A couple of Christian commenters have asked about our apologetic methodology at Triablogue.
As a general matter, Triablogue is a team effort. Different team members vary in their style, temperament, individual background, formative influences, epistemology, and so on.
The same is true for readers. Different readers will react differently to the very same material.
Moving to the specifics:
“Shouldn't this battle be fought on epistemological grounds? I.e. should you not force their hands to show why their positions amount to something that is ‘true’ rather than something that is just their opinion? In other words, make them account for how they know the things they assert? Their use of induction (which is formally fallacious) to establish their ‘truth’ claims should be challenged. (Perhaps you have as I can't say I've read every thread).”
I think there’s often a time and place to get explicitly presuppositional. But I don’t do that all the time.
For one thing, if you play the presuppositional card every time, it looks like a dodge. It looks like you don’t have any specific answers to specific objections, so that all you can do is to play your dog-eared trump card every single time.
But since we often have specific answers to specific objections at our disposal, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t give specific answers to specific objections—instead of deflecting every objection and redirecting it to the preconditions of intelligibility.
This doesn’t mean that I object to specialization. Due to the specialization of knowledge, it’s not uncommon for an apologist to limit himself to a particular field of expertise.
If a Christian wants to make transcendental theism his bailiwick, that’s fine. We need to have that in reserve. And there are occasions when that’s the weapon of choice.
I just don’t think that every Christian apologist would limit himself to TAG as the only weapon in his armory. Our collective apologetic ought to be broader than that.
Shining and Burning Light said:
“And I have no problem utilizing all lines of Biblical argumentation, we can proclaim and defend the truth with passion and tenacity, bringing thunder when necessary, being sarcastic when the refutation of their arguments call for it, etc. But we should not treat them in kind, or fling retorts back and forth, and let the discussion degenerate into childishness. If unbelievers note our disposition and demeanor toward them when we respond, and they feel as though we're treating them like mud, it is unlikely that we're going to make any headway with them, even if our argumentation has won the day. We ought not represent Christ to them in this way, brother. The best argument we can make for Christianity is to be as Christ-like as possible. In my view, none of their self-deceiving arguments can even touch that. When we see an example of harsh judgment pronounced in the Bible toward someone (e.g. Hymenaeus and Philetus), there is a context for it. Sarcasm and harshness, though they have their place, ought not be the defining characteristic of our dealings with apostates/atheists. They should have some sense that we are concerned for their well-being, even though we are on opposite sides of the argument. I highly respect what you and the Tbloggers do, I admire your intellectual abilities (they are a great gift from God), and I esteem you as brethren. I don't have any legalistic list of do's and don'ts when refuting those who oppose the faith, but I am suggesting that you tone it down. Unbelievers are listening to you at DC, and at times (notice I said at times, not all the time) they pick up this disposition I've been talking about and they call you on it. When the Debunkees come off as the gracious ones, something is wrong! Please consider what I say, even though I am a nobody....thanks for your labors in the Lord.”
From one nobody to another, there’s a lot of truth in SBL’s observation.
I myself follow the philosophy of Prov 26:4-5. Sometimes it’s prudent to answer a fool according to his folly, but at other times a different tack is called for. As one commentator puts it:
“That situation poses a problem to the wise: how should one ‘answer’ the fool? The opposite bits of advice—‘do not answer’ and “do answer’—show that there is no automatic formula to be applied. Each situation calls for a response that the wise must have confidence to discern on the spot. In one case, to answer would lead to prolonged argument in which the wise might be trapped into babbling like a fool. Where there is a chance of that, silence is the prudent way…In another case, one prick of the fool’s balloon may bring him back to reality and burst the bubble of his conceit (‘wise in his own eyes’). To answer in that circumstance does a favor to everyone, including the fool…both proverbs are valid, each in its own setting,” D. Hubbard, Mastering the Old Testament: Proverbs (Word 1989), 398-99.
I don’t think we should follow an unbeliever wherever he would take us. We march to the drumbeat of our own inspired music score. Yet the Bible is, itself, a book with many instruments in the orchestra pit: brass as well as strings.
And it also differentiates between one group and another. It reserves some very harsh words for the apostate.
I don’t believe that we should hand out respect like free samples of detergent. Respectable arguments merit a respectful hearing.
Disreputable objections do not. There’s no reason to treat everything the same way when everything is not the same.
It’s ironic how angry an unbeliever will become when you hold him to his own words and standards. But I think there’s a place for that—precisely because it exposes the vulnerability of the unbeliever’s position.
There are times when we should ruthlessly take an unbeliever at his own word, hold him to his word, make him eat his own words.
Call his bluff. Play by his own rules and beat him at his own game.
Why should he feel offended when we respond to him in kind, when we answer him in his own coin?
If he chooses to take umbrage, then that’s helpful—for he is taking offense at his own words and standards as soon as we stamp a return address on the envelop and mail it back to the sender.
The church is composed of a variety of people. The church is better off when it has more people like SBL and fewer people like me. But there’s a place for salt as well as light.
Of course, I myself am eminently expendable. There are any number of Christians out there who could do what I do and do it much better. Christians who know more than I do on any given topic.
But until the A-team comes on board, B-team rookies like me will fill in as pinch-hitters.