A Word on Debate

Debate is a tricky thing. On the one hand, when we hold firmly to a position, there is a danger to misread our opponents. Then, when faced with strong arguments, we tend to look only for the small items that are weak in what our opponents have said, and attack those things, rather than the strength of the opponents’ positions. I am not aiming this at anyone in particular, mind you. It is merely something about debate that I have witnessed, and no doubt I have done it myself. I would suggest a reorientation of thinking on debate. I’m not making this a rule or anything for this blog. However, here is a suggestion: hunt very carefully for the very strongest things about our opponents’ arguments, acknowledge what is strong about them, and then attempt an answer. What we are so often tempted to do is nitpick, and then think we have answered the opponent, when the only thing we have done is to aggravate them. The opponent likes to know that the strength of his position has been acknowledged. This is a platform for much more helpful and constructive forms of debate. I think that I have at least tried to do this in the past, though with undoubted unevenness as to the results. It is something to which I am going to commit myself, and to which I encourage my readers to commit themselves as well. I know the frustration of unanswered strength. It has happened so many times. I will write a blog post in a debate, and the opponent will nitpick at the argument, ignoring the strength entirely, and only going after the weakest points. This does not raise credibility, but only gives the impression that the opponent is trying to score points. A debate is not a competition.

The other aspect about the nitpicking form of debate that is distressing is that it makes the nitpicker sound a bit desperate. Are we really so unsettled in our opinions, so waffling, so invertebrate, so lacking in confidence, that we cannot face the strength of opposing viewpoints? It is all too easy to brand our opponents with stupidity, ignorance, or muddled thinking, and think that we have therefore answered their arguments. Logic doesn’t work this way. Neither does civilized debate. Why can’t we acknowledge plausibility in our opponents’ statements? Are we so defensive? It has been said that the more unsure we are of our positions, the more voluble and angry we become in defending our positions. I have seen a fair bit of that on this blog. The other possibility, of course, is that some people privilege truth over love. Neither should be privileged over the other, nor should they even be in competition. Unity can only be obtained around the truth. How can two walk together unless they are agreed? However, truth cannot trump love, either. It seems evident that truth is more under attack today than love is. Everyone loves love. Few love truth. But that fact does not give us an excuse to ignore love or sideline it in the interests of truth.

On Bryan Cross’s recommendation (I asked him what he thought the best Roman Catholic books were on the nature of Catholicism, and he gave me quite a good list, which I am working my way through), I am currently reading Morerod’s Ecumenism and Philosophy. One of the fascinating points he makes about ecumenism in that book, and one I think that relates closely to the subject of this blog post, is that ecumenical debate stalls when it talks only about the things that both sides have in common. On the one hand, that might seem like mere common sense. It is a point, however, that most ecumenical endeavors seem to miss. He argues that the only way ecumenism can move forward is to address the differences head on, and actually focus on those, and be honest about them. Only then can mutual understanding happen without the fear that the very real differences are being shoved under the rug. A point I wish to extrapolate from this is the following: why do we engage in debate? Is it to bring out the nature of the differences for the sake of mutual understanding? Is it to prove that I’m right and you’re wrong (and thus to stroke my own ego)? Is it to convince our opponent? Is it a combination of these things? How about a pursuit of the truth? Properly to understand the nature of the difference means that we must listen well. There hasn’t been a lot of that on my blog. Many engage in debate for the purposes of crushing the opponent into the dirt. I would suggest that this is not a very good reason for debate. I want light on the issues more than heat.

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28 Comments

  1. October 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    What else was on Bryan Cross’ list?

  2. johnbugay said,

    October 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    So does the objection “you’re begging the question” qualify as an answer that helps in the “pursuit of the truth”?

  3. Andrew said,

    October 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    One of the problems with ‘pursuit of truth’ and debate, at least when it comes to Roman Catholics, and CtC in particular, is that it presumes that end has not already been reached; truth, for instance, is what the Pope says it is. One can take their private judgement and shove it, so to speak. With this in mind idealising that recent debates here should be about the ‘pursuit of truth’ doesn’t quite do justice to the subject matter. The claims of the Papacy are an affront that deserve heat as well as light. Withering putdown in one hand and argument in the other. All in the service of truth, captive to the Word of God, and to the noble end; the Pope upended. Red shoes at night, True Shepherd’s delight.

