I stumbled across this “debate handbook” written by a Christian apologist of the “presuppositionalist” stripe. In a nutshell, these people are far more concerned with winning arguments than they are with entertaining what their opponents have to say, or even with merit. The “presupposition” is simply that the Christian, having God is his side, is right, and all strategy and attitudes appear to flow from this unyielding idea.
Because this is an especially aggressive brand of debating people, and appears to rely even more strongly than usual on intentional obfuscation, those who are fans of it can produce some interesting stuff. For example, here’s the beginning of Part 2 of the manual in question (page 13):
Some of our opponents are outwardly hostile. They might insult us, mock us, and call us names. They regard us as fools, fanatics, and the scum of the earth, and they are not afraid to tell us. Others appear more normal, and they will talk to you about religion seemingly with the same attention and respect that they will show when speaking about serious matters with non-Christians. Then, some appear so polite that they sound patronizing and obnoxious.
However, as long as they are all unbelievers, these are all superficial differences. Many Christians wish to consider their religious discussions with non-Christians as friendly
dialogues between fellow human beings who are both interested in discovering truth
through rational investigations. But this is unbiblical and unrealistic. It is true that many unbelievers appear sincere and courteous, but God looks at the thoughts and intentions of men, and not just their appearance and demeanor.
You might protest that, unlike God, we cannot directly perceive people’s hearts; however, it does not follow that we must therefore judge people according to their appearance. In another context, Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24). Indeed, we cannot directly perceive people’s hearts, but we do not need to, because Scripture tells us what is in their hearts. Scripture tells us what God perceives when he looks pass their appearance. When God looks at them, he does not see a group of civilized and educated gentlemen, but he sees a generation of vipers, lewd beasts, stubborn mules, and vicious dogs. He sees a group of morons, idolaters, and Godhaters.
All humans are born sinful and rebellious, and because all unbelievers have never been converted by God, they remain sinful and rebellious, no matter how sincere and
courteous they appear to you. As Christians, we are indeed intellectually and morally
superior, but we are superior only because God has changed us and made us superior by his sovereign grace, and not by our own will or work. We freely admit that we were just
as stupid and evil as our non-Christian opponents, but this does not change the fact that
they are indeed stupid and evil, that their friendly appearance is superficial, and that their gentle speech is insincere.
This is an interesting collection of ideas: non-Christians are shit, Christians are basically shit without God’s help, God hates everyone, and God is cool. It certainly can’t be faulted for false optimism.
The writer, Vincent Cheung, goes on to emphasize the raw grudge-driven nature of his approach:
This is the biblical way. You must actively and endlessly attack everything about your opponent’s thinking. You must demolish every argument and capture every thought. You must attack his beliefs more strongly and skillfully than he attacks yours. You must intellectually humiliate him, and expose the illusion that his pride is rationally justified. Because this is what biblical apologetics demands, it follows that you must develop and perfect your “take down” technique in debate.
To begin, we should recall our discussion from the previous chapter, that because God has rendered all unbelievers foolish and futile, we can always defeat them in argumentation when we affirm a biblical system of theology and apply the principles of biblical apologetics. A specific application of this means that we can always defeat any question or objection raised against the Christian faith, and more than that, we can destroy every idea within our opponent’s system of thought. Indeed, our task is to demolish every argument and capture every thought that defies what God has revealed in Scripture.
On this biblical basis, our broad offensive strategy is to attack everything in our
opponent’s worldview, everything he says, and everything he implies. We should turn
every question into an opportunity to undermine his intellectual pride, and use every
objection as a springboard to destroy his sense of intellectual superiority.
Those who are trying to learn my method of apologetics often fail to learn this principle. Perhaps they consider it an exaggeration, or perhaps they do not realize what “everything” entails, so I want to make it very clear. When I say to attack everything, I
mean everything, and everything about everything that has to do with anything in the opponent’s system of thought. When I say “everything,” I am referring to every word, every definition of every word, every implication of every word, every proposition, every connection between every proposition, every assumption, every speculation, every inference, every question, every objection, every contradiction – everything.
The guy certainly has a fondness for the word “destroy” (over two dozen instances appear in the PDF) and various synonyms. Clearly he views debates with non-Christians as divinely mandated cage matches.
There was no way I was going to suffer though this whole tract, but the writer’s general advice is to keep in mind that non-Christians, while sometimes appearing coherent enough, not only don’t know their Christianity but don’t even know what they themselves think or believe or where their ideas come from (“it is no exaggeration to say that none of their statements can be logically understood”). Comically, the onus is establishing the truth or falsity of the Christian deity is placed firmly on the nonbeliever:
An objection against Christianity must be an argument reducible to a
syllogism with a conclusion that contradicts Christianity. That is, it must contain true
premises and necessarily lead to a conclusion like, “Therefore, Christianity is false,” or
“Therefore, the Christian God does not exist.” In this case, what exactly is the objection?
What are these true premises? What is the exact process of reasoning that necessarily
leads to the conclusion that Christianity is false or that God does not exist?
Obviously, “unicorns” can be substituted for “Christianity” throughout, with no change in the basic argument–and this, on the heels of so much blather about logical fallacies and crappy reasoning. It’s startlingly dishonest, but I can see how the tactics could be useful to the side lacking evidence in an oral debate setting and in capable hands.