Archive for the 'Logic' Category

Learn how to screw up your worldview

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Green Shiny True Button And Red Shiny False Button With Text And

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A doubter about the existence of God and other things religious wrote that part of his problem,

is that I have a passing academic interest in religion, so pulling things out of that context causes a bit of cognitive dissonance. Theologically I’m very liberal–I know it’s a slippery slope, but it is what it is. I see cultural context everywhere, I don’t trust the Gospels’ historicity, I read John as mysticism, the less said about Paul the better, and I’m aware of how diverse early Christianity was. I won’t claim that the version that survived wasn’t the true one, but I definitely see other factors at play in its success. One of those actually may have been divine intervention–it’s intriguing that there are visions associated with both of the people who transformed it (Paul and Constantine), but this is definitely a tangled knot of problems that aren’t going to be solved anytime soon. So I’m trying to be open to the possibility that the all the important stuff actually is true, but it’s going to involve a lot of leaps of faith to come to that conclusion.[1]

This is only part of a post he made to a Christian forum (you can read a continuation of it at footnote #1, but it unveils a considerable amount of information about his perspective. Let’s see if we can unpack some of the issues that are driving his agenda.

A. A liberal resistance to God

What I observe about his perspective, associated with his ‘cognitive dissonance’, i.e. disharmony in his thought processes, is that his …

1. Presuppositions cover up issues

I addressed him directly:[2] I’ve been looking at this paragraph that you wrote and it seems to be overcome with your presuppositions that are preventing your examining the biblical material at face value. Let me pick up a few of them and I’d appreciate it if you would correct me if I’m wrong:

Your passing academic interest in religion and pulling out of context causes cognitive dissonance. I’m unsure if this ‘context’ is the academic interest or context in Scripture or something else. I’m unclear on your content. If your context is ‘academic interest in religion’, then I’ll have to know whether that is a university, seminary, college or Christian setting (and whether it’s a liberal setting) to be able to try to uncover your presuppositions.

2. We know where the slippery slope leads

Image result for clipart slippery slopeFrom where did you get your ‘very liberal’ theological position? Was it from the evidence from Scripture or from ‘very liberal’ sources who/that dumbed down other views, especially those of Bible-believing Christians? You’ve admitted that it is ‘a slippery slope’. This means that that position is doomed to destroy faith and cause disillusionment with people and decline of churches. We know this from the decline in theologically liberal denominations worldwide. Take a look at the Anglican Church here in Australia (outside of the Sydney diocese), Anglican Church in UK, Church of Scotland, United Church of Canada, Episcopal Church (USA), United Methodist Church (USA), Presbyterian Church (USA), American Baptist, etc. See the article, Liberal churches in decline while orthodox ones grow, says study of Protestants in Canada‘.

3. Stuck in a rut

‘It is what it is’ is an unhealthy way of examining or correcting one’s views. I find the better approach is to investigate the evidence from Scripture without imposition of previous beliefs. Are you a postmodern deconstructionist when it comes to your reading of Scripture?

4. Historicity of the Gospels

You say, ‘ I don’t trust the Gospels’ historicity’. That seems to be your presuppositional imposition on the Gospels. What primary investigation have you done into the nature of historicity of any document and applying those criteria to the Gospels? Other researchers have gone before you who have already done that and they have come to a positive position on the historicity of the Gospels and the NT. I’m thinking of leading researcher at the University of Manchester, the late F F Bruce: The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (available online). Right beside me on my desk is Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP 2007). What causes you to refuse to accept the historical evidence provided by these scholars?

4.1 John’s Gospel and mysticism

‘I read John as mysticism, the less said about Paul the better’, he wrote. That statement is loaded with your presuppositional agenda. You would have to give me lots of other information for me to understand why you regard John as mysticism. By the way, it’s a very different kind of Gospel to the Synoptics because it was written for a different purpose, ‘The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name’ (John 30 30-32 NLT).

Then you give the thumbs down to Paul (presumably referring to his letters and the history about him in the Book of Acts). Without your telling us why you make that statement, I wouldn’t try to guess what leads you to that kind of view.

