If you would like to understand almost any argument that you have ever had, whether with your spouse, your neighbor, your classmate, your know-it-all brother in-law, you would do well to acquaint yourself with Ezekiel Benedict Bulver. His influence is simply inescapable. You can hear it in political debates, Twitter skirmishes, and pretty much any religious or moral arguments (and therefore probably at your own dinner table).
Elsewhere, he has been cited as laying the foundation of twentieth-century thought, but we do him a disservice if we do not also mention him as one of the chief architects of the twenty-first century as well. To know Ezekiel Bulver is to know the secret to winning any verbal contest, to destroying any opposing ideas, and to easily rejecting any inconvenient way of seeing the world that might trouble you.
The first son to Ronald and Patricia Bulver, baby Ezekiel’s revolutionary life began from humble, if not odd, beginnings.
Ezekiel’s father, Ronald, was a small claims attorney for the local firm in his hometown. Perhaps the happiest man you’d ever meet to have been nowhere beyond where he had always been, Ronald’s tall, wiry frame was topped with an unforgettably oval face which lay merely as foliage for his flaming red hair. Those who knew him best knew he held a peculiar fascination with paintings of bridges, a strong aversion to cats, and a disinclination towards anything one might call travel.
Ezekiel’s mother, Patricia Vernice Bulver (important people, she once overheard, went by three names) careered as a solo dramatist. Solo, she once explained, because no one could match her “enthusiasm.” Truthfully, she was a slightly ridiculous woman, but in a manner that never failed to endear. She laughed loudest at her own jokes, but also chortled the heartiest at others’ as well. She took herself — and others — seriously. Were anyone to ever wonder whether they had found Mrs. P.V. Bulver, one need only look for the massive, colorful purse, which, rumor had it, contained several of her choicest performance props, “Just in case.”
Two Bulvers Become Four
The Bulvers, though peculiar, had a happy marriage which bore two children. One, as most histories of extraordinary people tend, will be thoroughly detailed; the other, footnoted (as appropriate).
The youngest son, Ezekiel Bulver, grew up, we must admit, a very vanilla child. He was, by his mother’s earliest accounts, “refreshingly plain,” which Ronald translated as “strangely unremarkable.” With average height, average build, average features, legend has it, that once when he stood still enough (which he was wont to do from time to time), a cashier mistook him for one of the store’s mannequins. Ezekiel once disclosed that it took even him longer than usual to locate himself in group photographs. He looked like everyone, and no one, simultaneously.
Perhaps his most distinguishing feature was his name. In a world of Harrys, Sams, Toms, and Johns, he — more suitably named by any of these — bore the name Ezekiel. His mother named him. Ezekiel, she could faintly remember from her in Catholic school education, “spent a week in a whale’s belly — a most captivating independent drama.”
How did the littlest Bulver feel about being largely forgettable? Happy. He did not like much attention. He loved to watch, loved to listen. Anonymity suited him well.
Ezekiel had one friend growing up, Staples (people called the boy by the name for so long they couldn’t remember if it was his real one or not). Neither boy talked more than the conversation dictated, nor cared to listen more than the speaker required. Suffice it to say, they quickly became friends. And their favorite hobby: fishing. Each boy loved to sit (mostly quiet) on either side of the canoe with the sun upon their skin and reel in their hand. And in that canoe, each would remain until fate drew him ashore.
This is all good and well, you say, but How did this ordinary boy make his discovery to become one of the defining thinkers of the present century? How did the most renowned consulting agency in the Western hemisphere become a multi-billion dollar enterprise? Well, as it has been documented by someone somewhere,
Destiny was decided at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third — “Oh you say that because you are a man.”
He would never be the same.
That one line proved to be the seed of his genius. “Refutation,” he had begun to realize, “is no necessary part of argumentation. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try and find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.”
Ezekiel’s mother need not pull out her sums to argue the question of geometry, she needed only assume he is wrong and then notice why: he was a man. That sufficed to explain his error. Whether or not he knew himself to be wrong, he couldn’t admit it — as men often cannot. He had something to gain by being right: the maintained delusion that he is always right. His stake in the matter was not his triangle but his pride; his stubbornness tainted his mathematics.
