Imaam Maalik رحمه الله said that it reached him that Zubair Ibn Al-`Awaam رضي الله عنه said to his son:
“Do not argue with the people using the Qur’aan (only) for you will not be able to (overcome them), but upon you is the Sunnah.”
The Muhaajireen and the Ansaar, as well as Ibn `Abbaas رضي الله عنهم debated with the Khawaarij (using the Sunnah) in regards to the issues pertaining to `Alee ibn Abu Taalib رضي الله عنه.
The Companions never prevented anyone from debating for seeking the truth. What is established is that the most praise worthy type of debating is for seeking the truth and aiding it, as well as exposing the falsehood and informing about the corruption it causes. But as for false argumentations then it is only quarreling and disputations about which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“The most despicable amongst persons in the eye of Allaah is the one who tries to fall into dispute with others (for nothing but only to display his knowledge and power of argumentation).” 
[al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih of al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee (1/561)]
 Saheeh al-Bukhaaree (2457, 4523, 7188) and Saheeh Muslim (6447).