“In the blog world, it’s easy to get sucked into fruitless discussions where you fire off post after long post in response to someone who is about as responsive as a wall.”
This assumes that the aim of responding is to persuade the “atheist heckler.” But, speaking for myself, although I don’t think I’m unique in this respect, the atheist heckler is simply a convenient foil.
Stressful for whom, the atheist heckler or me? I’m not stressed out by responding to the atheist heckler. I have no religious doubts. I have no emotional investment in apologetics. I’ve been blessed with an effortless faith, and my passions lie outside the sphere of polemical theology.
For me, apologetics is a purely intellectual exercise. I’m quite detached about it. I have no personal stake in apologetics, for that’s epiphenomenal to where I live and breathe. And I’m rather bemused by how worked up some bloggers can get. But this is a pretty faceless, nameless mass medium of communication.
To me, the evidence for God is ubiquitous, and the flaws in various attacks on the faith are easy to detect. The atheist labors under the insurmountable handicap of being wrong. Nothing can overcome the handicap of being wrong, dead wrong. No amount of ingenuity or erudition or brilliance can compensate for being wrong, dead wrong.
“And doesn’t produce any results. In other words, it’s a huge waste of time.”
How is Josh in any position to know that? Has the angel Gabriel been whispering in his ear?
“Steve Hays gets sucked into this all the time. He responds to the most foolish crap going line-by-line, picking apart every word of some atheist heckler, undoubtedly spending hours doing so. And what’s it accomplish? Absolutely nothing.”
It’s true that I’ve devoted a lot of time to picking apart ever word, line-by-line, of Tim Enloe, Paul Owen, and Kevin Johnson, although I rather doubt they’d appreciate Josh’s rather harsh characterization of his fellow bores…uh…I mean, boars.
And while we're on the subject, what effect for the kingdom is all the ecclesiastical naval-gazing and spiritual self-absorption over at Reformed Catholicism supposed to have?
“Theological discussion is wasted on hecklers.”
This is a rather faithless attitude. It’s true that I don’t expect to win over the hecklers. But even an atheist heckler is not above and beyond the reach of God’s grace.
Today’s obnoxious, know-nothing heckler may be tomorrow’s zealous soul-winner. Isn’t saving even one of these from the everlasting bonfire worth the time?
I myself am only one person. I’m just one Christian. But it’s very important to me that I’m heavenbound rather than hellbound. If every Christian were instrumental in the conversion of just one unbeliever, wouldn’t that be worth the time and effort? Convincing just one individual literally makes a world of difference, an eternity of difference, for that one solitary individual.
One of the interesting things about heaven is that we don’t know who-all we’re going to encounter when we get there. God can bless and multiple our feeble little efforts so that we may touch lives without ever knowing, in this life, the impact we’ve had in the hands of God’s almighty providence. Where is Josh’s compassion for the lost?
Incidentally, or not so coincidentally, this complacency is more common among liturgical churches.
“A heckler is someone who doesn’t engage what’s being said, continues to parrot silly little propagandistic maxims that have been substantially dealt with, and responds to developed exposition with one-liners. Invariably, one-liners are loaded with all kinds of baggage that takes a substantial amount of material to dissect–and then when you’re done, you just get another one-liner. Hecklers aren’t interested in theology or discussion. They’re interested only in causing frustration.”
This is largely true. But aside from the fact that I’m aiming my reply to the crowd behind the heckler, a lot of the one-liners are just so much bluff, bluster, and bravado. Yelling and screaming to compensate for the lack of reasoning. And there are hecklers who are aware of this. They know it’s a pose. Putting on a brave front to impress their homiez.
In addition, apathy can be a greater impediment to conversion than anger or misplaced passion. At least an atheist heckler, except when he’s just a poseur, genuinely cares about the issues. There may even be a twisted idealism at work. When someone is angry, you’re in contact with the real person. It’s much harder to get a foothold with the morally, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritual indifferent. There’s nothing to work with. Nothing to grab or grasp. Teflon indifference.
Let’s also remember that in our secularized society, many unbelievers are unbelievers because, in part, they really don’t know any better. They swagger around and sally forth in the supreme confidence that Scripture is Tommyrot from start to finish?
How could any halfway intelligent many or woman still believe this obvious or demonstrable mythology? Haven’t we ever heard of science or higher criticism?
But when they briefly leave their compounded of like-minded hecklers and accidentally pick a fight with the wrong person, to suddenly find themselves disarmed at the first blow, not knowing either side of the argument, it can be an eye-popping experience. They’re not used to seeing their one-liners dissected line-by-line. And once they run out of one-liners, they have nothing to fall back on.
As I’ve also said before, not every Christian has ready-made answers to stock objections. Not every Christian has access to a good library.
“In my 5 years of blogging (started here in May 2002), I’ve learned the importance of terminating discussions with hecklers when it’s clear that they’re not going anywhere, although I don’t practice this perfectly.”
That’s always an option.
“Spirited debate with people is great, when they’re engaging–even if they sometimes make me mad (to be fair, I usually return the favor). But trying to respond to hecklers does nothing but make me lose sleep over so much triviality.”
I don’t blog when I’m mad. I don’t get angry over blogging. It doesn’t engage me emotionally. For me it’s just the brain giving orders to ten fingers, while bypassing the heart—which resounds to the beat of another drummer. If you pour your heart into blogging, then blogging means too much to you. If it means that much to you, then it means too much to you. There are a lot of bloggers who have the wrong temperament for blogging. They blog as if their life depended on it.