I understand that some people believe that one should simply never, ever even talk to people who say things that are false, that doing so constitutes endorsement of their teachings, and they believe that this is the Orthodox way. But as someone who knows Church history pretty well, I know that that is not the Orthodox way.
Indeed, some of the most prominent moments in Church history — the Ecumenical Councils — are precisely about having those conversations so that the truth can be clearly shown and falsehood clearly shown, both for what they truly are.
But there are many more examples, such as St. Justin Martyr’s “Dialogue with Trypho” (a dialogue with an anti-Christian Jew) or the many places where the Fathers quote even heretics in order to engage with their arguments — and they are often doing so in the context of a much more dangerous world for Christians than we have.
Ironically enough, the only reason we even know the teachings of many heretical or pagan groups is precisely because faithful Christians engaged with them — and then spent a lot of time and effort to copy those engagements over and over for centuries. This holds true even for pagan mythology, which was preserved by Christians and interpreted and sifted by them in useful ways, just like St. Basil in the 4th century said we should do.
This idea that is now popular that interviewing someone or otherwise talking with them publicly “platforms” them, that it means endorsing everything they say and do — this is just irrational nonsense devoid of any critical thinking. It is cancel culture. Also, guilt by association is still a logical fallacy.
Cancel culture is a cancer. It’s not Christianity. It’s demonic. It’s time for us to repent of that and to drive it out of our hearts so that we do not become as the world, which is so afraid of the truth that it screams and shrieks at the slightest disagreement even being mentioned in its hearing.
I remember when cancel culture was a thing associated mainly with anti-Christian, secular people. But now that evil has taken over the hearts even of many Christians.
The Apostles and their successors went out into a world that was trying to kill them. And even in those first few centuries of Church history, when that persecution raged acutely, you find the Holy Fathers engaging with anti-Christian pagans and Jews, with heretics, and so on.
They did not act like some sect that could not withstand discussion with those who disagreed. Rather, they acted like evangelists, trusting in the protection of God and being willing to give their lives in order to reach out and save those enslaved to demonic heresies.
At the root of all this is the failure to see who our true enemies are. Our enemies are demons. Humans who teach false things are not our enemies. Rather, just like us, they are under the influence of demons — we all are. And we all need to be rescued by Christ from them.
Love your enemies, including the humans who are for the moment allied with your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you. Love those who hate you. Be kind to those who mistreat you.
If that sounds like naive nonsense to you, then you’re not a Christian. You’re something else.
NB: This post is not about any particular incident. It’s about a principle I’ve spoken about many times before. I also believe that not every conversation is appropriate for every venue or at every time, and some people don’t engage in good faith, so they lose their chance.