I recently had a conversation with a fellow blogger who seemed to be quite upset that I wouldn't enter in to an argument about religion. I'm sure that in their opinion, I was spineless and possibly even coming from a position of weakness. I can assure you that I was neither. This person happened to be an athiest, but I have also had similar discussions with Christians, and other people of Asian religions. My purpose in writing about this topic is to explain why arguments about religion are not appropriate for Christians.
I must admit that at times I have been sucked in to the trap of arguing religion. This becomes especially difficult when discussing religion with a fellow Christian. There is a fine line between arguing and discussing. For me, that line is crossed when I start to get angry. It is also crossed when I start to feel proud in my position. I love this great proverb: "Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom." (Proverbs 13:10) These are temptations that are difficult to avoid, but which I feel are things Christ warned against. Even if we come from a position of truth, we can't let anger or pride take over our demeanor. When we cease to be "christlike" we lose ground in the discussion. While it might take a bit of "sucking it up" to leave an argumentative discussion, it helps us to become peacemakers. Christ taught that "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." (Matt. 5:9) How can we call ourselves followers of Christ if we are not peacemakers?
In latter day scripture we get this council from the Lord about contention:
" And this I do that I may establish my gospel, that there may not be so much contention; yea, Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them." Doctrine and Covenants 10:63
What does it mean to "wrest the scriptures"? In my mind, this means "Bible bashing". The problem with these kinds of arguments is that many people can look at the same scripture in different ways. It takes the Spirit to help us to understand what was really meant by the author of that scripture. If we are arguing, how can we have the Spirit to be with us? The Book of Mormon teaches us that the Spirit "dwelleth not in unholy temples". (Mosiah 2:37) Therefore, we must not have the spirit of contention with us when we discuss religion, but must have the Spirit of God. Similarly, we learn from the Book of Mormon Prophet Nephi, " For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another." 3 Nephi 11:29
In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni gave us some good council about how to judge what things come from God:
" 12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged." Moroni 7:12-18
If our discussions cease to be "of God", then they really aren't appropriate for us to continue. Some people want to argue just for the sake of arguing. They want to show dominance more than they want to discuss truth. Some people feel so strongly about their position that they feel it is God's way to attack and belittle others. But these things do not invite and entice others to follow God, so, as the above scripture teaches us, the discussion must not be of God.
As I said, these are things that are temptations for us all, but must be avoided. True followers of Christ will try to be like Him. They will stand up for what is true and try to teach correct principles. But when contention and anger enter the conversation, they will politely bow out.