The Art of Bracketing in Apologetics: Switching Ground Without Losing Ground

3 thoughts on “The Art of Bracketing in Apologetics: Switching Ground Without Losing Ground”

  1. I’ve never heard it called “bracketing” before, but it’s an apt label for it. My wife and I often talk about choosing our battles, but it’s basically the same thing. It’s helpful for focusing the conversation on what is important to establish first, or next, so that a case may be built understandably without getting sidetracked. Also, it’s helpful to keep from following red herrings. Many people will obfuscate by throwing a large number of issues into the ring that can all be answered, but not answered effectively in bulk. The nice thing is that in so doing, they play the shallow parts of their hand all at once and affords you the opportunity to add a depth to the conversation that they may not have. If you can give them pause on just one issue by going meaningfully deeper than they have considered before, they are more likely to eventually be open to hearing you on the rest.

    I did this with a Muslim apologist once. He led out with the typical barrage of shallow contentions. I picked the topic of the Trinity to focus on. By the time we had discussed through the Father and the Son to the Holy Spirit, he argued that Allah was simple and a Trinity is complex. I responded that complexity has no bearing on the truth. He hesitated, apparently not having considered that. Then he asked how I could know these things. I responded with something that’s generally not epistemologically satisfying, but in the right context can be compelling: “I’m indwelt by the Holy Spirit and he opens me to knowing the truth.” (I didn’t get into the fact that the truth of the Trinity is found in the Scriptures. I sensed it wasn’t time for that subject yet.)

    It turned out to be compelling enough that he paused for a couple of moments and responded, a bit weakly, with, “I don’t have the Holy Spirit, so I can only think with my mind.” The expression on his face indicated that he wasn’t satisfied with his answer to me.

    Just then, a disciple of his who hadn’t been involved with our conversation happened to notice the lull. He approached and jumped in with the same typical salvo of common contentions. The apologist looked up at me, held his hand up to his disciple to quiet him, and told him, “No. Respect this man.”

  2. I always enjoy reading your posts – they make me think ! ….. but I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you what a great blessing your writing has been to me (I have just finished Christian Apologetics), but also I wanted to express what a great blessing Rebecca’s articles have been to me, as well as the book she edited on the issue of men and women in the church …. I really cannot find the words to express what a difference you have both made, but I thank God for you, and pray for you.

  3. I’ve been curious whether the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 was asking about which mountain to worship on because she had a sincere desire for truth, because she wanted to pick a fight with a Jew out of habit, or if she was using it as a red herring to take the focus away from her personal responsibility towards God. Jesus seemed to do some bracketing; he moved away from which mountain had the most historical significance and authenticity, and moved the conversation to a new Kingdom which would supersede all earthly mountaintops.

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