Learn to embrace the testing of your ideas


In the United States, we are at a “Spinal Tap” moment. In the 1984 mockumentary, a journalist follows the escapades of a fictional rock and roll band. The film that results is “This is Spinal Tap,” and it’s a comedy that spoke to the insanity of the music culture at the time. In one famous interchange, the fictional guitar player speaks with the documentarian. The guitarist notes that their amplifiers are custom made so that they can out play their rival bands with sheer volume. All of the volume and control knobs don’t go up to a maximum level of 10, instead “these go to 11.” Incredulous, the documentarian asks the obvious question, “Why not just have the amplifier made so level 10 is louder?” The guitarist, confused, hesitates and responds, “This one goes to 11.” When I viewed this part of the film, I laughed out loud because the only thing custom about that amplifier is the printing on the volume control knob. The manufacturer simply replaced the number 10 with 11. Had the guitarist been open to having his ideas tested, he would have learned a thing or two and would not have been taken advantage of in the future.

We seem to be living in a world today where some people proclaim a thing to be true, but are closed off about entering into a debate about whether their ideas hold any water (and, yes, I was thinking of “My Cousin Vinny” as I wrote that). Good faith debate is so very needed, but rare. I’ve now seen multiple interviews online where the person asking the question gets into controversial territory and the interviewee simply says, “I’m not going to respond to that.” This happens with man on the street interviews as well. I’ve been to conferences recently where an entire panel of experts were asked questions on controversial topics, but there wasn’t one person on the panel representing the other side of the issue. Last time I checked, the number one podcast in the world is “The Joe Rogan Experience.” Mr. Rogan sits there for hours talking with someone and their ideas are often unchallenged.

The closest thing I’ve seen to good-faith debate with non-biased moderation was the “Munk Debates” (look it up on YouTube). In the Munk Debates, a single statement is made and two people represent one side of the issue and two others represent the opposite view. The people chosen to debate are widely accepted as experts on the topic from their own side. The deck is not stacked. The hope is to learn and grow through the process. Before the debate, the audience votes on the issue. Then the two sides debate and the moderator keeps things on track. Finally, the audience is asked to vote again. It’s really quite a thing to watch, and I recommend you do.

There are many issues swirling around in our culture today. How do we govern ourselves? What is the right thing to do in the Middle East? What about Ukraine vs. Russia? How should we think about human sexuality? How should we think about race? Was January 6 a protest or an insurrection? How should we think about hate speech in the context of free speech? What does freedom of religion mean? What about abortion? Are elections secure or not? Were COVID lockdowns effective? These are topics we don’t dare bring up around the dinner table at Thanksgiving or Christmas! Why? Many of us have strong opinions about these things, and we have folks in our families that are on the opposite side. So, we don’t bring it up because we don’t want the conflict.

What if the reason for all this tension is that we’ve lost the ability to really converse about important things in good faith while being open to the idea that we might be wrong? Ouch!

Proverbs 18:17 – “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

Scott Tiede is the senior pastor of Delaware Bible Church at the corner of Belle and Sandusky streets.

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