It's that most "wonderful" time of the year again.
You wonder where all the cars
come from that clog all the roads, making a fifteen minute trip last at least
forty five, complete with honking, snarling and imagined mayhem in the minds of
Not to mention crowds everywhere
and countless compelling invitations to attend Christmas gatherings where too
much food is served, and eaten.
And so this is Christmas.
Another year past and you can
now breathe a sigh of relief that it's finally over.
This year end couldn't have come
to a gratuitous fini sooner for me. It was my year of living
precariously. An earthquake and devastating typhoon in the last quarter
of last year left me practically destitute as work opportunities disappeared
and savings went the same way even faster. Being in the corporate event
organization business, after those kinds of tragedies that wreck venues and
cause large corporations that normally hire you to run their events for them to
realign their budgets for CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects, is not
a good place to be, I found out - the hard way.
For a guy that prefers to work
hard and pay his way, it was a very difficult time.
And no amount of reviewing the
arguments on the problem of evil could erase the doubts I had about the
goodness of the Living God that I thought I really believed in.
Remember, this is a student of
Christian apologetics that's going through the wringer now.
Someone who, or so
I thought, followed hard after the Living God.
And yet, this still happened.
It's different when you have the
logical arguments in your head, yet you can't convince yourself about the
convincing truth of the argument. Because no solution is in sight.
And it was going to be quite a
while before solutions would present themselves later in the year. And you bet
I didn't know it. Worse, I didn't know anymore if there would actually be any
Looking back at those months
that had passed - agonizingly slow at the time, yet so fast in hindsight - I
realize how the Living God really was there all along, as now, I'm in a
position where I'm doing something different, capable of paying bills, and
FINALLY beginning to pay off huge debts I incurred because of acting on my own
instead of waiting on the Living God to make His move in my behalf.
And all these happened because
of responding to other peoples' request for assistance and help as well.
It was a chance to become close
to another friend, who I now represent, doing strategic process consulting and
deriving very good insight from his mentoring - rethinking my own life and
strategizing as well. Because as he said: "...doing the same thing over
and over again, and expecting a different result is another way of defining
insanity." Thank you, Sun Yee Ho for your wisdom.
By God's grace, and through the
prayers of online and very good friends who prayed and supported me and my
family in various ways, including financial assistance in various amounts and
forms - we were sustained. But I look forward to paying back and paying
it forward as well.
In all this, I am convinced that
the people praying for me and my family were heard, and because of that, the
prayers were answered, resulting in my doing other things than usual. And the light
at the end of that dark tunnel has finally shone through.
We're not yet there, but we're
What did I learn from all
this? First of all, that we truly should steel our minds to really know
and remain convinced in the goodness of the God who is There, because He truly
is, and does care for us in minute detail.
This is something that's been
lost, perhaps because of the deist influence of most Western influenced
Christianity that draws their core beliefs from the Reformation, and partly
even from the Enlightenment. This is why I have begun to throw out much
of what I've absorbed from these influences and seek out what can be recovered
from those that understood what the Risen Jesus meant when He started saying:
"The Kingdom/basileo of the Heavens is now here".
Furthermore, I refuse to
continue taking in popular apologetic personalities' views hook, line and
sinker and subject their cliches to both exegetical scrutiny and the
consistency of what I've been through.
For instance, I've heard it said
time and again that we cannot appropriate Jeremiah 29:11 for ourselves simply
because it was addressed to the exiled tribe of Judah in Babylon.
While I may concede that it may
be wrong to appropriate it directly to myself, I can say with finality that it
is also wrong for these dogmatic people not to allow me to draw comfort from
understanding the character of the Living God here, who assures us that He
indeed has a plan for good and not for evil, intended for us. The corollary in
the New Testament is in John 10:10, where the Lord Jesus tells us that He came
that we may have His intended life NOW and not later. (Review the greek text in
Biblehub to get what it means.)
These are the times when I ask
myself if we’ve become the new set of Pharisees – who missed it by at least a thousand
miles in 1st century Israel.
Let’s review what happened.
In a tension filled Jerusalem, a
brigade sized contingent from Persia arrives and leading it are Zoroastrian
priests that we now know as Magi.
Several things get lost here.
A well armed force travelling at least a thousand miles (from Parthia - a region never conquered or subjugated by the dominant Roman Empire) is bound to catch attention. And when it marches into the capital of Roman controlled 1st century Israel, they're really going to raise a bit of a concern among the rulers.
