Things that should make a person automatically forfeit an apologetics debate

You may have heard the unofficial rule that whoever compares his adversary’s position to Nazism has automatically lost the debate. Some apologetics offenses that I’ve spotted on this board belong in this category, too. Here are some that I think should mean forfeiture.

  1. The “slapping Jesus in the face argument.” “If you say so-and-so then it’s just like you’re slapping Jesus in the face.”]

  2. Use of the phrase “twisting the Scriptures.”

  3. Blanket referral to all non-Catholic Christians as “fundamentalists.”

  4. Cutting and pasting from another website without attributing the source or providing a link.

  5. Cutting and pasting (even if attributed) an irrelevant article. If the thread topic is “The Scriptural Basis of Purgatory” and you cut and paste an article called “Was Peter Really in Rome?,” then guess what, you’re out.


I would agree with all but No. 2, “twisting the Scriptures.” Let me illustrate with John 20:23 where Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” Now that statement is about as plain as you can get. It is simple and unambiguous, and susceptible to only one meaning. Yet there are many who will say something like this. “We know this verse doesn’t confer on the apostles the power to forgive sins because only God can forgive sins. Rather it means that ‘those who proclaim the gospel are in effect forgiving or not forgiving sins, depending on whether the hearers accept or reject Jesus Christ.’” (NASB Bible, published by Zondervan). You may have another name for this–butchering, molesting, denying, distorting–but I call it plain old twisting. So I can’t go along with your No. 2 reason for forfeiting a debate.

Unfortunately, I may have violated your Rule 5 here by bringing up another topic, but I think it adequately illustrates the problem with your No. 2 forfeiture reason.

-Any presumption of the state of your opponent’s soul.

-Any impugning of your opponent’s devotion to God

  1. References to ‘clown Masses’ (please, people, has anyone, pro or con the Novus Ordo, actually ever seen one first hand?)

  2. Comparisons of Lefebvre to Athanasius - please, maybe with the benefit of 100 or so years’ hindsight we may judge that he was, at the moment he sure doesn’t look like an Athanasius, and to compare JP2 to the Pope of Athanasius’ day really is a slap in the face.

  3. References, on the Catholic side, to the scandals of the private lives of Henry VIII, and on the non-Catholic side to the scandalous lives of some of our Popes. Can we accept that even the Apostles occasionally goofed on a personal level without it necessarily impacting the accuracy of their teaching?

  4. References, on the Catholic side, to the early Reformers’ support for things like the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. Why do we assume that today’s non-Catholics accept all that Luther or Zwingli believed as Gospel any more than they accept what 1,400 years’ worth of Popes said before them?

  5. Demands for scriptural support for a given proposition coupled with failure to accept such scriptural support when it’s offered. Can’t you just accept that WE think that abc scripture supports xyz proposition, accept our reasons as to why, and disagree with them if you’re not convinced, without acting as if it is logically totally impossible for anyone to interpret that scripture in a different way from you?

No-one ever “wins” a debate on this board, unless the winning is in their own mind. While you have posted some interesting rules for a formal debate, the concept of winning, losing, and forfeiture are, in my mind, nonsense.

Are we scored on our debating skills? Do we win a prize for making a good point? It is necessary to defend the Faith. It is not necessary, and indeed it seems to an issue of pride, to feel that we must “win”.

opps. I just did a number 2 on another thread… (no pun intended)

That brings up a good question, why is there NO formal debate forum available at CAF?

  1. Any reference to Hitler of Nazi’s

  2. Any appeal to God as authority, even WWJD

  3. Use of any term begining with “neo-”.

  4. Any post that needs or exceeds the limit to the number of words and requires two posts to squeeze it in.

  5. That hugging smilie thing.

I maintain that anyone automatically forfeits any debate on any subject by:

  1. Deliberately interrupting (in person)
  2. Monopolizing debate by screaming, talking very fast or just never inhaling
  3. Accusing opponent of “not even thinking for yourself” or having been “brainwashed” (even if so, this is ad hominem and has nothing to do with validity of points made)
  4. Speaking only in questions, neither answering nor acknowledging answers

Bringing up the priest abuse scandal when it is not the topic at hand.

