Thursday, May 2, 2024

How to argue

Of all the memorable statements uttered by Charles Spurgeon, this advice from Lectures to My Students has stuck in my head as much as anything the great preacher said or wrote:
The sensible minister will be particularly gentle in argument. He, above all men, should not make the mistake of fancying that there is force in temper, and power in speaking angrily.... Try to avoid debating with people. State your opinion and let them state theirs. If you see that a stick is crooked, and you want people to see how crooked it is, lay a straight rod down beside it; that will be quite enough. But if you are drawn into controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words.
So many wise sentiments in these few sentences. We could talk about how “the Lord’s servant,” even as he rightly contends for the faith, “must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:24–25). We could talk about the folly of mistaking forcefulness for true spiritual power. We could talk about the wisdom of avoiding protracted debates, by stating your opinion and then moving on. All of that is pure gold.

But I want to focus on the last sentence in the paragraph above. I want to suggest two ways we can make our arguments harder, which in this case means better, more careful, and more persuasive. .... (more)

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