Apologetics 1 Lesson 4 The Art of Argumentation, Developing Your Approach


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Lesson 4 of a multipart series. The goal is to argue without being argumentative. Why good arguments often fail. How emotion plays a role in a discussion. Active Listening. Psychological Barriers. Antagonists. Certainty and the burden of proof.

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Apologetics 1 Lesson 4 The Art of Argumentation, Developing Your Approach

  1. 1. Third Column Ministries www.slideshare.net/ThirdColumnMinistries www.facebook.com/LearnApologetics | Twitter: @LApologetics www.ThirdColumnMinistries.org This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License..
  2. 2. The Art of Argumentation • The goal is to argue without being argumentative • Gentleness and Respect
  3. 3. A good argument is one which is 1) logically sound, free from logical fallacies, 2) emotionally compelling and 3) has a great probability of being correct then other contending views, the best of all possibilities. “A good argument starts from true premises and/or facts, makes no logical mistakes (fallacies), marshals a great body of evidence, answers objections, clarifies the issues and draws valid (therefore true) conclusions.” - James Sire, Why Good Arguments Often Fail
  4. 4. Arguments often fail • Arguments don’t always work – The audience controls the outcome of the argument – Emotionless (too little emotion) – Overly emotional (too much emotion) – Too complex or abstract – Limited intelligence – Psychological barriers – Lack of interest
  5. 5. “Acknowledging that rational conclusions are often based on judgments that go beyond the evidence will helps us respect the judgments of those who disagree with us without letting their judgments sway our own. It also rightly forces us to draw together as many evidences (or as many reasons) as we can for the position we are defending.” - James Sire, Why Good Arguments Often Fail
  6. 6. Argumentation Context 1. The total psyches of the two persons engaged in dialogue. 2. The relationship between the two persons. 3. The immediate situation in which they find themselves. 4. The larger social, cultural and historical situation surrounding them. From: Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics
  7. 7. Class Discussion • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our showing Christianity to be true?
  8. 8. Class Discussion • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our showing Christianity to be true? Our job is to faithfully given an answer. We should communicate the gospel clearly, graciously and persuasively. God will take what we have done and do His part. “Without the work of the Spirit, no argument – no matter how persuasive – will be effective.” – Greg Koukl, Tactics
  9. 9. Before you begin 1. Call in the heavy artillery: Pray! 2. You need to have some knowledge about what you believe and why you believe it. 3. You need tactics and methodology. Wisdom on how to use the knowledge you have. “Cleverness without truth is manipulation.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 199). 4. You need the character to engage in non-hostile confrontation. You want to be someone people want to talk to. 5. Practice is good. Failure is a learning experience. “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.” 6. It is a good idea to join a group of like-minded people of kindred spirit. 7. After action assessment. Ask yourself, what did you do well, what you did poorly, how can you improve? 8. Don’t retreat in the face of opposition. Remember the battle belongs to the Lord, which does not mean that we should not prepare. 9. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results.
  10. 10. “Interacting with others face-to-face is the most effective way to improve your abilities as an ambassador.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 93) “I think I have learned far more from failures than successes; I certainly remember them better.” (Sire 71)
  11. 11. Ready. An Ambassador is alert for chances to represent Christ and will not back away from a challenge or an opportunity. Patient. An Ambassador won’t quarrel, but will listen in order to understand, then with gentleness seek to respectfully engage those who disagree. Reasonable. An Ambassador has informed convictions (not just feelings), gives reasons, asks questions, aggressively seeks answers, and will not be stumped by the same challenge twice. Tactical. An Ambassador adapts to each unique person and situation, maneuvering with wisdom to challenge bad thinking, presenting the truth in an understandable and compelling way. Clear. An Ambassador is careful with language and will not rely on Christian lingo nor gain unfair advantage by resorting to empty rhetoric. Fair. An Ambassador is sympathetic and understanding towards others and will acknowledge the merits of contrary views. Honest. An Ambassador is careful with the facts and will not misrepresent another’s view, overstate his own case, or understate the demands of the Gospel. Humble. An Ambassador is provisional in his claims, knowing that his understanding of truth is fallible. He will not press a point beyond what his evidence allows. Attractive. An Ambassador will act with grace, kindness, and good manners. He will not dishonor Christ in his conduct. Dependent. An Ambassador knows that effectiveness requires joining his best efforts with God’s power. From Stand To Reason, www.str.org
  12. 12. Assess the Situation • Assess the situation and the person you are talking with. – Do they have emotional or intellectual doubts? – Are the receptive? – Do you have a relationship with the person and what implied or boundaries exist? • What are their beliefs or worldview? – You are going to have to ask questions to find out, don’t assume. – Remember the religion they belong to might not be exactly what they believe.
