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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Missing Links

The other day in a piece entitled “Top 10 Ways To Argue Like A Christian”, I mentioned that my ten choices were far from exhaustive. So far from exhaustive that I thought of another one almost immediately but, you know, ten is such a nice round number.

But another important facet of presenting an argument, while not specifically Christian, is just all-around good form and decent, respectful behavior. It relates particularly to internet discussions and arguments, but has application any time we take on a published assertion of fact or point of view.

So, mind if I add an eleventh?

11.   Let your opponents speak for themselves.

In the world of the Web this means a link, preferably to the actual argument you intend to thrash rather than to some other guy or gal thrashing it. But in every truly Christian disagreement, it means doing more than simply starting your ‘opinion dump’ with “Some people say …” like a certain president we all know and love.

Who says it? How do they say it? In what context was it said? Is the speaker authoritative and credible and does he actually represent most or all of those who hold the intellectual position I am about to summarily dismiss, or is he a total outlier and a clown?

Speaking for myself, if you don’t know the Lord, I don’t want to logically dissect your worst argument against the Christian faith. I want your very best shot. Bring it on.

And if you are a Christian who believes differently than I do, well … you’re my brother in Christ. You worship the same Father, love the same Lord and are indwelt by the same Spirit.

Perish the thought, but if we disagree you may actually be right. So please, make your best case. I’m listening.

But you’d be surprised how many people making an argument for or against any particular thing — even a few Christians — fail to do this. They reference the general position their opponents take without letting them speak in their own words. Or they quote arguments out of their context and fail to note that their opponent actually dealt with the very point they are objecting to three paragraphs down.

Which just doesn’t seem sporting to me, among other things.

Now where the internet is concerned, I recognize there may be difficulties living with a policy of linking to everything with which you disagree:

·         It may be tough to do responsibly when your opponent (or sometimes even one of your allies) happens to post at a site that allows random advertising or is otherwise chock-a-block with images or headlines not ‘safe’ for home, work or anywhere else, a regrettably common occurrence these days. Has happened, as some of you know.

·         I am also reluctant to link to an opponent who uses language that a reasonable person would consider offensive. An argument may be valid regardless of the language in which it is framed, but if you cannot communicate yours in terms the average reader considers responsible, I reserve the right to quote you without a link and without your favourite adjectives or epithets. Sorry.

All to say, when I or anyone else who writes here links to another site, we will certainly try to do so only when we can do so responsibly. But we also want to link as often as possible, in order to let the other side say its piece.

To the extent that any of us really speak for the truth, as Isaiah says:
“… no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17)
This promise belongs to Israel, so I won’t borrow it without asking nicely. I do think it has a broader application, though, to all who are “servants of the Lord”. I frankly cannot imagine him NOT vindicating his servants, even ones like me that are well down in whatever servant hierarchy exists.

The neat thing is that it doesn’t mean we have to personally refute every tongue that rises against us in judgement either.

One of our posts earlier this year was linked to by a much more popular site and while we got few comments here, many were posted on the site that linked to us. Quite a few of these were supportive or encouraging, some were critical, and at least one was downright nasty.

I was talking to the Lord about whether or not to respond to this particular shot when a fellow believer posted a reply that intellectually undressed the poor guy and left him standing in his socks. I didn’t have to type a keystroke.

Can’t say it’ll happen that way every time, but while my arguments and opinions are mine, and very much subject to whatever intellectual and spiritual criticism anyone cares to offer, the Lord’s word is just that: His. Word.

And nobody has the last word with him.

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