Surely witnessing is the antithesis of debating. Witnessing (at least online) seems to consist of pasting a piece of glurge and leaving. The people posting it usually have absolutely no interest in discussing theology or examining why they possess their beliefs.
In my opinion, witnessing serves no purpose here at the SDMB. No one learns from it. It changes no-one’s opinions or belief systems. The only good it does is to selfishly boost the ego of the poster (of course, this is just my opinion as a flaky liberal pinko commie-nazi ).
Tap, I’ve made no bones about where I’m coming from, and much of what I have to say about belief and such is “witnessing” by any reasonable definition of the term. It’s affirming what I believe and why, with the hope that it may persuade someone else to consider my belief system, and come to know what I’ve found meaningful – and that is what witnessing is supposed to be.
But I rarely shirk debate on those topics – and then only when it’s founded in areas in which I have no interest in arguing, like the validity of an ontological or systematic-logic proof of God.
I think what you’re saying is, poor witnessing is posting glurge and fleeing, or refusing to discuss with those opposed what your belief is. And with that, I’d have to agree.
As for why there, it’s because religion is one of those topics on which there is no universal consensus as to “the right answer.” To be sure, you can have GQ-type questions on religion: “What does Methodism believe about sacraments?” is a question with a definite answer – even if you don’t agree with Methodist beliefs, just as “What does the Republican platform say about abortion?” is a question with a definite answer, whatever your views on abortion. But debating the validity of sacraments or the morality or legality of abortion are non-consensus issues suitable for Great Debates, as are most religious issues generally. So that’s the place for an assertion that “you need to come to Jesus” – so that it can be debated.
You’ve got my feelings exactly right Polycarp. I don’t have any problem* what so ever in people taking the time to explain a belief system. That, in itself, is the heart of 90% of debates. It’s the drive by posters that bug me. If someone goes to the trouble of registering to post, cuts and pastes “Jeebuz luvs u” and runs away that is, to my humble and non-religious way of thinking, contrary to everything that Jesus (or any other sincere religious figure for that matter) stood for. He took the time to explain to non-believers. Is it too much to expect that from those people who profess to follow him?
*when I joined the boards, I’ll admit to intolerance towards religion, but thanks to posters such as Polycarp I’ve learned that having respect for those who I disagree with is a better way to lead one’s life.
It’s awfully difficult to draw a hard and fast boundary between “witnessing” and “presenting one’s point of view in a debate about religion”. (And obviously threads in which people present their points of view about religion belong in Great Debates.) We will close threads (as was recently seen) if someone is really going over the top in terms of acting like some kind of viewpoint-spouting-robot: just pasting up new replies to a thread with zero interaction with any of the other people who are posting to the thread to say “Well, how do you account for this?” and “Yes, but…” and “You’re completely wrong and here’s why…”
However, we’ve always said we can’t be responsible for people doing a good job of debating, as long as they’re staying within certain broad limits of civilized discourse.
I’m not a regular in GD, so I’m not sure if this is how things actually turn out, but it seems to me that a witnessing OP will have one of two results: First, it might be that nobody is really interested in debating the point, in which case the thread will quickly fall, and there’s little harm done in allowing it. Secondly, it might stir up debate amongst the members (whether including the OP or not), in which case it legitimately belongs in Great Debates.