Ideas Have Consequences: Why Debates Matter

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It seems to be increasingly popular to dismiss important debated issues as mere distractions that get in the way of the Gospel.

Some declare that such discussions are irrelevant, as a believer’s particular viewpoints don’t make much of a difference. Trust me when I say that this is a serious mistake.

Take, for example, the 2014 debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on the merits of creationism vs. evolution as an explanation for the origin of life. As with any topic worth debating, there are passionate people on both sides of the issue. We shouldn’t be surprised that there are believers on both sides of this issue as well, not to mention a range of other stances on the topic.

I have been surprised, however, at the tone of many comments I have seen in the days after the heavily covered event. Amidst the discussion regarding the merits of the ideas, the quality of the presenters, and a host of other elements there has been a clear majority of opinion: “It doesn’t matter.” [1]

Such sentiment has been shared across blogs and social media to the likes, retweets, and commendation of many like-minded Christians who see such events and contentious discussions of differing viewpoints as unnecessary distractions from reaching people for the Lord.

Is coming to the correct conclusion on human origin absolutely necessary for a person’s salvation? No. Sincere believers can be sincerely wrong on a variety of issues and still have a saving knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ.

Are there intelligent Christians representing both sides of the issue? Certainly.

Does this mean that our beliefs on this and other contentious areas are unimportant? Absolutely not!

Believers and non-believers must understand this:

Ideas have consequences. We need to know how one belief we hold affects another.  (Tweet That)

To dismiss debated topics as merely academic or intramural distractions is often used as a cover to prevent ourselves from having to think critically. This is true with many topics, but it is illustrated well in discussions of evolution and creation.

Is it possible for believers to reach different conclusions on an issue and still be followers of Christ? Yes, of course. It is vital, however, that when we hold to something as being true we are intellectually honest enough to explore how that belief affects our worldview.

How does our view of evolution impact other beliefs?

  • If evolution is true, what does that mean for the Bible’s account of Adam and Eve as the first people and references to Adam as a real, historical figure? (Genesis 5:51; 1 Cor. 15:22; Romans 15:12-21) [2]
  • If you believe that God exists and used evolution as a means of creation, what do you reconcile the Bible’s account that death is a result of sin and an purported evolutionary record filled with death and disease?
  • For those who believe that the Genesis account of creation is inaccurate, how does such a belief impact your views of the reliability of Scripture? Is the creation story true, merely figurative, or just plain wrong? [3]

These are just a few examples of the many important questions a person should ask themselves in regards to this issue. Are there a variety of possible explanations for each of the above areas? Yes, there are. While I hold to a literal interpretation of Genesis as being the most Biblically accurate and scientifically sound, my point in this particular article is not to convince you of the accuracy of that viewpoint.

I want to communicate that we cannot dismiss such important implications as being trivial aspects of our faith.

This is true in a variety of contexts and is not limited to issues of creation. Convincing ourselves that we are open-minded for being apathetic towards ‘divisive’ issues is intellectually irresponsible if we ignore the fact that our various beliefs are often intertwined and interdependent.

You don’t have to watch a televised debate or be passionately for or against specific issues to be a good Christian. And yes, we must hold fast to the bedrock truths of our faith and we should be charitable with those who disagree with us on “non-essential” issues. Still, debates should be seized as an opportunity to examine our own ideas.

We must think critically when it comes to accepting, rejecting, or ignoring viewpoints that affect how we understand God, His Word, and how we are to live as Christians.


 [1] Many of the tweets, blog comments, and other socially shared statements I read took this approach. For the most part, the reaction to this sentiment appeared to be as though this was the most mature response to contentious debates regarding worldview.

 [2] For further discussion on the importance of a ‘literal Adam’ check out this article by Albert Mohler or this one at BeThinking.org.

 [3] Don’t miss the vital implications of this statement. There are many seemingly extra-curricular issues that ultimately affect vital doctrines of our faith. Study carefully, think critically, and be in the Word prayerfully.

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Clayton Kraby
Written by Clayton Kraby
I'm a full-time M.Div. student and created ReasonableTheology.org to help make theology accessible for the everyday Christian. You can find me on Twitter @ClayKraby. Help me attend seminary.