12 Principles for Debating Online

12 principles that are worth considering and praying over before you engage in online debate: 

1) Do not respond hastily. Think and pray before you speak.

2) Be brief: You want to be clear—and to articulate your point without being pompous. Be direct. Stay on topic. Don’t lose yourself, or your readers, in overly wordy sentences or paragraphs.

3) Take the time to let people know you have understood their comments and concerns.  Show respect to them by repeating their argument back in your own words and ask if you have understood them correctly.

4) Respect the opinions of others. When you need to disagree, do so respectfully and acknowledge valid points in other's arguments. While others are entitled to hold any perspective on an issue, be sure to point out their own inconsistencies, but with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

5) Do not write anything that sounds angry or sarcastic. (James 1:19)

6) Never speak as if you are glad at the misfortune of another.  Show care, concern or empathy.

7) When you reprove another, remember that you are not without sin, and are not beyond the capacity to sin. Always keep in mind that you are not saved because you are better or more deserving than others, but are saved by God's mercy alone. Any good character we may now have is only because of God's mercy. Don't forget that in your discussions.

8) Do not use reproachful language against others: curses, reviling or argumentum ad hominem: attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.

9) Do not relate news that you are unsure of the truth of. Do not forward stories that are conjecture and speculative or "news" before the actual facts have come out. This often means you should consider withholding comment for a day or two after "news" has appeared on social media.  

10) Avoid making orphaned assertions. i.e.... "Atheism is false." If you make these kind of assertions explain why you think it is so.  

11) Use proper grammar and writing style: Do so as if you were writing an important paper. Correct spelling, grammatical construction and sentence structure are expected elsewhere. Online discussions are no different. This is a principle I am still working on.

12) Be patient with others. God works in his own time.

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Note: By His great mercy, through no merit of our own, God has delivered us from captivity and He has now given us a mission of mercy to declare the gospel to a world that is still in darkness. In the last 20 years or so, the new world of the Internet has opened up as an opportunity for us to bring the good news to people who may have never encountered it before. But how are we to go about this monumental task? Does our behavior or attitude make a difference?
 
As we contemplate the 12 principles for online discussion I believe it is important that we first remember that the world's people are willing slaves to sin, as we once were, and would still be, if not for God's daily sustaining mercy toward us. This means it is not an easy task persuade others to see the truth, and in fact, it is an impossible task. No one seeks God (Rom. 3:10-17) or wants God and are by nature all hostile to God (Rom 8:7). But, thanks be to the Lord, what is impossible for man (repentance, faith) is possible for God (Luke 18:27). God graciously does all the saving ... all glory goes to Him alone, yet let us not forget that God uses means to persuade others. And one of those means is the prayers, lives and particularly the speech of His people, the church, whom He has called to be set apart to declare the good news of Jesus Christ. While we have no persuasive powers of our own ... in fact no amount of persuasion will bring another to Christ (zero, none, zilch), but God still would have us be witnesses to the truth of Jesus Christ as the means through which He calls His people out of the world. He has called His saints to do this by words accompanied by our attitudes and actions. We plant and water, but God causes the growth (1 Cor 3:7). In other words, God is much more likely to use you to bring others to a saving knowledge of Christ if you are a reasonable person and not making things worse by getting in the way of the gospel with your pride, stupidity, and arrogance.
 
Sat, 07/09/2016 - 11:57 -- john_hendryx

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