  4. Andrew McCallum said,

    October 3, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Morerod’s Ecumenism and Philosophy. One of the fascinating points he makes about ecumenism in that book, and one I think that relates closely to the subject of this blog post, is that ecumenical debate stalls when it talks only about the things that both sides have in common. On the one hand, that might seem like mere common sense. It is a point, however, that most ecumenical endeavors seem to miss. He argues that the only way ecumenism can move forward is to address the differences head on, and actually focus on those, and be honest about them. Only then can mutual understanding happen without the fear that the very real differences are being shoved under the rug.

    Well Amen to that. I have on occasion been accused of not being willing to engage on a certain matter when all I am trying to do is push the debate off dead center. There are some discussions which just get nowhere and sometimes we need to encourage those on the other side to shift the focus of the debate and find a different way to look at the matter at hand.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    October 3, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Martin, he recommended the Catechism, of course; Ratzinger’s works (Introduction to Christianity, Spirit of the Liturgy, Principles of Catholic Theology, Called To Communion, God’s Word: Scripture, Tradition, Office); Dulles’s Magisterium, de Lubac (Catholicism, Splendor of the Church), Levering (Christ and the Catholic Priesthood, Participatory Biblical Exegesis, Reading Romans with St. Thomas Aquinas); Pitre (Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist); Feingold (Mystery of Israel and the Church); Hahn (Covenant and Communion, Kinship By Covenant), and Nichols (Shape of Catholic Theology, Chalice of God); Vatican II: Renewal within Tradition by Levering and Lamb; Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma, and Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma as reference works. There were a couple of other things as well, but these are probably the most important.

    John, the charge of begging the question is a legitimate criticism to make of another person’s position. However, it must be proven and not merely asserted.

  6. Andrew Duggan said,

    October 3, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Lane,

    As charitably as possibe I would like to ask: Is there any debate that has been happening? It seems to me there is no shared presuppositions or even agreement on the most basic defintions of the main theological issues. It seems to me that this whole idea of debate is a red herring.

    There is a reason WCF chapter 1 is titled “Of the Holy Scripture”

    X. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

    You want light, well Jesus is that light (John 1). “The light shined in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.” How do you expect real debate with those who by definition of our confession are of that darkness that finds the light of Christ incomprehensibile.

    Evangelize them yes, debate them? Really?

    “The only winning move is not to play the game.” WOPR War Games 1983.

  7. Bob S said,

    October 3, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    I’m with Andrew in 3. CTC hasn’t impressed me has having any kind of desire for the truth. Ecumenicism to them means converting to Romanism.
    The pope is the last word whatever Scripture says. Bryan repeatedly beats it when he can’t answer the question or his fallacies are exposed.

    Yeah, I suppose that sounds arrogant, but it is what it is. I was born in the communion and this isn’t the first time that I have heard the jesuitical arguments.

    FTM JJS at this late date still can’t get his mind around the fact that the entire Bible is the word of Christ, so he gets to play the fundamentalist red letter thing and diss Paul in order to go elsewhere to build his paradigm on justification/faith working through love along with pulling the eyes wide shut routine when it comes to 2 Tim. 3:17 and 2 Thess. 2:15 on the sufficiency of Scripture.

    True, roman sins don’t justify protestant ones, but to my mind there’s not much comparison. These guys are not the cream of the crop, if not that they are exactly that.

    Yeah, I know I’m ranting, but I couldn’t care less. Romanism is a wicked, vicious and stupefying superstition that as a rule perverts Scripture, history and reason in order that everything submits to its rule.

  8. October 4, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Thanks Lane. Just a small reading list for you then!

  9. andrew said,

    October 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Amen!

  10. Lee said,

    October 6, 2012 at 2:09 am

    While quoting WOPR in War Games should almost always win a debate (and made me laugh out loud), I think we should remember a historical fact.
    The Reformers debated the Romanists all the time. You had Luther at Leipzig, a debate in Zurich in 1523, the Baden disputation in 1526, another in Bern in 1527, The Colloquy at Poissy in 1561 (I think), and those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head.
    Should we really just throw out debating as a method of evangelism? Especially since it was so successful during the Reformation?

  11. greenbaggins said,

    October 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    I agree, Lee. The quite obviously self-serving point that I would make is that I wouldn’t have much of a blog without debate! My blog has been about theological debate since the beginning.

