Apostolic Examples of Dialogue

Here are some words from Dr. James White. This is an edited excerpt from a longer discussion on facebook defending the idea of having dialogue, even with those opposed to the gospel:

Let’s consider some relevant texts.

Acts 17:17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.

So Paul’s “reasoning” (διελέγετο) took place in different locations (synagogue, market place). When he reasoned with Jews, do you think he refused to let them state their views? How about the devout persons (God-fearers)? And in the marketplace “with those who happened to be there,” do you think Paul listened to them, or just said, “No, sorry, I will not hear what you have to say—I am only here to tell you what to do!”? That hardly fits the meaning of “reasoning” does it? Can we agree there would have to be give and take? And do you think there were people of many religious faiths in the marketplace? The next verse specifically mentions Epicureans and Stoics, so that marketplace was a veritable smorgasbord of religious and philosophical views. And Paul reasoned with them. He didn’t tell them to shut up and just listen, he reasoned with them. That involves allowing them to state their views, explain their position, interact.

… most people do not like it when you simply come in and say, “Hey everyone, I know the truth, you don’t, shut up and listen.” I’ve found the truth of the gospel shines the most brightly against the backdrop of error, so having the opportunity of hearing someone out and then saying, “OK, I understand your views, but let me respond now” is a great thing. Happens every day, all over.

“And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:4)

Here we have the conjunction of two terms, “reasoning” and “persuading.” … both individually, and even more so together, refer to a give and take process, a dialogue, a discussion.

I am sure the Jews would raise texts of Scripture in opposition to Paul. He did not simply walk away, he interacted, listened, responded. Persuasion absolutely demands interaction.

“And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.”
(Acts 19:8–9)

This idea of dialogue, reasoning, seemed to be common place for the Apostle Paul, whether it was in the synagogue or, upon expulsion therefrom, a “worldly” location. And again, once outside the synagogue, the breadth of viewpoints would expand greatly, and yet Paul is still “reasoning.” And note the disciples are present, hence, the reasoning with unbelievers (including believers with pre-existing faith structures) is done in their presence.

This is, in fact, part of the means of training and teaching for the Apostle. No hiding the new disciples from those who would challenge their new found faith. The Gospel is sufficient.

So here are a few texts that give apostolic example.

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