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Debating - 1

Introduction:

In these two pages we offer Dr. Phillips’ words on how to debate others. There are those who would like to have meaningful discussions and do not know how. Hopefully the following information will give you tips on how to effectively communicate your faith and why you believe to those who do not believe.
 
Analysis Of Debating Techniques
 

Debating is one method for bringing out truth. Many subjects have more than one

aspect, each one of them claiming to be true. Similarly, many schools of thought might

exist about a complex subject. In all such matters an open debate is one method for

establishing the truth.
 

Trials in Courts are a special form of debate. While ordinary debates are not often

controlled by any rules except common courtesy, the debates that take place in a Court

Of Law are regulated by certain strict rules and codes of conduct. Further, while the

public (mob mentality) might be the subjective arbiter in a common debate, a highly

learned and objective judge is the arbiter in a Court Of Law. The public might side with

the erring party because of their bias, subjectivity, mob mentality, or even plain

selfishness. However, Judges are expected to be people above all these considerations.

Unfortunately, common debates cannot take place in a Court Of Law. Nor can such

debates avail the services of learned Judge, or the regulated atmosphere of a Court Of

Law. Thus debating and winning in a public debate becomes very difficult. Often truth

becomes a casualty and the crafty party wins even if he is a liar. Yet there is no way for

a Christian Apologist to avoid debates altogether.
 

The best strategy for the apologist in such a situation would be to understand the tricks

that dishonest debaters use. They can then spot these dishonest tricks and attempt to

counter and expose them. They can also learn to avoid those situations in which no

amount of debating would be profitable. For a better understanding of this subject we

would discuss this subject under the following headings in this and the following

chapters:
 

1-The Existence Of Tricks And The Reasons

2-Multiple Meanings And Dishonest Tricks

3-The Debaters' Tricks

4-Anatomy Of A Twisted Argument

Analyzing Debates

6-How To Counter Twisted Arguments

7-Precautions
 
The Existence Of Tricks And The Reasons
 

Almost till the last century most of the public debates were held in an atmosphere of

inquiry and mutual respect. However, at both of these attitudes are gone at the dawn of

the twenty-first century. Deceptive tricks for winning the debate by hook or by crook

have now replaced logic and honest inquiry. There are several reasons for this, and an

understanding of these reasons can help the apologist from getting into unnecessary

situations.
 

The Difference Between Straight And Crooked Thinking: Straight thinking

analyzes problems carefully, logically, without bias, and without subjectivity. It takes all

data into consideration, and objectively applies logical analysis to it. Crooked thinking,

on the other hand, avoids all the principles of sound evaluation. The basic purpose is to

establish what one wants to, without regard to truth and objectivity.
 

Almost all propaganda by consumer organizations, politicians, deviant movements, and

deviant writers fall into this category. Their thinking and reasoning is crooked, benefiting

only them. On the other hand, most evaluations in science, history, or archaeology are

more straightforward. They often bring out the objective truth, benefiting everyone. Yet

there are a lot of people who prefer crooked thinking, and the reasons are given below.

The Importance Of Winning The Case: Even till the end of the nineteenth century,

the general attitude of people was that of inquiry. They wanted to investigate and find

the truth. People understood that they would have to tolerate diverse viewpoints on

some subjects, and that this was part of the social life.
 

However, the twentieth century became a period where ideas were used for dominating

the world. The most notable example are Evolutionism and Marxism. Many people have

been able to control business, organizations, people, or even entire countries using

these ideologies. Thus establishing one's ideas became a tool for gaining control over

people. Further, technological developments made Mass Media Communication very

cheap and economical in this century. Thus for the first time ideas could be used to

control not just a few people, but million of them at the same time.
 

In this milieu winning a debate became essential for obtaining prestige and power. Since

many kinds of ideas still compete with each other, it became all the more important for

position and power-hungry people to win their side of the argument at all costs.
 

The Complexity Of Induction And Deduction: While some people found it necessary

to win arguments at any cost, the subjects discussed in the twentieth century became

more and more complex. For example, the idea of Evolution was only a philosophical

one before the time of Darwin. However, starting from Darwin, the subject became a

mixture of philosophy, biology, palaeontology, genetics, biochemistry, probability

mathematics, information theory, thermodynamics, and numerous other subjects. The

mutual interaction of these subjects made it all the more complex.
 

In such milieu the propagandists found it very difficult to discuss these complex issues in

a systematic manner. Inductive and deductive logical thinking are not easy anyway.

Thus they realized that instead of a step-by-step logical analysis of the problem it would

be far better to launch into a debate using twisted arguments. Further, logical thinking

on complex issues is all the more difficult for the public. Thus the public also began to

favour rhetoric over reason. This added to the discovery and deployment of dishonest

debating techniques for suppressing truth.
 

The Ability Of Some People To Argue And Win: Arguing and winning requires great

skill, knowledge, insight, and patience. These things do not come easily, and most

people are simply not fit for this kind of mental deliberation. Consequently, in any

debate some people win most of the time, even if they are on the side of the error.

The observation that some people can always persuasively argue and win motivated

many people to investigate the causes of such victory. This in turn resulted in the

development of dishonest tricks for arguing and winning the case. The rise of dishonest

lawyers, politicians, dictators, propagandists, and such biased people has also

contributed to the rise in twisted thinking. So much so that many groups even publish

books on how to argue and win the case.
 

