You have probably seen it hundreds of times. Somebody stands before a group, makes a post online, or is sitting in your living room speaking about what the Bible says and suddenly a brother or sister wants to play “devil’s advocate.” What they generally mean by that is they are going to make a statement or ask a question that completely contradicts some or all of what has just been stated as truth and see how the speaker handles it.
While I recognize the term is a figure of speech, have you ever stepped back and considered what is said when one is claiming to play devil’s advocate? The term states that “I am going to be the devil’s advocate in this conversation,” or, “Allow me to speak for the devil.” Is that really the type of approach we want to take to God’s Word? It is amazing how many times playing devil’s advocate seems to mean taking an abstract hypothetical situation, or something of very little relationship to what has been discussed, to see how the speaker applies the Biblical principles under consideration. Often times, the playing of devil’s advocate seems to be nothing more than an exercise in “stump the teacher,” or “let’s see if we can get him/her to make a mistake.” This should not be the way we spend our time in studying the Bible.
Where this approach becomes even worse is when the one playing devil’s advocate actually believes the truth that is being presented, but approaches his words in such a way that people cannot easily tell where the individual stands on the issue at hand. We should never put ourselves in a situation where we leave someone around us uncertain on where we stand in regard to truth, nor should we ever leave a brother or sister with the impression that we are trying to trip them up or see if they make a mistake.
On numerous occasions an individual playing devil’s advocate has actually done harm to the impact of the truth when the individual questioned was either unable to give a satisfactory answer or did not know how to answer the question asked. As disciples of Christ it should never be said of us that we tried to place obstacles in the way of truth, but instead we should be in the business of removing those obstacles.
This does not mean that it is wrong to question, or that Christians should take everything at face value without digging deeper. However, there is a vast difference between one who is trying to understand truth and one who is spouting something he does not believe to see how someone else handles it. If we have questions, let them be asked sincerely and in a straightforward manner, not under the guise of being an advocate for the devil. If there is additional information or insight that needs to be conveyed, place it out there; do not take a hypothetical stance to see if the speaker can put it out there without making a mistake or looking bad in the process. If more information is needed, seek it out diligently; but not by stating that you are going to try to take the devil’s side. Instead, do it from the standpoint of wanting to be an advocate for truth and needing more information to do that effectively.
The way that we approach our discussions about truth is important. It is important to the way we receive information as well as in the way that information is perceived by others who hear it and read it. The devil already has enough advocates, he does not need our help.