Greg Koukl expains the right way to handle an angry, aggressive atheist

Greg Koukl is one of the scholars who got me started in apologetics. I can still remember, (and I know my old friends Andrew, Kerry, and Jose can, too!), over 10 years ago, when we used to sit around in my basement listening to Greg Koukl’s radio show over the internet. At the time, streaming audio was quite new. Well, he taught us all how to be ambassadors for Christ. (See 2 Cor 5:9-21)

I got his recent “Solid Ground” newsletter (free registration required), for January/February 2009, and the topic was on dealing with angry, aggressive atheists. This is a topic of real value for me. Not only do I have to face these belligerent atheists in my office (Yes, Gerry, I mean you!), but I also face them online at the Richard Dawkins forum, and face to face in my own family and friends!

Let’s start with the question “what is a steamroller?”:

The defining characteristic of a “steamroller” is that he constantly interrupts, rolling over you with the force of his personality. Steamrollers are not usually interested in answers. They are interested in winning through intimidation.

Greg breaks down the techniques for handling steamrollers in 3 steps.

Step 1: Stop Him.

Your first move when you find yourself in a conversation with a steamroller is a genial request for courtesy. Momentarily put the discussion on “pause.” Ask to continue making your point uninterrupted.

One of the ways you can do that is using body language. You can raise your hand in the stop motion to emphasize your verbal attempt to pause the conversation so that you can finish responding. Ask for a specific amount of time to make your point, and make sure that you him to agree that you will get that time to respond! But the most important thing is to not lose your temper.

Be careful not to let annoyance or hostility creep into your voice. That would be a mistake, especially with this kind of person. Don’t let a steamroller get under your skin. Being defensive and belligerent always looks weak. Instead, stay focused on the issues, not on the attitude. Talk calmly and try to look confident.

…don’t take unfair advantage of the time you buy with this little negotiation. Make your point, then ask, “Does that make sense to you?” This invites him back into the conversation. Give him the courtesy of offering you a reply without interruption.

I hear J.P. Moreland saying “Does that make sense to you?” all the time in his lectures, and now I’ve started doing it too! And so should you! But what if “stopping him” doesn’t work? Then we go on to step 2.

Step 2: Shame Him.

Suppose the steamroller interrupts you again during your negotiation response time. You want to gently draw attention to the fact that he is being rude and intimidating in the conversation. Again, the goal is not to show the slightest discomfort, but always to act with confidence.

Phase two of the Steamroller tactic is to shame him for his bad manners while maintaining your integrity. Stay on topic and don’t follow any “rabbit trails” he may voice.

That point about not taking on any new questions until you finish answering the first one is vital. You see this all the time on the Richard Dawkins forum. Every time you make a point about the progress of science, they start complaining about how cruel God is. (Note that atheists can’t even judge God without assuming an absolute moral standard, which only a designer of the universe can ground!)

Below is example of how to do step 2:

“Can I ask you a quick question? Do you really want a response from me? At first I thought you did, but when you continue to interrupt I get the impression all you want is an audience. If so, just let me know and I’ll listen. But if you want an answer, you’ll have to give me time to respond. Tell me what you want. I need to know before I can continue.” Wait for an answer.

Part of becoming a good ambassador is knowing how to guage your opponent, and how much force you should use. Practice, practice! But suppose even step 2 doesn’t work. What should we do now?

Step 3: Leave Him.

The most difficult thing to do is to break off a defense, especially when there are people around listening in or even participating. Usually you do this when the person is moving the wrong way on the aggression scale. Greg cites a number of Bible verses to show that the Bible does support this kind of strategic withdrawal from an engagement that is going the wrong way.

Conclusion

The article concludes with some very useful points. First, you don’t have to win every debate. Just make your point and then let the Holy Spirit handle it from there. It is a mistake to think that you can change people’s minds just by talking to them at more and more. Mind changing usually happens much later, as the person weights both sides of the issues. So don’t rush, and remember, God values free will.