The Jehovah's Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists, Marxists, and even Atheists have

published such handbooks. Prometheus Press, the largest atheist publishing house in the

world, have published The Atheist Debater's Handbook. Their Encyclopedia Of Biblical

Errancy has a very lengthy chapter on how to trap unsuspecting Christians using these

tricks. The rise of consumerism has also resulted in sales departments of different firms

teaching tricks of persuading people against their will. Here again they use twister

arguments. Thus great has been the overall increase in twentieth century of techniques

of arguing and winning.
 
Multiple Meanings And Dishonest Tricks
 

Words are the tools of communication. Every word has multiple meanings, but most of

the time the context of the speech reveals which meaning is to be preferred. However,

dishonest debaters and propagandists can use the presence of multiple meaning to great

advantage. Since their use of language is calculated and contrived, the listener often

fails to recognize the deception. Some of the ways in which multiple meanings enter

human speech are given below.
 

DENOTATION/CONNOTATION: A large number of words (whether in daily use or in

technical use) have two types of meanings -- the actual one, and the implied ones. The

implied meanings can in many case be totally different from the actual meaning. They

can even have a pejorative or indicting meaning.
 

A person good with the use of language can thus choose words in such a way that his

speech denotes a totally harmless and right meaning, but the connotations can be highly

damaging or defaming to the opponent. Thus the words dog and bitch in normal use

denote the male and female of a domesticated animal. However, in religious and social

circles these words have many connotations that are damaging to the character of

people. Similar is the usage of the word "myth" by the radicals. They denote one

meaning for this word (which technically looks harmless), while the connotations for the

layman is totally damaging to the Bible.
 

It is total dishonesty on the part of a debater to use words with double implication for

the express purpose of hurting the opponent with the hidden connotation. Arguing for

truth and winning becomes very difficult in such situations because the actual

implications of the statements remain unsaid verbally, and it is not easy to attack

implied meanings. Also, since the common audience might not be able to logically

analyze the difference between denotation and connotations of words, it becomes all the

more difficult to argue the case in front of a technically unqualified audience.
 

EMOTIONAL OVERTONES: All groups of people have subjects of interest, longing,

fancies, fear, hatred, and ever shirk. All of them have some subjects that are taboo for

discussion or practice. All of them have some subjects that would raise more heat than

light. A public discussion on these subjects cannot remain objective.
 

All discussion of truth should be objective. However, when emotions of people are

involved, the discussion becomes subjective and it becomes impossible for the

discussion to proceed in a meaningful manner in a useful direction. Emotion is such a

strong force that it can cloud clear thinking of even the most learned man. Thus the

subject or ornaments among the Brethren of Kerala, the subject of tongues among the

Pentecostal, and the subject of predestination among Calvinists are such issue. No

sooner a discussion starts people become so passionate that a Biblically balanced

discussion becomes impossible.
 

Clever debaters are known to manipulate the emotions of the audience to win the

debate. Many of them are so adept at it that even their opponents do not realize how

the emotions of the audience are being manipulated. Unfortunately, once emotions are

touched, no attempt at rational thinking would succeed. The audience would only favour

that speaker who manipulated their emotions.
 

Any large collection of people can easily be turned into a mindless mob, who would then

display only what is called "mob mentality". Once a crowd gets into this kind of a

mentality, they respect now law or order, are not bound by any rules, and cannot be

controlled except by the use of force. This is why police has to resort to using tear-gas

and firing upon crowds that were initially very peaceful, but who become violent after

hearing the provoking speeches of their aggressive leaders.
 

There is no known antidote to emotional manipulation. Force can be used to deny

further opportunity to the speaker (who manipulated their emotions) but this kind of

violent action is not conducive to winning the hearts for truth. The best method against

emotional manipulation is prevention. Thus speakers should take care so that the

opponent is denied every opportunity to manipulate public emotions.
 

This might require them to employ a sharp and strong moderator would be quick to

perceive the direction in which a debater is going, and who would immediately prevent

the erring speaker from continuing. This is not always a very good alternative, specially

in front of a large audience because much damage can be done by a persuasive speaker

before he is prevented from further speech.
 

Another (an perhaps the best) approach would be to speak in front of smaller groups of

people so that the chances of the group turning into an unruly mob is reduced. Also it is

easier to be selective in who attends a smaller group, and those who come only for

mockery can usually be eliminated. In such a case it is easier to lead them into truth.

ALL/MANY/SOME CONFUSION: The words all, many, and some, when attached to

sentences totally alter their meaning. In our common speech people are not always very

careful about the way they use these words, and often use ALL for MANY, and MANY for

SOME without much serious repercussion. The respondent usually understands the

correct meaning from the context. However, it is not so in a debate.
 

In a debate, where people have gathered with the specific purpose discussion clashing

viewpoints, the way in which these words are used can affect the whole proceeding. For

example, everyone knows that many politicians are corrupt. So are many preachers,

lawyers, doctors, businessmen, and scientists. But instead of using MANY, if a speaker

uses the word ALL for designating corrupt people in these groups, then this would

become a false representation. This would in turn make many people tense, and the

eventual result would be chaotic.
 

The best antidote to the confusion created by the deliberate interchange of these three

words would be to bring to truth to light by using appropriate Leading Questions. By

successive Leading Questions it can be demonstrated that where the opponent used the

word ALL, the word SOME would be more appropriate. Often this is sufficient to diffuse

his arguments.
 
Conclusion
 

Debating is a good method for arriving at truth, provided that all the sides participating

in a debate are sincere and honest. However, in real life many people debate not to

arrive at truth but to win, even if they are wrong. Consequently, many debaters use

dishonest techniques for attaining victory. In a debate things take place so fast that the

audience is often not in a condition to analyze which side is presenting the truth.

