I hope this advice helps people of Christ to endure. Blessings, Author:Cameron Bertuzzi Cameron is a professional photographer and founder of Capturing Christianity. He is a writer, speaker, and he uses his ministry to host discussions and interviews on topics related to Christian Apologetics. For better or worse, I’ve spent countless hours over the years debating atheists in online forums. I was there when the Reasonable Faith Facebook Page had around 11,000 likes (it’s currently at 670,000). RF had less trolls back then, but still required a lot of work. Over the years I’ve learned what to do and what notto do. I sort of wish I didn’t have all this experience in online debating to be giving you all this information, nevertheless, my hope is that if you find yourself in such a situation, this list of don’ts for Christian Apologists will be helpful. A Dozen Don'ts for Christian Apologists (shared with permission under Fair Use educational purpose) A Dozen Don’ts 1. Don’t take internet atheists very seriously. Atheists that make a career out of debating Christians online are generally not going to be experts in the field of religion. As such, we shouldn’t take them, or their opinions, very seriously. The arguments they regurgitate, if they have any merit at all, are only looselybased on the work of professionals. Philosophers of religion are much more careful in what they say and how they say it. An amateur is more likely to make little errors an expert will not. For this simple reason, the claims of internet atheists shouldn’t be taken very seriously. Here’s what I’m not saying. I’m not saying we should unreflectively dismiss anything a non-expert believes. Rather, I’m saying we should be careful not to overvalue the opinions of lay-people. This principle doesn’t just apply to religion – it applies across the philosophical spectrum. The claims and ideas we should be taking seriously (on a regular basis) are those put forth by competent authorities. 2. Don’t get sucked in. Some atheists are highly skilled at baiting Christians into debate. They’ll say things like, “Christianity is obviously irrational,” or, “There’s no evidence Jesus even existed,” or, “Jesus was a zombie,” or, “All of the arguments for God are terrible and have been debunked over and over.” Our natural inclination is to refute such nonsense, but let me suggest a different kind of response. One of the deadliest tools in our arsenal is knowing when and how to ignore people. There are of course times when a response to these claims is appropriate, but we should only join a discussion we consciously choose to join, knowing full-well the ramifications of our doing so. Don’t get sucked in. 3. Don’t shoot from the hip. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. In the online debating world, I’ve seen people make all sorts of unsubstantiated claims. Instead of admitting ignorance, they begin shooting from the hip, hoping that something, anything, sticks. If you don’t know what extra-biblical evidence exists for the martyrdom of early Christians, don’t just blurt out that said evidence exists (or doesn’t exist). Bluffing to save face is completely embarrassing. Bluffs eventually get called; you will be exposed for the charlatan you are – either in this life or the next. The saddest part is that there’s so much evidence in favor of Christianity, we aren’t forced to shoot from the hip in order to defend it. Don’t. Do. It. 4. Don’t have the last word. This is another peeve of mine. Truth is not reserved for the person that has the last word. If your atheist interlocutor wants to stay up till 4am responding to every comment you make, let him. Better yet, learn when the discussion is no longer fruitful and end it. Here’s an easy and respectful way to bow out of a discussion: “I can see we aren’t making any progress. I’ve enjoyed our conversation thus far but will be bowing out after this comment. Feel free to have the last word.” This doesn’t convey ignorance or ineptitude. Quite the opposite. It shows that you value substantive discussion and aren’t interested in wasting either you or your interlocutor’s time. 5. Don’t let your insecurities own you. Here’s a theory of mine: Online debating is largely the result of unchecked insecurities. Christians, atheists, agnostics, whatever, we are insecure about our beliefs and intelligence and thus engage our peers in debate so we can be validated and feel better about ourselves. I am insecure about my intellect so I’ll go online and incessantly debate people I deem less smart than me. I’m insecure about my beliefs, so I’ll go and debate this person that hasn’t read all the papers I’ve read and show them how uninformed they are. The act of debating is an outward expression of deeply rooted insecurities. These unchecked insecurities can–if we let them–rule over our thoughts and actions. Defending Christianity shouldn’t feel like a “Who’s Smarter” or “Who can quote more philosophers” competition. Before logging on, make it a habit to ask yourself this question: “Why am I going online to debate today?” If ever you can’t think of a good answer to this question, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and reassess your motivations. 6. Don’t waste your time. You should be reading at least twice as much as debating. For every hour you spend debating online, you should spend at least two hours reading books, papers, journals, listening to lectures, and growing in knowledge. Call this Bertuzzi’s Maxim. If you think that’s too much studying, you’re simply not taking Christian Apologetics seriously. Don’t spend the majority of your time engaging non-experts, spend it with seasoned professionals. Learn how scholars express and defend their arguments. Learn how to accurately articulate and soundly refute objections to your view. “For every hour you spend debating online, you should spend at least two hours reading books, papers, journals, listening to lectures, and growing in knowledge.” If I could go back and do things over, marrying this rubric is exactly where I’d start. The number of hours I’ve wasted debating random people online could have been replaced with reading good philosophy. Here’s a question to ask yourself before each comment you post: “Do I have one good reason to spend another second doing this rather than reading?” Virtually every time I ask myself this, the answer is no. 7. Don’t be disorganized. This one is extremely important. Don’t go into a Facebook or online debate forum without some kind of game plan. Why are you going in in the first place? Is it to change the cultural perception of Christians? Is it to get a better understanding of how atheists think? Keep these goals plastered on your mind before, during, and after going in. They will guide your interactions and lead to more productive discussions. Once you’ve got a goal in place, it’s a good idea to limit your interactions to posts and topics you are well-versed in. Don’t go challenging atheists on a subject you don’t know anything about. Also, very important, keep track of your time. Some of these discussions can go on for hours, even days, some even weeks. Be cognizant of how much of your time is being devoted to each conversation. Last organizational tip: Try your best to engage in one conversation at a time. Multiple dialogue strings can get confusing and even overwhelming. Don’t. Continues below due to limit on character number.