Spoiler Warning for the Ace Attorney Series!
The term “arguing” has lost a lot of its old luster in the present day. Today, arguing is generally seen as a negative thing, especially when people argue with authority. I remember growing up we were never supposed to argue with my parents. Arguing, however, can be beneficial. It is, at its core, a form of logical defense and leads to deeper understanding and learning of other people’s positions. Arguing, in the pure, non-antagonistic sense, is primarily a disagreement using words. Each side offers up evidence for what they believe, and the other side can retort. Arguments happen almost every day. Some are beneficial and lead to a mutual understanding of both sides of the debate. Some devolve into antagonism between the parties. Christians are no strangers to arguing, either, as many who are members of a church can attest. Apologetics is very important in the Church today.
Apologetics is the term for arguing the defense of the Christian faith using logic, critical thinking, scriptures, and even science. The world will always question why we are Christians and why we set ourselves apart from the world. It is helpful to have an answer to their questions. We may not encounter these debates every day, but their potential to occur means we should be ready. Phoenix Wright of the Ace Attorney series is a master defense lawyer and knows how to argue and pick apart arguments.
The Ace Attorney
During the events of an Ace Attorney game, Mr. Wright takes on cases to defend people accused of murder and other crimes, conducting detective work, finding clues, and talking to witnesses. One key trait that Mr. Wright has is that he knows his client is innocent. He then finds holes in evidence and testimony to get to the truth of what happened.
The games are virtual novels that take the player through intense situations. These scenes occur both in and out of the courtroom. Mr. Wright consistently seems to be behind as the prosecution’s arguments seem to be iron-clad and free of contradictions. However, in every circumstance, Pheonix finds the contradiction and turns the case around, getting the verdict aligned most with the truth.
Christianity can use a similar method of defense. If we know our faith to be true, competing ideologies will contradict what we believe. When we find those contradictions, we can help open the doors to Jesus in other folks. However, we must remember that apologetics is not useful for conversion; rather, it mostly helps in getting folks to open up to the ideas of Christianity.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”1 Peter 3:14-16
In this passage, Peter is writing to the churches in Asia-Minor, near modern-day Turkey. The theme of this letter is to address issues with the persecution they face from others outside the church. In verses 14-16, Peter addresses how we are to answer those who ask us why they were hopeful in the world they lived in. He states that as Christians, we must prepare ourselves to answer the questions others may have, and we are to respond graciously. 1 Peter 3:15 is generally regarded as the verse initiating apologetics in the Christian faith.
Starting Our Defense
When Phoenix Wright takes on a case, he first learns everything he can concerning the case. He goes through evidence and multiple witness accounts to get to the truth of the situation. As a player, you have to read and re-read every bit of evidence and testimony you can to understand what is going on at the foundational level. Good evidence helps build a good argument.
The first step for Christians is the same: study the Bible. If we are to defend the faith, we need to know what we believe. The scriptures are a complete account of the Christian faith and offer the best knowledge we can have. Now, when I say study scriptures, I’m not referring to just superficial reading. Studying the scriptures should be done with the same zeal as students studying their textbooks the night before an exam. A person must look into the meaning and context of the verses.
Study Bibles and theology books can help with this. As you get the appropriate information from scriptures, you should test to see if they are true. Even podcasts and YouTube videos about Biblical topics can be helpful! I recommend Mike Winger on YouTube and his podcast The Bible Thinker for this. Knowing what we believe helps us to make our case.
Rules of Logic
After Phoenix Wright has gleaned as much information as he can, his next step is entering the courtroom and cross examining witnesses. One key objective during the cross examination period is to find contradictions between the testimony the witness gives and evidence that you have. The witness and the evidence can’t both be right. After the contradiction is found, you can pave the way to the truth with the evidence you have. What is interesting about this is that the search for contradictions describes one of the three rules of logic!
The book Unshakable Foundations by Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino lays out the foundational logical rules for any belief, worldview, or argument. The authors state there are three foundational logical laws: the Law of Identity, the Law of Non-Contradiction, and the Law of the Excluded Middle. The Law of Identity means we need to ensure we are talking about the same thing. The Law of Excluded Middle states that something cannot be both true and untrue at the same time. The most important law in logic, however, is the Law of Non-Contradiction. Even though the Ace Attorney Games don’t overtly use these terms, Phoenix Wright must use them to gain the turnabout in his client’s trial.
Law of Non-Contradiction
The Law of Non-Contradiction states that a true statement cannot be contradictory within itself or other known facts. For example, if I were to say to my friend that everybody hates ketchup, and my friend then asserts that he likes ketchup, we have a problem. Both statements cannot be correct simultaneously; either I’m wrong, or my friend is. In this case, I’m wrong. My friend likes ketchup; therefore, everybody cannot hate ketchup. Ace Attorney places a lot of importance on finding the contradictions in the witnesses’ testimonies. The big twists in the courtroom generally come from Phoenix finding subtle contradictions that tear apart massive “facts” that the prosecution is pushing. This rule is also quite crucial in Christianity and apologetics.
Applying What We Know
Once you study the Bible and understand the basic tenets of Christianity, you will compare these beliefs against other worldviews. Christianity makes firm statements about who Jesus is and how we get to Heaven. Thus these statements will come into conflict with other religions and worldviews. Where do we go from here? If we are Christian, we are to offer a defense for the hope God gives us. We believe Christianity to be true, so we should have sufficient evidence to defend it. Due to the Law of Non-Contradiction, we cannot think that every religion is correct if we hold Christianity as true. This statement is all well and good, but how do we know Christianity is true, as our study of apologetics suggests?
Much like Phoenix Wright, we also must rely on evidence in the world to find the truth. There are many scientifically-based arguments for the concept of a creator God, including Kalam’s Cosmological Argument and arguments for design, such as theistic evolution and young-earth creationism. Other views come from the historical accuracies of the Gospels and how they align well with archeological findings. Unfortunately, I cannot state all of the arguments in this column, nor can I sufficiently explore them in depth, but I highly recommend all Christians look into them for themselves. Unshakeable Foundations dedicates chapters to both scientific and archeological evidence. Once we know our faith to be true, we can truly defend it.
Always Be Gracious
Finally, my brothers and sisters, remember that we are to approach these situations with love, grace, and humility. The truth does not overwrite the commandment to love one another. Anybody can present a case, even in a heated situation, without hurting our opponents. Paul stated in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We aren’t fighting against people as Christians. We are fighting against ideas and spiritual forces at work. Do not take the fight to the person, but rather to their argument. Belittling our opponents for their beliefs is never ok; a good argument never relies on personal attacks. Apologetics is to be a tool of grace for the glory of God.
My brothers and sisters, I continue to pray for you. I pray that God is supplying the hope you need in your daily lives. I hope we all remember to present our arguments for the faith with grace and humility. Finally, I want to put my email address here so that anybody with questions can ask them. I guarantee I won’t have all the answers, but I may be able to find people that do! Please email me at email@example.com.