Code of Un-Ethics
For some, debating is a science. The purpose of the following list is to make you aware of the tricks that certain people play, and to expose them:
1. Never apologize. Why is it that some people never seem to apologize? If they apologize, then their credibility is shot among their fan-base.
2. Poisoning the Well. Ad Hominem is truly “old school.” Simply attack the person’s character and dismiss anything they have to say. Point out some extraneous issue and make it the basis for your rejection of a completely unrelated matter. Dave Hunt successfully employed a “Poison the Well” argument in the debate book, Debating Calvinism, which his opponent, James White, called him out on.
In Part II, Calvinism Denied, Hunt begins with a chapter on “Calvin and Augustine: Two Jonah’s Who Sunk the Ship.” In it, Hunt uses their character (the lack thereof) as a basis to “poison the well” so to speak, so that their teachings will be mistrusted. White, being enraged and indignant, openly charged Hunt with a “poison the well” tactic (p.240, 251), stating: “This kind of argumentation is called ‘poison the well.’ It is an appeal to the emotions of those who are easily prejudiced.” (p.251)
Hunt replied that White “failed” (#18) to report the truth about Calvin (p.247), and that since “life reflects doctrine (2 Timothy 3:10)” (p.248), it is fair game to cite the abusive character of Calvin.
3. Ignore questions. Ignore tough questions, and then accuse your opponent of doing the same thing!
4. Lie. Insist that what you said, wasn’t what you said. They’re hoping that everyone just fell off a turnip truck and won’t know the difference.
5. Obscure References. Find any obscure reference to someone, somewhere espousing your position.
6. Secret Knowledge. Claim secret knowledge which your opponent cannot refute (i.e. Secret Will).
7. Buddy-System. Only criticize some people criticizing fellow Christians. Never attack any Christian who supports you, no matter how dedicated they are to attacking other Christians. I was accused of this. I agreed with another poster, and even built upon their argument, but merely offered some caution. Another poster, an antagonist, caught on to my one bit of caution, and inferred that I “punched holes” through the other person’s argument. When I protested, naturally I was accused of the Buddy-System.
8. Last word. Always get the last word. People do this so that they can make it look like they were right. The best way to fight this tactic is by building a strong summary post.
9: Straw Man Arguments. Straw Man Arguments not only make effective offenses, but can also make an effective defense by simply dismissing anything your opponent says as a “Straw Man argument.”
10. Cast Suspicion. Claim spiritual high ground: “I have a check in my spirit about you.”
11. Hitler. Refer to your opponent as “Hitler,” as in, “that’s something Hitler would say.”
12. Filibuster. In each response, post an encyclopedia. This way, by your many words, you will convince others of your prowess, while simultaneously setting up an effective roadblock to probing dialogue.
13. Elephant Hurling. “Where the critic throws summary arguments about complex issues to give the impression of weighty evidence, but with an unstated presumption that a large complex of underlying ideas is true, and failing to consider opposing data, usually because they have uncritically accepted the arguments from their own side.” Ex: “… but the massing evidence from paleontology, genetics, zoology, molecular biology and other fields gradually established evolution’s truth beyond reasonable doubt.” (Answers in Genesis) 14. Bluff & Bluster. Ex: “Using authoritative-sounding statements on such things as the grammar of the original Hebrew, etc., which most Christians do not have the ability to check, or just do not bother to check.” (Answers In Genesis)
15. Red Herrings. Smokescreen that diverts attention away from the central issue.
16. Dodging. Accusing your opponent of “dodging the issue.” Whether they are or not is irrelevant. The accusation alone, casts suspicion upon your opponent.
17. Question their Salvation. Intimidation can be an effective tool at dismissing your opponent's point. Ex: If you think that you chose Christ of your own free will, then “I question your salvation.”
18. “You Failed!” No one likes to be called a “failure,” so just keep announcing that your opponent has “failed” at this, and “failed” at that.
19. Play Umpire. Call “strikes” on your opponent. Saying “Strike One” demonstrates that you are already aiming to go to strike 3. The Calvinist Gadfly used it on yours truly.
20. Tradition. Accuse your opponent of merely espousing “Tradition.” James White pounded that point home in the book, Debating Calvinism, between he and Dave Hunt, and then White quickly deferred to Tradition when trying to explain the difference between the Calvinist understanding of regeneration and salvation:
James White: “First, he confuses terms, such as salvation and regeneration. In most theological works, regeneration is a subset of the larger and broader term, salvation, which often includes within it justification, forgiveness, redemption, and adoption. Sometimes is can be used in a narrower sense, but in historical discussions of these issues, regeneration has a specific meaning that Mr. Hunt normally confuses.” (Debating Calvinism, p.305, emphasis mine)
21. I’m trying to ignore you. This lets the fan base know that it wasn’t a question that you couldn’t answer, but that it was a question that was beneath you to answer. This, in effect, maintains the confidence of the fan-base.
