Tag Archives: Debating

Sarah Geis provides pointers for constructive debate and disagreement

From Sarah’s Think on These Things blog, a post about how to NOT argue contructively. If you don’t do any of the bad things on her list, you’ll be an excellent person to debate with. Consider this post your Saturday fun!


1. Foster the conviction that all with whom you disagree are personally attacking you.
Even if the individual doesn’t know you, your ideas are your identity. Never mind the fact that this introduces all sorts of strange problems for understanding personal identity. That stuff is not important. What is important is that your very person, and all you hold dear, are being assaulted.

2. Don’t accept the author or speaker’s own definitions of his terms.
For instance, if someone is using the term “idealist” to mean a person who has lofty goals, you could show off your philosophical prowess and point out that he has gotten philosophical idealism (something else entirely) all wrong. It would also be fun to attack a Lutheran who believes in Christian orthodoxy  (small “o”) for being a closet Orthodox Christian!

3. Embrace category confusion.
Here is a time-tested example: If the argument is about economics, you may wish to respond by claiming that the author is just racist. You get bonus points here, as this tactic also functions as an ad hominem and as a red herring fallacy (look them up if you are curious).

4. Ignore all qualifiers.
This most often takes the form of responding with a counterexample to an admitted generalization. Example: Your interlocutor is evaluating the drawbacks to social media, and then says “interactions on social media tend to encourage more rudeness than would be likely in person.” You can fire back a response like this: “I’m always nice on Facebook! See? You’re wrong.” Or, “Uncle Joe uses Facebook to encourage invalids connecting to the world via laptop,” etc. You don’t want your counterexample to actually work. So, avoid using the skill in situations where the author has clearly made a universal statement such as, “There are no black swans.” Then, those who are still slaves to logic could refute the universal statement by saying– truthfully– that “Uncle Joe has a black swan.”

These are the things that happen to me daily in dealing with commenters like Sarah stone on this blog. If only Sarah had read this nice list!

I think #2 is the funniest.

The list contains 17 items. If you know someone who would benefit from it, please forward it along!

Frank Turek interviews William Lane Craig about Christian apologetics and debate

This interview is getting good reviews on Facebook. I would say it is a must-see, because it will change your view of what we should be emphasizing as Christians. Please watch the lecture and then mail this post to all of your friends – we need to be challenged by this man William Lane Craig.

(H/T BirdieUpon)

This interview occured after William Lane Craig’s debate tour of the UK, and they talk a lot about it. I think the lesson for us is that apologetics is the best evangelistic tool that Christians have, and people really do show up by the thousands to see these debates. Maybe we should do more of them? And maybe we should be encouraging young people to follow Craig’s path and become solid philosophers and debaters? And are we going to take seriously the duty to sponsor events like this? We have to ask ourselves these tough questions, and be practical and effective about defending God’s honor when it’s called into question. Having a relationship with God is not just about us getting what we want. There are things that we need to be doing to hold up our end of the relationship. Hard things. Self-sacrificial things. Things that we may not like at all. Things that work.

In Intellectual Neutral

Here’s an article that I think might be appropriate for this interview.


You may see, perhaps for the first time in your life, that here is a need in your life and as a result resolve to become intellectually engaged as a Christian. This is a momentous decision. It is a step that is desperately needed in the lives of millions of American Christians today. No one has issued the challenge to become intellectually engaged more forcefully than did Charles Malik, in his inaugural address at the dedication of the Billy Graham Center on this campus. He emphasized that we as Christians face two tasks in our evangelism: saving the soul and saving the mind, that is to say, not only converting people spiritually, but converting them intellectually as well. And the Church, he said, is lagging dangerously behind with regard to this second task. Listen to what he says:

I must be frank with you: the greatest danger confronting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind in its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough. But intellectual nurture cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and the spirit. People who are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the gospel have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking. The result is that the arena of creative thinking is vacated and abdicated to the enemy. Who among evangelicals can stand up to the great secular scholars on their own terms of scholarship? Who among evangelical scholars is quoted as a normative source by the greatest secular authorities on history or philosophy or psychology or sociology or politics? Does the evangelical mode of thinking have the slightest chance of becoming the dominant mode in the great universities of Europe and America that stamp our entire civilization with their spirit and ideas? For the sake of greater effectiveness in witnessing to Jesus Christ, as well as for their own sakes, evangelicals cannot afford to keep on living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence.

