A few post-debate thoughts

Just recently, me and Rotherham (a JW) finished our debate.  It was a written debate and took quite some time; specifically, four months.  While I won’t rehash the arguments here, I wanted to address a few items.  First off, if you haven’t read the debate and have any interest at all in the JW’s, then I would highly encourage you to do so.  Of course, many may think that the “new light” on the Watchtower’s “Faithful Slave” doctrine could not possibly be defended.  Such thinking is naive, but I do understand why many may think this.  In a sense, I do see it as “indefensible,” but I also think that JW’s will defend it.  Rotherham is no exception.

I must admit, I had no idea how Rotherham was going to answer many of my arguments.  This is rare for me because i’ve often been able to predict how a JW might answer X, Y, or Z.  This was not one of those times, and it made the debate all the more interesting.

Let’s get back to why I think you should read this debate: because JW’s have responses to these arguments.  And if you’re involved in JW discussions, you will learn how to sharpen your arguments by anticipating their responses.  We touched on quite a number of key issues, all of which are effected by this “new light”.  So in this sense, I found the debate to be very useful. But in another sense it was far more tedious than what I was hoping.

And this brings me to another point: written debates in general.  If I had the time, I would have written debates like these often.  While they aren’t my method of choice, I think they are helpful and people read them (thus far, our debate has had thousands of views).  Unfortunately, my life is far too busy to engage in such a debate in the near future as I know Rotherham wanted to do.  I have several ministries going on right now in addition to my full time job that give me barely enough time to maintain a regular pattern of personal study, which comes before all online blogging, interaction, etc. (and let’s not forget i’m a newlywed!)  Therefore, if I were to engage in such a written exchange, something would have to give.  Otherwise, it could take 6 months or longer to complete.

What I would prefer to do is an audio debate, which Rotherham and most JW’s would avoid.  I know why they avoid it (here’s a clue: why are JW’s almost always anonymous online, but many of us aren’t?), but I find audio/video debates to be extremely helpful for the following reasons:

  1. They are done in under 2 hours
  2. They are more personal
  3. It’s more difficult to back out of once the debate begins (one JW did this very thing in a debate with me)
  4. You are forced to answer direct questions in a cross examination (even written Q&A’s can fail in this regard)
  5. People who can’t read an endless forum debate may give 2 hours of audio a chance

I could go on, but audio debates are all i’m going to have time to do for the near future.  But even then, these take preparation.  Therefore, I’m posting a few debate topics that i’m willing to engage within maybe a months worth of preparation.  However, i’m not expecting that any JW’s will agree to such an exchange, for I will require that they reveal their identity and not hide behind a nickname and avatar.

29 thoughts on “A few post-debate thoughts

  1. I’ve been following the debate from the beginning, and I felt it was a decent exchange. However, it was a bit disheartening that Rotherham chose to use many of the same arguments that we had already covered in previous debates. With that said I do hope people read it and are able to refine the arguments.

    As a side note, I plan to engage Rotherham’s argument about “shining like the sun” in a blog post and show why it’s not convincing.

  2. Hello Ivan,

    I’m glad you followed along and will look forward to your post concerning “shining as the sun”.

    You said you were disappointed that I used the same arguments that I used against you. I guess I am wondering why you would think that I would use different ones when the questions and reasoning were very much the same as yours. Not trying to be facetious or anything but, I honestly thought at times that maybe you and he were going from the same information that you had read somewhere.


    1. Rotherham:

      Since the debate topic was something other than what we have ever debated, I was surprised that the same arguments were brought up, in an unrelated thesis.

      Also, Mike’s stipulation on revealing some basic information is fairly reasonable. Would you go to a book study without introducing yourself? If not, then why here? For all we know, you could be a ‘Robert King’ like person pretending to be a JWs.

      You have people like Edgar Foster and Hal Fleming and others who have no problems divesting who they are.

      Like Mike, I’m open to debate topics as well. In particular, I’d like to engage Romans 6:7 and the JWs interpretation at length.

  3. Hello Mike,

    I’m disappointed that we wont be able to engage in a written debate or discussion. In the long run I actually find the written formal discussions more beneficial because there is a great deal more information presented than what can be fit into a 2 hr audio debate. I’ve never seen an audio debate end up conclusively either. In fact, I think that to be a huge flaw in the formal debate scenario either written or spoken. The structure of formal debate is rather designed to allow certain things to escape because exchanges are limited. Maybe it was designed that way so one opponent can try and save face with the final word. Audio debates might be easier to listen to but they don’t serve much for research and recall in the same way a written manuscript would serve with the ability to do word searches and the like.