Second, always give an aggressive challenger the last word. This is the policy on my blog, where I get one rebuttal to a commenter, and then they get the last word. So far, I haven’t had to violate this in 5 weeks of blogging.

And let me just reiterate – do not lose your cool. A lot of arguing relates to your attitude under fire, especially for beginners who judge debates not on the evidence, but on appearances. You need to spend time studying in advance in order to get this confidence, and I do mean studying both sides in debates. Under fire, the confidence you’ve gained through study, especially the study of debates, is more effective than your words.

China cuts sales tax on cars and auto sales shoot up 25 percent

Here are the details of China’s sales tax cuts on new vehicle sales from Time Magazine:

On Jan. 20, the Beijing government slashed the sales tax on cars with engines of up to 1.6 liters from 10% to 5%. The measure, designed to get Chinese to buy smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, has had an immediate impact. January sales of small cars jumped 19% compared with the previous month, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Also boosting buyer interest: Lower road taxes and fuel prices, which are set by the government.

…The surge in small-car sales helped China pass a milestone. For the first time ever, more cars were sold in China (735,000 vehicles) in a month than were sold in the U.S. (657,000). In January at least, China was the world’s largest car market. “The tax reduction was an obvious help to our sales,” says a sales manager surnamed Feng at the biggest Hyundai dealer in Beijing. “Since the new policy started, sales of our three models with 1.6 liter engines or below have gone up by 30% compared to the same period last year.

China’s stimulus plans “could have an enormous difference in whether or not people want to buy cars,” says Ben Simpfendorfer, chief China economist for the Royal Bank of Scotland. “What’s unusual about this cycle is that China faces the same problems as everywhere else in the world. The big question is how to spur consumer spending. Strong auto sales will help China, just like they’ll help America or Europe.”

And it works the same way for jobs! If you want to create jobs, what should you do? Should you waste 1.5 trillion dollars of money stolen from the private sector in order to expand government, pay off special interests, fund pork projects and thousands wasteful earmarks? Of course not! What you need to do is what China did. They made cars go on sale. We need to make employees go on sale. How?

The answer is to do what the Arnold Kling of the Cato Institute says and temporarily cut the employer portion of payroll taxes. This means that employers get all of the productive capacity of new employees hired within the United States, but the cost of hiring new employees is reduced. All the productivity at a much cheaper cost. Total cost of this stimulus plan: 230 billion dollars!

This plan is actually from Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw, who describes it more fully here, but couples it with off-setting gas tax hikes.

I would institute an immediate and permanent reduction in the payroll tax, financed by a gradual, permanent, and substantial increase in the gasoline tax. I would make the two tax changes equal in present value, so while the package results in a short-run budget deficit, there is no long-term budget impact. Call it the create-jobs, save-the-environment, reduce-traffic-congestion, budget-neutral tax shift.

But who cares what Harvard economists think? The tax-cheat says that you can fix the economy by raising taxes on companies that actually hire people:

The Treasury chief today also defended the carbon emissions cap-and-trade proposals in the plan, saying the policy would raise hundreds of billions of dollars and help the country achieve energy independence. “It is critically important for our country that we begin the process now of changing the incentives Americans face for how they use energy,” he said. “It’s important to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, it is critical for climate change.”

Who cares if consumers have to pay more for oil and gas in a recession? We need to think of the trees and whales! Won’t someone please think of the sea-kittens?

Don Surber summarizes the problem:

That’s a good bailout because it allows people to spend their own money to buy cars instead of forcing them to pay for not buying cars.

…50 years ago, President Eisenhower dreamed of the day when China would abandon communism in favor of capitalism.

That dream is coming true.

Little did he know that we would be doing the reverse.

And here is Monica Crowley’s take:

China cut taxes, and auto sales spiked.

China cut taxes, and a part of its economy started to boom.

Cutting taxes equals economic growth.

The Chinese Commies get it.

…Still waiting for the American Democrats to get it.