  13. 13. Emotions • What role do emotions play in apologetics? • Do they have emotional reasons or doubts? • Often people hold views based upon emotions and not reason. • People will often deny the existence of God because of deeply emotional issues. • You won’t know if they have emotional barriers until you ask.
  14. 14. Their Emotions • They cannot reconcile: – Loss of a loved one – Pain and suffering – Perceived inequality • Emotion barriers are difficult to remove. • Typically it takes awhile.
  15. 15. Your Emotions • If they get upset, you lose. • If you get upset, you lose. • Don’t get upset maintain a gentle and respectful approach. • Check your emotions at the door. • Be careful of the words you use. • According to Francis Schaeffer, love is the first and last apologetic.
  16. 16. Class Discussion • What feelings does the term "Cult" conjure in your mind? • When you see this word or hear it, what do you think? • How do you think it makes others feel when you use it about them? • Does this help or hinder apologetics or evangelism?
  17. 17. Active Listening • Ask— – If you ask enough most people will eventually return the favor. – It is also a great way to start a conversation. • Listen— – If people don’t think you are willing to listen to what they believe, what makes you think they'll be willing to listen to what you believe? • Repeat— – Repeat back what they have said in different words. – Start with, “Let me see if I understand your point, you believe….”
  18. 18. “Asking questions enables you to escape the charge, “You are twisting my words.” A question is a request for clarification specifically so that you don’t twist their words. When I ask a clarification question, my goal is to understand a person’s view (and its consequences), not to distort it.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 45) “Listen carefully to what they say, ask lots of questions, don’t jump in with irrelevant comments or statements that are not sensitive to what you are learning about them.” (Sire 91)
  19. 19. Define Terms • What do you mean by…? • When they say god and I say God do we mean the same thing? • Try to use precise language. • Avoid ambiguity. • Ask for their definition and give yours.
  20. 20. Burdon of Proof • Often people make statements (empty comments, devoid of meaning) that are opinion or they are simply repeating slogans or quips. • I call this parroting, because they can say the word but they don’t know what they mean or why it would be true. • Don’t simply accept a statement without supporting reason.
  21. 21. Starter Questions • How did you come to that conclusion? • Why do you say that? • What reasons do you have for that view? • I am curious, why do you find that view so compelling? “Critics rarely are prepared to defend their own ‘faith.’ They have seldom thought through what they believe and have relied more on generalizations and slogans than careful reflection.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 103)
  22. 22. Central Issues • First and foremost, we need to make sure we don't make non-essential issues to the gospel central in people's minds. • We shouldn't create stumbling blocks with people that keep them from Christ. • Don’t get sucked into debates about birthdays or holy underwear.
  23. 23. Avoid Scripts • Scripts are great for learning and are useful for practice. • However, don’t rely on them solely. • Using script to talk to people of different religions is extremely difficult. • You can’t memorize a response for every possible statement or rebuttal they may come up with. • You can easily get caught in a corner you can’t get out of.
  24. 24. Using Analogies • If you have a difficult concept to explain it is often better to use an analogy to make you point. • You can even use stories they already know to illustrate points.
  25. 25. “What’s an Analogy? An analogy is a comparison between two things that are similar; they are the same in some respect and different in some other respect(s). For example, Jesus said that faith is like a mustard seed: they are the same in that both can be small and yet can grow into something large; but they are different in that a mustard seed is an actual kernel that grows in dirt, but faith is not.” (Herrera)
  26. 26. Be Honest • Admit when you don’t know something. • Admit when you are wrong. • “There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake.” (Lewis 36)
  27. 27. Keep it Clean • Don’t rely solely on rhetoric. • Don't bear false witness. • Fight clean even if they fight dirty, be above reproach. • I find it help to remember that the other person is not the enemy. The enemy is the wrong ideology. • Respect the person even if you disagree with them.
