How Not to Present An Argument

I recently ran across a post browsing through my “Calvinism” sparks links in Google + and ran across this excerpt that was reply by a person, named David.

I am choosing to address your comment, not because I strive to change your mind, but for the sake of other readers who have ears to hear.

If there is a set of doctrines that are not supported by Scripture, particularly in how to inherit eternal life, then such a belief system is a false gospel. Besides this, if this false gospel describes a god (the one we are supposed to be seeking and obeying) with attributes that are not the attributes that Scripture describes of Him, then the belief system is doubly false. Such a religious system would have to be deemed a cult.

You are saying (at my comment page –8/18/11) that Calvinism matches “the historic views of the church at large the past two thousand years.” This is an unimpressive claim when it was Calvinism which, throughout much of Europe, merely got its way like Catholicism did, through the persecution of those who would not adhere to their enforced state religion. Augustine, whom Calvin quoted extensively, was a very influential Catholic who believed that Tradition and the Church were as authoritative as Scripture, yet Calvinists insist (dishonestly) that it is Scripture alone which they follow. No, Calvinists follow men’s interpretations of Scripture, which means you, as a Calvinist, are not following Christ, but following men’s doctrines –particularly, Augustine’s, Luther’s, and Calvin’s. By the very title “Calvinism”, your belief system is one that adheres to what John Calvin wrote in his “Institutes”. Please do not side-step this fact by talking about “hyper-calvinism” and a “straw man”. Those are typical phrases of evasion I’ve heard numerous times by those who don’t want to own up to what their system does indeed teach.

Now what I find interesting is that the writer seems to define a cult as any religious system that persecutes a group of people like Roman Catholisim did. The other problem is the author is not even addressing the “system” of Calvinism, which is actually what it is. The other problem is the author throws a statement saying that Calvin quoted Augustine saying that since Augustine believed that the Church and the Bible were on equal authoritative grounds that is what Calvin believed.

So what can we learn from this when presenting an argument? A number of things, namely:

  • Context is Everything – Our author, despite her strong convictions really gave no context to her argument nor the context around the quote from Calvin quoting Augustine.
  • Define your Terms – She throws out the term, “Calvinism” without ever defining it.
  • Genetic Fallacy – She attributes what Augustine believed about the weight of Scripture and Church to Calvin, simply because he quoted him.

So it is important to think your presuppositions to their logical conclusions with chains of reasoning that can be used to defend your position and what you are actually trying to prove.