  12. CD-Host said,

    October 7, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Well for me the purpose of debate is to find truth. Finding out where my arguments fall apart under best attack teaches me something about the argument. Often that results in subtle shifts in beliefs. Sometimes that can reach a point where my opinion on topics fundamentally shifts.

    Mostly the problem is that people often have hidden assumptions tat lead them to think their counter arguments are better than they are. As the saying goes people decide with emotion and justify with reason. But… when they realize they can’t justify by reason their opinions often start to shift.

    That can take longer than an internet debate. But I’ve seen people over the years whose opinions have shifted.

  13. CD-Host said,

    October 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    BobS —

    I think CtC has a genuine desire to update Trent era Catholic apologetics and presents versions of those arguments that conservative Protestants would find plausible. In so far as they need to consider “the truth” to update those apologetics they are interested.

    I’ll agree they have a problem when their Protestants interlocker diverts from their script. But that is often the case with most apologetics. Apologists are to Theologists what Campaign staff are to Politicians.

  14. Brad B said,

    October 7, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I dont think Paul was all that generous to the Athenians at the Areopagus in terms of being concerned with feelings for the doctrines they held. I think for Paul, logic was his hammer, not just logic, but the Logos. The Romanist presupposes other equal authorities to the Logos, so there is not really any trump card to unsettle the retreat from scripture to magisterial opinion as they devise a coherent argument to suit their purpose.

    As frustrating as it is to deal with CtC, Stellman, or any others who are pre-committed, there is a beneficial point, namely that many onlookers get a chance to see high level thinkers wrestle within the bounds of logic to make points, have their reasoning critiqued and dissected so that the less capable among us have opportunity to see how it’s done and apply the fruit of a discussion.

    Like CD-Host said above, debate is to be about finding truth, and each person ought to be diligent to understand the Word of God in search of it. Some, less tormented than those of use who must know every detail of an argument before we are settled that our faith is logical, will be comfortable in their ignorance. Sproul has said “it is the perogative of the philosopher to make distinctions”, and although I dont disagree with the OP that attacking a periphal detail instead of the more central point should be primary, but no argument is really autonomous from its system of thought and sometimes, showing incoherency in a system is as good as defeating a main tenet. If nothing changes [in style of debate] on Green Baggins, I wouldn’t mind a bit.

  15. Brad B said,

    October 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    In the last paragraph, I should have said “secondary” instead of “primary”,[should have proofread a little better].

  16. Bob S said,

    October 8, 2012 at 12:52 am

    In a more irenic mood than I suppose the previous, the Aug 2011 Themelios had imo a good article online regarding Calvin, Romanism and contemporary ecumenicism. Manetsch’s run through of Calvin’s published oeuvre on the topic was a good reminder of what the Reformer had to say.

    In addition Perkin’s Reformed Catholic (hat tip to C. Gordon, JJS’s classmate at West. West.) and Coxe’s translation of Sadeel’s scholastic Treatise Touching the Word of God Against the Traditions of Men, both reprints of Early English Books Online are helpful as are Cartwright’s Confutation of the Rhemists’ Translation (rpt. 1971) and the Dutch Annotations on the Bible (rpt.2002).

    Scott Hahn or Mr. Cross, not so much when it comes to the other side. These guys can’t even give us the reformed doctrine — of Scripture primarily — before they tell us they disagree with it and have to depart for la la land to soothe their conscience and save their souls. Better to go with, as Trueman puts it in his latest on creeds, the organ grinder, not the monkey as per the more official ‘pronouncifications’ of the Apostolic See.

    But to cop a phrase, when you fight the Lord, the Lord wins. Mr. Stellman is upset upon recently realizing that he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t when it comes to arguing with prots. If he appeals to Scripture, he is told that Rome doesn’t believe in Scripture, but rather a redefinition of Scripture that includes tradition, and if he doesn’t, then prots won’t listen to him to begin with. So stubborn individualist that he is (the haircut,Ted Nugent soul patch and glasses gives it away), he’ll keep arguing from Scripture- but not the Book of Romans – for the Roman view of justification/faith working through love despite his pesky interlocutors.
    (For starters/FWIW, if by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight Rom. 3:20 arguably that might include spirit infused works of rightousness ala the Roman paradigm.)

