• Mike

Taking the Roof Off Tactic

This tactic helps you test the accuracy of someone’s worldview by showing that his position leads to absurdity. This is also known as reductio ad absurdum, or reducing an argument to its absurd conclusion.

Here's how it works. First, for the sake of argument, adopt the other person’s viewpoint. Next, give the idea a test drive. Where will you end up if you follow his rationale faithfully to its logical end? Then, using well-placed questions (utilizing the Columbo Tactic), help him see where things went awry.

Consider these examples:

Some Christians oppose capital punishment because they say that Jesus would always forgive. On this reasoning, though, any punishment for criminals would be wrong because one could always argue, “Jesus would forgive them.” This seems absurd, especially when Scripture states that one of the roles of government is to punish evildoers, not forgive them (1 Peter 2:14).

The Pharisees claimed Jesus cast out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus “took the roof off” by showing where such reasoning led: If Satan is the source of Jesus’ power in exorcism, then Satan is casting out Satan, destroying his own kingdom. This is an absurd conclusion.

Some people believe abortion is wrong for them because they believe it kills a baby, but think it’s wrong to “impose” this personal belief on others (the politician’s favorite go-to move). Counter by taking the roof off. “So, you personally believe that abortion kills an innocent baby, but you think mothers should be legally allowed to do this to their own children?” As you can see, this view is morally absurd.

In homosexuality, it is currently popular to say, "I was born this way." The basic argument is that since homosexuality feels natural it must be moral. What if someone said, "I was born with a tendency to inflict violence upon others. It just feels right to me because I have had feelings of anger and hostility towards others from an early age."

Would the same people who reason that homosexuality is natural, allow for someone to inflict violence upon others simply because they were "born that way"? Probably not. Instead, they would argue that they should fight that feeling, because just because an impulse feels natural does not mean that it's moral.

Husbands, ask your wife if she is okay with your very natural tendency to look upon other women in a lustful manner. This comes very natural to us. One, that doesn't make it right. And two, Jesus said, "Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28 Notice that He doesn't say, "I know you have that propensity and it feels very natural to you, therefore it's morally okay."

How about this claim? “A thing is okay to do as long as it doesn't hurt anybody.” A very minimalist ethic indeed. Adopt the view for the sake of argument to see where it leads and then ask, "What if there is a doctor who molested women who were under sedation? According to your view, since they did not feel pain, how could it be wrong for him to have molested them?" Of course, we know that it's wrong to molest anyone under any circumstances. Therefore their viewpoint leads to an erroneous conclusion.

This tactic is very simple because it simply asks the question,"If I follow your view to it's logical destination, does it lead to truth or absurdity?"

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