These words hit like a hammer. Evangelicals really have been living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence. The average Christian doesn’t realize that there is an intellectual war going on in the universities and the professional journals and the scholarly societies. Christianity is being attacked from all sides as irrational or bigoted, and millions of students, our future generation of leaders, have absorbed this viewpoint.

This is a war which we cannot afford to lose. As J. Gresham Machen warned in his article, “Christianity and Culture” in the Princeton Theological Review of 1913, on the even of the Fundamentalist Controversy, if we lose this intellectual war, then our evangelism will be immeasurably more difficult in the next generation. He wrote,

False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation to be controlled by ideas which prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.

You can get the video and audio from a later version of this talk from Apologetics 315. I was present in the Wheaton College chapel when he gave the talk I excerpted above. It was moving.

We need a three part approach. We need to be intellectually engaged ourselves. We need to be intentional about marrying well and raising up young people who are intellectually engaged. And we need to study hard subjects so we can be good earners, and support the right kinds of operations. We can’t just do whatever makes us feel good, willy-nilly, and then hope that things will work out – we have to work at this.

Are universities teaching students how to think critically?

Unionized teachers view the public school system as a way to indoctrinate children in anti-Americanism, socialism, moral relativism, pacifism, postmodernism, feminism, promiscuity and a host of other doctrines of the secular left. Professors collect the money taken from working parents through compulsory taxation, and then refuse to do what is best for the children’s future careers. Instead of educating children to be logical, open-minded critical thinkers, public schools indoctrinate children with the views of the secular leftist teachers.

And you can see the results of this left-wing indoctrination process in the videos below. (H/T Tina)

Affirmative Action

Redistribution of Wealth

Keynesian deficit spending

Free speech and fair debate

The only good thing about this sad turn of events is that the high unemployment rate for youth will help them to learn the way the world really is quite rapidly, after their exit from the Never-Never-Land of public school. A new study shows that only 25% of teens will be able to find jobs this summer. Imagine their surprise when everything enacted by the Obama administration, which they overwhelmingly supported, is shown to have failed to create economic growth. Who knew? They will learn that capitalism and corporations are good, and that lower taxes and less regulation are essential to job creation.

Eventually, young people will eventually realize that they have been played for suckers by the secular leftist academics. They will start to think critically about the Jon Stewart show, the Stephen Colbert show, the Rachel Maddow show, and the Ed Schulz show. They will realize that hatred and mockery are not arguments. They will learn that businessmen and economists know more about business and economics than comedians and opinion journalists. They will have to start from the bottom and unlearn everything they learned in the public schools. Unfortunately for them, that should be about the time that the austerity measures kick in to pay for the multi-trillion dollar national debt that the Obama administration ran up, thanks to their votes.

But these growing pains are only going to get worse as liberal government programs break up traditional families more and more. But again, it will be self-inflicted misery since the young people are big supporters of marriage-killing feminist, socialist and gay-rights policies. Fewer and fewer of them will grow up in traditional homes, with mothers and fathers who stick around to raise them. Won’t they be surprised to find out how much the traditional marriages they rejected as “sexist” and “intolerant” matter so much to their success. But by then it will be too late, and their meager salaries, should they be lucky enough to find a job that hasn’t been outsourced to a capitalist nation, will be automatically taxed to pay for the subsidized pensions of their wordsmithing professors. Naturally, those very entitlement programs will be bankrupt by the time they are ready to retire – too bad they opposed the privatization of those programs when they had the chance to vote to save their own futures.

What Christians need to do to fix the church

I was recently notified about a speaking event that Greg Koukl is doing in Calgary (Canada), in October 2009.

Take a look at this web site set up by the organizers.

Here are the organizers:

We are a group of Evangelical Christians from a variety of different churches (we include Pentecostals, Baptists and Reformers; Greg Koukl is Reformed), who have been studying how to defend our faith. To put it another way, we’ve been learning Christian apologetics.

The need for apologetics seems greater now more than ever. From Oprah to the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, the Christian faith is mischaracterized and attacked. And too many times we see Christians either being unable to defend their faith or worse, embracing false ideas about the faith.

