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A Breach of Debate Protocol? Joel McDurmon’s Failure to Understand Debate Protocol

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I have noted how in his Appendix or “After Thoughts” segment in the book of our debate, Joel McDurmon attacked my integrity and my character. See the articles in response to that charge. My observation is that McDurmon is so desperate to make some kind of point, which he failed to make in the debate, that he feels he must resort to character assassination. This is truly lamentable, but, as suggested, is clear proof of his desperation and realization of his failure to establish his position exegetically.

In my first article on this issue, I noted how he accused me of misrepresenting him in multiple “alleged quotations.” I demonstrated that this is a blatantly false charge. Be sure to read that entire series of articles: #2, #3, #4, #5, #6.

Not only did McDurmon call my integrity into question, in that Appendix he also accused me of violating debate protocol and ethics. Here is what he wrote (cut and pasted, so as to avoid another accusation of misrepresentation):

“Don’s neglect to address my examples was such a gaping deficiency in his performance that he actually broke debate protocol and used a large portion of his time the following night to double back and offer responses to some of those instances. When he should have been addressing my positive arguments, or offering negative material to undermine them, he instead tried to keep administering life-support to his own positive arguments from the night before. This indicated to me that he thought he had been stung, and wanted more time to support his tottering position.”
But even after sleeping on it, and then cheating a little for his own affirmative, the best he could offer in response was that: 1) the instances of totality and finality I referenced are limited by their contexts, and, 2) none of them included the passing away of Torah (the Sinaitic Covenant). Since, he argued, the “end” and “all things” spoken of in the New Testament did include the passing away of the Mosaic Covenant (Matt. 5; Heb. 8), it therefore must be the complete finality of God’s redemptive history.”

So, per McDurmon, I cheated and broke debate protocol when I had the unmitigated audacity to actually discuss his arguments from the previous night, when I was in the affirmative! Why, how dare Preston to actually take the time to address his arguments?! How dare Preston to spend his affirmative time addressing Joel’s affirmative material from the night before! Egads! Preston must have been truly stung, and felt his theology was in so much danger he had to do something like, you know, responding to McDurmon’s material! Wow! How desperate can you get?

I hope you can detect a bit of facetiousness above, but, you get the point. I just have to make a couple of observations here.

When I was in the affirmative, Joel got up in his first negative and totally ignored my affirmative material, and gave an entire affirmative. Now, he had forewarned me that he was going to do this, but, it does not change the fact that he presented an entire affirmative presentation in his negative slot. That was okay for McDurmon to do it, but, when I gave (brief) negative response in my affirmative slot, why, I broke debate protocol, and demonstrated my desperation! Hmmm, seems I remember something of an old saying, “O, Consistency, thou art a jewel so rare!” If it was a breach of protocol for me to do what I did, then it was worse for McDurmon to take his entire first negative – not just a few moments – to present an affirmative speech! (Side Bar: several attendees, experienced debaters and knowledgeable in debate protocol, commented to me about McDurmon’s breach of protocol).

Second, McDurmon is conveniently overlooking the fact that there as a good bit of my material that he did not touch, top, side, or bottom. (Read the debate book to see for yourself). He literally did not mention many of my major arguments, especially my syllogisms. Total silence.

Now, during the debate I noted this silence. However,  in an attempt to be gracious, I also noted that during a public debate it is almost impossible to cover every single argument offered, and that McDurmon may simply not have had time to address some of my material. My own desire and intent in a debate is to address every major argument offered by my opponent. (McDurmon clearly did not feel such a compulsion).

The question is, where, in debate protocol, is it ever considered a breach of said protocol for a disputant to go back and address arguments offered at any time in the debate? I have had many, many debates, and both myself and my opponents have done just this, in an attempt to make sure all material was covered. Not once, let me repeat that, not once, have I ever had an opponent claim I had violated debate protocol by addressing earlier material, no matter if that material was from early on.

