How Do We Keep the Conversation Peaceful?

Great question from @Michelle:

How do you approach gracious dialogue when you encounter people who are critical of your scientific or theological views? I’d like to hear strategies and advice about keeping conversations peaceful and productive.

I tend to think of the Woman Leaves the Westboro Baptist Church. In reality, there are many ways to redirect in better ways, and we are not always going to be successful, especially in a fallen world bent towards war.

What do the @moderators think?


Thanks for posting my question.

I thought of bringing this up as a discussion topic after reading this morning’s Our Daily Bread (from February 16). It was a good reminder, and somewhat convicting, as well. Its easy to get emotional when discussing topics we are all so passionate about, like faith and science, and sometimes hard to remember to take a minute to phrase our responses compassionately. Would love to hear any pointers any of you might have to help remember to stay in the right frame of mind in the midst of such discussions.

Here’s the text from today’s Our Daily Bread:

Divided in Love

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” - Ephesians 4:2

When public debate erupted over a controversial Singapore law, it divided believers with differing views. Some called others “narrow-minded” or accused them of compromising their faith.

Controversies can cause sharp divisions among God’s family, bringing much hurt and discouraging people. I’ve been made to feel small over personal convictions on how I apply the Bible’s teachings to my life. And I’m sure I’ve been equally guilty of criticizing others I disagree with.

I wonder if the problem lies not in what or even in how we express our views, but in the attitudes of our hearts when we do so. Are we just disagreeing with views or seeking to tear down the people behind them?

Yet there are times when we need to address false teaching or explain our stand. Ephesians 4:2–6 reminds us to do so with humility, gentleness, patience, and love. And, above all else, to make every effort “to keep the unity of the Spirit” (v. 3).

Some controversies will remain unresolved. God’s Word, however, reminds us that our goal should always be to build up people’s faith, not tear them down (v. 29). Are we putting others down to win an argument? Or are we allowing God to help us understand His truths in His time and His way, remembering that we share one faith in one Lord? (vv. 4–6).

There’s lots of good stuff in Ephesians 4. Here are verses 4:29-32 (NIV translation):

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.


That was an excellent TED talk! Thank you for posting it. Such great ideas to reflect on and really good advice.


I posted this question on a different forum and one person responded with this helpful article:


At risk of repeating myself …

Argumentation versus Criticizing with Kindness

The key points:

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

On the other hand:

1 Like

or this …

(but secretly!)

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That appears to be impossible for most evolution deniers, who rail against straw men incessantly.


Humanizing the conflict may help to neutralize some of the bitterness of the disagreement. One way to to this is to give a personal testimony, the story of how you arrived where you currently are. Also, everyone should be willing to wear their human fallibility on their sleeve. I think this helps to communicate open mindedness and a willingness to hear other people out.

What people hate more than anything is being talked down to which drives some of the anti-intellectualism that exists in these types of conflicts. When their is a difference in knowledge it is very difficult to avoid patronizing your audience which is why it may be helpful to discuss the basics of your reasoning. I have found that for science this can be a lot easier than people think since most of the public is actually very curious about science.


Yes and No. The attempt to express the other person’s position may reveal the flaw in their argument, and they jump to a different line of argument instead of saying “Thanks”. I’m often successful at this unless the topic wanders of before I can get a serious response.

More later?