Most of us don’t like having them, yet our culture craves them. We often view them as negative and something to be avoided, yet we are willing to pay big money to see other people have them. Whether it is Jerry Springer, Duck Dynasty, Cross Fire or some other form of modern “entertainment,” the modern world is infatuated with arguments.
Properly executed with civility and logic, arguments can be extremely beneficial. They provide an opportunity for differing opinions and disparate data to be presented and considered on an even playing field. One of the best ways to learn something, is to argue with someone who holds a different opinion. Both parties can often learn a great deal. The problem we have today is not found in the arguments themselves, rather it is found in the way the arguments are conducted. There is far too much hitting below the belt and outright cheating.
Instead of arguing the merits of their opinion, too many people today resort to ad-hominem attacks and debate-busting false premises. An ad-hominem, – a.k.a. “The Yo Moma attack” – is a personal one. One side of the debate attempts to circumnavigate the merits of the opposing argument by diminishing and discrediting the other person. For example, instead of articulating why they disagree with the proposal, a debater may simply attack the opposing person or team. We see this kind of “mud-slinging” every election season.
False-premises are similar to Ad-hominem attacks in that they attempt to avoid an honest look at the merits of the arguments. In this approach, a debater structures, or frames, the argument in a way that makes the other side appear extreme or ignorant. If anyone disagrees, they must be uneducated or racist for example. Often this method is accomplished by setting up a “straw man”. The person making an argument may say something like, “My opponent believes x, y and z and this is why he is deadly wrong.” In reality, the opponent may believe nothing of the sort, but the debate has been framed and often the opponent is set on the defense trying to defend his views rather than address the real issues.
In Proverbs 18, King Solomon wrote, “The first person to speak in court sounds right – until the cross-examination begins.”
It is increasingly important that we as adherents of Christ do not get suckered by these and other underhanded arguments. We must not engage in or accept ad-hominem attacks as legitimate debate tools. We must rise above the politics of personal destruction and demand that our spiritual and cultural detractors address the issues in a clear and meaningful way. We must also not allow those that disagree with us to have sole discretion of the way topics are framed. It took years of being called “Anti-abortion” in the media and political arena before the term “Pro-life” became mainstream, but the debate was eventually reframed.
Today we are often called “phobes” or “haters” when nothing could be further from the truth. We must work hard to frame our arguments in a God-honoring way and we must not allow those that disagree with us to paint us or the issue at hand with a false brush that cloaks the truth of the issue from those watching.
Father grant us wisdom, skill and discernment to show Your light in a dark world and help us to never get caught up in tactics and techniques that might bring dishonor to Your Name. Bless our readers this week. In Jesus Name, Amen!