A lot of Christians seem to be under the delusion that they are destined to lose any debate or argument they find themselves embroiled in.
They seem to think that unbelievers tend to be more educated, smarter, or just more skilled at debate than they are. Consequently, Christians quietly fear and oftentimes avoid getting into discussions with unbelievers because they think they’ll come out looking or feeling stupid.
Maybe you’ve found yourself in a conversation with, say, an atheist who made an objection and you had no good response. Or have you ever found yourself saying, “I’m not an expert on ________” as a way of avoiding an argument with a non-Christian?
If any of this sounds familiar, rest assured that by the time you’re done reading, you will feel like a huge weight has been lifted off your back.
The first thing you must understand is that, no matter what you may think of yourself, no matter what kind of grades you got in school, and no matter what job you work, you have the ability to think critically and logically about things. Not only do you have that ability, you are going to become quite good at it.
There is a myth out there that critical thinking is difficult or painful. That’s just not true. Thinking is easy and can even be pleasurable. Thinking is a lot like tying your shoes. When you were little and first learning how to lace your kicks, tying your shoes seemed like the hardest thing in the world. But once you got the hang of it, it became so easy you could do it in your sleep. That is what the practice of critical thinking will become like for you. God gave you the same brain He gave atheists and evolutionists, and He wants you to use it for His glory.
The second thing is that unbelievers — including atheists, evolutionists, homos, and run-of-the-mill heathens — are, on average, not any more intelligent or educated than anyone else.
Unbelievers who frequently argue with Christians tend to puff themselves up and try to sound educated. Access to the Internet and the phenomenon of the clipboard (from which computers get the copy-and-paste functionality) have made this deception even more widespread. My experience has taught me, however, that unbelievers who engage in knockdown-dragouts with Christians seem to be very unintelligent and ignorant of many of the topics they claim to be well-versed in. This becomes strikingly clear when I find myself simultaneously debating two or three at a time and finding it almost pathetically easy.
The third point to remember, and the one I will elaborate on here, is that unbelievers by-and-large have very poor critical thinking skills. They are ignorant of the fundamental rules of logic, and consequently jump to inane conclusions very often. By simply targeting such weaknesses in the unbeliever’s arguments, specifically those regarding atheism and evolution, you can win the debate. Of course, it’s not about winning a debate for your own glory. It’s about forcing the unbeliever to confront the truth and giving him an opportunity to humble himself and turn to the Lord.
And with that, let’s get started with the logical tools you will use most often in your witnessing to heathens.
There are five common logical mistakes unbelievers make when trying to defend their position of unbelief. They are called:
- Straw Man
- Begging the question
- Appeal to authority
- Ad hominem circumstantial
Has anyone ever put words in your mouth? Accused you of saying something you didn’t say? That’s basically what a Straw man is. The unbeliever falsely accuses you of believing something outrageous, goes on (often at great length) about how stupid “your” belief is, and then declares victory over you and “your” outrageous belief. The unbeliever is building up and then tearing down this “straw man.”
I almost always deal with Straw Man arguments by calling them out as such, and succinctly responding with an, “I didn’t say that” or “That’s not what I believe.”
Begging the question
I have always found this term to be strange and misleading. Basically, though, begging the question means “using the assumption as the conclusion.” It’s easiest to give an example:
Unbeliever: Carbon dating shows the juicyfruit fossil is over 45,000 years old
Christian: What is carbon dating based on?
Unbeliever: It’s based on the age of the fossil layer where the fossil was found
Christian: How do you know the age of the fossil layer?
Unbeliever: Carbon dating
Here’s another one:
Unbeliever: We know evolution is true because the order of creatures in the fossil record matches the order of evolution
Christian: How do you know the order of evolution?
Unbeliever: By looking at the fossil record
“Begging the question” is nothing more than circular reasoning. “It is so because it is so.” This one is very prevalent, but it is often not as obvious as the two examples above.
Oftentimes, such circular reasoning is nested two or three layers deep. If you suspect a heathen is begging the question, try this: write down each of his claims and his conclusion on a piece of paper, and draw an arrow from one to the next until you reach the conclusion. Does it form a circle? If it does, you’ve identified this logical fallacy.
“Bulverism” is a term coined by the late Christian author C.S. Lewis. It simply means to assume a person’s statement is wrong (rather than proving it wrong), and then to explain (usually in a very insulting manner) why the person believes it. Confused? Don’t get discouraged. Bulverism is a tricky concept to describe, so here is an example:
Christian: I believe the Bible is true
Unbeliever: The Bible is wrong. You only want to believe the Bible because you were taught it by your parents, and because you are superstitious and afraid.
Christian: I reject Darwinian evolution because it lacks supporting evidence.
Unbeliever: Evolution is fact. You deny evolution because it would mean your Bible and your creation story isn’t true.
Are bells going off in your head yet? Bulverism is quite possibly the most common logical fallacy Christians encounter with atheists and evolutionists. A side-effect of Bulverism is that the unbeliever will quite likely make assumptions about you and your past. I always deal with Bulverism by first correcting any false statements the unbeliever has made about me personally, and second by pointing out that the unbeliever has offered up no argument whatsoever. This often results in silence.
Appeal to Authority
When an unbeliever doesn’t have a good argument (which is common), he will often appeal to another person, group, or institution as “evidence” for his argument. Some examples:
Unbeliever: 97% of scientists are atheists
Unbeliever: Science says evolution is fact
Unbeliever: Steven Hawking says the universe made itself
A statement that appeals to authority may be correct, or it may just be complete nonsense. I usually don’t address the particular merits of the statement itself, but just respond with a simple, “So what?” However, if the statement is too ridiculous to ignore, I’ll point that out too and offer an explanation why it’s ridiculous.
Ad hominem circumstantial
This is the opposite of an Appeal to Authority. An Ad hominem circumstantial attack tries to discredit the source of an argument rather than the argument itself.
If you ever are talking with an unbeliever and mention a Creationist website, you likely have run into this logical fallacy.
Unbeliever: Steven Hawking is an atheist and he’s super duper smart
Christian: So what? Check out learnapologetics.com and see if you can spot the logical fallacy you just committed
Unbeliever: learnapologetics.com? HAHAHA that’s a Creationist site!
I typically avoid posting links to Christian sites when engaging in a debate with a heathen because they almost never actually bother to read and understand the contents. But if you do give an unbeliever such a link, it is nearly certain he will launch an Ad hominem circumstantial attack against the site, no matter how credible it may be.
So there you have it. Do not be afraid to engage with, debate with, and converse with any unbeliever. Simply being aware of and knowing how to deal with these logical fallacies will help you tremendously in every single encounter with an unbeliever. Above all, remember that the truth always wins. If you remain on the side of truth, you will win the argument every single time.