Fortunately, both Ezekiel Bulver and his world are fictitious, but how far from accurate are they, really?
In fact, the guidelines within which Bulver debates are close representations of society today, CS Lewis would have us believe. In his essay on "Bulverism," Lewis calls our attention to the infuriating belief that "refutation is no necessary part of argument," as people often seem to think today. Politicians’ campaigns focus largely on deteriorating the opposition’s public acclaim by attacking the person’s family life rather than their proposed policies or agendas. History students dismiss scientists from the time of the Roman Empire as complete imbeciles because they believed that the earth was flat. Simple, categorical, arrogant rejection of another’s point of view with little to no grounds to support this dismissal has grown in our culture, remarks Lewis, and he attributes the title of “Bulverism” to this phenomenon. Causes are presented for rejecting an opponent’s proposition, but no reasons follow it to give the argument weight or credibility.
In light of Lewis’ observation, the class was then asked a challenging question: Are we guilty, here at Calvin College, of being Bulverists ourselves? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Of course, every person on this earth is guilty of Bulverism, but certain aspects of this cultural parasite rear their heads particularly often in a Christian college setting.
The most visible example is probably the debate between so-called creationists and theistic evolutionists here at Calvin. The creationists accuse the evolutionists of refuting the authority of God’s Word, whereas the evolutionists accuse them of being blind, closed-minded mules, too stubborn to open their eyes to the dynamic reality we live in. Both sides bicker and fight with the other, never really stepping back and discussing their different viewpoints without the brandished swords and the slinging mud. This is creating a chasm even within the circle of Christianity, and Christians are divided despite our same Lord and same desire to serve Him. God explicitly states in His Word that we must “be careful [...] that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block” to other fellow believers (1 Cor. 8:9), but this is precisely what we are doing by attacking each other from within. Calvin, being an academic institution, is highly engaged with the debate, to the point where the fight becomes an intensely personal battle of wits, and this blatant Bulverism seems to be running with little restraint through the faculty and students.
Furthermore, we must be aware of the danger of Bulverism we could create by just being Christians in a Christian environment. We must resist the temptation to refute non-Christian thought as flawed or ungodly because it originated from outside of Christianity. As Lewis says, we mustn’t discredit a thought because of the underlying wishes of its presenter, and we must therefore be open to examining all thoughts and disregard the origin of the thought, so long as the thought is valid. These areas are pitfalls that lead to Bulverism, and we must especially aware of them and bring humility to the table to create an environment of acceptance and listening, at Calvin College, in our respective communities, and in the world in general.