29 April 2008


I'm getting old.  
I was taught in both school and university that debate between people of different ideas is a good thing because it sharpens one's thinking.
I was also taught that, if you are going to engage in a debate, that you should address the ideas with which you disagree and not ridicule the person holding them or attack his/her character.  For example, calling a New Testament scholar 'a clown' or 'a comedian' and otherwise ridiculing him is not a proper process for debating theology.
But some time during the last 50 years, this process of discourse has become outmoded.  Apparently, it is now acceptable to launch a character-attack on someone if you don't like their ideas.  
The Church Universal has degraded into a place where the communication tactics used by Rush Limbaugh in the US and The Mail and The Sun tabloid newspapers in the UK are legitimate ways of discussing theology.  Don't like someone's theology?  Ridicule him or her.  Attack his or her character.  Start your argument with 'This person is a clown, so you shouldn't listen to a word s/he has to say';  address some of the ideas if you must, but continue to sprinkle your argument with character-assassination to let your readers know that your oponent's ideas are as worthless as s/he is.
The Church has discarded the commandment to not bear false witness against one's neighbour.  I'm assuming that it must now be outmoded in the 21st century.
[Addendum:  Whilst this post is addressing a particular incident, I'm generalising it because I do believe that this process of 'debate' is being used on a regular basis within the Church.]


Oloryn said...

It's been going on far longer than 50 years. Back in the 1940s, C. S. Lewis labeled this technique (instead of arguing with your opponent's ideas, speculate on their motives, and dismiss their arguments on the basis on their 'bias') as Bulverism. I've been harping on this for awhile (see here). You could even argue that the serpent's argument in Gen 3 is Bulverism - he just asserts that God has an ulterior motive and dismisses his command on that basis.

PamBG said...

Oloryn - a very interesting post on Bulverism (a term I'd not heard before). Thanks for the link.