Is it always wise to answer a claim? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I’ve been dialoguing with someone the past few days who has encountered someone asking about what day Jesus died on. I do hold to the traditional date of Friday, but it’s not something I have looked much at. I just know that if practically every scholar across the board says this of all persuasions, it’s probably for good reason.
This person told me about the claims made and asked how to answer them. I asked why he should answer. i was told that it’s because this person he’s dialoguing with, who is not a Christian, is in error. What I then asked was for the person to think about my question again.
Let’s use another claim as an example of what I think should be done.
You are in a group on Facebook as an example and see someone make a claim. Dionysus, Mithras, Osiris, and Horus were all born on December 25th to virgins. All of them had twelve disciples and performed miracles. They were all crucified and they all rose from the dead.
Now many an apologist is chomping at the bit and thinking they are ready to go and show that this is all nonsense. However, there could be a better way. My suggestion is to not answer the claim. Instead, just ask the person to provide some scholarly resources. Don’t accept just a link from someone on the internet who either isn’t a scholar or is not interacting with scholars. Get some real serious sources.
The problem with thinking you have to refute it is that it gives the impression that if the claim goes unanswered, then the claim is true. If the other person is arguing for the claim, then via the burden of proof, the other person has the burden to give the answer. If they don’t give the evidence, then there’s no reason to take the claim seriously. If you go first, then the impression could be that unless you can refute their claim, then their claim is true.
This is also helpful because it can show a weakness in your opponent. If your opponent makes a claim about Mithras being crucified and rising again, then all you need to do is ask for sources. If he does not give any good ones, then you have undermined his credibility in the eyes of all watching. It will not only show that there’s no good reason to believe the claim, but also that the person you are talking with does not do real research and quite likely is just googling something and going with the first thing that agrees with them.
In the same way, be careful with the claims that you make. If you are making one, make sure you have the evidence behind you to back it. This could just as well be used on you if you don’t know what you’re talking about and if you don’t, it really should be used. Just consider it a rule. Because your ideological opponent throws out a piece of meat doesn’t mean you have to jump on it immediately. Let them show they’ve done their homework.