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Tips for ethical debates

It is easy to get steamed up and emotional and lose a discussion by sheer lack of tact. Alternatively, we can win the argument but lose the person. Peter exhorts us to give an account of the hope that we have within us with 'gentleness and respect' (1 Pet 3:15). We will be doing best if we can use ethical issues as a bridge to evangelism, sharing the good news about Jesus Christ. Some pointers:

1. Ask questions

Try to get the other person to reveal what they think; and reflect on what they think. Jesus himself was a master at drawing people out with skilful questions. Don't feel the pressure to 'say something'.

  • What do you think about...?
  • Why do you think that?
  • Do you think the end justifies the means?
  • When do you think life begins... has full value?

2. Expose the world view

Make a world view diagnosis by asking direct questions to see where they are coming from.

  • What's your basis for deciding right from wrong?
  • Do you believe in God... in life after death?
  • What do you think human beings are?

3. Know your facts

For example some details re:

  • The Remmelink Report, or the facts about palliative care
  • The content of ethical codes
  • The facts of fetal development, statistics re abortion to save the life of the mother etc.

4. Know some good one-liners

Some stock phrases with a punch for the common questions that arise:

  • It's not a potential human being, it's a human being with potential.
  • It's not a right to die, it's a right to be killed.
  • It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
  • The fetus is not part of the woman's body.
  • You can't meet the need but you can show how the need can be met.

5. Use the slippery slope and extreme examples

  • Ask the animal rights activist if he takes antibiotics, wears leather shoes etc
  • Ask the sexual libertarian what he thinks of bestiality
  • Ask the pro-choicer if he approves of infanticide and work back... slowly.
  • Ask the eugenicist what handicap justifies search and destroy... and work back.

6. Use the Bible

Many biblical passages, especially narrative from the life of Christ, are very effective for making a point ... and exposing people to the Bible!

  • The woman caught in adultery (forgiveness and repentance)
  • The feeding of the 5,000 (resource allocation)
  • Euthanasia cases (eg Abimelech and Saul)

7. Be firm but gracious

Attack the false ideas without attacking the person. Learn, like Schaeffer, gently to 'take the lid off'.

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