Arguing for Jesus

A Facebook conversation (if one can call it that) in which I recently became embroiled reminds me of how I used to approach discussions with those who disagreed with me. It was OK to lump my opponents with the worst behavior among those who agreed with them, but any attempt to reverse that logic was dismissed. And it was no problem to deny that I had earlier said certain things, if it later became clear that they were problematic or indefensible.

I was arguing for Jesus, and so of course winning mattered, right?

Now, however, I think that Jesus would care more about how those who claim to be his followers behave in their discussions with others, than about whether or not they seem to win the argument.

Why are so many Christians today happy to have the mere appearance of victory, especially when engaging in immoral or immature debating tactics means that you have been defeated in your attempt to follow Jesus, something which ought to matter more than being defeated in an argument. It should matter more even than being right, never mind merely appearing to be right.


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  • Mark Erickson

    So does that mean you will apologize to Neil Godfrey and/or other mythicists?

    • Yes, Mark. If you can point out somewhere that I did anything other than point out that mythicism makes not merely false but ridiculously and evidently false claims, and stooped to the level of Neil Godfrey and others like him in slinging about insults and misleading statements, I will gladly apologize, even as I have apologized in the past for doing so when I have caught myself getting dragged into the level of inanity at which mythicism operates.

      • beallen0417

        Ridiculously and evidently false claims like that average citizens in the Roman Imperial period couldn’t make inscriptions?

      • Mark Erickson

        I was mainly thinking of “it was no problem to deny that I had earlier said certain things, if it
        later became clear that they were problematic or indefensible.” I could go back and find the particular instances if you like. It isn’t a matter of if, but when.

        • If you are certain that there is a case where what I pretended I did not write what I originally wrote, and not one of the many cases where Neil Godfrey did to my words what some critics of Obama have lately done to his, then please do ooint it out to me, and I will be not only happy but eager to apologize!

  • Yeah, I had seen that in your discussions in the past and always wondered about that. What turned you about? Certainly you had thought “What would Jesus do?” in the past — why the change now?

    I too have changed in my blogging debating style a bit — I am not sure why. I like the change. I didn’t need the “Would Jesus be proud of me?” motivation, but I am not sure what happened. Maybe the same happened to both of us: either Jesus touched us both or something else really motivates our change.

    • I suppose I wonder whether you are envisaging a radical change between very recently and the future going forward. I am certainly not intending to stop expressing what I think and stand by the sidelines. I may, however, if I want to be true to my principles, not do something that I’ve found it useful to do from time to time, i.e. turn conservative Christian rhetoric back on its source, not because I like using it, but because “Your stance is not Christian, and here’s why” is likely to get them to sit up and pay attention (as I would have when I was in that frame of mind), whereas “This viewpoint deserves to be considered Christian as well” just doesn’t wash with them. But hopefully I can manage to do that without sacrificing respect and genuine concern.

      I think the key is to never forget that we are dealing with other human beings. They may be wrong, but we ourselves are also bound to be at least some of the time. Whenever I hear someone say, or see them take an approach that indicates that they think, that “creationists/mythicists/whatever will never change their mind, no matter how much you reason with them, I am always dismayed. I changed my mind about many things, and will presumably continue to do so. Others can too. To stop believing that means to stop really believing that the other person is a human being like you. And that makes all the difference.

      So perhaps it ends up being an empathy/Golden Rule sort of thing?

      • I agree:
        (a) Realizing our own past adamant opinions have changed means:
        (i) be patient, our present opponents’ opinions may change slowly too
        (ii) be patient, maybe our present opinions will again change in the future.

        (b) The Silver Rule (much better than the Golden) is Important:
        “Don’t do unto others what you’d not want them to do unto you.

  • Plutosdad

    When I deconverted from Christianity to atheism , this is what made me angrier than anything else.

    I grew up Catholic, then at 19 converted to an Evangelical for about 15 years. I spent all those years reading much apologetics, history, archaeology etc from a Christian perspective, and then I finally decided that, to be truly honest with myself, I had to read the “other side”. Well lo and behold, many apologetics authors I was relying on were full of either poor arguments that were refuted decades (even a century) ago, yet still printed in books as though they were new, or misrepresentations of arguments against them, or just blatant lies. To spend all those years of study only to find out I was being lied to over and over, made me angrier than anything.

    I don’t understand, why lie to try to convert people to your side? This happens in politics, law, everything, but in matters of eternal life and death, you’d think the truth is more important. Maybe they think if someone gets saved then, even if they get saved based on lies, it’s OK. But what happens when people find out they’ve been lied to? How many anti-theists have their lies created? (maybe not many, since only my pastor supported my reading all that apologetics and history, I didn’t know anyone else interested and most people told me to stop studying actually).

    It’s not ALL lies of course. And above I use the word “lie” rather loosely, to denote any form of dishonesty when arguing, such as putting forth an argument you know has already been refuted by many scholars, yet acting like that refutation never happened and not even mentioning it. I believe that is dishonest.

    (Note that anger was NOT the reason for my disbelief, the anger came later.)

    • chrisvanallsburg

      Hi Christopher,
      I read a lot of apologetics, too, and I try to read the other side as well. May I ask you, what authors you read that you found to be re-hashing worn-out arguments?