Last night, I had a friend up with me and my roommate and he told me about a debate he’d heard about that was going to be online on the resurrection. We thought we’d tune in as we knew one of the debaters. Friends. I hate to say it, but I really was disappointed. My friend and roommate would be able to tell you about my steaming over here.
So I figured I’d give some advice as one who has done debates before.
First off, protocol. If you are going to be there at a certain time, make absolutely certain you are there at that time. Now I understand things can happen. If some crisis comes up, get in touch with the opponent or the moderator of the debate and let them clearly know what has happened and say “I’ll be late” or say “Can we reschedule?”
Moderators are an important point. Absolutely never do a public debate without moderators. I could not tell what was going on half of the time when I was listening to this. Neither side was really listening to the other and the non-Christian side was using strong profanity.
That gets us to listening. Do it. In the debate, the Christian wanted to stick with Habermas’s minimal facts approach. I agree with the approach, but I do not think it was good for this person as their presuppositions would not allow that to be seen as valid. The opponent told the Christian that the Christian wasn’t listening. On this, the opponent was right.
Friends. It must be realized there is no one approach that will work on every atheist, non-Christian, pagan, etc. If the minimal facts did it, well I’d say buy a plane and fly over every city broadcasting them out of huge speakers. You could convert New York City overnight. Unfortunately, it’s not like that.
I told the Christian this later on. Don’t get me wrong on this. I think this guy has a good heart and he does have enough knowledge I think to deal with a number of skeptics. This was one though I don’t think he was adequately prepared for. I had to say that while I disagreed with the other side, I think they presented their case better.
Make sure that you also word things right. The Christian used the term “Minimal facts” in the debate. I believe in Habermas’s minimal facts. They’re a great tool. I’ve used them. I just would not say “Minimal facts.” Why? Because if your opponent is familiar with the work, he’d just be saying “We have a Habermas parrot here.” If he’s read Habermas and wasn’t convinced, why should he be when you parrot it back?
If you’re using them also, go through them one at a time. Don’t assume your opponent will accept everything. You must start where they are. If they are a Christ-myther for instance, you need to start from there. Demonstrate that Christ existed. It is one step at a time to get someone to come to the cross.
Also, if you are going to do a debate, commit yourself to it. Make sure there is nothing else going on that will interrupt you. Both debaters made this mistake. We as Christians can’t afford to do anything to make our side look less than prepared in a debate. Now we won’t know everything, but we should be sure we know enough.
Friends. These aren’t just debates to be won. There are onlookers each time. You never know how eternity might be different because of what you said in a public area. Be prepared.