Getting Your Opponents Right

Are you representing them correctly? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There’s a rule that on April 1st, everyone checks everything that is said or shared on social media. This is a day of tricks and we want to make sure we’re getting our information right. Who wants to be fooled?

Compare this with, say, a political season. In the past, the main thing to watch out for doctored pictures. Now we’re going to have to start looking out for deepfakes. I remember I used to have to send out corrections in email blasts when I would get an email about the latest thing Obama had done years ago, except, well, he hadn’t done it. I couldn’t stand what he did to the country, but I sure wasn’t going to have him misrepresented.

Why? Because I want to defeat my opponent in truth, not in falsehood. I want to make sure I am representing them. I want to know their position enough that if I had to, I could argue for it myself.

I’m in a Facebook group for Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses to debate. What are the kinds of arguments I see? Why is Jesus praying to Himself? Don’t you know that three does not equal one? Look at these pagan triads!

Over and over, myself and others say that these are not what we believe as Christians. We are not claiming that three = one. We are not claiming that Jesus is praying to Himself. The whole thing about the Trinity from paganism is just bad information, but I threw it in to show the bad research done.

Something I tell these people arguing against the Trinity is that if you care about truth, you want to make sure you’re not just getting your views accurate. You want to make sure you’re getting the views of your opponents right. That’s part of caring about truth. It doesn’t mean you think they’re right. It means you care enough about them and their positions that you want to get them right.

I see plenty of Christians arguing against evolution and saying “If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes? This is treated as a major defeater when most every evolutionist out there knows how to answer that. I’m not saying there aren’t good arguments against evolution. I’m not saying there are good arguments against it. I’m saying that this is a bad argument against it. You can disagree with a position and think some arguments against it are bad. You can agree with a position and think some arguments for it are bad. There are some theistic arguments I will not use since I don’t think they work.

If I was arguing against Muslims and kept telling them that the Koran says XYZ, and they kept telling me “No! That’s not what it means!” wisdom would tell me that after awhile I should go and check and see if I am reading it right. It would be easy for me to look at what agrees with me. No. I need to go to their sources and see. Believe it or not, I don’t use the argument that the Koran itself denies the crucifixion because a Christian book I read on the Koran once gave an argument that shows the Koran really isn’t saying that. I can’t in good conscience use that argument. If a Muslim, however, argues against the crucifixion, then I can indeed say it’s fair game and make my case, but not because I think the Koran teaches it didn’t happen, but because my opponent thinks it didn’t.

I’ll also let readers know I am always reading something from a position that I disagree with. I am going through at least one book that is like that constantly. I also make it a point to not dismiss the book.

For instance, in a Mormonism debate group, there was a Mormon who recently shared something from Bart Ehrman. Too many Christians were apparently saying that he was an apostate and all this other stuff. Even saying that, what matters is his data. Meanwhile, too many Mormons say that the material they are arguing against is from anti-Mormon sites and sources. What of it? The data is what matters.

I don’t know if this is accurate or not, but I remember years ago hearing that it was a medieval rule that in a debate, you couldn’t respond to your opponent’s argument until you were able to phrase it in your own words to his satisfaction. How many of our debates would be better with this simple rule? Such a stance would actually make you have to think about your opponent’s position and reason through it on your own.

Also, if you think a position can be defeated by simplistic sayings, it is most likely you have not understood it.

For those of us who are Christians, we claim to be people of truth. Everything that we talk about should be about truth. This means not just what we believe, but what our opponents believe. In a sense, if we misrepresent them, to some degree, we’re misrepresenting Christ.

Let’s not do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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