I recently had the opportunity to engage in my first ever public, moderated debate with Chris Date, host of the Theopologetics podcast. The debate can be downloaded from either this blog, Chris’ blog, or the blog over at the debates section at Grassroots Apologetics. Considering that I was more nervous than I can even begin to put into words, I think the debate went fairly well. Chris, in my opinion, won the debate, as he was better prepared and sounded much more confident than I did, and that, well, is very important in how one presents one’s case to listeners. I, again, am thankful for the opportunity to get my feet wet in this area of apologetics.. It has helped me to see my strengths and weaknesses more clearly, and that helps me understand how I can better defend the Gospel.
That being said, however, I have also come to understand some things about debate. First off, it is nothing like writing an academic paper! Introverted people, such as myself, will probably not fare very well. My personal notes on the debate resolution could be turned into a small book, but my debate with Chris doesn’t at all reflect that. Secondly, debate is not simply about presenting a compelling argument, it’s also about being compelling in the manner in which you present your case. A compelling presentation, I think, consists largely of being outspoken and confident in what one is saying. I also failed in this area, while Chris beat me hands down.
However, I don’t think that Chris won the debate because he provided a more plausible case for his position. Rather, I believe he won the debate because he was more confident, he was quicker in responding to my questions during cross-examination, and he, overall, dealt with the pressure of doing a first time debate much better than I did. I was a nervous wreck and had to stop more than once to actually remember what Chris had said during the question and answer section of the debate because I had basically blacked out. I heard Chris talking – but my mind went completely blank and I had to regather consciousness, as it were. Had I been more confident, I believe I would not have come across as I have in the debate.
But God is Sovereign, and I believe that He will draw His elect to Himself through whatever means He so chooses in His Infinite Wisdom. So, in other words, I will leave the results to my Lord and God. What I am praying for, however, is that the listeners of the debate will listen carefully to my opening statement, for I address many of Chris’ criticisms of the Biblical doctrine of eternal torment in my opening statement. For instance, in my opening statement I proved from the Scriptures that suffering for one’s sins is indeed a form of payment for one’s sins. This alone, I believe, causes extremely significant problems for the conditionalist’s position, as I think I made clear, with respect to the active and passive obedience of Christ and whether or not the wicked will die…in the conditionalist’s understanding of the word death. Similarly, my opening statement proved that, in the very same passage, Christ identifies the Hell of Fire with a prison from which there is no escape. This refutes conditionalism in one small syllogism, as I also tried to make clear.
I could go over the debate in much more detail, but I honestly find the back-and-forth argumentation that arises from these sorts of exchanges to be quite exhausting. I guess I would just make it a point to emphasize that I do not think that Chris won the debate because he had stronger arguments. I believe that Chris won the debate because he is a better debater. If I ever do enter into another debate, I hope to be better prepared – i.e. I hope to be more confident in my presentation.
For all who are interested, I will be posting some articles over at Grassroots Apologetics that deals with the error of conditionalism in more detail. As far as this exchange with Chris goes, I’ve decided to attach my opening statement for any who are interested in examining my arguments in light of some of Chris’ rebuttal points. I believe that my case is stronger than Chris,’ but I will let you decide on that.
Here is my opening statement, if you’d like to examine the arguments I made.