I agree with you. I look at the debates like for example Dr White against Catholic apologists and it seems like both sides are more interested in showing that they are smarter than the side, than actually doing apologetics. The current format depends to much in the ability of the debater to debate, the actual argument becomes secondary.
Take a look at some of Dr Whites debates he uses this simple but effective technique: He ask a question without making eye contact and with very guarded tone, when his opponent starts answering he reaches over for a book and starts searching for something, this throws his opponent on a loop because they start thinking “What is that book he is looking? Did I just contradict the Church? Did I just contradict one of my own books?”, more times than none the catholic side stubles after this little trick.
He is not depending on the reason of his argument, he is just taking advantage of human nature on stressfully situations, to get his oponets “Off their game”.
I favor written debates in which a side makes a claim and the other side (and whoever is following the debate) have time to research and refine their answer. This is they way the first Christians debated their opponents, this is why we still have the works of Justine and others.These could take days, but I find them more productive.
Another problem with the current format is that you could have a wealth of knowledge but if you are not good a public speaking you can not defend your points. I often wander how would Moses fare in an apologists debate, very badly I’m affraid and he wrote the first 5 books of the Bible!!
In His love
A Catholic Deacon