They seek an audience with an Edomite
pretender to the throne of the Davidic Kingdom and ask “Where is the newly born
King of the Jews?”.
The implications to this
question are astonishing and frightening.
Keep in mind that this is the
Roman ruled territory of Israel, that had propped up a Herod who had no
scruples about murdering his own family members in order to keep the throne his
father had negotiated with the Romans for. Furthermore, if you review the
possible reasons why he chose to rebuild the Temple which did not contain the
Shekinah glory of the Living God, you see that he was motivated to legitimize
himself as one of Israel’s great rulers – even if Herod was a) not an Israelite
(he was an Edomite) and b) he was not of the line of David. – seeing as
Solomon, the “wisest” of them all, built the first one.
You can imagine the Herod the great (as he was known at that time) was probably livid with rage and did all he could to contain himself while asking the Zoroastrian priests to let him know if they find Him "so he could worship Him as well". Fat chance that was going to happen.
Small wonder why Herod, upon learning of the exit of the Magi, decided to have all male babies, two years and below, put to death. He would have no real threats from any legit claimants to the throne of David.
And guess what? No complaints from the learned scholars of the day. Well, they probably put out a position paper.
The worst part of it is, when the learned scholars of the day in the Temple were
asked by Herod where the King of the Jews was to be born, they knew exactly
where to look – they found the reference in Micah, which indicated He was to be
born in Bethlehem. And they showed it to him as well!
Yet, the spiritual leaders of the day were not
looking. They probably didn't want to rock the boat. Too much at stake, they probably thought. (Sounds familiar?)
And it had to take the powerful priests of Persia that used
astrology to divine out who were going to be the next great kings that they were provide counsel to, and seek them
out first, so they could be on their good side early on. (By the way,
Deuteronomy reveals how the Living God finds this practice abhorrent and
specifically tells His people to veer away from this practice.)
And they did find Him. And did due reverence to the one they regarded to be the "King of Kings". This term, they did not use loosely - this was the term accorded the ruler of Persia at that time, and Caesar Augustus, who ruled the Roman empire then.
There also exists a theory that the Magi knew of this possibility due to narratives relayed from the chief of all the Magi in Babylon over 400 years before to the generations of magi that followed - a man they knew as Belteshazzar. His Jewish name was Daniel.
The Living God of Israel used
this very same abhorrent practice to reveal Himself to a people that were not
His own, and looked for Him and found Him. And not in a manner that the Israeli
priests were expecting Him to show Himself to the nation that had felt that
they had been abandoned by God for close to five hundred years already.
Have we now, fallen into that
trap and become so absorbed with our traditions and concern to preserve the
status quo, that we have become blind to what the Living God wills and has already revealed
in His word?
Are we still looking, in the
They had their own problem of
evil, and it was a tough one. But were they looking for the God who is there in
their time? Or sticking to the paradigm that they were used to and insisting on
how they thought that God would reveal Himself and missed it by at least 1,000
The problem of evil in real time
is a tough one to contend with. And though we're coming out of it, I get
this feeling that we're still going to be subjected to other circumstances that
will be similar in difficulty, involving other circumstances.
And yes, no matter that some
people cannot see how the Living God can allow human evil to bring about a
good, I can only refer to Joseph of the technicolor dreamcoat in Genesis, who
told his scheming and possibly repentant brothers at that time - that what they
had intended for evil, God intended for good.
Why the Living God wants to
allow these to happen, I still cannot figure out.
Yet, from this year's learning,
I know now that I must be stubborn in being strong in my pisteo -
insufficiently interpreted as "faith", I found out that the dynamic
word includes the view of being "loyal" or "faithful" to
the King I have chosen to subject myself to.
It's truly a matter of fealty to
Him who we who have sworn our allegiance to, and not to subvert our loyalty to
the deceptive one who seeks to capture our following, only for us to be led to
a similar destiny of destruction which he is headed for.
In all this, I found other
friends who I also committed to praying fervently for, as they themselves were
going through their own "valleys of shadows of death" involving
different circumstances, yet resulting in almost similar agonies. One, my
Fil-Am apologist student in Illinois, Marc Gaerlan lost his job, his home and
his vehicle where he lived in to a reckless mechanic that destroyed his engine,
causing him to live just about anywhere.
