Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! We will return to our look at the relationship of science and religion, but I do have other matters to attend to and tonight, I’d like to look at a theme I see going on in debates. This is the idea that we do not spend time looking at the data. Instead, we look at everything but the data. For me, in a debate, I want the data. As Joe Friday would say “Just the facts!”
An example of this is a debate I am engaging in now on the topic of homosexual “marriage.” I am seeing the usual reply of being called a bigot. This in spite of the fact that I have no problem with homosexuals as people and I have had friends who are homosexuals and I am ardently against movements like that of Fred Phelps. I am a bigot because I am against homosexual marriage.
However, my wonder at that is that it is automatically assumed there are no good metaphysical reasons for my stance. Even supposing I have bad metaphysical reasons, I do have reasons other than “I hate homosexuals.” If I have some reason or reasons why I believe the traditional view should be upheld, then it does no good to say I am a bigot.
Furthermore, what does that do to people like David Benkof who runs the blog “Gays Defend Marriage.” Benkof is an open homosexual who believes marriage should be reserved for a man and for a woman and that the homosexual community should work on more important battles. Is he, an open homosexual, a bigot?
Our arguments could be exactly the same. When he gives them, the argument must be answered. When I give them, it can be dismissed because I’m a bigot.
In fact, let’s suppose that it was true that I was a bigot. Let’s suppose that I had a flaming hatred of homosexuals. What does that mean? Am I wrong? Are the arguments true if Benkof says them but false if I do? All it would prove is that I’m a jerk. It would not prove I am wrong.
For instance, consider an atheist like Christopher Hitchens who wrote “god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” This is a guy who it has been said could have his arguments summed up in this way; “There is no God and I hate Him.” I believe Hitchens and other new atheists despise religion. What am I to conclude? “These people hate religion, therefore God exists.”
That would be silly. I can look at their motives all I want, but in the end, I simply have to look at the data. What is the argument? What are its premises? What is its conclusion? What does it wish to prove? How strong are the reasons for believing in the argument?
Atheists can often make the mistake of discounting Christian apologists, philosophers, or NT scholars because they are Christians. It is an interesting technique to say “I’m going to only listen to evidence that comes from people that share the same viewpoint as I do.” It won’t be a shock if you don’t grow in your viewpoint then. Learning how your opponent thinks will help you with your own position and if your opponent is right, you are at least likely to find that out by honestly accessing his worldview.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t times that motive isn’t important. The problem is that we jump to motive first as if that’s a reason we don’t have to listen to the argument. It’s a whole lot easier to debate an attitude than it is to debate a position. If we’re going to see an argument stand or fall, it stands or falls on the data.
The Christian should remember to test everything and hold fast to that which is true. When you get in an argument, remember what is most important, the data.