  28. 28. “It is not the Christian life to wound, embarrass, or play on- upmanship with colleagues, friends or even opponents, but it’s a common vice that anyone can easily fall into.” (Hewitt 166) “Just make sure it’s your ideas that offend and not you, that your beliefs cause the dispute and not your behavior.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 31) “The temptation will be strong to use your tactical skill[s] like a club. Don’t give in to the urge.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 95) “Valid, well substantiated arguments presented with arrogance, aggression or an overly clever attitude are often no heard clearly enough to attract the attention they deserve.” (Sire 74)
  29. 29. Any Progress is Progress • Don’t worry about closing the deal. • You may be planting or you may be watering. “All I want to do is to put a stone in someone’s shoe. I want to give them something worth thinking about, something he can’t ignore because it continues to poke at him in a good way.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 38) “Be content to plant a seed that might later flourish under God’s sovereign care.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 41)
  30. 30. Be Firm • Don’t let them change definitions. • Call them on faulty reasoning. • If they have a set of rules make sure you hold them to their set of rules. – Don’t let them switch from relativistic morality to objective morality as needed. – If they hold to relativistic morality don’t let them borrow capital from objective morality.
  31. 31. Their statement: “It is wrong to tell people they are wrong.” Your response: “Then why are you telling me I am wrong?” Their statement: “Not letting people believe what they want is oppressive.” Your response: “Why are you oppressing me?”
  32. 32. Use Humor • Using humor can ease tension when people get heated in an argument. • Never use humor that belittles or berates people. “In takes an apologist with special gifts to pull off clever humor directed in a way toward a person asking a question in public. Apologists must preserver the dignity of the person asking the most silly or perverse of questions.” (Sire 75)
  33. 33. Remove Barriers • Sometimes all that stands between a believer and an unbeliever is a lack of information. • Find out what they are lacking and give it to them. “Sometimes simple lack of information stands in the way of effectiveness of a rational argument. Every argument assumes some facts that are not immediately evidence. Every witness has to start somewhere, and we Christians have a tendency to assume that people have information they simply do not have.” (Sire 84)
  34. 34. Psychological Barriers • “Some people who do not profess the Christian faith are especially resistant to some of its key ideas because of events in their lives that have personally scarred them. Rational arguments therefore miss the mark.” (Sire 89) • “What is needed is psychological healing, and that is more likely to come not through rational arguments but through experiencing genuine love from within a community of Christians… Love is not just the final apologetic, as Francis A. Schaeffer said, but the first as well.” (Sire 90) • “Hard, practical love is again both the first and final apologetic for someone with this background. For a while it may be the only apologetic.” (Sire 91)
  35. 35. Developing Friendships • “Sharing the gospel with such people means sharing much more than information; it means sharing one’s life.” (Sire 90)
  36. 36. Body Language • Body Language (non-verbal communication) is important to communications. • 60 to 70 percent of all meaning is derived from nonverbal behavior. • Why is body language important to apologetics?
  37. 37. Class Discussion • What role does emotion play in apologetics? • Why is it important to understand the emotions on the part of the each participant? • Do emotions play a part in why people believe what they believe? • If they have an emotional issue with God, generally you will need to address the emotions before they will listen to reason.
  38. 38. Gentleness and Respect • Respond with gentleness and respect. • Don’t let them get to you. “I try hard to be fair to those who disagree and to treat them kindly’ realizing that I will probably learn a great deal from them… my desire to convince Christians that the Christian faith is best promoted when Christian character of Christianity is demonstrated in the very rhetorical style of its presentation.” (Sire 76-78) “It really is better to “lose” an argument and gain a friend. You can have many more dialogues with a friend.” (Sire 79)
  39. 39. Resistance • Emotional reasons (Emotion can trump logic). – Can’t handle the implications. – Fear of rejection from friends and family. • Prejudice (People have their mind already made up). – Cultural influences (like in academics). • Open rebellion. – They don’t want it to be true and even if it logically is true they will reject it.
  40. 40. “Sometimes people have emotional reasons for resisting. Bad experiences with Christians or with churches or pressures from family or culture are enough to blind a person to our appeals.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 165) “They love truth when it enlightens them; they hate it when it accuses them.” Augustine “…the moment of truth may harden their heart… When a central truth in the gospel is made plain, when it is understood by the listener and yet rejected, the moment of truth threatens an eternal consequence.” (Sire 125)
  41. 41. Political Correctness • Used as a method to stop an argument from being heard. – A sign that the person has a weak argument is they claim others are not being politically correct. (Racist, bigoted, homophobe etc…) – The claim is an attempt to shut people up, to silence their voice in the debate. • The thing is calling someone a racist only work on them if they are not. – If you call a racist a racist they typically do not care. – Only those that are not racist will care if you call them a racist.
  42. 42. Intellectual Bullies • Academic or Intellectual bullies • Attempt to bully into silence. • Talk down to people. • They claim that you can’t speak on a topic unless you are an expert. • The Bible is almost always treated different then everything else.
