Effective Debater

What Is the Key To Being an Effective Debater? Stories and Tips from Josh McDowell.

Effective Debater

This goal of this blog is for me to soak up wisdom from my father and share it with you. I have been blessed to have an incredibly influential father, Josh McDowell. He has written over 150 books and spoken to more young people live than anyone in history. But what I appreciate most about my father is his love for my mom, for his kids, and now for his many grandkids. Enjoy!

 

What Is the Key To Being an Effective Debater? Stories and Tips from Josh McDowell.

SEAN: Dad, you’ve done over 250 debates on college campuses around the world on a host of topics. What is the key to being an effective debater?

JOSH: First, do your homework. Thoroughly know the subject. Second, love your opponent, because the best way to win a debate is to love your opponent when you’re destroying his arguments. Third, always find a way to work in your personal testimony as it relates to that subject. The person with an argument is almost always at the mercy of the person with experience. The Christian should have both the argument and the experience.

Effective Debater

SEAN: Are debates still important and effective in culture today?

JOSH: Not as much as they used to be. When Evidence that Demands a Verdict first came out, there was not much access to the evidence for Christianity. And so the book took off and was an instant bestseller. But today there is much more access to the arguments for and against Christianity right on the Internet. The benefit of a debate, though, is that people get to both sides challenged right before them, and then they can decide which side is most reasonable. This rarely happens on the Internet, as so much bad information gets passed on as if it’s true. So, debates provide the opportunity for truth correction.

SEAN: What was your most memorable debate and why?

JOSH: One of them was definitely with the Muslim apologist Ahmad Deedat who was probably the top Islamic apologist in the world at that time. He was literally destroying everyone who debated him. Christians were deeply embarrassed at how badly he beat them. I received a personal letter from about 40 churches in South Africa, asking if I would debate him. And to this day, I thank God I said yes. It was probably the best debate because of the impact of it. It literally changed evangelism in the entire continent of Africa and beyond. I loved him personally, and cared for him, but he was humiliated after the debate. He only distributed his half of the debate through all Africa. Once the rest of the debate was released, his credibility and trust was completely undermined.

Amazingly, a close relative of his came to me a few years ago when I was visiting South Africa and said, “I felt you needed to know some details around the death of Ahmad. The day before he died, he asked me to find a copy of your book More Than A Carpenter. So, I brought it to him and he read some of it.” We won’t know until after this life, but there’s a chance Ahmad Deedat is in heaven.

SEAN: If you were starting again in ministry in today’s culture, would you do debates?

JOSH: I’m not totally sure. Debates have certainly lost some of their pizzazz and some of their influence. Thousands of people used to come to each of my debates. But now with the Internet, they’re much more common and accessible. One reason I might do debates, though, is that they forced me to study and master a subject. I probably spent 300 hours in preparation for a debate. I knew I could use the material the rest of my life in talks, books, and future debates. At times, some of the leading scholars in the world helped me prepare. Those times were some of the best experiences of my life.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D.is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


Resources for Greater Impact: 

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I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST

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WHY I STILL DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST

Free CrossExamined.org Resource

Get the first chapter of "Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case" in PDF.

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9 replies
  1. Me says:

    Interesting. I heard on a podcast the other day that William Lane Craig said that, much to his chagrin, he is most known for his debates that he posted on YouTube, and not for his books and articles. I guess as far as WLC goes, his debates – both old and new – are having a great impact via the internet.

    Reply
    • Kyle says:

      I can confirm. As an atheist wanting to delve more into arguments that go beyond “just read the bible” or “it has to be true”, watching his debates on YouTube have been great. Without them I might not have discovered Frank Turek or this website.

      Reply
  2. James Archbold says:

    The debates do showcase and highlight the widespread discord, incompatable,inconsistant, foolish and contrdictory beliefs within christendom.They invariably demonstrate the way people choose the interpretation that best reflects their own bias’s and prejudice. Public access will only hasten the downfall of fundamentalism in all its guises.I for one will not mourn its passing or seek its resurrection.

    Reply
  3. Ed Vaessen says:

    “Amazingly, a close relative of his came to me a few years ago when I was visiting South Africa and said, “I felt you needed to know some details around the death of Ahmad. The day before he died, he asked me to find a copy of your book More Than A Carpenter. So, I brought it to him and he read some of it.” We won’t know until after this life, but there’s a chance Ahmad Deedat is in heaven.”

    And let us not forget that Darwin recanted on his deathbed.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “We won’t know until after this life, but there’s a chance Ahmad Deedat is in heaven.”

      Or it might turn out that Allah is the real God, and when you get to hell Ahmad is waiting there for you saying: “Well thanks a bunch, you convinced me to back the losing horse”.

      Reply

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