“Did God really say?” And so began the first debate. Satan, the original sophist, uses his crafty rhetoric for his own pleasure and benefit. His exordium, a simple question, sets the tragic events into motion. Eve’s response is most intriguing: “God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die'” (Genesis 3:3). Not only does she misquote God’s instruction to Adam, but she also fails to recognize one significant detail…There were two trees in the middle of the garden, The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The affirmative team has come to the podium completely uninformed and ill prepared.
Nonetheless, once their eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil, it became mankind’s thesis, and the debate has since divided the human race. Good and evil, right and wrong, beautiful and vulgar, moral and immoral has extended to debates over regions, race, and religion. Since the beginning of time, armed with our great knowledge, we have been on a quest to prove we are right and others are wrong. It is used to judge, persecute, and shame. It pervades social media like the kudzu vine climbs and coils its way through a dense forest. It is a weapon wielded against people and people groups. Our knowledge of good and evil has turned us against each other. Score for the negative team!
This is why our students learn debate skills in the Challenge program. If Classical Conversations education exists to know God and to make Him known, then the quest for the CC family is to use this knowledge in a way that brings honor and glory to the Creator of that knowledge. When students learn to debate, they do so that they may learn how to stand confidently in the face of false rhetoric, misrepresentations, and fallacious attacks; they do so that they may listen closely, attentively, and respectfully to someone whose views oppose theirs; they do so that they may articulate the gospel of Jesus Christ and their testimony of all He has done in their lives; they do so that they can carry the name of Christ to the world in a way that reflects the love of the Abba, the Father who first loved us with such a passion that He “emptied himself” and gave His life for all of mankind (Philippians 2:7).
The entire scene in Genesis evokes a myriad of questions about choice, our integrated theme in Challenge II. For instance, why did God place two trees in the center of the garden? Why tell Adam that they may eat from one and not the other? Why does the serpent choose the tree as his thesis? Why choose Eve as his opponent? The questions, which great theologians have speculated about and tried to interpret since antiquity, are endless. While our knowledge may be limited and our reason may fail us, God always has the proper response.
Hosea 6:3 tells us, “Then we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord.” In his devotional message, Charles Spurgeon gives an insightful interpretation of this passage:
Our duty is to keep to our main topic and follow on to know, not this peculiar doctrine nor that, but Jehovah Himself. To know Father, Son, and Spirit, the Triune God, this is life eternal. Let us keep to this, for in this way we shall gain complete instruction…My soul, keep thou close to Jesus, follow on to know God in Jesus, and so shalt thou come to the knowledge of Christ, which is the most excellent of all the sciences. (The Spurgeon Archive)
Echoing this sentiment is the CC doxology, which has taught us that the difference between a secular education and a Christian classical education is that knowledge is Christ-centered. Undoubtedly, the first debate wages on throughout the world, but the affirmative team has a different thesis that is centered around Jesus Christ, the vine abounding in truth and beautifying the branches of the Tree of Life.