Tax cuts = Jobs. Jobs = economic recovery. Why is it that we are disregarding capitalist recommendations from former communist countries like Russia and China? Why is it that we insist on angering the world with our socialist policies? Why is that we are going out of our way to impose new taxes on products that consumers rely on? We can’t afford this much spending no matter how much we tax the rich.

Why men stay away from the feminized church

On the Biola University site, I found a book review of a new book by David Murrow called “Why Men Hate Going to Church”.

Here’s the problem:

There are generally more women than men in every type of church, in every part of the world, according to church growth experts like Patrick Johnstone, author of Operation World. A traditional explanation is that women are more spiritual than men. But the leaders of this new movement suggest that the church’s music, messages and ministries cater to women.

…In America, among evangelical churches, 57 percent of members are women and, among mainline Protestant churches, 66 percent are women, according to a 1998 book American Evangelicalism (University of Chicago Press).

The problem is that the church has become feminized, and men don’t like that, and so, they leave.

Here’s more:

To describe many women, Murrow lists traits like “relational,” “nurturing” and “peace-making.” He describes many men as “goal-driven,” “competitive” and “adventurous.” These differences show up in the types of movies many women and many men like: romantic vs. adventure films, Murrow said. In sum, women thrive when secure, and men thrive when challenged, he said.

As Christianity became more feminized, it began to focus more on producing emotional satisfaction. But men want something different.

The article goes on to quote one of my favorite Christian writers, Nancy Pearcey, an expert in apologetics and theology.

…many people think of church only as a nurturing place that addresses personal needs, Pearcey said. Think: sitting in circles, sharing feelings, holding hands, singing softly, comforting members. An example of the feminization of the church is its music. Typical praise songs refer to Jesus as a Christian’s lover and praise his beauty and tenderness. Rarely do they praise his justice or strength, or refer to him as the head of an army leading his church into spiritual battle, like “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

All of the outward facing disciplines within Christianity, such as apologetics, theology, ethics, etc. are de-emphasized, censored or resisted in feminized churches. There is no place for rationality, moral judgments and boundaries, debates and disagreement, confrontations and persuasion, or other manly Christian practices.

Christianity is evangelical, and evangelism takes study and preparation, which culminates in confrontations and discussions. The object of these discussions is not to win the argument. It is to win the person over to your side. So facts and arguments play a huge role in  evangelism, but there has to be gentleness too, if you actually want to win. And this is what Christian men are supposed to do. But does the church support it?

Another turn-off for men is touchy-feely sermons. Pearcey said the modern church stresses emotions and inner spiritual experiences while neglecting the intellectual side of the faith.

“The more traditionally masculine side of Christianity enjoys crossing swords with hostile secular worldviews. So, as long as Christianity appeals to the emotional, therapeutic, interpersonal, relational areas, it’s not going to appeal to men as much as to women,” Pearcey said.

Churches should engage men’s intellects to help them see the relevance of Christianity to the “real” world of politics, industry and business, Pearcey said.

“We have to recover the notion that Christianity is true on all levels, not just for your emotional life or repairing relationships, as important as those things are,” she said.

Christian men love apologetics and they also love theology, philosophy, ethics, science and history. We love competition. Anything testable that can be debated! Anything where there is a clear winner and loser.

Many churches emphasize Jesus’ softer teachings, like his love and his desire to save, and they ignore the doctrines of sin and hell, according to Podles. But men dislike liberal Christianity — “a mild religion of progress and enlightenment” as opposed to a battle between good and evil, Podles said.

Men want to expend their lives for a great cause, even if it involves risk, according to Murrow. He said that’s why the U.S. military’s “Army of One” campaign was effective. But American churches rarely teach about Christian suffering and martyrdom, Murrow said. Instead, today’s Christianity is presented as an antidote to these things, he said.

And men thrive on risk, adventure and achievement:

“Men are more attracted to religion if it presented as a quest, an adventure, a heroic exploit,” Pearcey said. “They want something challenging, bracing, demanding.”

