Monday, November 28, 2011

Dumbing Down Theological Debate

What do you do when you have a weak argument, a naïve audience, and a superficial medium? I'm learning lots of tricks as I'm slowly catching up on the critiques of Gilbert & DeYoung's What Is the Mission of the Church?. One post from an often-insightful and always-influential author relayed no less than six such strategies, which are no doubt rather effective in our contemporary theological climate:
  1. Combine catchy rhetoric with exegetical oversimplification.
  2. Pretend your critics didn't really address an important question, even though they actually addressed it rather directly and expansively.
  3. Merely stipulate that "it doesn't have to be 'either-or'; it's 'both-and'!"
  4. Portray your critics as isolationist bumpkins who just don't grasp the issues or comprehend the big picture.
  5. Don't cite your critics. Broad-brush. Generalize. Caricature.
  6. My personal favorite: Cherry-pick a few critical but marginally coherent sentences from a generally positive review, and pretend that they "offer a unique degree of clarity." (My dear brother, "I felt like they were a little pessimistic" and "there was not much discussion of" and "seemed to push too far into saying" and "[Name] and [Name] have interesting books" is not the stuff of which unique clarity is made. I suspect the guy who wrote those lines probably knew that. You should too.)

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