Rules of Communication

Summary

How should we correct, exhort, rebuke, and admonish others? These rules are organized from the Bible because Christians have been dividing for millennia, speaking evil of each other (Titus 3:2) instead of gently and eagerly maintaining unity (Ephesians 4:2-3). Healthy communication is about speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We still shouldn’t waste time with foolish, divisive people (Titus 3:10-11; Proverbs 26:4-5) because too much listening to pride infects us (I Corinthians 15:33). Our debating process is governed by the meta-rules at the bottom. After passing our quiz and following the enforced rules, we’ll add your edits to our website. You may also start a debate on the rules without passing the quiz.

Enforced rules

These rules are simple to quantify and are how we differentiate between a foolish Pharisee and a humble disciple.

1. Start with love and end with encouragement.

Evidence:  The moderator will require a statement of love to start a debate and a statement of encouragement to end it.

At the start of a debate, say why you love your opponent if you mean it (Matthew 5:44), for love unites (Colossians 3:14). The ultimate enemy is Satan, never a person (Ephesians 6:12). At the end of a debate, it’s easy to unconsciously imply to your opponent that you don’t want to hear him again; so counter that (Acts 16:40). Whether your opponent is a good Christian (I Thessalonians 5:11) or not (I Corinthians 8:10), encourage him so that you both come to a greater understanding of the truth (Romans 14:13).

2. Understand healthy Christian division.

Evidence: saying someone is not a Christian who holds to all core doctrine

Divide only over the Gospel of Salvation (Titus 3:3-11) and specific sins (I Corinthians 5:11-13). See our main page: “What are Christians allowed to divide over?

3. Don’t communicate assuming you are definitively right.

Evidence: usage of a state-of-being verb or verb of power (can) and a reference to another with a logical negation of them being right or a reference to oneself with a logical affirmation of being right

Arrogance is believing you definitively know something (I Corinthians 8:2Proverbs 12:15) and thinking you are wise (Romans 12:16) without hearing directly from Jesus (I Corinthians 13:12). Read more about arrogance.

4. Crave unity, not controversy.

Evidence: saying “I disagree” too much

Agreeableness is gentleness for the sake of unity (Ephesians 4:2-3) by focusing on the spirit of the law (Romans 7:6) instead of craving controversy (I Timothy 6:4). Read more about agreeableness

5. Do not discourage someone with your rights.

Evidence: breaking the same rule 5 times

We may strongly believe in our interpretation of Scripture over another (I Corinthians 8:7), but God only condemns us for choosing to sin (I Corinthians 8:8; Hebrews 10:26-27). Therefore, don’t trample these rules or any rule set forth by your opponent, barring sin, because if you view him as weak for creating them, breaking them will discourage him (I Corinthians 8:9-10). If you do break one of these or their non-sin rules, you not only destroy them (I Corinthians 8:11), you are also sinning against Christ (I Corinthians 8:12) because we are commanded to bear with the weak (Romans 15:1-2); so, it’s required to refrain from using your rights when around them (I Corinthians 8:13). The same sentiment can be found in Romans 14 and I Corinthians 10:23-33.

6. Do not talk over someone.

Evidence: talking when someone is already talking

A large aspect of pride is thinking we know everything, like Satan did (Genesis 3:4-5). We usually interrupt because we think we know better, but this is shameful (Proverbs 18:13). You are not allowed to start talking if the other person is already talking. We must be slow to speak and quick to hear, not quick to interrupt our listening (James 1:19).

7. Limit any response to 300 words.

Evidence: your response exceeds 300 words or lacks a citation for media

Many unconsciously think they can win a debate by talking more, as this will give more evidence that you are right. Usually, though, many words lead to more sin (Proverbs 10:19). Most people, have a limited cognitive load due to limited memory. If you wish to send an article, book, or video, you can only if you also send a 300 max word explanation that directly cites the media.

8. Do not attack the person.

Evidence: Unless the conversation is meant to be about the person, a negative characteristic is given about a person or his argument.

Also known as “ad hominem,” attacking the person is a logical fallacy because that person’s character will always be independent of his argument. It’s also a sin to insult or slander others, even if they started it (Colossians 3:8; Leviticus 19:16). Read more about slandering.

9. Do not repeat yourself.

Evidence: usage of the same sentence twice

It’s very easy to want to repeat the same words for various reasons. You might want to add emphasis, you may think your opponent didn’t hear you, or because you don’t know what else to say. This is actually a minor form of brainwashing, also known as the logical fallacy of proof by assertion (Matthew 6:7). If you know what you said was right, simply repeat what you said in different words, or expand on the argument itself. An example of this is given by Paul (II Corinthians 11:1,16).

