Do too many people argue without knowing what they’re talking about? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
If there’s something I see on Facebook debates and any debates online for that matter, it’s a lack of real research into what people are talking about. No. It’s not just atheists who do this. Christians do it as well.
Yesterday, I saw a debate going on about Genesis 1 and evolution. It’s easy for an atheist to assume that the only interpretation of Genesis 1 that every Christian must hold to is young-earth creationism. This is not to say that that view is right or wrong, but it is to say the debate is not as easy as that.
Not only that, whichever view an informed Christian holds on the topic of Genesis 1, normally they have a defense of the position that they hold so a basic stumper objection that someone thinks is so powerful just won’t work. It’s not so easy to say “Well if there were plants on day three, how does that work if the sun wasn’t there until day four?”
On the other hand, a Christian will automatically jump to critiquing evolution. Now I know that some Christians do disbelieve in evolution and some of those are Christians who have really studied science and are informed on the topic. I have no problem with those. They could be right for all I know.
Unfortunately, too many Christians want to throw out an objection they read and they have never studied the science at all. Hint. If you can’t figure out how to work a Punnett Square, you probably shouldn’t be debating evolution. If you do debate it, also make sure it is science vs science and not the Bible vs science. If evolution falls, it will because it will be shown to be bad science.
The problem with all of this is that these are all complex topics. Science is a deep field that people spend years studying and do a PhD on one facet of the scientific kingdom and normally specialize in that area. Being a scientist does not mean that you know everything about science or study it thoroughly.
The same with the Bible. It’s not really a book, but rather a collection of books. When Mike Licona and I have talked about gaming together, he has said he doesn’t want to play Bible trivia against me. Why? He’s a New Testament scholar? It’s because he knows he’s not well-versed on the Old Testament and I would likely do better in that area.
Even in New Testament studies, someone can be specialized. Even a great scholar like N.T. Wright is not trained in the Gospel of John. He has said the Gospel is like his wife Maggie. He loves her, but he does not claim to understand her. Some will specialize in the Pauline epistles. Some Revelation. To do a commentary of one book can take years of study.
Most people who are making memes on the internet to argue against positions have very rarely done any study of them. If you are someone who uses memes as arguments in themselves, you’re probably doing a huge disservice. Memes can be fun illustrations of arguments, but they are not meant to be the arguments themselves.
Consider how this happens in philosophy. The problem of evil is probably the most potent argument against the existence of God. I don’t consider it logically persuasive, but I understand the emotional persuasion in it. However, if all you have is evil, odds are you need to do some more study. It’s too simplistic to just say “Evil is real, therefore God doesn’t exist.”
A lot of this comes down to a number of causes I think. The first is that we tend to have emotional commitments to positions that we hold. This can include a Christian who has ties to a doctrine such as Arminianism, the rapture, inerrancy, young-earth creationism, or any other position. (Each of those is also a position I have held to in the past or hold to today.) Emotional barriers make us incredibly resistant to rational persuasion.
I have no doubt a lot of atheists are atheists for primarily emotional reasons, such as dislike of God over the problem of evil, or a desire to live as they want, especially in the area of sexuality. I don’t doubt a lot of Christians base their Christianity on an emotional experience that they have had before as well. This is not to say that emotions should play no part in our thinking, but that they don’t need to be the main force.
There’s also that a lot of us think we shouldn’t really have to study something. There should be some silver bullet argument to take down any position. This is quite likely not going to happen for a complex worldview. They can exist for one particular argument, but not for the position as a whole.
So what’s the solution? There’s no easy way about it. A person needs to study and not just what they agree with, but what they disagree with. The great danger also is that simplistic thinkers will often think they are great thinkers. Too many Christians think they’re devastating evolution when those who study it are just rolling their eyes. Too many atheists think they’re Biblical scholars when those who have studied Scripture are just convinced the person is clueless. Anyone can have an opinion, but let’s not confuse an informed opinion with an uninformed one.
That also means study needs to be with books. Podcasts and YouTube videos are great, but the best material is to be found in books. Get the best and learn what you can. In debate, those who do not read will always be at the mercy of those who do.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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