  43. 43. Rhetoric • “Beware when rhetoric becomes a substitute for substance.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 23) • Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. • It can be used to manipulate, con, deceive, mislead, or coerce.
  44. 44. Distractions • Often people will change topics because they can’t refute your argument. • They can’t refute a claim so they attack something else. • Make sure you keep the topic on the claim and not on any distractors coming your way.
  45. 45. Tag Team • Multiple people making multiple claims. • It will keep you off base. • One may seem nice while the other mocks. – Good cop / Bad cop • Avoid or leave the situation.
  46. 46. Steamroller • People who keep interrupting you. • They are often only interested in winning not in finding truth. • They use the steam roller as a method of intimidation. “Don’t let a steamroller get under your skin. Being defensive and belligerent always looks weak. Instead, stay focused on the issues, not the attitude. Talk calmly and try to look confident.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 161)
  47. 47. Stop the Steamroller • Ask gently for courtesy, make sure you return the favor. • For the second request use a little shame and use their name in your reply. • Finally, just leave if they persist. – (Be mindful of an audience, you may not want to pull out if there is no way they care but there are observers who may be persuaded.) – [See Matt 7:6; 21:27 & John 19:9]
  48. 48. Belligerent • Only seeks to stir up controversy not really interested in the pursuit of truth. • They have a weak argument and the only way they can makes theirs look good is to make you look bad. “There are plenty of ripe fruit waiting to be harvested. Save your energy for more productive encounters.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 164)
  49. 49. Proof • Objections to evidence are often rejected based upon a sifting definition of proof. • Often there is an ever increasing burden of proof. – “For me to believe in God He would have to come down here and show me!” – He did. – “He would have to prove it.” – He rose from the dead. – “He let my loved one die.”
  50. 50. Absolute Certainty • Hyper skepticism is applying a higher standard than warranted or a double standard in applying standards. • We don’t use absolute certainty for anything in life. • “It is a sign of an uneducated person to require more evidence than that thing was capable of providing.” Aristotle
  51. 51. Mere Possibility • Anything is possible. • Just because you can come up with a possible alternative does not refute a claim. • Assume it is possible. – Is it more reasonable than the alternative? – Which one has the best explanatory power?
  52. 52. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Popularized by Carl Sagan but originated with Mercello Truzzi. (Montgomery 455) The problem with this quote is that evidence is not weighted by the importance of the event or even the frequency of an event. “The standard of proof depends, in all instances, on the quality of the evidence in behalf of the claimed event – that and nothing more; that and nothing less.” (Montgomery 456-457)
  53. 53. Proof • It is unwise to ask for absolute proof or to give credence to mere possibilities. • Instead we must determine if we are comfortable with evidence beyond reasonable doubt or simply the preponderance of evidence. • What is the best explanation given the available facts or information?
  54. 54. Just the Facts • Often you opponent will make fantastic or fallacious claims. • It is important to be informed and know your facts and precisely respond to their false statements. • Use precise numbers when you can because they are more persuasive.
  55. 55. Example “More people have died in the name of God and religion than anything else.” The facts are that more people have died at the hands of institutionalized atheism that any religion. “The greatest evil has not come from people zealous for God. It has resulted when people are convinced there is no God they must answer to.” (G. Koukl, Tactics 177) Ask yourself, “What is the claim?” Then ask, “Are the facts accurate?”
  56. 56. Dismissive • People will often dismiss your comments. • Always ask them why they dismiss them. • Often they will say it in a manner that seems to imply your dumb for not getting it. “Christian Claims to truth often imply moral obligation. As ordinary human beings, we do not want to be morally obligated, and so we reject ideas that obligate us.” (Sire 117)
  57. 57. Group Manipulation Tactics • A facilitator job is to lead a group to a predetermined outcome. • Use phony (empty rhetoric) consensus building strategies. • The group will think they came to the idea without coercion. • Objectors will be ostracized. – Sacrificial Cow
  58. 58. The Audience • If the person you are having a conversation with will not listen to reason you should disengage from debate. • However, you may not want to disengage it there is an audience. • Then you should move to persuade the audience of your view even if the person you are debating is a seemingly lost cause.
  59. 59. Class Discussion • Have you ever dealt with difficult people? • At what point do you simple give up? • Are you throwing pearls to swine?
  60. 60. Read and Discuss • Jesus and the Gods of the New Age, by Ross Clifford and Phillip Johnson, Appendix II - Vicky's Story (Question in the Case Study Exercise)