Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15 (NASB 2020)
There are rules in the Bible for Christians who debate hot topics when they have differences of opinion with others, and how we engage those with whom we disagree stands out like a testimony for all to see–as a bright and positive testimony, or as a dark testimony that reflects negatively on Christianity. Danny Faulkner’s approach in his book violates fundamental biblical rules of engagement, and we’ll explain how in this article.
Apart from the obvious fact that we are in the midst of an intense spiritual war, we must discuss these rules because some Christians who are globers are themselves violating fundamental biblical rules for public debate. Leaders of that movement have been setting an example for all Christians to do as they do: mock Christians who believe the Bible teaches a flat earth creation and geocentric design, denigrate them, humiliate them if possible, and attack their character.
Far too many Christians have fallen in line with such un-Christ-like behavior. Chief among these leaders is Danny Faulkner, author of a book entitled “Falling Flat: A Refutation of Flat Earth Claims.” There are five major traps for the unwary that Faulkner has fallen into. Faulkner’s five mistakes are:
- He does not give the Bible, God’s Holy Word, the preeminent place of authority it demands and deserves, and therefore he falls into the trap of using extra-biblical sources to reverse engineer and re-interpret the scriptures to fit a heliocentric theory;
- He uses pseudoscience in place of true science throughout his book, and he does the same in his public lectures;
- To these errors in judgment he adds a devastating mistake when he relies heavily upon logical fallacies, which have the effect of misrepresenting the truth;
- He repeatedly violates the rules of engagement for Christian debate as clearly laid out in the scriptures by mocking Christians who believe that the Bible and true science teach a geocentric creation story, and he does so repeatedly throughout his book in numerous ways, attempting to discredit geocentric Christians by humiliating their beliefs, using character assassinations and constantly dropping not-so-subtle attacks;
- And last, but more important and with far more eternal consequences than all the rest of what Faulkner does, he mocks Almighty God who is the Creator of “heaven and earth,” and who told us exactly how he created the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars.1Faulkner would certainly deny that he mocks God, and his denial would undoubtedly be sincere, but we will show how the globe earth and the heliocentric model does mock the God of Creation later in this book.
We’ll unpack all of this in this, starting with this article and in future articles. But first let’s review the Bible’s guidelines for Christian behavior in debate and in expressing differences of opinion. We must abide by these rules of engagement ourselves, and we will sincerely endeavor to do that. Where we fail, we pray that Godly men and women might bring such failures to our attention so we may rectify them.
Biblical Rules of Engagement
We start in Romans:
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:5-7 (ESV)
The ESV version uses the word “harmony,” and the same meaning is expressed in other versions with the words “likeminded,” and “the same mind.” Already we can see in these few verses that Christians are not to be in disharmony, contentious, offensive, and certainly not humiliating or mocking each other.
In this context of differences of opinion, we are reminded that God is patient and one who encourages rather than tears down. He wants us to live in harmony with each other even if we disagree, and we are reminded to do this just like Jesus, which is to say, we are to “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In these three verses, the importance to God that he be glorified is emphasized by saying it twice.
Let’s not forget this: our behavior with one another in areas where we differ in understanding or opinion are directly linked to whether God is glorified by our conduct. From the creation story in Genesis to the end of Revelation God’s glory is repeatedly emphasized as all-important to God.
There’s a Westminster Catechism that rightly states:
“The chief aim of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
We should not take this biblical mandate lightly. Living in harmony with each other glorifies God, and that is something we should intentionally seek to do.
The implications of conducting ourselves as Christians in shameful ways that is childish or rude or harsh or otherwise inappropriate has a very negative impact on unbelievers. In other words, such behavior dishonors God, but it also does not provide a positive testimony that attracts unbelievers, but repels them and gives them arguments to compare us to the wicked and unsaved.
Some parables and doctrines in the Bible can be hard to understand, and there are going to be differences of opinion among believers. In essentials there must be unity. In non-essentials there must be liberty, and in all things there must be charity.
In Essentials There Must Be Unity
There are what we often refer to as essential doctrines, and in these essential doctrines there must be unity, in other words, there must be agreement. God tells us that there are matters that he will not compromise, and we must not compromise these same matters either. Let’s look at an example of what the Apostle Paul taught was an essential:
For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NASB 2020)
Paul wrote these are matters of “first importance,” and the LSV uses the phrase “as most important.” This is what is often referred to as “the gospel.” Without this belief that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose on the third day, you don’t have a gospel of salvation. That’s what makes this essential, and according to Paul, it was most important. In other words, in plain words, if you don’t believe this, you cannot be saved. That is not up for negotiation or difference of opinion.
There are other matters upon which essential doctrine is built and which is interconnected with essential doctrine, but that is beyond the scope of this book and not essential for our purposes here.
In Non-Essentials There Must Be Liberty
There are things in the Bible that are important but are not essential. An example would be baptism, whether the Bible exhorts us to full immersion or partial immersion, and whether infant baptism is biblical.