    True, one ought to be able to meet the enemy in the gates at their strongest point, but despite the apparent plausibility of the Roman paradigm of infusion, at least to Mr. Stellman, Rome is a package deal. The gross idolatry of the Mass, Mariolatry and the intercession of the saints all comes with the infallible stamp of imprimatur courtesy of the magisterium. There is no picking or choosing, according to Rome no less, and one must drink all the kool aid whole hog to the last drop or forever hold their peace as separated schismatics and heretics. Hmmm.

    Speaking of strong points, that’s when both Bryan and Jase bowed out of any discussion of 2 Tim. 3:17 because that would presuppose protestantism. Kind of like a debate with an atheist or Muslim, right? As soon as the Christian even quotes the testimony of Scripture identifying Christ as the Son of God, the vociferous objection arises that such comments are off the table because it presupposes well, uhm, Christianity. Maybe the likes of that is where Flush Rumbaugh got the ‘with half my brain tied behind my back’ line when it comes to giving J&B a total pass on the point. But over at his site last I looked, Mr. Stellman is still talking about 2 Tim. as long as nobody actually talks about what it says. I think it’s what is called brutal honesty in debate.

    CDH. you lost me to some extent. Yeah, CTC thinks they are doing a good thing, but zeal without knowledge is not good. As for the truth, what gives? You don’t have a dog in the cage match. As a gnostic empiricist/positivist you deny any kind of Christianity and affirm Not Falsifiable- Experimentally Verifiable instead of Sola Scriptura as the bottom line.

    And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find a big rock to hide under.

  17. CD-Host said,

    October 8, 2012 at 10:52 am

    @Bob S —

    As an aside I don’t think either side meaningfully affirms Sola Scriptura. This is part of CtC’s argument, that when confronted with actual Scripture the conservative Presbyterian is as likely to blink as the Catholic. For example when I started talking about the theology of John of Patmos as expressed in the actual text of the Book of Revelations rather than the tradition about what he must have believed…. the reaction was to change the subject. The bulk of the New Testament teaches a religion of various cultic 1st century Judaisms which neither Catholics nor Protestants are interested in adopting.

    I think it is a mischaracterization of the debate, to characterize this as a debate between one side that is guided by scripture and another that is guided by tradition. Rather what I think is far more accurate is to characterize this as a debate between a group that is 80% tradition and 20% scripture vs. another that is 70% tradition and 30% scripture. But both groups need to maintain tremendous cognitive dissonance to support their positions.

    For the Conservative Catholic that their Christianity is the faith which was once delivered unto the saints; forces them into constant historical revisionism. It prevents Catholicism from honestly addressing their own history and thus the reforms that John XXIII tried to institute were halted by Paul VI. The result has been to open a tremendous culture clash which has fed and added a Catholic religious dimension to the battles over social issues in our society. Policy decisions that could and should have been made by simply cost / benefit analysis have taken on eschatological importance. And that is a direct result of the disfunction of the American Catholic Church (for whites).

    For the Conservative Protestant the situation is more about epistemology than morality the contradiction between what they claim to believe in terms of Sola Scriptura and what scripture itself teaches is a daily gnawing doubt. They are taught to ignore the obvious evidence and learn instead to twist the evidence to support their presuppositions. Similarly their historical problems are much more apparent, Protestantism as it exists today is a 19th century reaction to the failure of the magisterial reformation claiming continuity with the last 1800 years. What should be a liberating and affirming faith that upholds humanity instead has become an incredibly dark story about humanity is morally and intellectually twisted to an extent that the best they can hope for is that by prayer and submission they can come to really see nonsense for truth.

    I see this also play out daily in the in the political realm. The Republican party if 4/5th evangelical and 4/5th of all evangelicals vote Republican. Because Americans are splitting based on values rather than interests, the Republican party is effectively the Evangelicals party; though this is complicated by the fact that Evangelicals believe strongly in church / state separation. And this habit of hostility to evidence has rolled into the political realm so instead of examining the facts and reason and making pragmatic decisions we similarly have an incoherent theology and desire

    Of course I have a dog in this cage match. I live in one of the most religiously Christian countries on the planet. How Christianity develops has tremendous impact on my life regardless of whether I believe in scripture or the god of scripture. You don’t have any particular dog in the fight about who Mohammed’s legitimate successors were. That doesn’t mean you are unaffected by the battles between Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia for intellectual influence over the Middle East. The US has gotten drawn into about 1/2 dozen wars which are expressions of the implications of these theological positions played out in the political realm.