5. Leap of faith and unthinking Christianity

You say, ‘I’m trying to be open to the possibility that the all important stuff actually is true, but it’s going to involve a lot of leaps of faith to come to that conclusion’. To the contrary, Christianity does not require you to put your brain/mind in neutral and resort to a ‘leap of faith’ to accept it. All of the historical basis of Christianity can be subjected to the same tests of historicity that you give to any other historical document about Nero, Martin Luther, George Washington, Captain James Cook or the September 11, 2001 disaster in New York City. However, there is the strong dimension of faith, but that is in the person of Jesus Christ for salvation, the Jesus who is revealed in Scripture. If you don’t know who Jesus is (because of theological liberal presuppositions), that leap of faith will be into darkness rather than into the light.

B. His responses to my challenge

In the following I deal with his responses to what I have written above. These are some of his emphases:

1. Liberal bias that opposes one-way religion

Image result for clipart one way Christianity

He wrote:

No formal training, I’ve just accumulated knowledge here and there–mostly of a liberal bias, yes. Not specifically Christianity but religion in general. It’s uncomfortable for me to switch from viewing something as interesting in the greater scheme of world religion to zeroing in on one and saying, “Maybe this one actually is true.” It’s getting less strange with time, but it’s definitely still jarring.[3]

How should I reply? Here goes![4]

I was raised in a religiously liberal home and it wasn’t until my parents were converted from liberalism to biblical Christianity that I was even open to other evidence. I did not pursue the evidence wherever it led until that time of conversion for my parents.

What has caused you to consider that the liberal bias of accumulated knowledge is correct? This indicates that you have censored some important areas for consideration. Why have you done that? Have you ever considered how your ‘liberal bias’ lines up with reality – the truth? Why liberal and not conservative? What attracts you to liberal religion?

You don’t like going from the general (greater scheme of world religion) to the specific of one religion being true. Surely this should not be a difficult thing for you to do because you are forced to do it in everyday life, even with much lesser products. Do you use a mobile phone? If so, surely you have examined a range of mobile phones before concluding a certain one was the best for you. That’s what I had to do recently.

You do this in a whole range of activities. What causes you and me to take medicine prescribed by the Dr and not swallow ‘RoundUp Poison Ivy’:
clip_image002
The purpose of the product influences that choice.
When it comes to the choosing which religion is the truth, it takes care in comparing that religion with reality, facts/truth. What is truth when you examine religion?
Have you found a better search engine on the www than Google? Why does Google seem to be the preferred product over, say, Bing or Yahoo?
Another analogy would be when something happens to the motor of your automobile. Do you choose to take it to a motor mechanic instead of a painter or cabinet maker? You can be narrow in your choices.
When it comes to dealing with the worldviews of any religion, I challenge you to examine which of those worldviews fits reality. See the difficulties with:

 

You face a major hurdle before you can even begin to investigate worldviews, religion and God. You start at the wrong end of your inquiry, by excluding certain evidence. When you start with a liberal bias, you will see liberal views in a much more favourable way and anti-liberal views negatively. This is not a beneficial way to examine evidence.

I hope you realise the self-defeating nature of your view with a ‘liberal bias’. You don’t like one-way religion but you have chosen that view yourself, i.e. religion with a liberal bias. That’s every bit as one-way as biblical Christianity. Do you realise how self-defeating your argument is?
May I suggest a better approach: Pursue the evidence, wherever it leads.

2. Evolution defeats Christianity[5]

I’ll pick up a few things from the early parts of his post.

2.1 Presupposition favours evolution

He wrote: ‘I walked away from Christianity as a child because of evolution’. Go to the science section of this forum to discuss this further if you want. However, to allow Charles Darwin & Co to determine HOW God created and continues to create is a view that has added to Scripture. It’s your presuppositional agenda. I don’t see the origin of species and adaptation (Darwinism) in Scripture, but I won’t discuss further.

See my articles:

2.2 Starting with allegorical interpretation.

Again, his reasoning is, ‘I’m not sure if dropping literalism means dropping conservativism (sic), because there have been people who’ve read Genesis as allegory since the religion first started up. That seems to be even more common in Judaism’.

You provide not one piece of documentation for this. It is your assertion. Therefore, it is a diversionary tactic. If you want to interpret Genesis as allegory, then start a thread and raise the issues. Do you want the first man and woman to be an allegory? Are you going to treat Noah and the flood as an allegory? How about Abraham? Is God’s promise to Abraham, ‘I will make of you a great nation’, an allegory that had no relationship to the nation of Israel?

