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Potential Benefits of Developing Formal Debate Skills

Debate graphic, dreamstime

[Originally published as The Benefits of Formal Debate]

Note: This is a list of “ideal” positive benefits to the debate process. If someone has a bad attitude or is lazy and unteachable, they will experience very little, if any, of the benefits. Also, I am addressing a Christian audience and assume my reader will desire to approach every debate topic with a motivation to honor God (Colossians 3:23) via delighting in and defending the truth as you seek to grow in loving God more with your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

List of Benefits of the Overall Formal Debate Process

  1. Your critical thinking skills will be sharpened. 

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  2. You will own your personal position(s) with greater conviction than if you merely were told “what” to think. You learn how to think and why you believe what you do.  

  3. You will develop the ability to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of an issue. 

  4. You learn how to handle yourself with decorum in debate. (Judges will mark you down if you are unprofessional!) Most people initially say that they don’t like debate because they confuse it with quarreling, which is not the same. See my blog here that goes into depth on the difference.

  5. You will learn how to say more with less time and fewer words.  

  6. You will learn how to better manage your time and research an issue thoroughly during the preparation process.  

  7. You don’t have to dread a “never-ending” debate as formal debate has a required start and end point. 

  8. You are forced to evaluate the importance of carefully defining your terms.  

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  9. You learn the value of reading widely. 

  10. During the research process, you will occasionally find yourself being intrigued by various topics and tempted to chase them down. Thus, you should be able to grow in differentiating which topics are worth studying in greater depth and which ones you need to set aside until later. Consequently, you grow in both your wonder and excitement in learning about God’s world and in self-discipline.  

  11. You learn how to give and receive feedback with humility during the preparation process. 

  12.  You naturally end up participating in various informal Socratic dialogues with friends and family as you weigh the merits of both sides of an issue. Thus, you can model and help provoke a greater desire in others to pursue of truth, goodness, and beauty via meaningful conversations on weightier matters.

  13. You can develop deep friendships with those who help you prepare for debate as you discuss the pros and cons of various ideas and spend time together. 

  14.  Your everyday friendly informal debates will be influenced by your formal debate experiences. For example, you may find yourself more carefully listening to what someone else is saying, waiting your turn to speak, taking notes, and more intentionally asking questions. 

  15. Formal debate will help improve your interaction with others in personal evangelism by improving your ability to state a case clearly and ask good questions.  

  16. You learn the value of citing credible sources to support your points instead of using appeals to emotion or empty rhetoric. 

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  17. You may be inspired to watch other skilled debaters and learn more about the topics they are debating.

  18. You learn how to better listen to and summarize others’ ideas and how to properly seek clarification.  

  19. You will improve your note-taking skills. 

  20. You become less afraid of respectfully stating your disagreements with others, causing you to walk with greater integrity and honesty in your relationships.

  21. You can grow in learning how to wisely manage your time in formal and informal encounters, especially by knowing when to press a point and when to turn to a more pertinent issue.

  22. You will grow a “thicker” skin and avoid feeling offended when others disagree with your positions.  

  23. You should be able to grow in humility as you receive pushback inviting you to acknowledge where you may have weaknesses in your stated position(s).

  24. You will more confidently be able to explain yourself informally or formally in front of various-sized crowds. 

  25. You will grow in your ability to make an impromptu explanation or rebuttal of a position (this is needed in almost every line of work). 

  26. You can improve in the art of persuasion through thoughtful questions. 

  27. You learn to recognize logical fallacies as you are held accountable for avoiding them in your argumentation.  

  28. You can improve in the art of persuasion through addressing the “constructive case” for both sides and learn to engage in a good cross-examination and rebuttal. This has the potential to avoid the “echo chamber” effect while strengthening your conviction of what is true without becoming quarrelsome.
    Rarely does the opponent of a formal debate change their mind; however, the public debate format is mostly about persuading the audience.

  29. You have the potential to inspire more people in our society to bring back this classical form of rhetoric. It is important for bad ideas to be publicly challenged and exposed for the true danger they pose to society. Sadly, our culture today observes presidential “debates” and thinks mudslinging, ad hominem, and circular reasoning are all a debate is.

  30. You have the opportunity to inspire others to move away from apathy about moral issues and take action  (See my article on the value of debate to bring an end to abortion).

  31.  You may be forced to reflect more on how Jesus reasoned with people in the Gospels. For a great resource on this, check out Logic and the way of Jesus.  

  32. You will grow in loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  

  33. You will grow in learning how to think biblically using every variety of knowledge that is true, good, and beautiful, and how it flows out of the character of God himself. Thus, you will grow in seeing the total truth of the Christian worldview in everything.  

  34. You can demonstrate to unbelievers that Christians love and defend the truth and that anti-intellectualism has no place in biblical Christianity.  See my article on answering objections to reasoning and debate.

Caleb Harrelson

Written by Caleb Harrelson

Engage Apologetics was founded in the summer of 2018 and is led by Caleb and Kendra Harrelson. They were missionaries in Ukraine and served in full-time youth ministry for 6 years. Their involvement in ministry has given them firsthand experience with the vast number of questions that people have about Jesus, science, and the Bible, so they decided to devote themselves full-time to help believers understand why the Christian worldview is true and how they can fully engage their whole life to know God and make His Gospel known.

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