  18. Daniel said,

    October 9, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I was reading the comments and was confused the CTC references. What is that an acronym of?

  19. paigebritton said,

    October 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    CTC is “Called to Communion,” a Catholic blog whose writers often participate in dialogue here.

  20. Paul Weinhold said,

    October 10, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Lee astutely mentions several sixteenth-century debates as examples. Likewise, St. Thomas More wrote what C.S. Lewis called a “great Platonic dialogue, perhaps the best in English,” in which he represents a lively, respectful, and honest debate between a Protestant and a Catholic. As the dialogue’s title indicates, More certainly takes up a position, one that he is convinced is correct. Nonetheless, the dialogue proceeds in harmony with the principles of reason and good cheer. All in all, it seems a fine model for the manner of debate sought after in this post.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul Weinhold

  21. Bob S said,

    October 11, 2012 at 12:15 am

    17 Mr. Host

    Aside“?.

    I don’t always stay on topic, but yours is totally off topic.

    You “think“?

    Nobody cares about your conjectures and assertions. When you actually know something, get back to us – off list.

    Further, if the unrighteous suppress the truth in unrighteousness and the fool says in his heart there is no God, others, far more gracious than yrs. truly, have apprised you of your identity.

    ciao

  22. Daniel said,

    October 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    @ Bob,

    Wow your approach is shocking. I think there is a difference of opinion over what is meant by heat verses light in a debate. One can “not tiptoe” around issues and even be blunt without being snarky or dismissive or condescending. One big mistake made by lot of people is when debating they overstate the weight of their conclusions or authority on subjects. Incidentally I appreciated his comments. So you’re wrong that no one cares about them. Oh and apparently you are in the position to apprise him of his identity? He’s unrighteous and a fool? How lucky I am to find the authority on this subject. You clearly have overstated the limits of your competency and there was NO light in your comment. I won’t characterize you personally, but your comment was SELF-righteous and quite foolish.

  23. Bob S said,

    October 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Whatever, Daniel.

  24. Luther Perez said,

    October 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I think CD-Host is on to something. My dissertation and grad work is spent wholly on the way religion and faith operates in Protestant communities of color and within white Protestant communities. Conservative Black and Latino Protestants are more likely to make alliances with secular organizations because, as far as most of them are concerned, politics is about dividing up tax monies. For many of them (at least the folks I grew up with and interviewed for my research) they have been disillusioned with the way conservative Protestants have turned orthodoxy into a football in political games. So instead of rejecting orthodoxy, they have rejected the way white Protestants have framed what is orthodoxy.

    As an example, many older Pentecostal and Presbyterians of color, always mentioned how much Roman Catholicism and Mormonism were considered cults and ‘not really Christian” by white Protestants from the 1930-1970. Why did conservative/fundamentalist/orthodox white Protestants change their tune? In addition to that, high Church Protestants of color remember the hostility toward Pentecostals and charismatic believers, often called “liberals” and “cultic”, but as the political landscape changes for politically conservative Protestants so does their orthodoxy and the way they view Roman Catholics, Mormons and Jews.

    Protestants of color notice that conservative/fundamentalist/orthodox theology seems to be contingent on the politics on the ground. I suspect this may be reflected among Roman Catholics of color, although I do not focus on that community, when I interview union activists who consider themselves conservative RCs, they make a similar argument that middle-class RCs are using theology to hide their economic interests.

  25. davidmeyer75 said,

    October 24, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Andrew in #3 said:

    The claims of the Papacy are an affront that deserve heat as well as light. Withering putdown in one hand and argument in the other. All in the service of truth…

    Except that does not serve the truth. I learned that lesson years ago as a cage-stage Calvinist. Walking up to arminians and blasting them for worshiping a different God than the God of the scripture does not serve the truth. All it did was show I was a pompous ass, and that I thought I could separate truth from love. If anything, it inoculated them from ever taking Calvinism seriously.

    There is no circumstance where a “withering putdown” is helpful to debate. All it does is entrench the ‘teams’. It also shows insecurity. Did Paul go to Mars Hill and start mocking the pagans with withering putdowns? That would be unhelpful and unloving (a.k.a.unchristian).

