Acts 6: Avoiding the Argument

In Acts 6, we meet Stephen, the first martyred follower of Jesus Christ. He began to frustrate the people he was debating with, so they decided to bring charges of blasphemy against him. However, the motivation stood out to me.

Act 6:9  Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.

Act 6:10  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

This is the beginning of the confrontation, and for some reason, it seems to be the case that these people started arguing with Stephen, but after they were not able to argue with them, they brought the charges of blasphemy against him.

I think we see this type of thing happen in the world today as well. Sometimes, people don’t want to follow the evidence. Sometimes, if they get beaten in an argument, they simply look for a way to silence the argument they were not able to answer. That seems to be what happened here.

As a practical example, think about how abortion debates generally proceed. The pro-life person will say that life begins at conception, a very scientifically proven statement. Rather than debate that point, many times it seems as if the trump card of, “You are anti-woman,” comes out. Trying to paint your point in a negative light to avoid an argument is not helpful, but it is still used.

Therefore, as Christians, we need to continue to be like Stephen. We still present the things of God, and we do our best to explain why it is reasonable to believe in the God of the Bible. However, we need to be aware of what can happen when we do that and what tactics might be utilized.


Posted on May 12, 2015, in Acts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Strictly speaking, at conception a living sperm fuses with a living egg to form a living fertilised egg, so “life begins at conception” is not as straightforward as you might think.

    More arguable is the intended implication that *human* life begins at conception. Many scientists would only count an embryo as human if it has self-awareness, which they believe implies considerable neural development. Others would say that the embryo is only human when it is capable of surviving on its own, although that has its own issues in these days of advanced medical intervention.

    Theologically, I suspect that most would agree that being human implies being in the image of God, which – as God is Spirit – implies having a spirit. That isn’t scientifically measurable at all; it is also very hard to pin down from scripture. Some backtrack from Psalm 139 to conception, others consider that the word for spirit is the same as the word for breath so human life begins at birth, with the first breath. Personally I don’t think there’s enough there to say for sure.

    The anti-women line comes from a perception that some men believe that they have the right to impose their views upon a woman within whom an embryo is growing. It is arguable that it is the woman’s decision, no-one else’s. I have reservations about that line of argument myself, but it is clearly not cut and dried.

    • That is a fair point about differentiating human life. However, if we are waiting for self-awareness or viability, we’re getting dangerously close to being able to justify infanticide. I don’t think either of those lines hold

      I think that Psalm 139 is actually pretty powerful. The language there clearly refers to the time before birth, and God was involved in the process at that point.

      Anyway, I was mainly using abortion as an example of how people shift the argument. I see that you are from the UK. The debate at Oxford that got shot down over abortion kind of shows my point. People change the topic from abortion and protest on other questions.

  2. That Oxford fiasco was indeed depressing. But I think it did illustrate how important language can be to anyone wanting to be like Stephen. Presumably within the echo chamber of Oxford Students’ Union Women’s Campaign it seemed to make perfect sense to block a debate because “It is absurd to think we should be listening to two cisgender men debate about what people with uteruses should be doing with their bodies,”. In the wider world they just brought both Oxford University and radical feminism into disrepute.

    I don’t know if you personally are anti-abortion or anti-restriction, but your argument could equally well be made by starting from “A woman should have the choice over whether to carry an unwanted foetus within her body,” and it being trumped by “You’re a baby murderer!” Either way it’s about refusing to engage and understand.

    I have raised the infanticide question myself with someone who describes herself as against abortion but pro-choice. She pointed out that once a child is born there are alternatives for the mother, including adoption; before that her only choices are to carry the baby or abortion. The point is fair, and I learnt something.

    • Sorry for the delay in response. It has been a crazy end of the week.

      Anyway, yeah I agree that it can be used in both directions. For example, if someone brought up that type of choice argument, I think it would be much more productive to talk about why choice gets to be the ultimate value. After all, choices are restricted every day in a variety of ways by laws all the time. I agree with you though that is not helpful to jump immediately to calling someone a murderer particularly. Insulting is not really effective…

      I never really understood that position of against abortion but pro-choice. I would be interested in why that lady is personally against abortion. I think I again would ask her about why choice is ultimately important. We don’t give people the unfettered freedom to steal for example. I would wonder why she picks abortion to authorize that freedom

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