If you would see to it that no one gets the upper hand on you again, you will do well to remember, Don’t explain away arguments; explain why he secretly wishes his arguments are true.
Three Steps to Destroying Arguments
The simple discovery changed the world of modern thought and discussion. The special recipe, Bulver then discovered, for much disagreement — whether theological, political, ethical, and so on — need not be argumentation. The surest way to win any argument was to not argue. He figured out that people, not their thoughts, are easier to dismiss. Stuffy syllogisms, precise premises, and belabored conclusions need not hold tyranny any longer.
His discovery was simple enough:
1. Assume the person with whom you disagree is wrong.
2. Ignore any arguments he or she may give to support their obviously false beliefs.
3. Don’t explain away the assumed falsehood. Explain, rather, why he believes the falsehood.
Don’t waste your time on arguments; invalidate your opponent himself. Show his thoughts to be tainted with bias at their source by showing how he benefits from his own arguments being true.
A 5-year-old boy, keen to the words of his mother, observed — and greatly monetized — his observation. He, of course, simply named the discovery and weaponized it — then sold it.
And monetize he has.
The family business, Bulver Inc., became a renowned consulting agency selling to both sides of the aisle, on each sides of most debates. Evidence of Bulvism’s extensive reach can be overheard in most heated conversations of the day.
“You only seek to deny a woman access to abortion because you want America to be a Christian nation again.”
“She only promotes the killing of children because she wants to keep sleeping around.”
“You only dislike feminism because you don’t want women to take your jobs.”
“You only believe feminism to be true because you want to boss your husband around.”
“You only quote those verses because you’re mad that I’ve found love and you’re still single.”
“You only believe homosexuals can be married because your brother is ‘engaged’ to another man.”
“Republicans only want a flat tax because they want more spending money to booze at their country clubs.”
“Socialists only want wealth redistribution because they want free handouts without working hard.”
“You believe God exists because you can’t plainly face your depression after your wife cheated on you.”
“You believe God does not exist because you want to cheat on your wife.”
“You only stand against reparations because, as it turns out, you’re white.”
“You’re only for reparations because you’re black.”
Out with the Old
Ezekiel Bulver, who passed just this past month, is an inspiration for us all of true progressivism. Because of his heroism, we are liberated, finally, from such archaic sentiments like “You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong.”
Ezekiel Bulver is survived by two sons, one daughter, and an indebted generation of faithful followers. His older brother, Ronald Jr., saluted his younger brother, saying at his gravesite, “You only died because you didn’t want to pay the money you owed me.”
Don’t Get Conned
C.S. Lewis, in his excellent essay entitled Bulverism, teases us with writing Ezekiel Bulver’s biography someday. He never did, but if Lewis were alive to view the intellectual cage matches today and witness the weeds of intersectionality and identity politics grow, like crabgrass, across the Western world and church, he might be compelled to give the blossomed account of which I, not being he, give only a sketch.
Has this logical fallacy ever been more relevant? We hurry to discredit the other person and have lists of who and who cannot have an opinion on a particular topic. But we cannot, as Christians, get conned into playing by their rules or thinking that we have nothing to say on this or that hot topic issue. Because we’re special and must be heard? No. Because we have been entrusted, by God, with at least two great gifts.
We have the Bible. Someone can speak intelligibly and righteously when he speaks from what God has already spoken. His law is perfect, reviving the soul (Psalm 19:7). His word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Scripture is God-breathed and thus profitable to make us wise for salvation — and to equip us for every good work (1 Timothy 3:16–17).
We are people of the Book who speak from the Book — and the Book is always relevant. Bulverists can try to dismiss us — fair enough — we simply deliver the words and judgments of Another.
And we have the Spirit of truth. The world does not have him, but he lives and dwells in Christ’s people (John 14:17). While the world follows its prophets, the Spirit “leads us into all truth” (John 16:13). This does not mean we will always be right in whatever we think, but we are not left alone to think — God lives in us.
If he lives in you, reject the well-worn path of Ezekiel Bulver, and speak the truth, with humility and boldness, and in love.