Debate

From the Archives: Argue Like a Saint

First appeared at SharperIron on June 25, 2008.

Verbal communication is one of God’s favorite inventions. He created speaking beings in His image and then spoke to them. Over the millennia, He gave visions to prophets and commanded them to speak or write what they had seen. And He inspired select prophets to write His words as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. He gave us a book.

So whenever we use words, we’re doing something of personal importance to God. And since we believers are at peace with God through Christ and represent God to a world that does not know Him, our writing and speaking carry that much more importance.

We should not be surprised, then, that Scripture has so much to say about how we use words. And we should attend energetically to how that instruction applies to posting in Internet forums. Read more about From the Archives: Argue Like a Saint

How to Debate Vaccines* and Still Come Out a Christian

“Baby’s First Shot” Richard Sargent, The Saturday Evening Post, March 3, 1962

(*or organic food, essential oils, education, health care, immigration, soteriology, eschatology…)

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that there have been several outbreaks of measles across the United States recently. Not surprisingly, this has led to vigorous (if not often, one-dimensional) debate about the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccinations. And all I have to say to CNN, FOX, NPR, and every other news outlet that is now covering this story: Y’all are late to the party. We mamas have been debating this for years.

I remember the first time I realized that the questions surrounding vaccines were more than theoretical. I was visiting a friend when she opened her freezer to get some ice. There, sitting next to a chub of frozen hamburger, was a tray of lab vials. When I asked about them, she casually replied, “Oh, those are my kids’ vaccines. I ordered them from XYZ instead of the standard ones. My doctor said he would administer them if I bought them and stored them myself.” Read more about How to Debate Vaccines* and Still Come Out a Christian

Strive Not About Words

Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. (KJV, 2 Timothy 2:14)

I’ve often heard this text used to discourage detailed debate about the meaning of Scripture passages, or even to devalue highly precise Bible study. Is this what Paul’s warning to Timothy here is about?

First, observe that whatever “striving about words” is, Paul clearly saw it as something that threatened Timothy’s ministry. Timothy is to “charge them before the Lord” not to do this. Second, the activity is doubly discouraged as lacking in value (“no profit”) and also as causing damage of some kind to hearers (“subverting”). Third, the activity apparently involved individuals in at least two roles: the “strivers” and the “hearers.”

So what activity is being forbidden here? What is meant by “strive not about words”? Read more about Strive Not About Words

You're Ugly and Your Mama Dresses You Funny

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The term ad hominem is much misunderstood these days. In popular usage, it’s a personal attack leveled against someone you disagree with. Many never use the term without appending the word attack. “It’s nothing but an ad hominem attack,” they complain, as though an ad hominem is a nasty species of attack that automatically disproves every claim the user ever made. (And is it just me or does just about everybody employ “ad homnem attacks” even though they insist nobody else should?)

My aim here is to clarify a few things about the much misunderstood ad hominem.

It’s an argument.

First, the ad hominem is an argument, a bit of reasoning employed to support or counter a claim. Specifically, ad hominem looks to some trait an individual possesses (usually a flaw) to show that a claim is false (or, less commonly, that a claim is true). Ad hominem means “to the man,” and as a form of argument it is not inherently invalid or improper—or even impolite. Read more about You're Ugly and Your Mama Dresses You Funny