Friday, March 30, 2012

It’s Tough to Perform Brilliantly When You Have a Bad Argument

I recently ran across two statements by different writers on different topics which nevertheless dovetail:

While we still don’t know the outcome of the Obamacare case, that hasn’t stopped some on the left from piling on Solicitor General Donald Verrilli for allegedly “choking” during oral arguments. While I haven’t argued in front of the Supreme Court, I’ve had more than my share of state and federal appellate arguments, and these armchair quarterbacks are overlooking a few factors.
Second — and more importantly — it’s tough for anyone to perform brilliantly when your argument is weak on the merits. Listening to NPR these last couple days, I was amused as various commentators suggested General Verrilli should have tried various alternative arguments — arguments that were not only unsupported by precedent but would have collapsed under the slightest level of scrutiny from Justice Kennedy or Justice Scalia. It turns out that the argument for Obamacare rests on a functionally unlimited view of federal power — that the Commerce Clause, Necessary and Proper Clause, and New Deal precedent have essentially combined to create a form of de facto police power for the federal government. But if you instead place federal power within the context of enumerated powers, then Verrilli’s argument becomes exponentially more difficult.
Solicitor General Verrilli struggled not because he “choked” — he did reasonably well for the case he had — but because several members of the Court asked him to justify the individual mandate from within the framework of enumerated powers. As with any case, so much depends on framing. And the more this case was framed as it should be — as a battle over the text and meaning of the Constitution itself — the greater the solicitor general’s challenge. 
We’ll know within a few months if this framing holds and we do in fact maintain a federal government of enumerated powers. In the meantime, the Left shouldn’t be permitted to misdirect from the fundamental weakness of its argument by throwing its advocate under the bus.

It is not by accident that the first time my own Arminian ideas were questioned came at the hands of an atheist. (Yes, I was at one point in time an Arminian.) You see, atheists, for all their incorrect assumptions about God, are not stupid people. They can see a fatal flaw in Christianity if ever there was one.
Well, there isn’t one. But I found that as an Arminian, I could not adequately defend Christianity. For the Calvinist, there is little surprise as to why I could not—I couldn’t defend Christianity when I was an Arminian because Arminianism is self-contradictory. Of course, I do not expect Arminians to agree with this. Yet my own experience convinces me that it is impossible to defend Arminianism under the close scrutiny of a logic-oriented atheist.
Given this, it is little wonder to me that so many Arminian Christians flee debates with atheists. Indeed, looking at the many Arminian websites around the net today, they are almost exclusively oriented toward attacking Calvinism rather than toward defending the faith against atheists. Could it be that their own thinking shows us flaws in the Arminian system of salvation and because they know these flaws are there, they do not feel comfortable talking to atheists?
Atheists are quick to jump on Arminians, and it’s easier to do so because Arminians are wrong. Since most Christians in America today are Arminians it is no wonder that atheists seem to be gaining the upper hand in much of the scholarly debate.
The simple fact of the matter is this: Atheists can defeat Arminianism. But atheists cannot defeat Calvinism. Why? I claim that it is ultimately because Calvinism is right and Arminianism is wrong. 

1 comment:

  1. It looks like there's a stray space at the tail end of the link to "The Illogical Arminian." After getting "Page Not Found" a couple of times, I copied/pasted the link into a text editor, and it showed up like this: