Impatience hampers logical discussions

24 Feb

Jumping the gun  True confession:  more often than not I am SO eager to use the limited time I sense in a discussion to communicate my view, that I don’t take the time to understand the other guy’s case.

This impatience can lead me actually to waste valuable time with my conversation partner. The other day when I was in Québec leading a group of my 8th grade French students I engaged in some interesting back and forth with our bus driver.  At one point, as he was pointing out how many churches around the city had closed and been renovated for other purposes, I asked him point blank if he believed in God?  At his response in the negative I invited him to explain. He was not loath to expound for a couple of minutes before the tour guide interrupted him with a query. We never got back to the question.  I now realize that a more effective question would have been to ask him:

  • Well what kind of god DON’T you believe in?

His response would have provided far more clues to his thinking and shine light on a more effective tactic I might employ.

Back stateside while catching up on some podcasts about thinking and reasoning, I heard Greg Koukl explain the importance of pursuing clarity on his radio broadcast (podcast). That advice reminded me of my Canadian conversation.  Greg recounted part of a discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness visitor to his house (can’t remember if it was real or hypothetical) where the point of debate concerned the Trinitarian God of Christianity. First, Koukl clarified the Jehovah Witness’ distinction (and main point) between God the Father and Jesus the Son. Then he spent most of the remaining time getting the visitor to articulate what HE, the visitor, understood the Christian view of God to be (the view the man was criticizing).  Greg reported actually writing down what the other man said.  Only then did he compare that man’s talking points about his religion’s version with orthodox Christianity.

That approach would never have occurred to me.  I certainly know MY desire to make my case clear. And equally important is for me to understand properly my interlocutor’s viewpoint. But to take the time and tease out of the other guy what HE thinks MY position to be was a new strategy.  It certainly removes some pressure by making the OTHER guy articulate both his own view and what he assumes mine to be.

What happened in Greg’s conversation in the remaining time after clarifying both views? His investment paid off.  Because he had helped the Jehovah’s Witness specify in his own words the Christian position, Greg didn’t take long to make HIS own point.  It turned out that the Jehovah’s Witness was objecting to views of Jesus not at all factual.  So there really was no problem or point of disagreement.  It was a smooth and effective way to clear the smoke and confusion….or at least to rattle the cage of this über-confident evangelist promoting something other than biblical Christianity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: