When Arguments Arent Arguments by fdh56iuoui


									                            When Arguments Aren’t Arguments
                                                                                               April 1, 2010
Dear Friend,

    Almost every day I come across people who challenge my views. “God does not exist.” “Your
Christian views are homophobic.” “You can only know what is proven by science.” “You shouldn’t judge
other people.” What do all these challenges have in common? Not a single one is an argument.

    An argument is a particular kind of thing. It contains two parts: a claim and reasons for it. One must
offer both parts for it to qualify as a bona fide argument.

    You can think of an argument as a house, which has a roof
supported by walls. The roof is the claim and the walls are the
reasons. Without the walls, you don’t have a house – you just
have a roof on the ground.

    Not realizing this, many people attempt to “argue” against
the Christian faith without ever offering an argument. And
many Christians don’t realize there’s no argument to defend

     For example, “God does not exist” is not an argument. It’s a claim without reasons, making it
nothing more than an opinion. It’s a complete argument as much as a roof is a complete house.
Consequently, there’s no need to respond defensively to such a statement. If you hear this claim, don’t
expend your energy defending against it. Just ask for a reason why it’s true (The “Columbo” tactic) and

   In fact, the majority of challenges that fail to qualify as an argument fall under this category. “Joseph
Smith is a prophet of God,” “Evolution created all of life,” “The Bible is full of fables and myths,” and
“The Qur’an is the uncorrupted word of God” are all examples of opinions – not arguments.

    Another kind of challenge that fails to qualify as an argument is name-calling. For example, “You
shouldn’t be so judgmental” is not an argument. It’s meant to make you feel bad for being labeled,
“judgmental.” But don’t take the bait. You have no obligation to respond with an explanation for your
view. Instead, ask them to define the “bad” word they called you and listen to their response. The same is
true for other names like homophobic, intolerant, narrow-minded, bigot, and anti-science.

Phantom Arguments
     Sometimes a person tries to show your view is mistaken, but can’t offer reasons at the moment. I call
this a phantom argument. A Muslim once responded to a critique of the Qur’an with “There’s a website
that has answered your objection.” That’s not an argument. The website might actually have reasons to
reject my view, but unless they’re offered during the conversation, there’s no value to them.

    Other phantom arguments include, “I have these books that can refute you,” “Christopher Hitchens,
the famous atheist, has answered that claim,” or “One day science will be able to explain that too.”

           1438 East 33rd St.  Signal Hill, CA 90755  1-800-2-REASON  www.str.org
Remember, these aren’t arguments so don’t feel compelled to answer them. Respond to a phantom
argument with another phantom argument. For example, when someone tells you he has books that can
refute you, respond with, “I have other books that can refute your books.” The point is to show that
phantom arguments are vacuous.

Self-Refuting Statements
     The challenge that qualifies the least as a valid argument is a self-refuting statement. Not only does
this challenge fail to refute your view, but it actually destroys their view. That’s because the claim refutes
itself. For example, “You shouldn’t judge other people,” is self-refuting. People who make this claim are
saying that it is wrong for you to judge other people. But by telling you that you’re wrong they are
judging you. In other words, they are guilty of doing the very thing they are saying is wrong.

    Surprisingly, many challenges leveled at Christians turn out to be self-refuting. “There is no truth,”
“You shouldn’t force your morality on others,” “You can only know what is proven by science,” and “It’s
wrong to change other people’s religious beliefs” are all examples of self-refuting statements. These
attempts at arguments are not weak, they’re hopelessly false.

    As an ambassador for Jesus Christ, you’ll benefit from recognizing these
false-start challenges. It will make your task of engaging non-believers
easier. Instead of expending your energy with a lengthy response, you can
make your mission more manageable by asking some of the simple one-line
questions I suggested for each kind of non-argument.

     I also want to alert you to a new training resource that I developed
thanks to your generous support. Stand to Reason is publishing The
Ambassador’s Guide to Islam this month, a stream-lined approach to
reaching Muslims and understanding Islam. It was your faithful partnership
that allowed me to develop this resource for the body of Christ. Because of
you, the Church will be better prepared to reach the growing population of
Muslims. Thank you for your help.

                                                   In defense of the Gospel,

                                                   Alan Shlemon

                                      Prayer Request

•   Abortion Debate: Please pray for my debate on Tuesday, April 20. I’ll be debating Cecili
    Chadwick, a women’s studies professor at California State University, San Marcos. Pray that
    I would effectively prepare for the debate, that I would present clear and persuasive
    arguments against abortion, and that I would communicate a winsome and gracious manner
    to the audience. Most importantly, pray that my efforts would contribute to the fight to end
    the killing of innocent human beings.

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