Therefore, rather than leaving it all into the hands of the audience (which is often

undiscerning), the Christian Apologist should take care to effectively counter and

neutralize the techniques of his opponent.
 
The Debaters' Tricks – I
 

In practical life the debaters present their cases with so many twists and tricks that

people would think that the opponents of the Bible have dozens (if not hundreds) of

tricks at their disposal. Thus often it looks like a formidable task to handle those

hundreds of arguments. However, these multitudes of arguments are a manifestation of

just a handfuls of basic techniques, and one has to master only these basic categories to

fight back effectively.
 

All the approaches used by them can be divided into the following six basic categories.

Since each category of technique can be adapted in many ways, the total range of

arguments looks numerous and formidable. This means that the apologist does not have

to master hundreds of debating techniques. Rather if he manages just the six basic

approaches, he can begin to counter debates effectively. These six approaches are given

below:
 

1-Provocation/Emotional Manipulation

2-Generalization/Misguiding

3-Deceit/Outright Cheating

4-Sidetracking/Diverting

5-Creating Delusion/Confusion

6-Irrelevance/Idiocy
 

We will study each one of these in detail. Since each approach can be used in a variety

of ways, we will furnish some examples of this wide variety also. However, it must be

noticed that these are only a limited number of examples chosen from a large variety

that exist and that build upon the six basic approaches.
 

1-Provocation/Emotional Manipulation: A debate is an occasion when at least two

sides are trying to present their case, with each side claiming to be on the right side.

Thus their approach to each is adversarial, and the situation is mostly antagonistic. To

arrive at truth in such a situation, it is necessary for the Apologist to maintain his

emotional balance.
 

Emotions have not intelligence, and once the Apologist loses his emotional control he

would fall into a lot of useless and senseless discussion which would only defeat his

purposes. Knowing this, many debaters try to provoke (or emotionally manipulate) the

Apologist to destroy the composure with which he presents his case.
 

Apologists should therefore be very careful about controlling their emotions. A look at

the following methods of creating provocation would help them to further understand

this strategy:
 

THE USE OF EMOTIONALLY COLOURED WORDS: Words are powerful tools not only

for communicating with people, but also for manipulating them emotionally. This

emotional aspect of words is exploited for good by people who deliver patriotic speech to

motivate people into action. The same is the case when a person issues an emotionally

charge appeal for spiritual commitment, or for involvement in a spiritual task. The same

power can be used to manipulate the opponent to lose his balance.
 

Many words have multiple meanings. Most people use the word in the direct sense

denoted by the word. As previously mentioned, a large number of words (whether in

daily use or in technical use) have two types of meanings -- the actual one, and the

implied ones. The implied meanings can in many case be totally different from the actual

meaning. They can even have a pejorative or indicting meaning.
 

A person good with the use of language can thus choose words in such a way that his

speech denotes a totally harmless and right meaning, but the connotations can be highly

damaging or defaming to the opponent. Thus the words 'dog' and 'bitch' in normal use

denote the male and female of a domesticated animal. However, in religious and social

circles these words have many connotations that are damaging to the character of

people.
 

A person knowledgeable in the multiple meaning of words can use them in such a way

that the hidden meaning provokes the opponent and he loses his balance. Christian

apologists should be careful about this tactic, and should make it a habit to ignore all

kinds of provocation. They should stick to the main subject till the end, and only that will

give them victory.
 

PROVOKING THE OPPONENT SO AS TO DESTROY HIS BALANCE: In addition to

using emotionally coloured words, the opponent can use any number of contrived

stories, allegations, and such speech to provoke the Apologist. Often he would find the

opponents hurling abuses and even false charges against him, his stand, and even his

characters. This might be a shock to the Apologist who enters the fray

If the Apologist ever becomes provoked, he would lose his balance, get into irrelevant

arguments, and lose his main thrust. The only answer is to ignore all the arguments

aimed at provoking. Experienced debaters can handle the situation by throwing the

allegations back at them, but this has to be done with great caution and it is not meant

for inexperienced apologists.
 

USING THE OPPONENTS ANGER AS PROOF THAT HIS POINT IS WEAK: Many

times those who take the weaker side of the argument become angry when they start

losing. But often even those on the stronger side become irritated and angry when they

are not able to convey their arguments in a persuasive manner. Whatever the case, the

audience gets the impression that he is getting angry because he is losing the battle.

Once the Apologist gets angry or irritated, the opponents can successfully charge that

this anger is the result of his weak arguments. The apologist should learn to keep his

temper under control, lest the opponents get advantage in this matter.
 

ARGUMENT BY ATTRIBUTING PREJUDICE OR OTHER SUCH MOTIVE TO ONE'S

OPPONENT: A debate is expected to be a forum for discovering truth. However, if any

one of the parties can be demonstrate to have an ulterior motive, the other party can

win automatically. Thus this approach is used by many people on the weaker sided.

The party on the weaker side might charge the opponent with greed, malice,

vested-interest, or any such allegation that gives the impression that his interest is

selfish in nature. Christian Apologists would have to learn to face these allegations

repeatedly from those who hold on to error, and not lose control. Rather, they should

stick with the facts and win the arguments.
 

2-Generalization/Misguiding: Generalization means presenting the subject in such a

way that what is applicable only for some cases are applied to all. In this way, or in

similar ways, the audience is misguided. This is done so cleverly that the audience keeps

thinking that the speaker is presenting right arguments or deductions.
 

For example, many anti Christian teachers use the Relativity Theory in this way. After

teaching Relativity, they claim that this proves that "all things are relative" and

therefore there are nothing like moral absolutes. This is misguiding through

generalization because the Theory Of Relativity applies only to the study of objects in

motion, not to anything else.
 