To reach men, churches should stress the cost and dangers of following Christ — including Christians’ conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil, according to Podles.

Yet, men should be reminded that the sacrifice won’t always be a “huge, glorious display like William Wallace stepping out on a battlefield,” Erre said. Many times it will be staying in a troubled marriage, raising a handicapped child, or working a hated job to provide for a family, he said.

Many women believe that the purpose of Christianity is to be happy and to make others happy by not discussing controversial things like religion. They do not attach the same importance as men do to the duty to be an informed ambassador for Christ, trained in apologetics, and able to persuade others about God’s existence and character. They do not believe that the Lord’s reputation needs to be defended in public in the same way that men do.

Many women also don’t want to be confronted about their beliefs by informed men, because their beliefs are based more on intuition and emotion. They would rather be accepted and affirmed – and so they favor men who don’t know much about the details of Christianity. So manly Christian skills; theology, apologetics, ethics, philosophy, history, science, etc. are not valued in the feminized church.

Touchy-feely sermons come from touchy-feely pastors. A feminized church tends to attract more “gentle, sensitive, nurturing” leadership,” according to Pearcey.

“If religion is defined primarily in terms of emotional experience and is therapeutic, then who is it going to attract as ministers?” she said.

Pearcey said to consider a typical youth pastor.

“He’s really into relationships, very motivating, but is he teaching good apologetics? Is he teaching youth to use their minds and to understand deeper theological truths? At least the ones I’ve known haven’t,” she said. “Today, the common trajectory is for youth pastors to become senior pastors,” she added.

Maybe women should be more sensitive to male needs and character, and more concerned about what the Bible teaches about the the role of apologetics in the Kingdom of God.

If you want to know what Christian men look like, check out this profile of Christian philosopher and apologist Paul Copan on Truthbomb Apologetics. If you want to see one tough and effective Christian lady, visit Denyse O’Leary’s blogs: Post-Darwinist, Mindful Hack and Colliding Universes.

UPDATE 1: Here is an essay I saw on Truthbomb about the need for apologetics, by Norman Geisler.

UPDATE 2: Welcome visitors from the Anchoress! Thanks for the link. Forgive me if this post was a bit mean, but consider it a cry for reconciliation between men and women in the church. I recommend that everyone make the Anchoress a daily read, as she integrates her faith very well with the issues of the day!

UPDATE 3: I noticed this post linked over on the Anchoress. It talks about what men like and don’t like in the church. But keep in mind that this is a poll of men ALREADY in the church, so these ones are more accepting of the feminization of church already. The men outside the church would be less likely to put up with the feminization of church.

Just one quote:

Sixty per cent said they did not like flowers and embroidered banners in church, while 52 per cent did not like dancing in church…Nearly three quarters, or 72 per cent, said their favourite part of a service was the talk or sermon.

There’s a list of hymns that men do like, as well.

How redistribution of wealth kills the entrepreneurial spirit

There is a perception, especially on the left, but also on the “big government” right, that the federal government should be responsible for redressing every inequality that occurs in society. This is true whether the person brings misfortune on themselves or whether it is accidental. The problem with this wealth redistribution is revealed when you think about the incentives this introduces to the producers and the victims.

  1. Government does not transfer wisdom, skill or responsibility from producers to victims
  2. Government transfers money from producers to victims
  3. Being productive involves risk and hard work on the part of producers
  4. Receiving money involves ingratitude and rationalization on the part of victims
  5. If the government confiscates a large enough portion of the earnings of the producers, they stop producing
  6. Every dollar taken from producers is a dollar less they have for engaging in their productive plans, (e.g. –  running a business or raising a family in a responsible way)
  7. The more money is that transferred to victims, the more the frequency of bad behavior increases – because being a victim is easier
  8. If you subsidize being a victim, you get more of it
  9. If you tax production, you get less of it

“Going Galt” is named after the character John Galt in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugs. Galt is an industrialist who withdraws from the economy when faced by punitive tax rates and burdensome regulations. Going Galt refers to slowing down or ceasing production, because the risks and effort involved in producing are not worth the portion of the earnings that producers keep after taxes are redistributed to the victims.

