Ravi Zacharias said something to the effect that mud slinging is completely useless, because it causes you to get your hands dirty and lose a lot of ground.
I have seen a disturbing trend in religious discussions. On the one side are those who have become known as militant atheists. On the other side are certain Christians, many of these well-meaning, but still do not have a good defense of the faith they profess. These two sides have embarked on a mud-slinging campaign. This plays out in that either side calls each other names for their perceived ignorance, and in turn nothing good comes out of it. Atheists call Christians (and adherents of other faiths) ignorant for believing in the supernatural, and Christians call atheists stupid for not believing in the Bible.
In this mud slinging, no ground is taken, but ground is only lost. In the process the position of both sides is tainted in the eyes of the other, both being perceived as “dirty” to the other, because while slinging mud you end up covered in it yourself. Christians have certain perceptions of atheists because of their insensitive attacks on the intellectual aspect of faith, and atheists in turn see the shame of the Christian who does not display the love of Christ in their combating the attack waged against them.
On the Christian side a couple of things may happen: The Christian may conclude that the atheist doesn’t understand them; they may also conclude they have no interest in doing so; they usually become more firm in what they believe; but at the same time still don’t have an answer for the person who is asking them why they do believe; and in the process of debating, usually disrespect is shown.
The Christian apologist’s favorite verse is 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” But usually they forget the next piece of the verse: “But do this with gentleness and respect…” The next verse says, “… keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
To the Christian I ask: Do you have prepared a reason for the hope you have? If I was not a Christian, and I asked you why you are, would you have an answer for me? If someone asks you why you believe the Bible, do you know? It is awesome to have faith in the Word of God, but not everyone believes the Bible is the Word of God, or else does not understand that it is. Do you have a way to explain it to the one who is seeking understanding? Do you have an answer for the person for whom “because the Bible says so” is not a sufficient reason? Also, while you are talking to someone who does not understand the faith you have, do you speak to them with respect? Do you yell at them and call names for not believing, or do you explain your faith with gentleness, being filled and guided by the Holy Spirit?
It is possible to be a bold defender of the faith, but to present a bold defense in a respectful way. It is important to note the next verse, that if we do this, the one accusing us will find no fault in our behavior. They may slander us, but shame will be brought on the individual if the slanderous accusations are not true.
For the atheist/agnostic/seeker/questioner I ask: When you are discussing Christianity with a believer, do you do so in a respectful way? Do you treat the person you are speaking to in the same way you expect to be spoken to? Do you call them names? Or in your discussion are you genuinely seeking after understanding?
True wisdom, knowledge and understanding can only be found in a setting of respect and dignity. Does your conduct during discussion bring shame to yourself and to that which you profess to be true? Or are you blameless in your approach?
Blamelessness is key. If you cannot present a sound argument to support your point, your argument is not blameless. Likewise, if you present a sound argument in an unsound way, you are not blameless then either.