    Lane, this post is great. Your humility shines through. Yes, we have all engaged in debates well and poorly, and with different motives at different times. When I think of the times I have been able to debate well, it has always been times where my goal was the truth. The times where I am simply trying to promote my teams’ perspective as the primary motive usually end up with me not even hearing the other persons point. As you rightly point out, I end up finding weak side issues or “low hanging fruit” to attack rather than answer their main argument.
    Of course having the truth as one’s primary motivation requires being open to putting one’s self in the position of one’s debate opponent and trying to see things from their perspective, and hardest of all… giving them the benefit of the doubt. But the rare times I have been able to do this have been the most life changing. The first was when I converted to Christianity. I took the time to enter into a mutually respectful dialog with a Christian and to try to really understand him. What I saw was Jesus. And I was hooked. I will always be grateful to that man for taking the time to understand me and to love me so that I could really hear about Christ. Let’s just say that “withering putdowns” weren’t a part of his apologetics arsenal.
    This same truth motivation is what led me to be a Calvinist as well, and entirely through Ligonier Ministries radio show. Sproul Sr. understands how to strive for unity in truth while never compromising love. His arguments were convincing, and he truly cared and loved those he preached too. Even now as a Catholic I have the utmost respect for the man. He is a godly man who knows how to debate without disrespecting his opponent.
    Thanks for the post Lane.

  26. davidmeyer75 said,

    October 24, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Repost with closed blockquote:

    Andrew in #3 said:

    The claims of the Papacy are an affront that deserve heat as well as light. Withering putdown in one hand and argument in the other. All in the service of truth…

    Except that does not serve the truth. I learned that lesson years ago as a cage-stage Calvinist. Walking up to arminians and blasting them for worshiping a different God than the God of the scripture does not serve the truth. All it did was show I was a pompous ass, and that I thought I could separate truth from love. If anything, it inoculated them from ever taking Calvinism seriously.

    There is no circumstance where a “withering putdown” is helpful to debate. All it does is entrench the ‘teams’. It also shows insecurity. Did Paul go to Mars Hill and start mocking the pagans with withering putdowns? That would be unhelpful and unloving (a.k.a.unchristian).

    Lane, this post is great. Your humility shines through. Yes, we have all engaged in debates well and poorly, and with different motives at different times. When I think of the times I have been able to debate well, it has always been times where my goal was the truth. The times where I am simply trying to promote my teams’ perspective as the primary motive usually end up with me not even hearing the other persons point. As you rightly point out, I end up finding weak side issues or “low hanging fruit” to attack rather than answer their main argument.
    Of course having the truth as one’s primary motivation requires being open to putting one’s self in the position of one’s debate opponent and trying to see things from their perspective, and hardest of all… giving them the benefit of the doubt. But the rare times I have been able to do this have been the most life changing. The first was when I converted to Christianity. I took the time to enter into a mutually respectful dialog with a Christian and to try to really understand him. What I saw was Jesus. And I was hooked. I will always be grateful to that man for taking the time to understand me and to love me so that I could really hear about Christ. Let’s just say that “withering putdowns” weren’t a part of his apologetics arsenal.
    This same truth motivation is what led me to be a Calvinist as well, and entirely through Ligonier Ministries radio show. Sproul Sr. understands how to strive for unity in truth while never compromising love. His arguments were convincing, and he truly cared and loved those he preached too. Even now as a Catholic I have the utmost respect for the man. He is a godly man who knows how to debate without disrespecting his opponent.
    Thanks for the post Lane.

  27. greenbaggins said,

    October 24, 2012 at 10:05 am

    David, thanks for your kind words. I agree about Sproul. In fact, I just read his book on Roman Catholicism that was just published this year, and all those sterling qualities you mentioned shine through yet again in what is most certainly the best short introduction to the debate between Roman Catholics and Protestants (from the Protestant perspective).

  28. Bryan Cross said,

    October 24, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Lane,

    I agree with David about your post, and I’m grateful for it. I also agree with him about Sproul. Even when he is passionate in his argumentation against Catholicism, it is not rude or uncivil — he’s defending what he believes to be the truth. As for RC Jr., my heart and prayers go out to his family this year.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan


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