You have probably been there; an intense discussion about a theological issue – making arguments, counter arguments, pointing out Scripture – and then, wham, in one simple sentence you and your arguments are dismissed. That simple sentence?
You only see it that way because [insert popular-level writer, pastor, speaker] thinks that.
It might be helpful to point out that that not only is an invalid argument for one’s case (no matter the case the one is making), it is also arrogant and extremely condescending. There are few ways to defend against such a statement without being silly (What?!? No way. I don’t even like so and so!).
Such a sentiment suggest that your opponent could not possibly be thoughtfully seeking truth. Rather, they are blindly following someone else and thankfully you can see it and, perhaps, rescue them from their deception.
You might as well say it. Your opponent is a brainwashed zombie. Unlike you! You remain staunchly independent and, therefore, on the right side of the argument at hand.
Anecdotally, I have observed that that sort of attack often comes from lay theologians who have little-to-no formal theological education, and is often used against those who do have formal theological education (like their pastors). Of course, training does not make one right, anymore than a lack of training makes one wrong. It is just interesting to me that often one with no theological training feels free to explicitly assume that a guy with many years of formal training is brainwashed by some popular-level teacher. But I digress.
Here are seven thoughts to help you if you’re considering throwing down the “you’re brainwashed” card to end an argument.
- Most every Christian has heroes and people they resonate with more than others. You will likely hear your pastor, for example, quote a few people more than he quotes others. This is normal. We all resonate with some more than others.
- Very few people (especially trained pastors) blindly or uncritically follow their heroes. One of my least favorite book genres is hagiography, or a biography which overlooks the faults or idealizes the subject of the biography. We all know that our heroes are flawed. I have substantial disagreements with ALL (100%) of my theological heroes.
- Assume the best about everyone. Which means, on point, assuming your opponent is thoughtful. Make him prove you wrong, with bad arguments that don’t hold up to the scrutiny of Scripture, before you will think anything other than that. Don’t let your starting place be that he is dumb.
- We all are influenced by others, and in many ways. None of us are straight-up original thinkers, and most of my straight-up original thoughts need work, to say the least. All of us are influenced. Don’t throw out the card that your opponent is influenced as if you are free of such outside influences. That simply isn’t true.
- Make good, thoughtful arguments. Lovingly demonstrating the deficiency in your opponents actual argument is infinitely better than trying to pull the rug of supposed presuppositions out from under his brain. That means avoiding fallacious arguments, especially ad hominem (like the one in view in this post).
- Be humble and open to the possibility that your opponent may be right. Consider their arguments carefully and thoughtfully. Weigh them in light of the Scriptures.
- Keep in mind, most people are way smarter than we think they are.
Also, it would be helpful if you would email me the influencer behind this post. I am sure I am blindly following someone here. I just can’t remember who!