22. Your last statement just doesn’t make sense. Instead of having to substantively address your opponent’s point, with this powerful Hand-Waving tool, you can simply dismiss it without consideration. Other alternatives are, “I don’t understand what you are saying” and “I’m unclear.” You know exactly what they’re saying. You’re just trying to throw them off, in order to get them to second guess themselves or to get others to not even bother reading. You certainly can restate their question in the way that you understand it, and respond to that, but that would be the honest approach.
23. Declare Victory! James White used this tool quite often in his debate book with Dave Hunt. Nothing pleases the fan-base more than to know that they WON. Declare that your opponent’s arguments have been “refuted” (p.224), while simultaneously declaring your own arguments as “unrefuted.” (p.306) James White states: “By this point, the reader has surely begun to see the consistency of Mr. Hunt’s replies: He consistently ignores the exegesis that refutes his position, while repeating the same mantralike phrases.” (p.224) Ignores, refutes and repeats. White has successfully fed the fan-base.
24. Character Assassination. This goes far deeper than merely “poisoning the well.” With this powerful tool, you to grind the confidence of your opponent into dust.
James White writes: “Dave Hunt’s fourth presentation is marked by shrill rhetoric, an incredible lack of understanding of the issues he has chosen to denounce, and a scattergun approach that presents a disjointed collage of false allegations against Reformed Theology containing so many basic errors of fact and logic that one could fill a book with in-depth refutations. To say it is disappointing is a gross understatement. Mr. Hunt does not understand the issues before him. I, along with dozens of others, have attempted over the past couple of years to explain to him the large number of misapprehensions he has about the Reformed faith, but he has refused to listen. This chapter exhibits many of these mistaken assumptions in full color.” (Debating Calvinism, p.319)
25. Sympathy. No one likes a bully. So declare that your opponent (who is supposed to be a Christian), is an anti-(whatever you are) who aggressively “attacks” your beliefs:
James White: “But what should concern all serious readers is the fact that in his dogged *attacks* upon Calvinism, Hunt does not provide a coherent, thought-out alternative.” (Debating Calvinism, p.319)
26. Humor. People forget your point if you are funny.
27. Confusion. Say something really confusing that no one can possibly understand. By the time your opponent figures it out, you’ll have already moved on.
28. Arguments From Silence. Ex: Paul never discussed the Virgin Birth. (fact) Therefore it must NOT be true. (assumption) “Arguments From Silence” are useful only as “supporting evidence,” but never as “primary evidence.” However, the fan-base doesn't need to know this.
29. Confidence. Never admit that your theology has a “Problem Verse.” Your theology is perfect in every detail. This will maintain the confidence of the fan-base.
30. I’m on a Mission from God. It’s just my desire for your readers to know the truth as I know it. (Ideal for use when one is reprimanded for trying to hijack a blog and force-feed their own agendas.)
31. Safety in Numbers. Bring in troops to establish territorial rights and construct a wall of protection. Just have a few fans filibuster about any thing they want on any subject while ignoring the dissenting commentator’s comment.
32. Comment Moderation. Shut down the comment stream and turn off posting ability.
33. Change the Subject. Respond to Point-A by refuting Point-B.
34. Lament. Declare everything your opponent says is “sad.” This will portray your opponent as guilty so that your fan-base will mistrust them.
35. Heretic. Call your opponent a “heretic.” It will give you the appearance of being orthodox while effectively anathematizing your opponent. Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, writes: “And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer?” (A Defense of Calvinism, emphasis mine)
36. Pharisee. Call your opponent a “Pharisee.” If they’re the bad guys, this makes you a good guy.
37. Use labels. Label your opponent’s writings as arguments that “do not stand up to sound biblical exegesis and scrutiny.” Whether this is true or not, doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is whether the fan-base believes it, and if they are already indoctrinated, then merely making this declaration should be enough to convince them.
38. Accuse them of “sin”. Declare something that your opponent says or does is a “sin,” and then tell them that they need to repent of this “sin,” whatever sin that it was, that you happened to make up.
39. Ignorant. Declare that your opponent is “ignorant.” This will make you look smarter than them, even if they are light-years more knowledgeable than you.