It is always helpful to reflect in advance upon the boundaries of the subject that one is

discussing. Then it becomes easier to spot generalization if anyone crosses those

boundaries. This preparation is essential because when a generalization is popped up

suddenly, it often becomes difficult to spot the attempt at misguiding.
 

Some specific examples of generalization and misguiding are given below for

illustration:
 

MAKING STATEMENTS IN WHICH "ALL" IS USED, BUT WHERE "SOME" OUGHT

TO BE USED:This is perhaps the most common way in which generalization is misused.

So much so that many of us fall into it without even realizing.
 

In society there are things that are often done by "some" people, but not by all. For

example, some politicians are corrupt. But so are some people in all professions.

However, when a person uses this information to label "all" politicians, evangelists,

pastors, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, etc. as corrupt, he is trying to misguide the

listeners through (often deliberate) generalization.
 

It is often possible -- by using leading questions -- to show this all/some distinctions,

and that would be sufficient to diffuse the argument.
 

EXTENSION OF THE OPPONENT'S POSITION THROUGH REPEATED

CONTRADICTIONS OR MISREPRESENTATIONS: A more clever method of

generalization is to do it slowly and continually in steps, rather that presenting a

single-step generalization.
 

When an idea is presented suddenly, the opponents might be able to spot the fallacy.

But when the same thing is done gradually, it becomes more difficult to detect the exact

error. Thus debaters often begin with a specific position of the opponent, and then

gradually and step by step misrepresent their opponent till at the end the broad

deduction presented by them has no connection with the opponent's argument.
 

For example, when the Christian Apologist speaks about Inspiration of the Bible, the

opponents try to extend this to imply belief in Inspiration as belief in some kind of

mechanical dictation. Similarly, opponents of Inerrancy and Infallibility try to extend

these beliefs to portray Bible-believing people as bibliolators (those who worship the

Bible as God).
 

The best method of fighting against such misinterpretation is to repeatedly present the

accurate view and then contrast it with the inaccurate view imposed trickily by the

opponent.
 

EMPLOYING GENERALLY ACCEPTED INFORMATION AS PREMISES FOR

DEDUCING ERRONEOUS IDEAS: When a debater starts his presenting his ideas

using generally accepted and reliable information, most people in the audience get the

impression that he is being fair, and trying to represent truth. However, many of them

gradually introduce erroneous ideas and eventually present totally false deductions.

When the beginning is right, it often becomes very difficult to discern the stage at which

error has been introduced. The Christian Apologist would have to be alert to detect the

point at which this switch to error occurs. The he would have to carefully show to the

public where truth and error were brought together to misguide people.
 

ARGUMENT BY ANALOGY: When discussing difficult subject, people often bring in the

analogy of known phenomena to explain the unknown. For example, the idea of Trinity

is often explained by showing that ice, water, and steam are three in identity, but are

the same substance.
 

The above analogy is very imperfect, and thus can lead to serious errors of

interpretation if pressed too far. At the same time, in the hands of a skilled

communicator, analogies can be helpful to communicate and clarify difficult and abstract

ideas. However, instead of communicating and clarifying, when analogies are used to

debating and proving an argument, the use is often illegal. The Christian Apologist

should thus carefully distinguish between using analogy for clarifying and using it for

proving an argument. The former can be valid in many situations, while the latter is

invalid in most situations.
 

Also, even when the analogy is used for the purpose of explaining an idea, the Apologist

must be careful. All analogies are imperfect, but some are totally useless. Also, many of

them are forced analogies, with no real similarities. None of them should be entertained

by the Christian Apologist, because in the end they can lead to meaningless debates of

the analogy while the main thrust of the argument is lost.
 
The Debaters' Tricks – 2
 

3-Deceit/Outright Cheating: In many cases the debaters feel that deceiving and

cheating the audience is the best and the easiest approach. When successfully done, the

effects last very long and the lie perpetuates itself from person to person. Thus deceit

and cheating play a very important role in the presentation of those who present

crooked arguments.
 

Radicals who fought against the Bible, the Evolutionists who suppressed all information

harmful to their theory, and the deviant movement who suppressed information

damaging to them, all come into this category. They indulge in deceit and outright

cheating for the sole purpose of winning the debate, and not for truth to prevail.

Deceit and cheating in debate manifest in many ways, and some of them are:
 

PROOF BY SELECTIVE EVIDENCE: Whether it be physical sciences, biological

science, or the historical-legal sciences, ALL available evidence should be taken into

consideration before arriving at a conclusion.
 

In a complex subject, the same set of proofs can often lead to differing conclusion. Thus

in many court cases the available evidence points strongly into one direction, only to be

reversed when a single conflicting information comes up. Clearly, taking only a small

number of evidence can tilt the conclusion in direction that lead away from truth. At the

same time, when all information is taken into consideration, and when even conflicting

information is not overlooked, then the deductions would often be closer to truth.

Evolutionists are a good example of people who thrive upon selective information.
 

Though the support in favour of their theory is only scanty, they keep presenting it. At

the same time, the vast amount of information that goes against the theory is

suppressed. The same is the case with anyone who argues with a vested interest in

winning, and not in discovering the truth. The antidote is to insist that the opponent

should take ALL evidence into consideration.
 

EVASION OF A SOUND ARGUMENT OR REFUTATION THROUGH ELOCUTION OR

SOPHISTICAL FORMULA: The ancient Greece had a breed of people known as

Sophists who were experts at proving day to be night and white to be black. They did

this be weaving a web of words in front of the unsuspecting listeners.
 

