RA1 – Critical Thinking & Apologetics
For this assignment, students will stretch their critical thinking abilities by closely examining an instance of apologetics in action:
For this Research Assignment, you will need to watch any one of the following recorded debates in their entirety (they are anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours long).
Dinesh D’Souza & Michael Shermer –
(this is only PART 1 of this debate–it has four parts total and you’ll need to watch all of them).
John Reynolds & Dan Barker –
Frank Turek & Chris Hitchens –
After watching one of these debates (your choice) in their entirety (taking notes as you go–you may even want to watch certain parts of the debate more than once) answer the following questions in a well-crafted essay.
The total essay length should be between 1,300 and 1,600 words. Any longer or shorter will result in a 10% penalty. Each of the questions below should be answered in at least 2-3 well-developed paragraphs, except for question 1), which could probably be answered in a single introductory paragraph.
1) Who was debating, what was the topic of the debate, and who was representing what position?
2) What were some of the strongest arguments against Christian beliefs that you saw in the course of watching this debate? This is an important critical thinking question–it is absolutely vital for a maturing apologist to be able to recognize strong points from differing viewpoints. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily find the points convincing–it means that you recognize their rhetorical, logical, or evidential force. In order to make our own arguments adequate, we need to know the strength of the arguments from the other side.
3) What were some of the weakest arguments that were provided by the Christian apologist? This is simply the inverse of the previous critical thinking question. No one ever does apologetics perfectly. Even if you generally admired the performance of the apologist in question, use your critical thinking to identify any flaws in presentation, logic, clarity, interpersonal charity, etc. You are not attacking them personally, but you are critically analyzing their apologetic manner.
4) Now is the time to turn from critical to constructive. How would you respond to the strong points you raised from question 2)?(You don’t have to give airtight answers, but you should demonstrate some effort to grapple with the problems raised.) How would you correct the flaws you raised from question 3)? (Spell out how, in your own apologetic thinking, writing, and conversing you would seek to avoid the foibles that you identified.)
Grading Rubric for Research Assignment 1
20% – Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation–be sure to edit thoroughly and pay close attention to avoiding typos and grammatical mistakes.
20% – Adherence to the Prompt–did you answer all the questions thoroughly and coherently, and/or fulfill the prompt in its entirety?
20% – Use of Sources–you are required to cite properly from all articles attached to any given Research Assignment (in this case, the online debate should be cited appropriately as video content).
You are also required to cite from both of your textbooks in some manner on every given Research Assignment. You are free to use MLA or CMS citation styles, so long as it is done properly and consistently. If you struggle with citation style, you should take advantage of the Writing Tutor assigned to our course (you should have received email notification from them near the start of our term).
For MLA citation style, here is a website that will help you:
For Chicago Manual style, here is a website:
Both sites have navigation bars on the left that will help you in citing web sources or print sources, respectively.
40% – Argumentation and Analysis–do you articulate your points clearly? Do you exhibit good critical thinking? These are very important aspects of the paper. I must be able to follow what you say and your points must be clear; you must substantiate all points with reasoning and argumentation (raw, unsupported opinions are not acceptable; you must state WHY you think as you do and present whatever SUPPORT your thinking has). You must think critically about the readings, demonstrating that you have understood them and that you can engage intelligently with their arguments and positions.