And this year, we saw it
restored to him, in a way that was deeply encouraging, again allowing us to
hope in the goodness of God through people that displayed that goodness by
collectively helping him pay for it's repair without expecting to be repaid.
My own remains unrepaired, but I
remain steadfast that the Living God will provide the transportation solution
for me and my family sometime (hopefully in the near future) because we need
it. We are just truly thankful that now, we're able to meet our needs and
are able to slowly pay back what we owe, though at a pace that our creditors
would wish would be a bit faster.
I still hope that He will hasten
that pace. In His time.
Truly, there is much to be
thankful for despite corrupt and inept government leaders in most of our
countries, horrible traffic and insanely stupid people, that we have a
legitimate right to despair about.
But the God who is There has
shown Himself to me and my family again this year. We started the year
anxiously, and we end it with a bit of relief.
I still pray for the friends
whom I hold dear - Max Lewis Andrews, Dr. Douglas Groothuis and his dear wife,
agonizing over her present condition. Byron Gary, waiting for the US government
to finally issue the papers that will allow him and his daughter to be reunited
with his wife.
"For I know that the plans
that (HE) has for you: plans for good, and not for evil, to give you a hope and
And I don't give a hoot what
these psuedo theologians think. (The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
did NOT have a theology. They had a correct view of the Living God – a view I’m
trying to recover now through understanding their history, culture, philosophy
and exegetical methods.)
They can shove it where the sun
don't shine because I have tasted and have seen that the Lord truly IS good.
This will be my last post on
I have shifted to recovering
what we can about what we can believe of what we should believe that Our Lord
has told us to.
And this will be the beginning
of Recovering Pisteo.
As we say in this part of the
world, Maayong Pasko kaninyong tanan. (Merry Christmas to all of you in Visayan.) I
truly wish a happy one for all of you.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Let's face it. The majority of us live lives in quiet confusion, opting not to become philosophers, scientists, or to pursue doctorates in the ancient languages. Most of us choose to become businessmen, corporate executives, shopkeepers, or lawyers, taking the path of more acceptable careers. We just want to get by and live out our lives – whether it is well lived or not.
While most of these careers allow the critical thinkers to shine and excel in their distinct fields of enterprise, many still opt not to go beyond what can be readily understood and what they can accept as believably true; and they are comfortable to stay there.
In the Christian culture, those that stray into fields like Christian apologetics are labeled either "weird" or "high fallutin' " by the majority of well-meaning churchgoers. Many see the time spent thinking in college as all that is needed; if you get past that you don't need to think as much. Now the time spent thinking could be better used making more money or doing something worth our time. That's the reality.
Therefore, why are we surprised if our church congregations do not prefer to include the discipline of apologetics in their disciple-making programs - if any exist in the first place? There are welcoming committees, host teams, program and production groups, worship groups, child care groups, and the coffee corner. Yet for the hard questions of faith, the "customer care" position is usually not available. We don’t get involved because the pastor should be in charge of the hard questions and the stock replies don't include enough time to explain "Why is there pain and suffering in this world if God exists?"
Thinking through difficult matters of faith is not required. It takes too much research, and most of those trained in the ministry have been taught how to build a church from ground up and to keep it free from conflict so Sunday gatherings grow bigger. There are just too many more important things to attend to than these questions. That's the general attitude of most congregations and their leaders. For more insight into Christian living, read a book by John Piper, John MacArthur, or Philip Yancey. Mention NT Wright and you'll get a glassy stare with a whispered, “Oh my, he's one of them.”
It's for these reasons that I've stopped hoping for opportunities to participate in mainstream congregations as an apologist wannabe. Happily, today's social media provides the opportunity to subtly influence other friends and associates to appreciate the discipline of apologetics. It's a great delight to see how people you never expected to "like" a post you shared on your Facebook wall begin to appreciate a part of your worldview and absorb it.
Social media becomes an unobtrusive way of influencing people to be more critical in their thinking and to appreciate Orthodox Christianity from a higher plane. A few people I knew to be pretty superficial in the way they lived out their beliefs have probably become more introspective as a result. Many more have come to appreciate CS Lewis' writings. Quite a lot are more familiar with my favorite philosophers and academics: William Lane Craig, Doug Groothuis, Michael Licona, Tim McGrew, William Dembski, Stephen Meyer, Paul Copan, and many others.