Here’s a rule I’d like to see everyone adhere to: MAKE ONE POINT AT A TIME.

Whenever I read a post where someone makes about 11 arguments against Catholicism or Christianity, I tend to just breeze past it. If a person has one question or one objection, I take it a lot more seriously.

  1. Straw men
  2. Loaded questions
  3. Non sequiturs in general
  4. Ad hominem attacks of any kind unless directly relevant to issue, in which case they cease to be ad hominem attacks. If Martin Luther had no manners that doesn’t prove clergy should be celibate. His personal life is relevant only insofar as it is plausibly the only or main reason he drew the conclusions he did and does not override other people’s reasoning for drawing the same conclusions. The same for any Pope.

Something else I thought of: Is there a name for the reverse of ad hominem attacks? Sort of like a overly self-congratulatory rhetorical strategy?

what I have in mind are the posts that say something like, “When Catholics meet people who prefer to think for themselves, what do the Catholics have to say about—” etc. Or is that just a thinly veiled ad hominem attack? Even so, it seems it should have its own name.

I would be willing to think of it as an argument from arrogance.
As when someone says, “I guess some of us just like to think for ourselves” or, “Well, when you get to the level of experience and depth I have…” or, “Someday you’ll understand what a real relationship with God is.”:rolleyes:

Something similar: “I heard a debate between a Catholic and a Christian the other day, and the Catholic said----” :ouch:

You can presume whatever you want about the state of my soul, since I don’t have any belief in a soul.

You can also impugn my devotion to God all you want, since that simply doesn’t apply in my case.

Other than that, those are good rules.:slight_smile:

How about asking, half-way through a debate, “Why did you come to a Catholic forum anyway?”

Here are some rules I’d like to see followed:

  1. Ignore people who bounce into the middle of a thread and say something completely irrelevent - do not respond - not even to tell them that their contribution is irrelevant. Simply continue on with the topic at hand.

  2. Leave personalities out of it - if your opponent accuses your mother of wearing army boots, ignore the comment and focus only on his contributions to the actual subject at hand - don’t devolve into a conversation about whether or not your mother wears army boots.

  3. Focus on the content of the other person’s argument; don’t get sidetracked with trying to teach your opponent how to use the English language, or with teaching him to have good manners - if you have a problem with someone’s English, or with his manners, PM him off-line and give him a gentle correction, but don’t turn the thread into a whole thing about “Well, you may have meant that, but you said this,” when it’s perfectly obvious what the person actually meant to say.

  4. When asking for clarification, use quote boxes to highlight the statements you didn’t understand, and say something like, “I didn’t understand what you meant by this - could you please rephrase it” without (see point 3) getting into an argument about the guy’s ability to use English, or his (lack of) manners.

  5. Don’t ask people personal questions about things that are absolutely none of your business - period and full stop - but especially not as a way of making your opponent “look bad.” All this does is make you look like an arrogant little busy-body.

  6. Use quote boxes.

6a. Quote only those parts of the other person’s argument that you are actually responding to. People can scroll up if they want to see the whole message.

6b. Don’t get creative with colours and fonts when quoting others - just keep it simple by keeping the other person’s contributions inside the quote boxes, and your own contributions outside of them, so that it’s easy to tell at a glance who is responding to whom.

  1. Be the adult. If the other person is being childish, don’t feel that you have to respond in kind - or at all.

I agree that mostly a person’s personal life is irrelevant, but there are times when people use a personal experience as the crux of their argument.

Surely, if a person brings a personal anecdote into the conversation, it is permissible to question the relevant details?

(Notice I followed all of your rules? :tiphat: )

Interestingly, my point was very closely related to the point of jmcrae’s that I quoted.

If a person has a rebuttal to the argument, why a non-Catholic is on the forum is irrelevant.

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