Though Sophists are gone, even today there is no dearth of people who do follow in

their footsteps. Instead of meeting an argument with a solid counter-argument, they

oppose it with persuasive words and tricks of Sophistry. It is most evident in the political

arena, but it does manifest itself within the Christian community also. Those who spread

apostasy are great at using this trick. The antidote is to call their attention back to

facts.
 

SUGGESTION AND IMPRINTING BY REPEATED AFFIRMATION: Humans have this

weakness that repeated affirmation lulls them into believing a statement even if it is

totally false and damaging. This strategy was used by Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda

Minister for Hitler. Joseph Goebbels used to claim that if you repeat a lie a hundred

times with confidence, most people would accept it as a fact.
 

The theological radicals, rationalists, evolutionists, and many others are masters at

repeated affirmation. They do this with such great confidence that people start believing

them even without having any proof. The way in which Christians of India have started

following the Prajapati Cult, which falsely claims that Christ is there in the Vedas, is the

result of this trick. This approach should be countered before their affirmations start

imprinting on the minds of the hearers. The best method to counter them is to ask for

specific proofs.
 

SUGGESTION/INFLUENCING BY USING CONFIDENT MANNER/ASSERTIONS:

Some people are so gullible that they believe a statement if a person makes it with great

confidence. Even repeated affirmation is not necessary to influence these people,

because they do not have the power to critically evaluate serious subjects. When a

speaker uses this tactic, the only way left for the Apologist to point to his assertions that

need documentation and proof.
 

SUGGESTION/INTIMIDATION BY APPEAL TO PRESTIGE: Every society contains

numerous people who are awed by prestige of speakers. The prestige might be due to

their ecclesiastical, academic, civil, social, or political position. While position is a good

thing, it does not automatically confer authority to that person to make pronouncement

on any subject.
 

Though there is no connection between prestige and the accuracy of the statement

made by a person, many people use appeal to Prestige to intimidate the opponents. The

Christian Apologist should make it a point to politely point out that he respects the

position of a person, but that the position does not automatically confer him the

authority to make infallible pronouncements. A couple of Leading Questions would also

help.
 

PRESTIGE BY FALSE CREDENTIAL: We live in a society that is awed by credentials,

specially if these are academic in nature. Thus there are many who claim to have high

degrees, research experience, and things of a similar nature, when they do not actually

exist. Things are so bad, that today there is a flood of Institutions in India that sell

doctorates to any person (qualified or not) for a consideration of money.
 

Appeal to false credentials is foolish for any debater, and he can be exposed easily by

asking a few leading questions about the subjects in which he did research and

institutions in which he studied.
 

PRESTIGE BY EMPLOYING PSEUDO-TECHNICAL JARGON: Many people have this

false impression that if a person uses highly technical words, then he must be a scholar

speaking with great authority. While it is true that scholars are capable of using highly

technical vocabulary, most of them use only very simple language when they speak to

the common man. Thus the usage of technical words in themselves are not sufficient to

gauge a person's scholarship.
 

Crooked debaters use not only difficult words, but also words that are meaningless in

the given context. The audience, however, is greatly impressed. The best solution in

such a situation would be to summarize in simple words what the opponent said in

technical jargon. Then ask him if the summary is right. Once he agrees that the

summary in simple words is right, the Apologist can refute him by using appropriate

Leading Questions.
 

BOOSTING THE ARGUMENT BY THE RESPONDENT'S APPARENT IGNORANCE

AND ONE'S OWN PRESTIGE: This is a trick usually used by teachers to suppress

inquisitive students. They fire a volley of questions upon the student and then scold him

for not knowing such basic things. The student is so terrified that he does not dare to

open his mouth any more. Some debaters try this technique on the general public.

The Christian Apologist can begin by demonstrating that nobody is omniscient. He can

then point out that just because a respondent does not know everything, it does not

automatically mean that the debater is right and the respondent is wrong.
 

TRICKY QUESTIONS FOR DRAWING DAMAGING ADMISSIONS: When discussing a

subject, the debaters often ask questions that have no connection with the subject. At

the same time, the answers (if given by the Apologist) can be used to damage the

Apologist.
 

For example, when discussing the question of Evolution/Creation, many evolutionists

would ask the Apologist whether he believes in a six-day creation, a young earth,

Adam/Eve, and Garden of Eden. If he answers yes, the evolutionist uses it to mock him

in public. The best solution is to refuse to answer all questions which have no bearing on

the subject being discussed.
 

USING BELIEVABLE/ACCEPTABLE STATEMENTS FIRST TO BREAK RESISTANCE

AND THEN SLIP IN DOUBTFUL STATEMENTS: This is a standard trick used by

theological radicals and false cults. They begin be speaking on subjects that are

acceptable to people. This helps the debater to overcome the apprehension of the

listeners. Once the listener is put to easy, they introduce their errors.
 

SPECIAL PLEADING: Some arguments look very convincing in one context, but look

totally wrong in another. This is because the argument has no solid logical foundation.

Picking up such a useless argument, and presenting it only in the favourable situation

(while the other applications with opposite results are ignored) is called Special

Pleading.
 

A good example of Special Pleading is the Micro Evolution to Macro Evolution application.

Everyone notices changes at micro level, such as one pair of dogs giving rise to a variety

of dogs over several generations. It is a fact that such changes take place, but it is

confined only to the category to which it belongs. Dogs produce only a variety of dogs,

and cats produce only a variety of cats. But if a person applies this observation to claim

that dogs can change into cats, it is special pleading. This is because though change has

been demonstrated at the micro level, this observation is invalid at Mega level.