There is joy in seeing more people shift from posting shallow, mainstream Christian sentiments to sharing posts with quotes from people like Francis Schaeffer, Tim Keller and Netbible.org. These become starting points for good conversations during wedding anniversary celebrations, industry events, school reunions, and other get-togethers where people you haven't seen for quite a while sidle up to you and ask: "You've really come up front with your faith now, haven't you? What's up? Are you becoming a preacher now?"
Then you start letting them have it - piece by little piece. It usually doesn't end up with a commitment to follow the King immediately, but it does get them thinking again. Some will take to researching what you've said and find out it’s true. I know, because some have actually called to tell me they have done so.
Some of my friends, who used to believe in the Gospel as intensely as I do, have again begun to fan the flames of their own belief because of encounters like these. They’ve taken the starting points of my online links to unearth their own treasures and they've renewed their first love as a result; they sought and they found.
This shows that they're eager to dig out the truth of the treasures that come from our rich Christian heritage, which is helping reshape their thinking. They becoming more like the children of the Living God, as the Lord Jesus desires so greatly.
So then -if you feel that you can't get the apologetics fire started within the containers of your own church congregation - take heart. There's a whole world out there on social media where you can start to show people the rational positions of the Kingdom which we've been tasked to proclaim – the Kingdom that’s accessible through our King, the Son of the Living God.
Get out of that box and cast your nets further than you thought possible. You can do it from the confines of your home, which is a pretty good starting point.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
It had to happen.
My one and only child, Ella is turning fourteen and despite her exposure to better Christian education, her inquiring mind raises questions that only she can deal with, by reading and seeking the Living God.
The usual questions have already come up, and more besides.
" How do we know that God is there?"
" If God created the universe, who created God?"
" How do we know the other religions are not true?"
To break down what I've been reading and learning for the past four years during a casual conversation on the way to school in the mornings isn't easy. Specially when another point of interest distracts her from our train of thought during the conversation.
But it is quite a challenge.
Because not only is she asking valid questions and the hard ones at that, but also because most kids her age don't give a hoot about these things. At least in our part of the world anyway.
Worse, when we used to go to another congregation and belonged to a small group, she had to correct the facts of the small group leader, who was at least thirteen years older than she was and should have known better.
It was a situation like this that prompted us to find other Sunday alternatives that would help her grow in her faith instead of stunting it and frustrate her to the point that every time Sunday morning would come around, she'd cry and ask not to go to church - "Because it's the same darn thing all over again" That was more than five years ago.
This morning, Joy showed me a small piece of paper where she wrote in bold letters: God please help me. And behind it, in very tiny script, were her reasons. The first one was: "I'm afraid of becoming an atheist because of my doubts."
When I asked her what she thought an atheist was, she told me that it was someone who was doubting.
I had to correct her on that one. An atheist is someone who says that there is no God. And these days, they are the kinds who don't have good reasons for saying that. Most atheists I know here are either angry at the thought of God or they don't want God to exist because of the consequences of His being there.
We're walking through the discussions and we've settled the matter of the resurrection of the historical Jesus of Nazareth being a true and valid historical event, and the implications of that. We're working through how that validates the God of the Bible, as the historical Jesus has validated His claim of: being the Son of God, the validation of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be true and that the Bible is reliable.
While I know that my daughter has all the resources available to her to strengthen her confidence in the Living God, only she can work through these issues and find the answers that she so desperately wants to find. I can only pray that she finds them soon enough.
Because she has already seen Him move in our past as a family. And she knows deep in her heart that He is there.
She probably wants her mind to validate what her heart knows is true.
When I think about how many similar situations there are all over our hometown, I wonder how these kids struggle through these issues, as I also know that most parents don't even have the answers themselves.
But are they looking for these answers? More importantly, do they think that these questions are even important?
I pray that they will consider them to be important enough to seek out the answers. Because we get this chance only once in our lifetimes. And we have to get it right.
I will not stop Ella from questioning. But I will also pray for her. Because I know that
when she will seek, she will find. When she seeks with all of her heart, soul and strength.
And the Living God will reveal Himself to her.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
"Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2
Anakainosis is the greek word for renewal. And the greek equivalent of transformed is metamorphoo. Properly understood, it implies a "changing form in keeping with inner reality".
The past four years of persistent study of apologetics has led my journey of study, research and reflection towards church history, exegesis and the study of the development of theology in church history.
