Toward Arguing Better, Part 1

Fundamentalism—and conservative Christianity in general—needs more people who argue well. It does not need more people who quarrel well!

Scripture opposes quarreling, along with the behaviors the KJV renders as “strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings” and “tumults” (2 Cor. 12:20). But arguing is something else. Scripture calls us to argue and to do it well. Every Christian is obligated to develop and exercise the skill of thinking and communicating clearly with the goal of persuasion.

With that as a working definition of argue, let’s consider a few basics for arguing better.

Argue for the right reasons.

Why do people argue? Unflattering reasons come quickly to mind. As sinners, we often argue to gain the esteem of others, to defeat someone we don’t like, or to try to win an imagined (or real) competition for loyal supporters. Sometimes people argue because they have a contrarian disposition and enjoy the challenge and repartee. (For these, the question is not “Why argue?” but “Why not argue?”)

But for Christians, the proper goal of argument is to establish the truth or rightness of ideas or actions.

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Seven Reasons to Write for the SharperIron Writing Contest

1. You have opinions. There’s got to be something a lot of people are mixed up about. You could set them straight.

“Devise, wit; write, pen; for I am for whole volumes in folio.” (William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost. Act i. Sc. 2.)

2. Tradition. You have a chance to participate in the grand, ancient tradition of rhetoric: persuasive verbal communication.

“An essayist is a lucky person who has found a way to discourse without being interrupted.” (Charles Poore)

“To hold a pen is to be at war.” (Voltaire)

3. It’s good for your brain (and better yet—your mind). Writing forces you to think more clearly than you would otherwise have to. You have to look at how ideas relate to one another and to your overall message. Though writing doesn’t always cure muddled thinking, it always leads to less-muddled thinking.

“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” (Francis Bacon)

“What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out the window.” (Burton Rascoe)

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” (E. M. Forster)

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Announcing: 2011 SharperIron Writing Contest

It’s that time again! SharperIron is inviting anyone with writing talent to submit an article for our 3rd annual Writing Contest. This year, we’ll be selecting up to four winning articles and awarding each a spot on the front page as well as $75 (but you could win a good bit more! See below.) If you submit more than one article, you might even win more than once.

Below, you’ll find the usual details, but first, note that a few things are different this year.

  • Registered users can click the “like this” link on contest articles to give them votes. The “likes” count will be a factor (not the only factor) in choosing the winning submissions.
  • All contest submissions this year will be tagged “2011 Contest,” so you’ll be able to view all the contest entries in one place by clicking here.
  • To encourage writers to submit, we’re simultaneously running a “Chip-In” campaign. Donations to the campaign will be divided up among the winners, in addition to the $75 prize. A percentage may be divided among the non-winners as a consolation prize.

The deadline for turning in an article for the contest is midnight, July 15.

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Random Thoughts on the Year Ahead

Please consider this post as being intentionally below our usual front page standards. “Intentionally,” because we’re coming off of a holiday and I haven’t completely taken my heels off my desk yet.

What I aim to do here is share some pretty much random thoughts on the year past and the one head from a SharperIron point of view.

The year past

Over all, twenty-ten was not a bad year for SI. Site traffic was down about 3% compared to the year before, but from October 1 on, was higher than the year before by a significant and increasing margin. November increased over October and December increased over November. It’s hard to tell yet whether that represents a trend. But I’m encouraged by the fact that we began 2010 with traffic levels below those of 2009 and finished the year well above them.

Of course, site traffic is kind of like church attendance. It’s just the easiest factor to look at to gauge how you’re doing—not necessarily the most meaningful one.

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And the Winner Is . . .

The long awaited 2010 Writing Contest restuls are in. There were numerous strong entries this year and we wish we could give awards for many more of them. Many thanks to all of you who contributed articles!

Per the announcement earlier this year, we narrowed the winners to three. Two of the three have already been published. The third is scheduled to post tomorrow.

Each winner will receive $125. If you have suggestions for next year’s contest, we’d be happy to hear them.

The winning articles

Why Christians Sin by Robert Byers

Toward a Theology of Facebook by Hannah Anderson

Let the Minutiae Speak by Bob Hayton (posts tomorrow).


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About Those Contest Winners

Our 2010 Writing Contest ended over a month ago. So some of you are probably wondering, when will the winners be announced? Well, this is not that announcement! 

But it’s coming soon. Several excellent articles were submitted this year, and we’ve already posted a few of them. Our panel of volunteer judges is slowly narrowing the choices down to three winners. We should have the decision nailed down in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, our thanks to all of you who contributed pieces for the contest this year.

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