10. Do not authoritatively appeal to anything besides the Bible.

Evidence: citing something as evidence that isn’t the 66 agreed upon books of the Bible

Appealing to authority is when you state a statistic, person, or other authority as evidence for your argument, as opposed to the logic itself. The one exception to this is the Bible, because as Wikipedia states, “Some consider that it is used in a cogent form if all sides of a discussion agree on the reliability of the authority in the given context.” At Answering Problems, we make an assumption that the Bible is the Word of God (II Timothy 3:16). Note you are allowed to include statistics and the opinions of others, but it must include a Bible verse as the source of your argument.

11. Do not be loud or use loud writing.

Evidence: shouting (judged by the moderator) or using exclamatory writing

Being loud is obnoxious (Proverbs 9:13; Proverbs 27:14), and we are called to live quietly (I Thessalonians 4:11). This is because loud sounds increase wrath (Proverbs 15:1). Do not verbally shout or excessively (judged by the moderator) use bolding, full-word capitalization, large fonts, or exclamations. Debates are supposed to be about gentle logic (James 3:17), not whoever speaks stronger.

Unenforced rules

These rules are too difficult to accurately quantify or enforce and that is why we only have them as warnings.

12. Aim to disprove yourself, not your opponent.

When you only desire to disprove others, you are not gaining understanding because you are only expressing what you already believe (Proverbs 18:2). People love to talk because they think they are right (Proverbs 18:17). This pride-based cognitive bias is actually scientifically proven and is why the author of this video says, “If you think that something is true, you should try as hard as you can to disprove it. Only then can you really get at the truth and not fool yourself.”

13. Speak gently, patiently ignoring abuse.

Usually, correction starts with prideful anger (James 1:20), but Godly anger is slow to reveal itself (James 1:19; Proverbs 29:11), only revealed during enacting justice (Matthew 21:12). We must correct in gentleness (II Timothy 2:25) or else we likely will sin in the process (Galatians 6:1; Proverbs 20:3). The Greek word epiplēxēs (harsh rebuke) appears once in the Bible, to warn us that rebuking should never feel harsh but feel as we would lovingly teach a family member (I Timothy 5:1-2). When you correct others, they likely will angrily sin against you (Proverbs 9:7), so make sure to come prepared with incredible patience (II Timothy 4:2), ignoring their insults (Proverbs 12:16; Matthew 5:39).

Meta-rules

Here is how we enforce the rules:

  1. Record: All debates will be recorded in a document that is view-only except for the moderator. Every argument shall be at the first level, while every violation will be nested according to what is being violated.
  2. Title: At the top, a quote of the point of disagreement, its link, the lowest header, and the person’s main argument shall be recorded.
  3. Tags: Every section will have one of the following tags: STARTING, COMPASSION, ARGUMENT, VIOLATION, REJOINDER, or CLOSING.
  4. Compassion: Every response must start by showing understanding of your opponent’s argument without adding your thoughts and confirmation from the opponent of the accuracy. The person who wrote the argument may give a response to help the person trying to understand.
  5. Argument: Afterward, every response must give a quote of the point of contention as well as the main argument.
  6. Violation: If you or the moderator determines a rule was broken, instead of taking the time to explain the error, as this usually leads to a debate, point out the violation based on the rule’s italicized evidence.
  7. Rejoinder: After a violation is flagged, the moderator will give you the option to either apologize, admit to refraining from breaking the rule again, or divert the debate to the rule.
  8. Debate of a Rule: If more rules are broken during a debate of the rules, they shall be written but a new rejoinder will be ignored.
  9. Closing a Debate: The first way to close a debate is with the person who is wrong admitting his error. The second is after the moderator has recorded 5 or more violations. The third is after the debater has admitted twice to breaking a rule on purpose (Titus 3:9-11). The moderator will then instigate a ban.
  10. Banning: Bans are incremented monthly. For example, the first time you are banned, you must wait 1 month before you can communicate with Answering Problems again. At that point, you may rejoinder any outstanding violations. If you are banned again, now you must wait 2 months.

Quiz

  1. (Rule 2) When should we call someone a false teacher, and when should we avoid him?
  2. (Rule 3) Can you definitively know anything, and why?
  3. (Rule 4) Why is saying “I disagree” bad and how does it lead to “quarreling about words”?
  4. (Rule 5 and Meta-rule Rejoinder) If there is a rule you disagree with and you already had your chance to debate it, what should you do?
  5. (Rule 7) Why should every response be word-limited?
  6. (Rule 8 and Meta-rule Compassion) If we criticize you, what should be your response?