Bible prophecy is another area where there are differences of opinion, and some of these areas are also non-essential in terms of our differences. This does not mean prophecy is not important, because eschatology is important. It’s just not a salvation issue. Much more could be said about this subject.
Some will argue that the topic of a globe Earth is not a salvation issue, but that must be defined. What a Christian believes about the Earth is not an issue over which they could lose their salvation, but that’s because of the doctrine of the security of the believer. But it is a salvation issue for the millions of unsaved people who believe in heliocentrism and a globe Earth and have been persuaded there is no God of creation.
The spiritual gifts are another doctrinal matter that typically defines church denominations or independents. While a biblical understanding of the spiritual gifts is important, it is also not a salvation issue. It should be noted that the improper use of “gifts of the spirit” can lead to further error and even into backsliding and in some cases sin. Again, just because a matter is non-essential doesn’t mean it is unimportant.
But there are also non-essential matters that are unimportant. For example, should real wine be used in communion or is grape juice allowed? This is both a non-essential matter and an unimportant matter. What style of music should be used in a church? What Bible translation should a pastor use when he preaches?
The entire worship style of churches can vary dramatically from singing traditional hymns from songbooks to a Sunday concert with professional musicians and an impressive sound and light stage.
Of course, one could get carried away and go too far in a matter that is non-essential and unimportant by actually going beyond the scriptural guidelines. For example, while the style of music is not defined in the scriptures, that doesn’t mean that a church should promote acid rock music. And while a pastor is also granted liberty with the Bible translation he uses to preach, that doesn’t mean he is wise to use a Bible that has serious translation errors.
There are also matters of shear speculation on which Christians should not get into big knock down and drag out fights. Some arguments that Christians get into and divide over are quite silly. You might feel strongly about whether the Bible allows dancing, but it’s not a matter that justifies attacking each other. But everything can be carried too far. For example, dancing normally can be a good activity that honors God, but dancing that turns into sexually explicit behavior clearly can go beyond decency and become sin, or on a lesser scale, inappropriately lacking discernment.
Churches have been known to get into serious divides over such matters as whether to build a children’s playground or use the land for a cemetery, whether a clock should be removed from the worship center, how much should be spent on upgrading office equipment, whether an image of Jesus should be allowed in the foyer, whether deviled eggs should be allowed at a church potluck (maybe “pot blessing” should be used instead of “potluck”?), and whether gluten-free bread should be used at communion.
There are some matters that are insignificant and not worthy of dissension.
Dr. Curtis Hudson once said, “There are some things I will fuss about that I will not fight about. There are some things I will fight about that I wouldn’t die over, but there are some things I would die for.” His words are an excellent summary of our biblical mandate.
In All Things There Must Be Charity
Whether a matter is essential in the Bible or non-essential and important, or non-essential and unimportant, we are to be like Christ in our behavior toward others, and we are certainly to conduct ourselves out of the same humility that Christ had in himself.
This means that mocking other Christians is not allowed, whether they are wrong or mistaken. Neither is attacking their character or their beliefs by humiliating them or insulting their intelligence. That is about as opposite to Christ as you can get.
In Romans 15:5-7 above, we were reminded that God is to be glorified by our conduct, and if we are publicly attacking each other and insulting each other with grave disrespect, we are not only not glorifying God with our conduct, we are presenting the body of Christ in a public display of dishonor and disgrace.
It would seem that too often Christians either dismiss or forget about our calling to be Christ-like.
Christ-Like Behavior in Debate: Does and Don’ts
Here are some practical rules to guide us in being Christ-like:
- Be gracious and never be unkind to anyone.
- Be courteous and be a good listener.
- Be respectful and never be mean spirited.22 Thessalonians 3:15 (NASB 2020) “And yet do not regard that person as an enemy, but admonish that one as a brother or sister.”
- Be a peacemaker.
Here are four things you must never do when you disagree with another Christian:
- Never question the validity of their christianity.3You and I don’t have access to the Book of Life.
- Never attack another believer personally.
- Never demean another person.
- Never engage in retaliation.
Do Not Judge One Another: You Will Be Held To Account
We are clearly called not to judge each other. God will be the judge of each of us at the right time.
But as for you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you as well, why do you regard your brother or sister with contempt? For we will all appear before the judgment seat of God. For it is written: “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, TO ME EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, AND EVERY TONGUE WILL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let’s not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this: not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s or sister’s way. Romans 14:10-13 (NASB 2020)
A Biblical Exhortation to All Believers
Let’s pursue Christ individually and collectively as the body of Christ, and let us encourage each other and teach each other how to understand the scriptures and how to live for Christ and serve him faithfully.
As the Apostle Paul wrote:
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature, let’s have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that to you as well. Philippians 3:14-15 (NASB 2020)
Let us address the debate of Flat Earth v Globe Earth, and let’s reason together on matters of biblical interpretation and true science, recognizing and rejecting pseudoscience, and prohibiting scientism from interpreting the Holy Bible. And let us do so without personal character attacks, demeaning brothers and sisters in Christ, or mocking believers who have different opinions.