    In reality, I think a discussion with less formal structure is far better in many ways. As long as the topic would be decided and adhered to strictly, without jumping stream in mid discussion, and as long as the responses had a decent word limit, (probably half of what we chose for the formal debate) I have seen these kinds of discussions accomplish much more in the end because many points that escape during a formal debate can be given the attention they need. Formal structured debate allows too much of these crucial points to slip away do to the restrictions placed on the exchanges.

    To me, it doesn’t matter if an exchange or debate takes six months or even longer. These are issues that have arisen and been debated for many, many years and to think that much can be accomplished in a restricted format or a 2 hour audio/video presentation, is not very realistic.

    I will follow along here and elsewhere with you and Ivan to see what there is to comment on or not. In the mean time I will hope that you or Ivan, or others, will be able to engage in a discussion/debate that could end up having real decisive lasting value.


  4. Rotherham-

    To an extent, I agree with you. But I still believe there are important elements missing from written debates. In a live debate, each side can have upwards to 20 minutes to ask direct questions to the other. Personally, i’ve benefited from live debates far more than written debates. But they both have a different purpose and I get that. As far as furthering research and all that, written debates win hands down. But that’s not necessarily what a live debate is intended to do. It’s intended to provide both sides of the audience an equal hearing so they can be encouraged to research matters on their own. Written debates can certainly do this, but myself and many others have been far more encouraged in audio debates to do this. I think the White/Stafford deity of Christ debate has accomplished that very thing and is still heavily referenced to this day. And while i’ll never be an accomplished debator like James White or William Lane Craig, it can’t be denied that their debates have had a profound influence in support of their position. Think about it: if you’re trying to reach Muslims with the gospel, what better way than to proclaim it in a mosque where they would never otherwise give you a listen?

    Anyway, this is not to say that I will refuse to do written debates. Even given a 6 month time span, it’s just too much of a commitment for me. But even so, i’ve implemented a new debate policy:


    While i’m sure you will completely disagree, I view this as a very serious matter and I expect my opponent to be on the same page. If someone is really serious about debating me, I request a decent amount of disclosure. This is how practically ALL scholarly debates take place (even written ones), almost without exception. While what we do isn’t a scholarly journal, i’d like it to be as close to that as possible.

    Anyway, for now, i’m more than happy to converse with you in the comment sections of the posts I make on the site as I have time.

  5. Hello Mike,

    If a person chooses to remain anonymous of what problem is that in getting to the issues? There are many good reasons for doing so given the instability and aggression of many who frequent the internet. Believe me, I’ve had my trouble with a few who were inordinately interested in my personal information.

    I assure you, I’m a real person which many of my compadres can testify. Demanding personal information is a little odd as it has no real value in getting to the issues. Someone could get the idea that you are actually trying to slow down the JW traffic, rather than encourage it, by placing stipulations on debates that you know most will not be willing to do. What’s the real point of all of that?


    1. Rotherham-

      Try that excuse in posting to a scholarly journal and see if that works. To be completely honest, I see the whole thing as immature. While there indeed may be some instances where trouble has happened on the internet, I don’t think that could possibly be the case with 99% of JW’s on the internet when most of “us” have no problem revealing who we are. Obviously, I’m not giving out my address or phone number and no one expects JW’s to do that either.

      I don’t expect you to agree with me, but we both have our stances on this. But I don’t think asking for someone’s name, city/State, religious background is too much to ask. Be that as it may, you’re welcome to continue as you are along with most JW’s on the net.

  6. Well, I think everyone knows this is not a scholarly journal that’s being posted too. Even at that, there are writers that use psuedonyms for various reasons. What’s the difference? You didn’t really explain why this is so important to you nor did you explain how knowing personal information has any thing to do with getting to the issues. I get the feeling you are trying to seal yourself into a position where you don’t really have to interact with serious challenges from JWs. If that’s not part of the reason, I can’t imagine why this is suddenly so important to you as a new “policy”.

  7. Rotherham-

    This is just basic human etiquette and respect. I don’t go about my life hiding behind a mask and creating avatars/nicknames. It’s just silly and immature. But for some reason, when it comes to the internet, JW’s are the worst offendors. I could debate a Muslim, Atheist, Catholic, Mormon, or Oneness Pentecostal and have very few problems in getting some basic background information in doing a debate, whether in person or the internet.