The best refutation is to show the variety of situations where the arguments fail, and

then ask Leading Questions based upon this demonstration.
 

4-Sidetracking/Diverting: Debaters and listeners need to keep their focus on the

main subject and the important issues throughout the discussion. If not, there will be a

lot of animated talk, but the result would not be favourable to Truth. Knowing this,

many crooked debaters side-track and divert the whole discussion into peripheral

subject or even non-issues. Not realizing this deception, everyone keeps thinking that

the debate is going on well. Actually it goes nowhere, and falsehood comes out the

winner. Some of the methods used for side-tracking and diverting debates are given

below:
 

DIVERSION TO ANOTHER QUESTION OR SIDE ISSUE THROUGH IRRELEVANT

OBJECTIONS, QUESTIONS, OR STATEMENTS: People who advocate erroneous views

are often conscious of their weak stand. Truth is their greatest enemy, and so as not be

exposed they try to divert attention to side issues. This can be done in many way,

including the raising of irrelevant objections, questions, or by making irrelevant

statements.
 

Thus in a discussion of Creation account, a person might ask for the exact identification

of the Tree of Knowledge. He might say that unless it is identified exactly, the correct

doctrine of fall cannot be formulated. While this might look like a valid objection, it

actually is only a diversion. The exact nature of the tree has no connection with the

doctrine because the doctrine depends upon the historical reality of an event. What is

important for the doctrine is whether the event is true. The exact nature of all the

components of the event are not needed.
 

PROOF BY INCONSEQUENT ARGUMENT: Many times people try to prove the reality

by using arguments that look attractive, but which are actually not valid. Though they

seem to reinforce the position of the Apologist, such arguments should not be accepted.

In the long run any logically inconsistent deduction would only hurt the cause for truth.

For example, many people oppose evolution by claiming that today monkeys are not

changing into humans. While this might look like a very attractive argument, it does not

take the proposed mechanism of evolution into account. Consequently, the deduction is

invalid. Apologists should reject all such arguments because they actually divert the

debate proceedings from going in the right direction.
 

APPEAL TO SOUND DEDUCTION, BUT BASED UPON FAULTY PREMISES: This is

very similar to the above argument. The deduction is sound, but the premises are faulty.

It can be dealt in the same way in which the above argument is attacked.
 

LOGICALLY INVALID OR FALSE DEDUCTIONS: Here the premises might be right or

wrong, but the deduction is logically faulty. The fault might be accidental or even

deliberate.
 

The use of Logic in sound reasoning is a vast subject, and it has been discussed

elsewhere in fuller detail.
 

ARGUMENT THAT WHEN A TERRIBLE EVIL Y EXISTS, WE SHOULD NOT WORRY

ABOUT LESSER EVIL X: This is a favourite diversion tactic for people who do not want

to face the bitter consequences of evil attitude and choices. For example, when a person

is caught in an offence, they argue that this person should not be punished as long as

criminals who committed greater offences continue to be unpunished.
 

The same argument comes in many other forms also. Appropriate Leading Questions

would include applying the argument back to the debater himself. Thus if a person says

that a certain offender should not be punished, the Apologist can turn back and ask

whether the opponent would take the same stand if that crime were committed against

his son, daughter, wife, or parents.
 

RECOMMENDATION OF A MEAN POSITION BETWEEN TWO EXTREME

POSITIONS AS THE TRUE POSITION: There are a lot of people who hate taking a

stand. Taking a stand, specially in matters of doctrine and practice, involves paying

much cost and making many sacrifices. At the same time, they do not want to be

identified with the other group that is totally anti-doctrine. Thus, to retain the best of

both the worlds, many of them recommend that everyone should take the mean

position.
 

The mean-position argument looks very attractive, specially in our age of compromise.

Listeners also readily agree with such arguments because it agrees well with their

compromising attitudes. This kind of arguments can be exposed only by asking relevant

doctrinally-based Leading Questions. Thus the Apologist might ask questions such as

"should be interested in a mean position, or in a position ordered by the Bible", etc.
 

ARGUMENT OVER SAME WORDS BUT HAVING DIFFERING DEFINITIONS OR

MEANINGS TO DIFFERING CAMPS: Words are the vehicles for communication, and

most of the time people communicate accurately and without much ambiguity. However,

this does not mean that word-meanings are always understood accurately by people.

Unfortunately, over years of use (or misuse) many words acquire more than one

meaning. Thus in many debates one camp adopts one meaning, while the other camp

adopts the other meaning. No meaningful communication is possible in such a situation.

A good example is the arguments brought forward some time ago about "worship".

The general meaning of "worship" is to praise and thank God for who and what He is.
 

However, in the last few decades the word "worship" has become the equivalent of

"Lord's supper" in many churches. In the argument over whether the Lord's Table is an

essential part of "worship", each party had its own definition in mind, and there was no

common agreement about definition. This is the reason why the debate continued for

long without a conclusion. The solution is to accurately define the terms before

continuing the debate.
 

EMPLOYMENT OF A WORD WITH MULTIPLE MEANING OR CHANGE OF MEANING

DURING THE COURSE OF THE ARGUMENT: Related to the previous point is the habit

of people who craftily use words with multiple meanings. Others use words with one

meaning in the beginning, but craftily switch to another meaning during the course of

the debate.
 

The solution is to repeatedly affirm the precise meaning which is being used in the

debate.
 

