St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Friday, January 16, 2004 ::

HWJA?: How Would Jesus Argue?

Here are two very different takes on this question. First, David Mills in "Recovering the Art of Christian Polemics". In the other corner is Michael Spencer in "The Little Brothers of Saint Archie Bunker"

I think they both make excellent points, but I agree with Mills in the overall answer to the question. Spencer points out some key issues in regards to conversational etiquette (and I greatly sympathize with the personal encounter he relates). However, IMO, his piece is built on two straw man pillars which greatly reduce the effectiveness of his argument:

First off, he posits a version of what truth is (personally determined rather than communally lived) and then knocks it down with the tired but irritatingly deathless misinterpretation of St. Paul's "everyone sees through a glass darkly."

But secondly, and more importantly, he cuts the very philosophical branch on which he sits. This reminds me of a man standing in a room full of people and shouting at the top of his lungs, "Hey! Everyone except me needs to stop shouting at the top of his lungs!"

Although this blogger later realized it, there is just something irritating about reading about the ills of using logical, polemic argumentation in an article done by someone who uses...well, a logical, polemic argument to prove his point!

The worst part is that you can't respond to this logical fallacy without falling into the trap of doing exactly what is offered but what is not allowed in return: rational debate and discussion.

The questions here for us are many, but from the blogging perspective what does this mean to you? How does the combination of the a) public and b) text-based nature of the blogosphere change the way we discuss issues? I like the point Mark Shea makes regarding the importance of dialogue for the benefit of lurkers:

"This, it seems to me, is what our Lord did, when he did not waste time casting pearls before swine, yet did (for the benefit of his disciples and curious onlookers) argue with Pharisees who had long ago closed their hearts and minds to him."

Since blogging is such a public forum, it seems that what Mills has to say is critical for us in our postmodern age to remember and recover, while the warnings of Spencer are quite pertinent. Polemics and dialogue are truly an art form, as the title of the Mills piece highlights. What do you see in the Mills and Spencer pieces that strikes you? Debate and discuss!

Update: "Our blogs may, in a way, be icons of ourselves, holding forth not only the good but also the bad of what we really are..."

:: Karl :: 11:41:00 AM [Link] ::

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