40. Errors. Declare that your opponent’s view has “errors.” Whether or not they’ve actually made errors is beside the point. The point is to destroy your opponent at all costs, so when you’re done, feel free to add #18, in that they have “failed.”
41. You deny plain Scripture! Whether or not they deny plain Scripture is totally irrelevant. With this powerful Hand-Waving tool, you can effectively smear your opponent without having to substantively address their argument. Everyone will think that you are right because, Hey, they deny plain Scripture!
42. Circular Reasoning. Foundational conclusions drawn simply from assumed presumptions.
43. Anchoring Error. Never question your anchors. If your world-view has taught you something to be true, then it is true, and anyone who questions it, can be met with a Hand-Waving tool, by quickly dismissing their arguments out of hand, without further consideration or investigation.
44. Maximal Aversion. Avoid the possibility of anything that might contradict your anchors, by taking the furthest most position. Ex: The “world” at John 3:16 was interpreted by John Calvin to mean the whole world. But since the strongest aversion from Arminianism is to infer that the “world” means only an “elect world,” adopt the Maximal Aversion by contending for the latter interpretation.
45. Equivocation. Ex: Grace without Election is no Grace, and since Grace is biblical, so must Election.
46. Grandstanding. For good measure, seize upon an opponent’s weakness and make a display of it.
47. Too Complex. Declare that your opponent’s argument is “too complex.” That way, you don’t have to answer those thorny Yes/No questions.
48. Smear. Ever had anyone tell you that you have so many misconceptions that they don’t know where to begin? The reason is because they really don’t know where to begin, and by making this declaration, now they don’t have to!
49. It’s Just What the Bible Says. When employed, it’s usually because it’s not what the Bible says, but rather what they want you to think that the Bible says. It makes for a great shield tactic. To question you, is question what the Bible says. Hey, it’s just what the Bible says!
50. First name only, in condescending manner. This makes a person feel small. Collectors use this tactic on Debtors. Ex: “I’m looking for Biblical exegesis, Richard, not the opinions of men.”
51. Weasel Words. Synthesizing irreconcilable concepts can be difficult, but not necessarily impossible, if you know how to craft useful “weasel words” to provide sufficient ambiguity.
52. Rabbit Trail. Instead of addressing the central point, and its implications, veer off the subject by picking out some completely unrelated matter, and then argue your position from something completely unrelated, while insisting that it is absolutely applicable.
53. Intimidation. Repeatedly tell your opponent that they are going to Hell for not believing like you. I’ve seen people who proclaim a Gospel of Baptismal Regeneration triy this technique, and there are some really hard-line Calvinists who often do this as well. It creates such an uncharitable situation, that the dialogue ends.
54. Act Surprised. Regardless of what proof-text that your opponent advances, begin your reply with, “I’m surprised that you would reference that verse....” Of course, there is no real surprise at all, but it does serve to intimidate your opponent into thinking that they didn’t realize something, and it also casts an appearance of your opponent being careless, while you come across as the one who is observant or insightful.
55. Machine Gun Hermeneutic. After listing a series of verses (Exodus 4:21, Exodus 12:36, Psalm 105:25, Proverbs 21:2, Daniel 4:25, Amos 3:6, Acts 4:27-28, John 1:13, John 5:21, John 12:39-40, Acts 13:48, Romans 9:22-24, Ephesians 1:4, 2nd Thessalonians 2:13), Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “Arminians, needless to say, are well aware of these passages of Scripture and doubtless have explanations for them.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.220) The effect is to overwhelm the opposition with a lengthy list. After all, how could all of these be wrong? However, why did Lutzer say “doubtless” that Arminians “have explanations for them”? Does he not know what those explanations are?
56. You Too Fallacy. Tell your opponent that they cannot criticize you in a particular area because their criticism not only affects you, but them as well, and so they are better off dropping that argument altogether in order to avoid hurting us both. If your opponent is duped by this technique, then you’ll never have to answer their charge. (You Too!)
57. Negative Inference Fallacy. Take a positive affirmation on something and establish your point by assuming an unstated negative, which is essentially an “Argument From Silence.” Example: Take a statement where Jesus said that He died for the Church or for His sheep, and then infer the negative by stating that Jesus did not die for anyone else. Certainly that is where the benefits of His atonement are found, but that positive statement doesn’t require the negative aspect, because He could have died for everyone with the desire that all freely become part of His Church. At Galatians 2:20, Paul says that Jesus “loved me and gave Himself up for me.” The negative inference fallacy would be to take this and say that He only loved me.