Sometimes we can be tempted towards sarcasm and mockery, but despite the persuasive power of rhetoric in this culture, Tim Barnett and Robby Lashua explain why apologetics should instead rely on good arguments.
Tim: You want to respond tit for tat. You’re going to give this poke in the eye? I’m going to poke you in the eye right back. That kind of thing. Amy can attest to this because Amy usually looks over all the Red Pen Logic stuff and makes sure that we’re not being aggressive in that way and we’re not insulting in that way. Sometimes my sarcasm, I think, slips in. It is my love language. We’re trying to sanitize that out of there so that the argument doesn’t get lost.
You know what? I could make a video where I just mock and ridicule, and it may come across to our world as very persuasive because we think with our feelings. We’re not using our minds. We’re using our hearts instead, and that can lead people astray. So, I could convince a whole bunch of Christians to side with me because I’ve just completely dunked on this atheist rather than responding to the arguments themselves. But we don’t do that. We’re doing our best. I wish you could, kind of, walk with me through the process, because you watch a video, and you’re just thinking, “Oh, my! Where do I even begin?” And here’s what I’m feeling, but I can’t say that. I want some substance here. I want to be persuasive and rely on rational argumentation. So, that’s what we try to do, and sometimes we miss the mark, but most of the time we stay pretty close to that.
It’s interesting that philosopher Doug Groothuis posted recently that he’s actually written an article—and I think a talk, as well—on using mockery in apologetics, and I am totally fascinated and interested in reading that and what he says there. But as it is right now, I just don’t think that’s usually an appropriate response. We don’t take that approach. The world might, and the world might have a whole audience that thinks, “Oh, wow! Look! So-and-so owned so-and-so.” The headlines on YouTube videos grab attention. Everyone wants to see someone get totally owned, but we don’t want to own people; we want to respond to the arguments.
Robby: I think that’s great because it comes down to an ad hominem attack. It’s slander. It’s making fun of. It’s shaming. I think that, as Christians, we are not supposed to do that. We’re supposed to commit to human dignity and to help people be built up. But it’s so alluring because you can get more likes on YouTube. You can get people to agree with you and think that you are wittier. But it’s just rhetoric, and it’s empty and it’s hollow, and we need to do better than that.