    So for me, if someone is really serious about debate, they can do the decent thing of telling me their name, where they’re from, and some basic background info. It’s suddenly so important to me because, frankly, if i’m going to use what little valuable time I have debating such important issues, then I want to do it with someone who is at least equally serious and mature enough to tell me and the audience who they are.

    When you enter someone’s home to discuss your beliefs with them, does introducing yourself, sharing a little bit about yourself, and shaking their hand REALLY get you to the issue? Maybe or maybe not. But it’s simply a matter of respect and I like such consistency to carry over to the internet as much as possible. Perhaps i’m just getting tired of all the anonymity of the internet.

  8. But your stance is counterproductive. You want JWs to engage you yet you set up stipulations that are going to discourage them from engaging you when you know you don’t really have to set up thoose kind of barriers. What’s more important to you?

    You don’t my name so how did that affect the seriousness, the respect or the maturity of our discussion? How has it ever? How would you knowing where I live have made a difference? Frankly, a lot of people, not just JWs , would think it a little disconcerting for someone to have such a strong desire to know personal information about them.

    1. Rotherham-

      There can be all the engagement someone wants in the comment section and I encourage that and don’t require real names. Serious debate is a different matter. No serious scholar would ever do a published written or public debate with an avatar. And that’s what I aspire to do: serious scholarly debate. So what I would encourage is for JW’s do enter that same realm and defend their beliefs in such a forum, which very few will do. If it turns out that most JW’s will refuse to do this, then perhaps I should do scholarly debate with other groups who are mature enough to use real names.

  9. Hello Mike,

    Well I guess there’s more than one way to assure yourself that you wont have to debate me again in the future, eh?

  10. And once again, you did not answer the questions I asked, you just restated your position. What’s most important to you? Names and addresses or fruitful results through serious discussion? One could make the same claim that to demand personal information is equally immature, and to some, a little creepy.

    And again, how did you not knowing my personal information affect the seriousness, respect and maturity of our discussion?

    1. Rotherham-

      This is just silly to be asking. If someone showed up to a live debate with a mask on and used a nickname, what would the audience think? Would the avatar get away with saying, “what’s more important: my identity or this discussion?” Rotherham, I’m just trying to take this to the next level and debate only those who are really serious about it. To think that giving a real name might be creepy is quite a funny thing to say.

      So what’s more important? I suppose that giving your real name is more important because to do otherwise is to show that you really aren’t as serious as I am about it. To me, giving a name is one of the most basic areas of human etiquette. And to refuse to do so means that you can’t even do the bare minimum.

  11. I am ready and willing to debate you over many topics but it is highly suspicious that this is suddenly a big concern for you to know my name and where I live, something you know that I will not divulge to you, and after such an ioirdinate interest, I would protect my anonymity even moreso. It’s troublesome Mike.

    1. I think it’s troublesome that you hide behind an avatar and refuse to give your real name. Again, works both ways 🙂

      I hope you can at least respect the fact that my time is extremely limited too, so I really can only reserve it for the most serious requests for debate. That is, I want the best and most serious opponent I can get.

  12. Again, how did you not knowing my name and address affect the seriousness, respect or maturity or the value of our debate?

    1. Because serious, mature, and respectful people provide this basic info in all serious public debates and practically in all areas of life. Again, it’s basic human etiquette and even more so on a serious public debate. Honestly, it bothered me from the beginning, but I had never previously set a debate policy.

    1. No, I welcome any and all comments. But the whole reason I made a website over a blog format is because I want it to be more of a resource as opposed to a debate forum. Reason being, I just don’t have time to spend endless of hours of debate in the comment sections aside from what I can do on my phone like what I’m doing now. My preference would be for other people to engage you in the comments since my time is limited.

  13. In ancient rhetoric, there were certain elements that made an argument persuasive. One of the elements that made an argument carry any weight was how the receiver of the message viewed the individual’s character and also their background. My wife is a JW and anytime I have asked her to read, for instance, a discussion I had with an anonymous Watchtower apologist, her response was “can you tell me who he is and which kingdom hall he belongs to”. Obviously she didn’t believe the people I was engaging in discussion were authentically representing the JW beliefs even though they could have been pulled right from a Watchtower Magazine.

    1. Moncton- I asked my wife about this also, and she found it to be crazy that people whom I interact with on serious topics for extended amounts of time refuse to provide their name or any basic background information. Perhaps it’s just the “southern” in me that finds names and backgrounds to be a normal part of everyday conversation.

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