Psychologizing Opponents

What happens when your arguments are not dealt with? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This kind of thing happens way too often. Yesterday, I’m in a group making a post on Orthodox Preterism and my interpretation of Matthew 16:28 and I get told something like, “You just hold that position because you hold to inerrancy and you have to make the Bible fit with that.” This kind of thing happens more often than you realize.

Let’s be fair. It also goes the other way. Plenty of Christians can accuse atheists of unbelief for various reasons as well. Christians can accuse other Christians of levels of some unbelief as well.

This kind of argument really doesn’t work. Let’s go with Richard Carrier for example, and if you don’t know who Richard Carrier is, I mean the unemployed polyamorous prominent internet blogger who’s banned from SkeptiCon. Years ago when he left his wife and embraced a polyamorous lifestyle, many of us were sure we saw the motivation for atheism there.

Amongst ourselves, that could be fine, but no one should have ever approached Carrier with this argument, and I hope they never did. Why? Because while I think Carrier’s theories on the existence of Jesus are completely ridiculous, saying why we think he holds to them doesn’t convince anyone and it doesn’t answer the data.

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument Carrier holds to his position because he really doesn’t want to be accountable to a god and he really does want to sleep with a bunch of women. How does that answer his arguments? His claims are not wrong because of illicit motives to hold to them. You have to deal with the arguments themselves.

This also happens in the political sphere. It’s argued that if you don’t support or oppose position X, then you don’t really care about Y. I saw in a thread today someone saying about abortion that some people think it’s wrong in all circumstances. The immediate reply was “Oh? You think women should be considered as property?” Nowhere was that said, but that was jumped on and before too long, the debate becomes not about the subject but about the persons having the debate.

Psychologizing your opponent, as I call it, is a failed tactic every time. It doesn’t deal with the data and tries to bypass it by going after the person instead, a form of ad hominem. Only under very rare circumstances should the reasons why a person holds to a belief be brought up.

This is why my consistent reply to this kind of statement is to not take it seriously. Saying someone is just not as committed to Scripture or needs to listen to God more or someone wants to be godless or someone is committed to Christianity so they can’t conceive anything else doesn’t convince. Even if it is true, it doesn’t deal with the data. That’s always what needs to be dealt with.

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