What can Christian apologists do to represent the arguments of others with fairness and intellectual integrity?
This series has focused upon the need to apply the biblical principle of the Golden Rule to the enterprise of Christian apologetics. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus states this critical moral maxim as follows:
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Since the Golden Rule applies to all endeavors in life, as believers we should strive to treat the viewpoints of others with care and evenhandedness. We certainly want to be treated that way.
Six Practices for Apologetic Fairness
In part five of this series, I began a list of practices that an apologist can implement to ensure a respectful critique of the opposition’s perspective. Here are the two points covered last time:
Identify Central Tenets of a Belief System.
Affirm Positive Features of a Belief System.
Now let’s examine two more points in this article.
3. Quote the Most Authoritative Sources.
Since I appreciate it when critics of my faith quote the best and most authoritative sources when examining historic Christianity, I owe them the same in return. It is important for Christian apologists to study the belief system in question so well as to know its most respected sources.
When critiquing naturalism in my book A World of Difference, I used quotes from well-respected philosophical sources that were fair in their basic, though critical, assessment. I also resourced respected texts written by naturalists themselves for explaining and defending their worldview. The point here is to refer to quality sources that represent the critiqued position in an objective and fair fashion.
4. Give the Critiqued Belief System the Benefit of the Doubt.
When examining the positions of others, read their views in the best light possible. For example, if a weak version of an argument is given, explain that there is a stronger version to that same argument and then proceed to critique the stronger position.
When I examine the theological positions of other Christian traditions, I make it a point to give some grace to my Christian brothers and sisters and frame their position in the most positive and charitable way possible. I like to think of myself as a “charitable Calvinist.” Treating the views of others with fairness and respect gives evidence of true intellectual integrity. God’s servants should perform the apologetic task with the goal of prizing truth and respecting people.
The last article in this series will conclude my discussion of the “Six Practices for Apologetic Fairness.”
For more on building intellectual virtue in the area of apologetics, see chapters 3 - 4 of my book A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.