Ads, Memes, And Arguments

Are you getting the message across? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Since I live in Georgia, when I turn on YouTube, I will often see political ads. These are pertaining to a coming runoff election in Georgia. What I notice often as a problem with ads is that you simply have a soundbite of about thirty seconds and for whatever party you’re on, that’s not enough to make a case.

Consider ads against the Democrats. We’re told in them that these people running for Senate will be able to bring about the third term of Obama and continue a socialist agenda. Now if you’re a conservative like me who doesn’t like any of that, that sounds persuasive to you.

But what if you weren’t? What if you were someone who liked Obama and who likes the idea of socialism? The ad could actually get you to vote the exact opposite way. Unfortunately, there’s no message coming across of “Here’s why this is bad” or “Here’s why this is good.” If it’s anything, it’s a few brief statements and certainly not an argument.

Memes on the internet are the same way. People who share memes thinking they are convincing arguments are fools. Usually, memes come loaded with presuppositions of what people already think. If you buy into the thought prior, the meme is convincing. If you don’t, it isn’t.

Now if you have made an argument prior, I’m fine with using a meme as an illustration. I’m also fine with using a meme as a point of humor in an argument. We all know that they can be incredibly funny. What I have a problem with is thinking they are the argument itself.

We can also do this in our evangelism today. If you go up to someone and just quote the Bible, it’s not going to be fully persuasive. After all, if they believed the Bible, they would be on the path to being a Christian. (I say this because cults will say they believe the Bible as well.) Your preacher’s point might sound persuasive, but to a skeptic, it might not.

Remember how a few weeks ago I shared how the worship leader at my church said that weapons and items like that had been found at the bottom of a Red Sea in a row? The average layman might have found that convincing. Your average skeptic will not and if he goes home and looks it up or looks it up right there, he could be greatly disappointed.

Internet atheists do the same thing. An account will be thrown out because it contains miracles and I have never understood the point of going after Christians because they believe that a dead man came back to life or that a virgin gave birth (Which I do affirm). This is part and parcel of Christianity. To make the argument that this is stupid, you need to show that miracles are impossible or go even further and show that there is no God who can do miracles. If you go up to someone who believes in God and tells them their religion includes miracles, why should that be a negative?

This is one more reason you try to understand what the other person believes. You need to make an argument that depends on what they believe and showing that that is false instead of going with just what you believe. If your ad or meme starts with what you already agree with, it won’t convince at all, except for people who are already convinced.

This will sadly require work that most people just won’t do. Most people won’t engage on both sides and most people will be persuaded by memes and ads because they are not taking the arguments seriously enough. Don’t be one of those people and you’ll be more persuasive in the end.

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

We’re Not All Happy. They’re Not All Miserable.

Are we putting too many false images on Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There is a meme that I have seen and it looks like it first showed up on the Freedom From Atheism Foundation page, which tells me I have no need to take them seriously until this is changed. This meme there developed great controversy and I am not going to show it because I find it exactly that horrid. The meme is to illustrate the difference between Christians and atheist. On the left is a picture of a father and mother happy with their children playing together. It’s a beautiful picture and meant to show what Christians are like. On the other side, meant to show an atheist, is a punk goth kid in a Nightwish T-shirt about to cut his wrist. Am I going to put a picture up of it? No. I don’t want to see it and I don’t want to do it justice.

I tend to be a guy with a very long fuse.

This set me off immediately when I saw it.

You see, it’s true no doubt that there are many Christian families that are very happy. That’s wonderful. It’s true that there are many atheists that could say they are miserable. That’s true and that’s not wonderful. Of course, I want them out of atheism, but I don’t want to see someone miserable just because they’re an atheist, though I would hope God will use that misery in their life to show them Christ. Yet we all know in reality that this is not the way the world really works. There are also Christians that struggle with depression regularly. There are atheists that are having the time of their lives and are quite happy.

We do not want to send a promise that Jesus never gave. Now I think in reality, we should all be much happier if we’re Christians. We should realize the joy of Christianity, and if we don’t, we might have to strengthen our understanding of what we believe, but I also know there are times of sorrow. There are chemical imbalances some people have that leave them depressed. There are times that are temporary but we have to deal with. Paul said when it comes to death, for instance, that we grieve, but we do not grieve like those who have no hope. Being a Christian does not mean that you have to be happy all the time. In the same way, while I do think atheism is a hopeless and miserable worldview, I do not think that means an atheist will be miserable all the time. There are plenty of good and wonderful things to be happy about on this Earth.