SUBMISSION OF A SPECULATIVE ARGUMENT: A commonly used method for

side-tracking is to submit a speculative definition or argument, and then proceeding the

debate based upon this speculation.
 

While speculation is a part of any discussion, starting with a speculative foundation is

not very legitimate. If that is done, the end result would be total diversion from the

target. For example, many people approach the question of Evolution/Creation by

assuming that the description in the first ten chapters of Genesis is poetry. This is a

speculation, and the end-result is devaluation of Bible and biblical doctrines.

The correct approach would be to begin with an evaluation of whether the first ten

chapters are prose or poem. This can be done without difficulty, and there is no need for

beginning with speculation.
 

TRICKY DEMAND FOR DEFINITION: Definitions are an important part of any

intellectual discussion, specially when a word used by the speakers might be new, or one

with more than a single meaning. However, clever debaters often ask the opponent for

definition with the specific purpose of side-tracking the debate. No longer the opponent

gives a definition, they would raise some objection, forcing a redefinition. No sooner the

new definition is spelled out, they come out with another objection, and so on till the

opponent is totally side-tracked.
 

A few years ago the elders in our church were discussing the issue of backsliding. One of

the elders at that time was backsliding though it was not yet not known to the others. A

skilled orator, he asked the others for a definition. Once they defined who a backslider

is, he asked whether an occasional omission or prayer or devotion is enough to classify a

person as a backslider. Then he asked them precisely how often a person has to

overlook these things before he becomes a backslider, and so on. Very soon the whole

committee was wasting time on arriving at a definition which did not have any

exceptions. Unfortunately, this brother pointed out to exceptions to any definition they

came up with. Finally the dropped the subject, and this clever backslider won the

debate.
 

When an Apologist suspects that the opponent is demanding a definition to trick him, he

should move carefully. When the opponent points out to exceptions, remind him that

exceptions do not invalidate the rules, but that they only strengthen them.
 

APPEAL TO AUTHORITY INSTEAD OF REASONING: A standard ploy of people on

the weaker side is to appeal to authorities favourable to them. Evolutionists, false

teachers, heretics, and all kinds of perverts take recourse to this trick.
 

In the world of scholarship, the rightness or wrongness of a subject is decided not by

appeal to human authority, but by appeal to reason, logic, and proof. The Apologist

must remind this to the opponent through appropriate Leading Questions.
 

FORMULATING QUESTIONABLE STATEMENTS IN A MANNER THAT FITS WELL

WITH THE THOUGHT-PATTERNS OR PREJUDICES OF THE HEARERS: No human is

perfect or all knowing. Some subjectivity will always be there. Thus instead of giving a

reason for their position, clever debaters can state their answer in a manner that

appeals to the biases and prejudices of the hearers.
 

Young people in many societies are prejudiced against the older people. If a debate on

love-marriage takes place in front of such young people, a debater might make

statements like: "Loving another person is not a crime. The older people do not

understand our needs. They lived in a different society, etc". Though no concrete

arguments in favour of Love Marriage has been presented, the crowd cheers these

statements because they fit in well with their inclinations.
 

The Apologist can counter by showing that several options are available in the matter

discussed. Some of these options are definitely better than other. He can then show that

the opponent did not give the reason to show why the option preferred by him is better

than the other options advocated by others.
 

ACCEPTING OR REJECTING A PROPOSAL ON THE BASIS OF ITS PRACTICAL

CONSEQUENCES ON THE HEARERS: Truth is often painful, specially to people who

run away from it. Many crooked speakers are able to sense the mood of the audience --

whether they are truth-seekers, or runaways from truth. If they are runaways, the

speaker would begin to plead that the position taken the opponent would hurt the

listeners. Then they would plead that the opponent should not present his ideas to

people, lest they feel bad.
 

The people opposed to the doctrine of Eternal Security often plead that this doctrine

should not be taught. Not because it is an unbiblical doctrine, but because it would

motivate people to become careless and sinful. This kind of argument looks very

attractive, but it is not based in truth. The Apologist can counter this kind of argument

by requesting the opponent to lay down (with adequate explanation of reasons) the

rules about when truth is not to be advocated in public.
 
The Debaters' Tricks – 3
 

5-Creating Delusion/Confusion: Many debaters realize that the listeners are

interested in hearing an open discussion. They might also realize that it is not easy to

side-track the opponent. In such situations they stick to the subject being debated, but

create such delusion or confusion that the main issues are overlooked.
 

Many approaches exist for creating delusion and confusion, and some of the typical ones

are:
 

CIRCULAR REASONING OR CIRCULAR ARGUMENTATION: The person who takes a

stand on an issue is obliged to furnish proof for taking this stand. Many people who

advocate know that this difficult for their position, and thus they get into proof or

argumentation by circular reasoning. It is the type of conversation: Where is your house

? Besides the river. And where is the river ? Besides the house !
 

Evolutionists use this argument when discussing fossils. Ask them how the age of the

fossil is determined. They will claim that it is decided on the basis of in what type of

geological layer it was found. Then ask how it is decided what type of layer it is. They

will claim that it is decided by the type of fossils found in it. Obviously, no objective

information can come out of such circular reasoning.
 

BEGGING THE QUESTION OR BEATING AROUND THE BUSH: When a debater

wants to create confusion, but when he finds it difficult to divert the attention of people,

he can confuse people by discussing peripheral issues. This gives him the advantage of

dwelling upon the subject, while he does not have to touch the subject at all.
 

For example, when discussing the question of Tongues, Eternal Security, Justification By

Faith, etc., a person who does not want to discuss the subject Biblically keeps talking

about the experience of this person or that person, the opinion of scholars, and all that.

