Doug Wilson wrote a post entitled “Believing One Half of the Wrong End of It.”
In it he notes:
A careful opposition to Calvinism, say on the contentment question above, would say something like Calvinism ought to be Stoicism, given the critic’s understanding of the premises, and it is therefore a matter of great curiosity that it is nothing of the kind. That would allow interaction between the views that are actually held by actual people. It is a pity that this kind of thing is so rare — but it must be admitted that it has always been easier to debate with cartoons, especially with the ones you draw yourself.
In other words, ascribing beliefs to another person as a debate tactic is rude and it makes debate impossible. In the understanding of Aristotle, it would utilizing rhetoric (persuasion) but pretending to be using dialectic (using logic and evidence to come to an understanding of the truth).
This has happened to be before. A girl I worked with once ascribed to me the belief that “women are less human than men” in the middle of a conversation about why the Christian method of peacemaking (love your enemies, etc) is the best method. I was taken aback and just said, “I don’t, Christians in general don’t.” It prevented her from having to think about whether the Jesus way is superior to hating your enemies (the right wing way) or superior to pretending that your enemies are not your enemies (the left wing way).
If she had said something like, “Even if you don’t believe women are inferior, some Christians think women can’t preach in church services, therefore those Christians implicitly believe that” then we would have had some grounds for a debate. The skill of ascribing beliefs to opponents rather than determining and stating what you think their view should be based on premises is both effective and rude.
Thankfully this young woman (she might be older than me now that I think about it) and I were friends and I was able to explain things to her afterward. It wasn’t meant, I think, to be an insult. It was a way out of an uncomfortable conversation.
Back to the topic at hand.
Either Calvinism is broadly true or it isn’t. This or that proposition held by Calvinists is true or it isn’t. And this or that belief or practice ancillary to Calvinism is consistent with its other tenets or it isn’t. But ascribing beliefs, thoughts, or actions to Arminians or Calvinists that they do not explicitly believe, think, or do as though they do is akin to lying.
Christians should not engage in this sort of rhetorical rudeness. It creates a public misunderstanding. This misunderstanding is geared at making it more difficult to weigh the truth value or various claims about the Bible, about other Christians, and ultimately about God. The Bible is clear about this kind of practice: The Lord hates dishonest scales (Proverbs 11:1). Surely this is true in rhetoric as well as in economics.
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