Why I hate arguing about religion

“An overseer (pastor) then must be…gentle, not quarrelsome….” (I Timothy 3:3).

Friends think I love to stir the pot and incite people to argue. I do not.

What I am trying to do with the days the Father has left for me on this rotating ball of sod is to take a public stand for things I believe to be scriptural, right, and good.  And needed.

Invariably, that will stir up some folks.

Always has; always will.

I wrote an article a few years ago that is still circling the planet and daily doing two big things:  blessing all who believe Scripture and take God at His word, and enraging those who are wed to their denomination’s warped/dwarfed doctrine and want to argue.

I know that sounds egotistical, but if I thought otherwise I would delete the article and be quiet.

I’m turning 79 years old in a few short weeks and believe I’ve finally learned a few things about God, about the Lord Jesus, about His Word–and about His people.


Most of the critics of my articles do not write me personally. They deposit their venom at the foot of the article in the space reserved for comments.  I’ve learned by sad experience not to read these because doing so is so painful.  In the article, I can quote Jesus on something like “Whoever believes on the Son of God has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation” (the essence of John 3:16-18), and people will say things like, “That’s not how I read Scripture,” “Your doctrine is man-made,” “You’re just trying to find a license to sin,” and “the Jesus I know would never say such a thing.”

The ones who write me personally are another story.  If they start off with poison and invective, I delete it and go on. But if they appear sincere and really want my take on a few verses important to them, I’ll respond in kind.  But almost invariably after a few exchanges, the train jumps the track.  I stay with the give-and-take until it becomes obvious the other person has no desire to know or do what Christ said but merely to defend their denomination’s doctrine with harshness they have picked up from others.  So, I say–as I did this week–something like: “I’m through here, friend. I don’t want to debate or argue.  I thought you wanted to discuss what Scripture teaches.  But you too easily dismiss what Jesus said and put your doctrine over Him.  So, please do me a favor and do not reply to this.”

Thankfully, he didn’t.

I should add before going further, I do not claim to know all truth.  I can give you a whole list of subjects on which I’m woefully ill-informed.  Friends who read our website will simply notice I don’t write on those subjects.  That’s why not every question of importance to God’s people is dealt with here.  If Paul can say he didn’t have a word from the Lord on this, it’s certainly all right for me to say I don’t have anything to add on a subject.

Only a mature disciple of Christ  will admit, “I don’t know” to some questions.  Those afflicted with the dual maladies of ignorance and arrogance will have an answer for everything, no matter how minute. (I know, I know. Some will cite I Peter 3:15 as proof that we should have an answer for everything.  They are mistaken.)


Why I hate to argue and debate about these things…

One. Scripture cautions against it. 

“But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.  A servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition….” (2 Timothy 2:23-25).  (See also verses 14 and 16 of this same chapter.)

Two.  You don’t see our Lord doing it.

Well, okay, maybe He did engage the scribes and Pharisees in verbal tussles.  John chapter 8 is a prime example.  But even if He did, I’m not Jesus and not equipped in the way He was.  (Jesus did a lot of things I’ll not be attempting:  turning water to wine, walking on the sea, and dying for our sins.)

Three.  My spirit hates it.

It’s painful and I hurt for the rest of the day.

Four. Nothing good comes of it.

The old joke says a dog can whip a skunk, but it’s not worth it.

Five. Arguing builds walls and digs gulfs between brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have friends in other denominations whom I treasure.  One reason we have a great relationship in Christ is that we accent what unites us and not what divides us.  We all agree on who Jesus is and what He did and that we are saved by grace.  We all believe that the mark of a believer is love (John 13:34-35).

Six.  If I poorly defend the truth while the opponent masterfully presents his case, listeners may come to the wrong conclusion.  

I’d hate to think people will turn away from Christ or quit believing the Bible just because I made a weak case for my Lord and His word. That is not to say I should stay silent, not by a long shot.  I will present the gospel, will preach and write and do all I can to get the word out.  But what I will not do is engage in debates and arguments with those who disagree.  As I said to one person who was attacking my article on “Once Saved Always Saved,” everything I have to say on the subject is in the piece.  As is usual for those who delight in quarrels and arguments, he was attacking something he had not bothered to read.

Seven. And perhaps the biggest reason of all:  Debating and arguing never work.

Has anyone ever known of a person to change his/her mind as a result of a religious argument?  Have any of these great theological debates ever won over the  combatants?

Have you ever known a door-to-door salesman to be sold something by a customer with powerful arguments?

Let us be strong in the Lord. Let us study the Word and preach/teach it.  But let us love those who see a passage in a way different from the way we do.

Let us be willing to change when shown that our position was in error.  Let us seek to honor Christ above all.

And let us so teach God’s children.



6 thoughts on “Why I hate arguing about religion

  1. First of all, I love this sentence so much that I wish I had written it: “Those afflicted with the dual maladies of ignorance and arrogance will have an answer for everything, no matter how minute.” Brilliant wording!

    I too dislike arguing, and I have a general dislike for conflict. I recently had a conversation where I derailed a deacon’s mind. He began to insist that those who don’t really read and study the Scriptures will most likely miss Heaven. I smiled, and he thought I was affirming his brilliance. But then I asked him for chapter and verse to prove his litmus test for salvation. I won’t suffer you the rest of the story.

    I’ve given up on trying to correct everyone and be the teacher of all. In recent years, I’ve concluded that other people could be wrong (or right) and it didn’t have to mess up my sleep. Seriously, I’ve decided that the Holy Spirit has a ministry to His Children to teach them and guide them into all truth. His responsibility is to accomplish what Jesus said in John 16:8-10.

    However, I often like to leave someone with a question that forces them to think their position through. And that only works if their motives are pure.

    Recently I’ve said in the pulpit, “all this talk is going on about building walls, and I’m over here just trying to build more bridges!” Walls divide and bridges connect. For as long as the grace of God will empower me, I want to take as many people as I can to Heaven with me. I’ll let the Judge and Maker of us all decide who’s who and trust Him to do what is right.

  2. Dear Dr. McKeever,

    Firstly, like William Strickland, I also wish I had penned these aptly-spoken words, “Only a mature disciple of Christ will admit, “I don’t know” to some questions. Those afflicted with the dual maladies of ignorance and arrogance will have an answer for everything, no matter how minute.” But, alas, I did not so I just quoted you on social media as I posted them! 🙂

    Much like you (and others, I’m quite sure), I have found little to no value in arguing over the Scriptures; however, as we have hopefully all seen, I have found times when the Spirit was able to guide a conversation to the point where one person had our eyes opened (Ephesians 1:18) to a deeper, higher, greater revelation of God’s Word. Those are moments of true discipleship, not heated arguments.

    The longer I walk with Christ, I perceive some to be screaming over things for which God is relatively silent while remaining silent over things which God has been screaming for all of time. That is to say, we are all capable of standing on our respective denominational or philosophical soap boxes shouting things for which we are not 100% certain while remaining silent over things which He has made crystal clear.

    Perhaps all of this is precisely why Jesus prayed for His early disciples (and how He surely prays for us today) in John 17:17 “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

    God help me. God help us all.

  3. You are amazing, brother Joe, I love and appreciate you. The other day, I was asked to talk about apologetics to a group of University students brilliant Christian University students. I basically said I don’t want to teach you apologetics I want to teach you about evangelism by attraction centripetal evangelism. How beautiful is your life? And why? Would anyone want to be like you? That is what changes lives.

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