New Policy — the End of Ad Hominem Arguments

[I’m reposting this from March. Just a reminder of a standing policy that I’ve been too busy to reiterate until now.]

star.jpgI’ve lost patience with ad hominem attacks. Christians should know how to debate issues and not attack motives or personalities. I will be editing them out.

For now, I’ll still not be moderating comments — that is, they’ll be posted as written without any pre-approval by me, as has been my policy from the beginning. But as I have time, I’ll take ad hominem arguments out, indicating the deletion with “[ad hominem argument deleted].”

I’m hoping this policy will encourage discussion the scriptures and the issues in lieu of character assaults and motive questioning.

My doctor told me to get my blood pressure down, and this will be a good start.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink.
My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.

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9 Responses to New Policy — the End of Ad Hominem Arguments

  1. josh keele says:

    Facts are never ad hominem. Jesus asked "Why do you call me Lord Lord and not do the things that I say?" The obvious answer is that people who don't do what the Lord says but say "Lord, Lord" are simply saying "Lord, Lord" while not believing that he is Lord. That's not ad hominem–that's a logical progressive of thought. Show otherwise if you can.

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Josh,

    Ad hominem accusations are invalid argumentation and fail to prove anything that matters — even if they're true. If your opponent is a devil worshiping pagan and he reasons correctly from scripture, he's still right. If your opponent is the second coming of Stephen, and his reasoning is invalid, it's still wrong.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem gives a good discussion for those not familiar with the term.

  3. josh keele says:

    But when you've proven your position already and you throw in a so-called "ad hominem" as a follow-up conclusion or corollary to that which is already shown, rather than as a proof, that's a totally different thing.

  4. Jay Guin says:

    Your case is proven, it's true. But it's still wrong to argue in such a way. And it detracts from your arguments. After all, if the case can be won on its merits, why resort to obviously invalid arguments.

    That's one of the first lessons I learned as a young lawyer, training under one of the state's foremost appellate attorneys — don't make arguments that are unpersuasive: they detract from the good ones.

    Compare:

    * This verse proves my point.

    * This verse proves my point and you're a lying, pagan idiot!

    If the verse really does prove the point, it's proven in either case. But the second approach comes across as childish and petulant. It undermines the debater's credibility.

    Moreover, it's generally just not true. Saying untrue (or unprovable) things mixed with true things only makes the debater appear unable to tell the difference.

    Raising the emotional temperature of the debate just doesn't lead to consensus. Rather, it causes the other side to dig in his or her heels. Who wants to admit being wrong to some who just called him an idiot?

    Moreover, the scriptures tell us how to behave when dealing with those with whom we disagree —

    (2 Tim 2:24-26) And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

  5. josh keele says:

    I'm going to abide by your rule as best I can, but I still want to protest a tad bit. So here it is:

    Well, I'm not a lawyer. So when there is a corollary, I generally point it out even if people aren't going to like it, because it may be useful for something and someone may says "aha!"

    "* This verse proves my point.

    * This verse proves my point and you’re a lying, pagan idiot!

    If the verse really does prove the point, it’s proven in either case. But the second approach comes across as childish and petulant. It undermines the debater’s credibility. "

    Maybe this is my point and I don't know it. Maybe I subconsciously want to undermine my own credibility so that only those who care to take the argument on its merits will, and those who look for an excuse to not do so will have their excuse. Its much like a parable.

    At least unlike Jesus Himself, I save the "Ad Hominem" for after I give the argument and don't use it before hand. I don't say "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in," but rather I say "Doing xyz is shutting up the kingdom of God, and you Scribes and Pharisees do xyz, so you are shutting up the kingdom of God, and BTW, you are hypocrites." My approach seems a little more friendly actually, and if you have a problem with my supposed "ad hominems" then I shutter to think what……………………oops, There I go again…..glad I caught myself.

  6. josh keele says:

    (Of course for those who aren't familar with prior discussions on this site, I want to point out that I didn't call anyone "a lying, pagan idiot!" My "ad hominem" is found in the first comment above and is related to Luke 6:46 and the parable of the builders. I'm done with my protest.)

  7. Jay Guin says:

    Josh,

    Thanks for agreeing to the new rule. I'd just point out a couple of things.

    First, Jesus had an advantage the rest of us don't share: he knew men's hearts perfectly. If he said someone was a hypocrite, for example, then he was really right and perfectly just in his judgment. On the other hand, we often mis-judge others.

    Second, Jesus gave us specific instructions in this area:

    (Mat 5:21-22) "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, ' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

    Jesus equates name calling with murder! In times of war, soldiers pick names for their enemies which dehumanize them a bit, making the killing easier.

    Our language, therefore, is important because of its impact on our hearts. This website is dedicated to unity among Christians. We can't fully realize the unity God has given us so long as we speak of one another as God's enemies and in willful rebellion against God.

    However, if we can learn to see one another as fellow beloved children of God, who are struggling to learn God's will as well as possible — although sometimes in error — everything changes.

  8. Ray Perkins says:

    Amen Jay! In addition, name calling is simply childish and one would suspect that those who are intellectual enough to engage in theological discussions would possess some semblance of maturity. Not to mention that name calling accomplishes absolutely nothing positive, only negative in the form of insulting another person and diminishing the one who slumps to such debased conversation.

    Ray

  9. "However, if we can learn to see one another as fellow beloved children of God, who are struggling to learn God’s will as well as possible — although sometimes in error — everything changes."

    Oh my -if only we really could see everyone this way and not worry about being RIGHT all the time, I can only imagine what all we could do in Jesus name together and how we could truly live out His prayer of us all being ONE! Many of our divisions and arguments would disappear, and we could truly focus on serving God and not attacking each other. I truly long for that day!!

    Thank you for your insights-I have really enjoyed reading the things on this blog, and look forward to reading more in the future. Blessings~

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