a more formal sense of the word, meaning the reasoned exchange of contrary points of view.
I won’t steal his whole article, but Trevin Wax wrote a wonderful piece on this very thing – you can find it here: https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2017/02/27/i-wish-christians-would-argue-more/. Wax observes three reasons we see more quarreling than arguing today: 1) the rise of emotivism, 2) the rise of worst assumptions, and 3) the rise of technological reaffirmation – this third point really struck me. And many more could be added to this list, for instance, the disappearance of education in logic and the populist scorn towards more sophisticated rhetoric as elitist.
But what I want to especially highlight is when Wax suggests civility is a Christian gift. This is crucial for Christians today. No doubt, the New Testament is clear that trivial and fruitless debates (i.e. quarrels) are not to characterize believers’ conversation. However, it also strongly endorses cordial and thoughtful arguing. In fact, the go-to verse for the apologetic enterprise, 1 Peter 3:15, says just this (I’ll quote it in context):
15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
Gentleness, respect, a good conscience – these are the model manners of Christian argumentation, not being hot-headed, hard-headed, or empty-headed. Peter even goes so far as to imply failing to speak in this way is “evil” (3:17); in contrast, doing so is “good behavior” (3:16). The church makes a huge mistake when we praise 3:15a and overlook 3:15b and following.
Paul sent a similar message to Titus when he said (I’m paraphrasing), we speak with grace because we’ve received grace (Titus 3:1-7). In our digital and quick-tempered age, let us be an example of gracious and informed persuasion online, at home, and in the workplace. May Christ shine through us by the power of the Holy Spirit with less quarreling and more arguing.