Thus far, having read critiques of my debate performance, two complaints have arisen: 1.) I offered arguments that were unfamiliar and therefore difficult to understand. 2.) I was rude, angry, condescending, and/or had a chip on my shoulder.
I already addressed #1 in this blog post so let’s turn to the second complaint. As the debate day grew closer I began to ask those around me, those I trusted, whether I should enter the debate “knives out”. That is, whether I should meet JW where he is and play the game the way he plays it. I explained to them that after watching so much of JW on the topic of Text and Translation that it seemed to me that he was often less than professional with his Christian interlocutors. What is more the moderator rarely if ever restrained either debater’s rhetoric so no one was going to stop JW if he started down that road. To illustrate JW’s lack of professionalism and restraint, consider the following debate which was part of my own debate preparation.
This debate was between James White and Pastor Jack Moorman. Beginning at around the [54:48] mark you will find the following (Click the time stamp if you’d like to watch it yourself):
[54:48] – JW is seen visibly shaking his head while his interlocutor is speaking.
[56:38] – JW is shaking his head and speaking over his interlocutor with the words “Not true.”
[01:01:58] – JW interrupts his interlocutor and then takes over the conversation.
[01:03:43] – A listener asks a question and JW laughs at the question with incredulity.
[01:03:50] – After being told earlier by the moderator not to comment JW comments anyway.
[01:09:30] – JW audibly scoffs and shakes his head.
[01:13:20] – JW shakes his head and speaking over his interlocutor with the words “Not true.”
[01:14:20] – JW laughs and then interrupts his interlocutor.
[01:19:02] – JW smiles then scoffs then interrupts.
[01:23:52] – JW smiles then scoffs at a listener’s question. The moderator then calls for summary statements. JW asserts that he will first offer a response to the listener’s question. After which JW offers his summary statement.
And all of this in under 30 minutes. At no point did the moderator step in and tell JW that such behavior was rude and unprofessional. By the time of the above debate JW had been on the debate scene for over 21 years and had already debated Bart Ehrman. Still, JW had not yet worked out of his system the laughing, interrupting, head-shaking, scoffing etc. and the above is only what was caught on camera.
And before we think that this kind of rhetoric is out of JW’s rhetorical system let’s not forget this chippy response from JW when debating Dr. Riddle.
Then of course after our debate JW posts the following meme on his wall which shows a thoroughly non-chippy, non-rude completely professional JW during our debate.
The point is that JW has set the tone of this debate years ago and it continues up until today and that tone includes making faces, shaking your head, speaking over your interlocutor, scoffing, and all the rest.
This is part of JW ‘s legacy. JW engenders heated, rude, and chippy debate because that is the way he debates, especially with Christians.
So as I saw it I could either wait for JW to do the same to me or, seeing that I spoke first, do it to him right off the bat. I chose the latter.
Now, was my rhetoric chippy, heated, and even rude? Indeed, it was. Is that a professional way to debate? No, it is not. I have no problem admitting this. Unfortunately, no one in JW’s camp, no close friend, has helped JW admit as much as I just did in the first couple sentences of this paragraph let alone have that admission lead to real change in JW’s rhetoric. So I tried a different tactic, the tactic of “How about a little of your own medicine.”
And it worked! JW fans were coming out of the woodwork declaring me to be heated, condescending, and having a chip on my shoulder. Right! That was the point. Now take that same critique and help JW see the same light. So every time JW gets short with his interlocutor or interrupts or scoffs or emotes remember that JW is cementing his legacy in this kind of rhetoric and don’t be surprised if a younger man comes behind him with the willingness to play the same kind of game.
To those on my side of the isle, I know many of you disapprove of my tactic here and I can see why. I apologize for throwing you for a loop without warning. But in the end it proved an excellent point. For JW and those who follow him, chippy rhetoric is a “definitely for me but not for thee” kind of relationship when JW debates with Christians.