Argue *to* the truth of your position, not *from* it

My friend Ryan is currently reading C.S. Lewis’ collected letters, which is interesting in how it shows Lewis’ gradual progress from a die-hard atheist to a believing Christian. Ryan occasionally sends me excerpts from his reading and this one was particularly interesting:

From Letters, Volume 2, p. 150, to his friend and former pupil, a Catholic and now a monk, Dom Bede Griffiths, 26 Dec 1934:

If you are going to argue with me on the point at issue between our churches, it is obvious that you must argue *to* the truth of your position, not *from* it. The opposite procedure only wastes your time and leaves me to reply, moved solely by embarrassment, ‘you are a saint, but you are no philosopher!’.

That whole idea – arguing TO your position’s correctness, not FROM it – seems to me to be the biggest problem people have in discussing religious disagreements. I’ve recently spent a lot of time reading/listening to debates on the subject of “salvation at the point of faith or baptism” and I have to say that in every one of them every person seems to me to be arguing FROM their position’s correctness.

It is a hard thing to fix, or even recognize – look for it in your own arguments the next time you are discussing theology with someone.


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