He seems to be speaking on the subject, but actually he is beating around the bush. The

Christian Apologist can solve the problem by constantly reminding the opponent that on

any Biblical subject, the discussion should strictly be based upon what the Bible has to

say.
 

ATTACKING THE OPPONENT'S CHARACTER: Another method for creating confusion

among the hearers is to attack the character of the opponent. Actually the opponent's

character has nothing to do with the subject being discussed. Rather, every subject

should be discussed on the basis of facts. However, once the opponent's character is

attacked, people's attention is drawn away mainly that subject and the actual issues are

overlooked.
 

We see the above tactics used repeatedly in the doctrinal arena. A person points out the

errors and heresies prevalent among believers, and immediately the heretics launch a

character assassination camp against the Apologist. There is not talk about the doctrinal

issues involved. The Apologist can face this situation, not by dwelling upon his character,

but by drawing the attention of the audience to the main subject involved.
 

USE OF DILEMMA AND IGNORING A RANGE OF POSSIBILITIES: Some debaters

restate the subject in such a way that an appropriate choice becomes a dilemma. Others

restate the subject in such a way that only two extreme choices are available, and all

the middle range of possibilities are ignored.
 

For example, on discussing Family Planning, pro abortion people compare only two

extreme possibilities: either give birth and raise up a child who was unplanned, or

terminate it. Obviously, those who are not in a mindset to raise another child

immediately opt for abortion. The middle possibilities like giving the child for adoption,

or counting upon the grace of God to raise a child are overlooked. The Apologist should

understand all possibilities, and then present them systematically and with conviction.

Then he should follow up with appropriate Leading Questions.
 

USE OF CONTINUITY TO REFUTE CLEAR DEMARCATION: Clear cut demarcation is

essential in many areas of life like examination, property limits, responsibilities in the

office, etc. Also, in such demarcation is essential in spiritual life to distinguish between

things that are essential, optional, and forbidden. People fight against such demarcation

by point out to borderline cases.
 

Thus many people advocate mercy for a child who failed because he got only 32 marks

in an examination where pass marks are 33. They claim that after all there is not

material difference between the child who got 33 and passed the exam and the one who

got only 32 and failed. This argument looks convincing till we realize that the boy who

got only 31 is not much different from the one who got 32. Thus if the one with 32

marks is declared pass, what about the one with 31 and so on.
 

The Leading Questions in such cases should address the issue to fixing a demarcation

somewhere. Also it should address the question of how much tampering one can do with

such demarcation. Thus by shifting the debate from the case of one unfortunate incident

to the actual principles involved, the debate can be led to a more meaningful and deeper

direction.
 

PROJECTING A PICTURE OF INDIFFERENCE: There are many cowards in every

community. They do not wish to take a stand on any side. Alternately, they prefer to

take the stand on the wrong side, but do not want to reveal their loyalties. Such people

often come up with the confusing argument that both sides have many arguments in

their favour, and therefore they are not interested in taking a stand.
 

If the issue is trivial like whether the Transport Buses should be painted Red or Blue,

much can be said on both sides and one need not take a stand. However, if the debate

deals with topics like the reliability of the Bible, evolution/creation, sin and salvation,

justification by faith or works, there is no middle position. A stand has to be taken, and

the Apologist has to make it clear through Leading Questions.
 

6-Irrelevance/Idiocy: Many time people carry on animated debates, drawing to

them everyone's attention, yet the sum total of their discussion is irrelevant and idiotic.

There are many ways in which this is done, and some of them are explained below:
 

ATTACKING THE OPPONENT'S QUALIFICATION AND COMPETENCE: In the great

world of science and scholarship, the qualification of a person plays no role in getting a

hearing for his ideas. While qualification is considered good, it is not taken as the ground

on which the truth of his thesis rests.
 

Most of the scholarly journals do not print a person's qualifications, so that readers are

swayed only by the material presented by him, and not by his qualifications. Most

journals do not even add titles like "Dr, Prof.", and print only the name of the individual

because of the same reason. In the world of scholarship, debates are conducted solely

on the basis of facts presented.
 

In the world of lesser people, flaunting one's qualification is considered great.

Consequently, attacking the opponent's qualification is considered meaningful. This is

sheer stupidity and idiocy of those who have no idea about the world of research,

scholarship, and academics. The Apologist should make this clear by providing them the

right information and then supplementing it with appropriate Leading Questions.

INDULGING IN DISCUSSIONS THAT ARE ACTUALLY IRRELEVANT TO THE

MAJOR THRUST OF THE ARGUMENT: Some issues might have a major as well a

minor thrust. The minor thrust might actually be irrelevant to the major one. People who

do not know this difference often end up discussing the minor issues because that might

suit their defective intelligence or petty ideas. On the other hand many clever debaters

purposely indulge in the minor issues so that the major issue does not need to be

touched.
 

The Apologist has to clarify the difference through affirmation and also through

questions. Thus when discussing the question of Tongues many people believe that

discussing whether the gift of Tongues have ceased is the major issue. However, if we

look at the Biblical data (I Cor. 12, 13, 14), it is only a minor issue there. The major

issue is the nature, purpose, and the principles that regulate the use of this gift. Thus in

any meaningful discussion on Tongues, the major issue must be discussed first and then

the minor issues must be discussed in the light of the major subject. Else, no definite

conclusion would ever be reached.
 

Summary

Many and varied at the methods used by people who indulge in crooked and twisted

argument. However, if the six major categories above are mastered by the Apologist, he

can with effect counter the hundreds of variations in which these six approaches

manifest themselves.