Virtual debates, real-world doubts
Published: 9 March 2013 (GMT+10)
Sometimes debates turn nasty. Some people are not interested in respectful dialogue and only troll message boards and internet forums to insult those they disagree with. This can be exhausting, and it can create doubts if one is not careful. CMI’s Lita Cosner provides some sound biblical advice for how to handle the situation.
D.W. from the United States writes:
First I just wanted to say thank you for your ministry, because it has really encouraged me especially when I am doubting or internet message boards and see a topic posted by a skeptic.
I guess my questions are really regarding arguing, faith, and doubt. I have learned a lot about philosophy and science from your website and have read many of your articles. I guess my question is how to do you guys deal with emotional doubt and just sometimes getting tired of being ridiculed and laughed at online and in real life? I know I should just not let what people say on message boards bother me, but I just feel so tired of reading the hateful insulting messages over and over and that the people posting them not even looking for truth or desiring to have an honest conversation. I am sorry for this long message. I hope I am not wasting your time. I just am frustrated because among my group of friends back home I am the only one who has taken time to look up information about creation/evolution and its frustrating that the people I know in real life don’t care about an important topic. I guess all I am asking is how do you guys not constantly wonder if you are right, or constantly doubt yourselves? Thank you for answering my rather long-winded question.
CMI’s Lita Cosner responds:
Thanks for writing in. I can give you a few suggestions based on personal experience and my opinion, but have you talked with your pastor, or another Christian mentor, about this? Such ongoing, face-to-face relationships are much more helpful than anything I could suggest in an email.
Online forums and message boards can be horrible places; apparently people think that they can dispense with normal human decency just because they’re hiding behind the anonymity of a screen name (and unfortunately it’s not only non-Christians who sometimes do this). Some people aren’t affected as much by this sort of online bullying, but when it starts to take an emotional toll, it may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate things.
The first thing I would suggest is taking a break from the debates. You say these people are hateful and insulting and have no interest in even an honest conversation, so there would be no loss in cutting off the exchange, at least for a while. Spend your time instead reading Scripture, praying, and spending time with fellow believers. Just doing this will go a long way toward ‘recharging your batteries’. Maybe meet with your pastor to discuss your involvement in these message boards (I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having someone ‘there with you’ to talk to).
Finally, you asked “how do you guys not constantly wonder if you are right, or constantly doubt yourselves?” I can only answer for myself. If I were arguing based on my own opinion, I couldn’t be nearly as certain. I’ve been wrong about a lot of things in the past, and I’m probably wrong about a lot of things now. But when it comes to creation/evolution, it’s not a matter of my opinion, but what God’s Word says. And not just in Genesis, but in Exodus 20, and 1 Corinthians 15, and Romans 5–8, and John 1, and all over the place in Scripture. The plain reading of Scripture, and of the overarching narrative in Scripture, requires a six-day creation around 6,000 years ago, a perfect Creation ruined by the sin of the historical first man, Adam. And I’m absolutely certain that Scripture is true. So while it may be wearying dealing with the constant attacks from skeptics, I never actually wonder if they’re right, because I’m grounded in Scripture, not in my own interpretive quirks. And I make sure to stay grounded in Scripture through personal Bible study and sitting under biblical preaching and teaching in my church.
I hope these few thoughts and suggestions are helpful.