One of the easiest cop-outs in any argument is “that’s your opinion.” Once you pull out this little gem, the opponent’s entire argument is invalidated based on the fact that you can think for yourself, thanks very much, and please stop pushing your personal views on the subject onto other people.
The problem is that opinions have very little to do with the truth. In fact, they have nothing do with truth or facts. An opinion is how you feel about the truth. An opinion can be based on something that is true, or it can be based on something that is false.
But, you say, doesn’t that have everything to do with what you believe to be the case about the given issue? To that I answer, “Greg Bahsen,” and retire for the evening. Merely believing that something is the truth does not mean it is the truth – there is only one Truth, and you are possibly (in fact likely) deceiving yourself about what it is you believe.
Pulling the opinion card usually happens because we don’t like to admit that the other person is right (or we’re just tired of arguing to begin with). If they’re right and I’m wrong, that at the very least indicates if not demands that I need to change the way I think about the world and the way I act.
Now, it is a certain sure thing that everyone disagrees on everything all the time. How do we sift through the opinions and find the truth?
- Stop using the word “opinion” and use the word “belief.” That’s what we really mean anyway, and a belief can be argued. An opinion is never true or false and thus it is useless. A belief is always true or false and thus is infinitely necessary in shaping how we view the world. This is the key distinction. Even a belief that seems trivial belies a deeper worldview that informs and determines our thoughts and actions. For example, my personal belief that God created the world ~6000 years ago is not an opinion (because it is either true or false). Furthermore, this belief is girded by my faith that the God who exists revealed Himself through His Word, and that in turn girds (or should gird) my every action and additional belief.
- Check all beliefs against Scripture. All of them. If you belief gravity is what holds us to the earth and keeps the planets in motion around the Sun, check it against Scripture. The Scripture bears up all that is true, and without the Word there can be no sure truth. To repeat my example, that belief is true because it is corroborated by all of Scripture. Arguments about “what Scripture really means” can always be resolved with enough study in the Word, submission to its Authority, and prayer that the Spirit would be sent to open our hearts.
None of this is to say that opinions do not exist. You might hold the opinion that setting the AC down is more personally preferable than setting it up. Arguments still arise from this (many times), but the fact of that opinion stands (because it is subjective and therefore unverifiable, which oddly enough means there is no necessary reason to doubt it). If you think that a cold environment leads to a hardier immune system, that’s a belief, and one that’s not necessarily true.
So do everyone a favor and stop saying “that’s your opinion.” Instead, offer to dive into the Scriptures alongside your disagreeing opponent and search out matters that God has hidden.