Letter #16: Losing…Even When You Win

by Jonathan Haefs

Dear Jonathan,

I’m not sure you understood my last letter, so I’m going to try this again. It seems like a big issue…I know it was for me. I know you were sad about recently losing a debate with one of your friends, but honestly…SO WHAT! You don’t have to win every debate for Jesus, especially in seminary! As a matter of fact, from my experience, I would tell you that when it comes to debating/arguing in seminary…

You lose…even when you win!

What I mean is this…Seminary is spring-loaded for pride (which we’ve talked about before). The gaining of so much knowledge in such a short period of time can easily produce a haughty spirit. There is, after all, knowledge that puffs up.

Hanging Boxing GlovesWhen you turn your “extra-curricular” time into theological boxing matches, this only produces opportunities for you to flex your newly formed hermeneutical muscles with the hope of knocking out your opponent. Too many KOs and you will begin to think yourself stronger than you truly are…

I call this “Seminary steroids”…and just like in pro-ball…they should be illegal.

You are injecting an unwarranted/false sense of superiority into your mind and heart. This will only be damaging to you, but also to your interlocutors. I’m not telling you to avoid theological discussion…not at all! I’m only saying, do not make winning such discussions your goal.

What then is the point you may ask? Simple…the goal is not winning, but understanding. The goal is not to prove your point, but to explain it. You should walk away from the discussion having a better grasp on your friend’s position and vice versa.

Such talks can actually lead to greater mutual respect and a deeper understanding of multiple theological opinions. This also promotes humility, for to understand another’s position, you must humbly open yourself to actually hearing it.

Jonathan, trying to win every argument in seminary will not lead you toward lasting friendships or a fuller understanding of the church to which you are trying to minister…because in seminarian debates…

You lose…even when you win.

Grace and Peace,


*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.