The idea was first brought up afresh by Dr. Helen Reynolds in October 2008 on her blog Ask Dr. Helen. A more recent discussion of the phenomenon is here at the Washington Independent web site.

Excerpt:

“Just this weekend,” said Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) on Wednesday in an interview with TWI, “I had a guy come up to me in my district and tell me that he was losing his interest in the business he’d run for years because the president wanted to punish him for his success. I think people are reading ‘Atlas Shrugged’ again because they’re trying to understand what happens to people of accomplishment, and people of talent and energy, when a government turns against them. That’s what appears to be happening right now.”

The plot of Rand’s novel is simple, despite its length — 1,088 pages in the current paperback edition. The United States is governed by bureaucrats, “looters” and “moochers,” who penalize and demonize creative people. The country is in decline because creative people are disappearing — they have followed the innovative John Galt to a mountain enclave, “Galt’s Gulch,” where they watch society crumble. Creativity has gone on strike (the working title of the novel was “The Strike”), and the engine of capitalism cannot run without it.

For Campbell, this is a powerful and relevant story. The congressman calls “Atlas Shrugged” an “instruction manual,” and inscribes the copies that he gives to interns. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, also gives copies of the novel as gifts and refers to it to make the case against President Obama’s policies. “It’s an audacious scheme,” said Ryan in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. “Set off a series of regulatory blunders and congressional meddling, blame the free market for the financial crisis that follows — then use this excuse to impose a more intrusive state. Sounds like something right out of an Ayn Rand novel.”

Michelle Malkin is posting a lot of messages on her blog from people who are suggesting other ways to Go Galt.

Excerpt from one of the producer’s letters:

It is now fashionable and politically expedient to extend blame for the current financial crisis on greedy businesses and predatory lenders. The reality is that individuals and poorly managed businesses were responsible for the bulk of the problems. Government also played a role – and it was both parties – that encouraged and supported unsound business practices. Now the Government “must” step in to “save” these poor people from losing their homes, and “save” these “too big to fail” financial institutions. What about those of us, and those businesses, that chose to act responsibly? Who chose to live within their means? Who chose sound financial decisions over high risk behavior?

Enough is Enough. Let them all fail. It is not too late. I don’t care about the homeowner that borrowed more than they could afford and now find themselves potentially without a home and bankrupt. I don’t care about the businesses that overlooked sound financial decisions in the name of short term profits. We all make choices in life and it is time to let those that made the bad choices live with their decisions and finally reward those that chose to act responsibly. It has come down to this – either we let those that made the bad decisions fail, or we end up sacrificing our nation, our national identity and our very way of life.

Related posts.

Obama’s first 50 days: worst president ever

Oh, there’s no doubt that he’s the worst president ever. Gateway Pundit has the re-cap, in point form.

Excerpt:

** He’s lost at least 3 administration nominees due to tax fraud.

** He’s promoted a tax cheat to run the IRS and Treasury.

** The Dow has dropped faster under Obama than any other new president in 90 years.

** Obama’s budget more than doubles the national debt held by the public, and adds more to the debt than all previous presidents — from George Washington to George W. Bush — combined.

** Obama managed to spend more than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

** Obama will quadruple the deficit this year.

** Cap & trade was introduced that will cost America 4 million jobs and cost Americans at least $700 per family per year.

That’s just about some of the spending and the socialism. Click here to see more about his energy policy, foreign policy, social policy, trade policy. We’re doomed. We’ve elected an unqualified socialist who does not understand anything about how the world works, on any level.

Also, Gateway Pundit reports here that Obama wants to sign a trade deal with communist Cuba after rejecting a trade deal with our capitalist, pro-American ally Colombia recently. Meanwhile, Canada has a free trade deal signed with Colombia already.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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