Now, since this was McDurmon’s first public debate, he clearly does not speak from experience when making his charge against me. For sure, “Hedges Rules of Debate” makes no mention of such protocol or rules. When I took debate in school, I never heard of a rule that said a disputant can’t bring up earlier material. Oh, and did you notice the McDurmon gave no debate “authority” or citation for his claim? The reason he gave no citation is because there is none to give. McDurmon conjured up his charge, with no substantiation or documentation of any kind. But, he was not through with his specious claims.

In his After Thoughts, McDurmon continued his false charge that I misquoted him multiple times, and lodged a complaint about my presentation. He said Preston: “broke debate protocol on that second day, he even went so far as to display a new chart that, as he apparently thought, justified his misrepresentation.” (His emphasis).

So there you have it! Preston “went so far as to display a new chart”! I  had the unbelievable gall to make a new chart to illustrate and discuss a point made the previous night! I guess making any chart was going too far, since McDurmon did not make even one chart in the debate.

But, A NEW CHART, after all! Why, this has to be reported to the powers that be– whoever that might be– in charge of debate protocol! This is unheard of! A debater had the temerity to make a new chart during the debate, to discuss issues brought up the previous night! Oh, my!

The undeniable fact is that it is the responsibility of each man in a debate to cover as much material introduced by his opponent as possible. True debate protocol says the negative follows the affirmative. A negative presentation is not to completely ignore the other man’s affirmative material and present an affirmative. But, no rule of which I am aware forbids or says that an affirmative cannot offer any negative comment, time permitting, especially to cover ground uncovered in prior speeches.

Catch the power of this: There is no debate rule or protocol (that I am even remotely familiar with) that forbids or even discourages discussing previous material! Period! (One rule is that no new arguments may be introduced in the last negative presentation, but this has nothing to do with McDurmon’s accusation).

McDurmon’s accusation springs from nothing but sheer desperation. Would he have accused me of not addressing his arguments if I had not discussed them? He certainly made this charge during the debate, and based on his Appendix material, you can be sure he would have made a huge issue of this, loudly declaring that I did not address his arguments!

I brought up his arguments to make sure I did cover his material. In my responses, I noted that McDurmon was guilty of illegitimately transferring contexts. In other words, in an attempt to negate the comprehensive definition of “all” in Matthew 5, McDurmon appealed to texts where the word “all” is used, but where context forbids a universal definition. Those texts do not speak of what Matthew 5 addresses. Different contexts, different subjects. Notice that McDurmon takes note of my response, but, is silent about the fact that he was totally silent in response to this undeniable fact. He just said I “cheated” when I discussed his arguments! Such nonsense!

By the way, I noted that if McDurmon’s hermeneutic was applied then “all” can never mean all! After all, McDurmon appealed to some OT texts where “all” cannot be comprehensive. His point was that since “all” in these texts is limited, that therefore “all” in Matthew 5 must be limited! This truly illogical and specious argument– if consistently applied– would completely destroy the universal definition of “all” in all (Yes, in ALL) texts! McDurmon never said one word about why those limited “all” texts must be determinative for defining “all” in Matthew 5 when they do not address what Matthew 5 addresses. Literally not one word.

By the way, one of the charts I presented was an extensive quote from Dr. Greg Bahnsen, McDurmon’s former mentor. Bahnsen, commenting on Matthew 5:17f and the definition of “all” there, noted that there are no contextual qualifiers, no contextual elements to limit the definition of “all.” Since “all” in the text is “unparticularized” it must have the comprehensive definition of well, “all.” I noted this quote at least twice in the debate, calling on McDurmon to respond, but, he said not one single word about Bahnsen’s quote. So much for not responding!

I must confess that when I first read McDurmon’s charge that I had violated debate protocol and ethics, I literally laughed out loud at how ridiculous and desperate it is. But this is serious. If it were not so serious, it would be funny. McDurmon has made a serious charge. However, anyone actually familiar with debate and correct protocol knows his accusation is nothing but smoke, intended to cloud the issues. Just like his accusation against me, charging me with misrepresentation of his “quotations,” this charge is nothing but an attempt at character assassination. It is false, unscholarly, inexcusable and un-Christian.

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