While most of my Christian friends who mean well don't quite appreciate this endeavor very much. And I hear the usual cliches and responses - "The gospel is a simple message. It doesn't have to be complicated." "Beware of intellectualizing the gospel. You can become puffed up with knowledge." or how about this classic one - "The bible says it, I believe it and that settles it".
I often sigh when I hear these well intended statements, and I've learned not to rebut them anymore as there are those who prefer to be simpleminded and don't want to learn more than what they already know.
And that's the majority of humanity, not just Christianity.
Of course, they run into trouble when confronted, but that's another story.
But in the process, they deny themselves the opportunity for a transformation that results from the continual renewal of our minds.
In the past four years of continual reading, research and critical and reflective thinking, my appreciation of the Christian faith has come from a mere knowledge of salvation to that of considering it to be a matter of grave importance; something to be taken very seriously, which ultimately affects our worldview and the day to day decisions that we make in light of the fact that they do impact what we do in relation to the very real, yet invisible Kingdom of God which in fact, is now here.
This has become my default worldview and each day that I continue to study, I find myself changing the way I plan, the way I decide, and the way I conduct myself on a day to day basis, as the reality of doing God's will and how I should consult Him in all that I do matters very much.
And this has become a lifestyle for myself, my wife and daughter - and we are slowly learning to work within the parameters of the Kingdom in this manner.
What gets most of our family and friends who clearly become disturbed because of the way we have come to think as a family unit, and conduct ourselves is that we seem to have become what appears to be "fatalistic" in our approach towards life - but when we are confronted with their questions, we have intelligent answers. No longer just scripture spouting, but solid, reasonable answers that are the result of a cohesive Christian worldview.
Apologetics has become a strong bedrock for the foundation of what we believe about the Kingdom message that the Lord Jesus first began talking about during His earthly ministry. It has given us a decided confidence because what we know about what we believe is true and certain and the reality of the Kingdom of God is not just a hint of a mystery. It's real and it's here, now.
I lament the continual tirade of the majority that seem to prefer the unexamined life, as well as the less thought out one and content themselves with the thought that the Living God is happy with their lack of knowledge.
The last I heard regarding lack of knowledge is an actual lamentation from the Living God Himself because His people were destroyed because the sinful priesthood being addressed in Hosea 4 failed to acknowledge Him and give knowledge of Him to His people.
But then again, if it wasn't different then, why should we be surprised if it's the same up to now?
The renewal of the mind is not a mere option. It's a must do. And transformation begins there. And I thank the apologist community for helping me and my family get started there.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Several years ago, I was invited to help train a set of agents for a call center.
It would have been easy if not for the fact that the people we had to train thought in a different language (Visayan), and had to communicate in English to serve (American) English speaking callers.
It was quite a task, but we managed to get a good team working in around three months. My previous experience in teaching wanna be disc jockeys how to sound good on the air paid off.
Elated with the experience, I decided to offer my services to other call centers in the area. After all, I found out that I could do the job, and well.
It turned out to be more difficult than I thought. And not because the job was going to be more difficult. The Human Resources people turned out to be the difficulty.
As it turns out, they were looking for graduates with a degree in English. A bachelor's degree in English at least or it's equivalent.
It didn't matter if I was able to do the job. They wanted someone with the diploma. And never mind if they couldn't speak English as well. ( I mean, what are they thinking or looking for??)
As it turns out, it was a good thing that I didn't. But I didn't know it then.
What does this have to do with apologetics? A lot. As we go looking for material to further improve our skills, educate ourselves intently and renew our minds (as we get transformed as well in the process), there is this overwhelming desire to acquire a degree in theology or Christian philosophy in order to be able to be seriously considered as a credible apologist.
However, in this part of the world where I live, there aren't many schools that offer those courses or even subjects. ( I found out that I already had a more extensive library on this subject matter than a school that I considered enrolling in.)
Realizing that it would be quite a pipe dream to even think about enrolling in a school like Biola, or HBU to get the necessary units to deserve the sheepskin at the end of the term - it would take forty plus Philippine pesos for every dollar required to study in those places, and foreign students have to pay more as well - the desire would remain just that for quite a while. Unless I got a stroke of fortune and picked a winning combination for the weekly lottery.
Or something like that.
