I'm reading this book that I think I was supposed to review last month. The books that are sent out for review are often sent quite a few weeks in advance, but then an email gets sent round to remind you of the start and finish dates that your review is supposed to hit. And I didn't get that email... Or not yet, anyway.
Meanwhile the very first paragraphs of the book got my back up. Let me explain.
The book is conceived as a discussion document between two branches of christian theology, between two traditions. Not a bad aim, one might think.
Yes, and who better to present this discussion than someone who once espoused the one tradition and then after careful study, reflection, prayer and discussion, changed for the other.
Like our author!
Yes, but unfortunately what I encountered from the very first paragraphs were statements like:
The opposing people "assume that"
An eminent pastor "sets up a straw man argument"
and so on.
So what's the problem? Why did I get hot under the collar?
Well one of the rules of discussion and debate is that if you really want to convince your opponent that his position is wrong, then you should first present it and define it as sympathetically as possible. Make sure he agrees that you have misrepresented his view. Make sure that he agrees that by your manner as well as in your matter you have treated him fairly, generously.
Then show the flaws and holes.
When you begin with attacks like "assume that" and "straw man argument" (and I don't think it was a straw man argument - it was a slippery slope argument, really) then you immediately show your lack of sympathy for your opponent and a less than brotherly spirit.