But rather than learning to answer these claims against Christianity, too few Christians seem to take their faith seriously. Many see faith as mere belief, something that may or may not be true. It is a preference not a worldview that makes sense. In doing so, many are rejecting the Christian faith for what they think it is, not for what it really is.

Furthermore, through trial and error, we’ve realized apologetics has a bad connotation, not just for nonbelievers but for believers too. Many see it as just merely head knowledge with no heart or worse, creating argument for argument’s sake.

We’re organizing these events to help introduce the Christian community in Calgary to some of the most cutting-edge Christian ideas. This kind of apologetics is geared towards helping Christians become good ambassadors for God’s Kingdom by helping them understand what the Christian worldview is and then by equipping them to clearly share that worldview with others.

Too many people are rejecting the Christian faith for what they think it is and that is a sign of failure on our part as the church. We believe strongly that it is our Christian mandate to make the gospel as clear as possible just as Paul wrote:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (3), for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. (4) We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ… (5)
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

And this is the purpose of the event:

I have to be honest with you. Though I’ve lived by the foot of the Rocky Mountains now for a few years, I’ve never been rock climbing. I’ve often thought about going, but then that old cliché comes to mind: It’s not the heights that kill you, it’s the landings!

I guess that shows the kind of faith I have in my skills as a climber and the equipment climbers use.

Of course any seasoned climber always assures people like me, how reliable their equipment is. They constantly test it, in all kinds of conditions because their lives hinge on the equipment’s reliability. They wouldn’t put their faith in that equipment unless it was trustworthy.

That’s the kind of faith Jesus talks about in the Bible. He wants us to put our trust in Him because He says our lives depend on Him.

Unfortunately, the word faith has lost much of its meaning today, particularly when it comes to religion.

People juxtapose it with reason or fact, implying that faith is somehow irrational.

People use it interchangeably with words like wishing, saying that if you simply believe hard enough, whatever you wish for, will be true for you.

And it seems there’s a growing gap between how society views what faith is, and what Jesus meant as faith.

That’s why I’m part of a group of Evangelical Christians (that include Pentecostals, Reformers, Baptists and others) who’ve informally joined together to organize a series of presentations here in Calgary under the theme, Faith Beyond Belief.

The series is meant to challenge our thinking about the Christian faith and to equip Christians to be able to explain their faith more clearly to others. The talks are not a set of lectures on the newest evangelism techniques. Neither are they going to cover new projects that Christians can do to prove to our neighbours how much we love them.

Rather, these presentations cover something more basic; they are about understanding the Christian worldview. Because no matter how important evangelism techniques and love projects are for Christians – and they are important – these need to be grounded in the right understanding of what the Christian faith is all about. Without proper Christian knowledge, we cannot do Christian work properly.

Our speaker, Greg Koukl represents a group called Stand to Reason, whose mandate is to equip Christians to understand what they believe and then to winsomely but effectively challenge society’s bad thinking about the Christian faith.

Our hope is that you attend one of these presentations and are challenged to think about what the Christian faith is all about and what it says about the world we live in.

We may never face the challenge of climbing a mountain and so we may never need to put faith in climbing equipment. But we all face the challenges of living life here on earth and that means we all need to choose what equipment we put our faith in, to face that challenge. We hope through these talks, you’ll learn what it means to have a faith beyond belief.

They are accepting donations is here.

The schedule is here.

Their official blog is here.

My thoughts

There are two things I like about this event:

  1. There is a debate, which is very good for male Christians who appreciate competition and conflict
  2. That Greg Koukl will be speaking in the main morning service, from the pulpit, about truth and apologetics

This is the best way for us to fix the church. All my Canadian and American readers, if you are looking to fund a quality event, this is a quality event that could use your support. Actually, reading over their web site just gives me the shivers. This is what we need to do. Notice that they are not focused on safe, in-house issues like Calvinism/Catholicism, the age of the earth, etc. They are talking about whether truth exists, whether God exists, whether the resurrection really happened, whether morality is real, and how to answer philosophical objections to Christian theism.

Now, I want to hear what my readers think about this. Have you guys ever done something like this in your churches? Ask your pastors and priests about this event and see what the response is. Ask them whether this is something your church might be interested in doing, too. Then let me know what they say!