However, some recent encounters with various groups of people either wanting some answers to some of the difficult questions that we're exposed to, or those that make it a hobby of heckling believers (until they're confronted by one of us) I realized that most of us aren't really going to be going to debate with Richard Dawkins or Michael Shermer anyway.
Most of us are going to come across a lot of people like us - those who have jobs, those who don't have jobs, those who're struggling with issues, and those who aren't struggling but are looking for meaning.
And when we come across them and are confronted with those questions or challenges, we had better be prepared. And if someone else who sees that we do have answers and wants them as well, we had better be prepared to equip them as well.
Don't get me wrong. I am all for earning the degrees in theology, apologetics and philosophy. If you have the opportunity to do so, go right ahead and go for it.
But for the majority who either don't have the funds, the time or the proximity to those prestigious institutions that dispense with the letters to affix to your names that affirm your expertise on the subjects - take heart. The best Apologist for God in the first century was questioned by the scholars of His day for being unlettered. And of course, His credentials that He claimed were not just questioned, but used as evidence for His wrongful conviction and execution.
But then again - the conclusion to that argument came on the third day after His death. Which, provides the evidence that we need to show that what we believe IS true.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Of late, I have been challenged regarding a few worldviews that I hold, and mostly by fellow believers - or those who profess to believe in our Risen Lord.
I say this because in our online engagements, it has become pretty clear that most of them hold on to what I refer to as dogmatic views or rhetoric - views that are anchored on cliches that they absorbed from their spiritual leaders during their formative spiritual years and have retained them ever since without finding the substantiation for those views.
While I have not laid claim to having the absolutely correct view on these matters, to a certain degree, I have achieved a degree of satisfaction of knowing that the views that I've come to hold (after changing them when they were displaced by a more superior position, and holding on to those I've cherished, because I found the facts and reasons to uphold them ) can withstand scrutiny and critical examination.
And knowing that, the faith I espouse now has become stonger, substantive and more confident - as I have rational explanations to present the message of the Kingdom as a very important option to consider for holding one's worldview.
And also because it's a very important choice - it spells an eternally significant difference. While the gospel proclaims grace, it also implies a grace period. It ultimately comes to an end - after which, there are consequences. And these are dire.
These challenges that rise as a result of my posts on my Facebook wall drive me to go back to the books and review the things I have learned and as a natural consequence, I am forced to remember scripture verses, facts and logical processes to be able to present the argument for the positions that I present publicly. And it has become a good thing for me, because I continue to internalize what I previously read through cursorily and these become a vivid part of my memory bank, which I can dip into regularly and find whenever I need them.
What I did not realize was that other friends who I did not intend those posts for also read through my wall and absorb the exchanges and the thoughts that are crystallized in the conversation. These eventually result into private emails, private messages and are brought up in snatches of conversation in casual encounters such as seeing each other in the malls or while doing groceries. They become more meaningful because the points that they never were familiar with ( exegetical explanations, cultural perspectives, and doctrinal thought ) are made a bit clearer - not necessarily absorbed immediately - but now are explained with more than just a bit of clarity and they are more familiar with the message of the scriptures.
If just for that, I am grateful for the online fora that Facebook has provided for these exchanges. Because it requires a great deal of planning, organizing and preparation to put a group together and hold their attention for these subjects.
With this access-when-you wish capability, the online fora becomes a good starting point for lengthy (though incomplete) engagements in a coffeeshop to process these thoughts personally, complete with distractions and disturbances.
Much is decried about having the "impersonal" and "e-friendships" that are not as authentic as one where we press flesh and spend time together. I find that the opposite is revealing itself to be true: online, where it is less "threatening" to be confronted about one's set of beliefs, it provides a platform for people to express themselves better. At least they can take comfort of not being assaulted physically if the discussion turns ugly.
But it also allows each one to get a better read of their thoughts - because you are left with no choice but to be articulate and express yourself comprehensively and accurately. And if the argument fails, you are left with no choice but to accept the superior view or stick to the defective one without reasonable support.
This way, we are forced to become better communicators and should the relationship take a step higher to a more personal one, we are all the better for them. Instead of having a realtime encounter where we maintain a veneer of civility, yet inward are snarling murderously. I've known a few church small groups that behaved like that.
But hey, it's a great start.
For one dollar apologists, it's a means that we should not discount if we wish to present the message of the Kingdom in a winsome manner, though we should make sure that we can take it to the next level, which is the personal one.