Also, I have a great concern of what an image like this does to Christians who do struggle. There are Christians who wrestle with cutting and depression. What happens when they see something like this? Well you’ve just added guilt to the grief over whatever it is that they’re already struggling with. In fact, this is one reason we should support the ministry of counseling. It’s good that we have these people and I have in fact taken use of a counselor in the past myself. We all could use people to help us with these issues.

In the end, wherever I see this meme, I do intend to go against it. I think it makes a false reality that will drive more people away than bring to Christ and it will hurt many that do belong to Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Simplistic Answers

Are we just not thinking enough about deep issues? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One great hazard of doing apologetics today is our culture has been trained to think in soundbites. We often hope we can have that one great line of wisdom that we see in the movies that will just leave us spellbound. Unfortunately, real life is rarely like that. Usually if you are struggling through a hard time, there is no one thing anyone can say that will suddenly make you see the light. It is often a long process of healing and thinking and in the case of Christians, prayer and Bible study. Those who wants simple answers are often just going to turn out to be simplistic thinkers.

One great culprit today of this is the meme. Now don’t get me wrong here. I love memes. Memes are hilarious if you want to just make a joke. Memes can be effective also if you have made an argument and are wanting to make a visual impact with how wrong the other side is with what you’ve already demonstrated. In that regard, I have no problem with memes. Too often however, memes are seen as the start of the argument. Memes are sound bite arguments and they come loaded with beliefs that are supposedly already seen as correct and before you can deal with what the meme itself says, you have to deal with all the back issues and that can be extremely taxing and time-consuming.

That’s a problem for a culture with a short attention span that now just posts tl;dr. (If you’re not up on internet slang, it simply means “Too long. Didn’t read.”)

Religion is a difficult topic and unfortunately people think the answers should be simple. Why does God allow evil? How do you know that He exists? What about the relationship between science and religion? What does the Bible say about slavery or homosexuality or any other topic? Why should I believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Any religious system will have the hard questions that comes its way and when a religion has a strong intellectual culture to it, as Christianity does, those answers are not going to be simplistic. If you think you’re going to topple Christianity or any other worldview by just using a meme, you are a simplistic anti-intellectual.

The sadness is that many people who take this kind of approach consider themselves intellectual. From the atheist side, I call this atheistic presuppositionalism. Too many internet atheists have the idea that if you’re an atheist, you are rational. No need to read the other side because, hey, those are indoctrinated fundies there. You can just easily spread all the information you find through those great sources of knowledge, Google and Wikipedia. When you set the standards for what the other side must do, they are impossible to meet, such as people that demand that God do a miracle for them or say “Well if it was true, everyone would believe it.” (As if God just wants your intellectual assent.)

And let’s be fair. We Christians aren’t much better. If you want to topple an idea like evolution, you might have to do something like, I don’t know, study evolution? (Yeah. I know that’s really far out there to suggest doing that, but hey, I think it could work.) How can you call yourself someone who is able to critique evolution if you are never willing to go out and actually read what the evolutionists themselves write? I in fact think that if you want to argue against a viewpoint, you need to know the best arguments that exist against that viewpoint well enough that you could argue it yourself.

In our day and age, this simplistic thinking is going on and what we need to do is move past it more and more. There will always be people on both sides who only hear what their itching ears want to hear. It’s one reason in debates I’ve been asking “When was the last time you read a work of scholarship that disagreed with you.” If someone doesn’t answer the question, I find it incredibly revealing.

While we cannot change what happens on the other side, we who are Christians can do better. It’s why we need to start serious discipleship in our churches with learning how to work through and think through issues. I consider it wrong when a non-Christian engages in simplistic thinking, but it is a direct contradiction of the commands of Christ to us when we who are Christians do the same thing. No, we’re not all going to be great intellectuals. But still, what we do have, we are commanded to love Christ with it. We are commanded to think about the things of Christ. This is not optional.

If we are complaining about those outside the fold, let’s make sure our own house is in order.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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