Image result for clipart interpretation public domainHow do you read your local newspaper, whether hard copy or online? Do you read it literally or impose your allegory on it? Take this morning’s article from the Brisbane Times (29 January 2017), Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US.[6]

The article began: ‘New York: President Donald Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect on Friday night (Saturday AEDT). Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports’.?

What would stop you from making this an allegory where you force your own meaning onto it to make it say what you want? That’s what allegorical interpretation does. It imposes a meaning from outside of what the text states. It is far too easy for you to say, ‘there have been people who’ve read Genesis as allegory since the religion first started up. That seems to be even more common in Judaism. I didn’t know that this stuff could be read in layers when I was seven, but I certainly know it now’.
So you are already accepting the ‘layers’ of allegorical interpretation without investigating whether that is the case and the harmful consequences of what that does to any piece of literature, including the Bible.

For further explanations of the meaning of allegorical interpretation and the damage it does, see my other articles:

clip_image004 Is the Bible to be interpreted as literal or metaphorical?

clip_image004[1] What is literal interpretation?

clip_image004[2] What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

clip_image004[3] Isn’t it obvious what a literal interpretation of Scripture means?

clip_image004[4] The wedding at Cana led to divorce

See also:

clip_image006 The danger of allegorical Bible interpretation (Danny Coleman);

clip_image006[1] Sins of Interpretation #1: Allegorical method (Kruse Kronicle/Kenneth

Bailey);

clip_image006[2] Historical implications of allegorical interpretation (Thomas D Ice)

clip_image006[3] The Bible: How should we interpret it? (John Ankerberg interviews Norman Geisler)

2.3 Resurrection, the Bible and truth

He continued: ‘If I decide the Resurrection happened, I can then start working on the question of how much of the rest is true, but that seems a bit backwards as a starting point.’ But you have already told us about your ‘liberal bias’. How will you ever get to understand Jesus’ resurrection as an historical event without telling us which historical criteria you will be using to examine the evidence?

See my articles:

clip_image008 Can Jesus Christ’s resurrection be investigated as history?

clip_image008[1] Christ’s resurrection: Latter-day wishful thinking

clip_image008[2] The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Comeback to Beat Them All

clip_image008[3] Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

clip_image008[4] Junk you hear at Easter about Jesus’ resurrection

clip_image008[5] Can we prove and defend Jesus’ resurrection?

clip_image008[6] Easter and the end of death

 

2.4 Garden of Eden promotes misogyny[7]

You say, ‘Can you be conservative and read the Garden of Eden metaphorically? I find it a very powerful statement when viewed symbolically, but when taken literally, I think it’s blatantly misogynistic. My liberal bias very clearly lines up to the reality that Eve has been used as an excuse to justify the oppression of women throughout all of Judeo-Christian history’.

You can’t be a legitimate biblical interpreter and make the Scriptures mean what you want them to mean. When you impose a metaphorical hermeneutic on the Garden of Eden, you introduce your own story into the narrative. That’s called a red herring fallacy because it takes us away from what the narrative states. There is no indicator in the text of Gen 1-3 (ESV) that tells us the Garden of Eden narrative is an allegory. That’s your ‘liberal bias’ imposition.

You have nailed what drives your agenda: ‘I lean towards the liberal view that the Word of God was filtered through a patriarchal culture and picked up some of its bias’. Again, that’s imposition on the text. It’s eisegesis (putting your meaning into the text) instead of exegesis (getting the meaning out of the text). Unless you put your presuppositions up for examination and follow the evidence wherever it leads, you are going to have difficulty in pursuing this investigation. I see your foggy worldview of liberalism blinding you to the reality of what the text states.

When you pick and choose what you want to make allegory, you are the postmodern deconstructionist[8] who is deconstructing the text to your own worldview. I urge you to place your presuppositions on the altar of critical examination (I ask the same of all of us on this forum, including myself).

C. Further responses: Distorted reasoning

This person replied and I’ve incorporated his reply in my response.

It’s not a diversionary tactic to not provide evidence–I figured you’d already know what I was talking about, since I’ve been at this for a couple months now; you’ve been doing it for significantly longer! But if you want evidence, I know Clement of Alexandria and Origen interpreted things allegorically, and in Judaism, there’s the Remez approach to interpretation, which appears to be allegorical. There was also apparently a medieval rabbi called Saadia Gaon who said that a passage should not be interpreted literally if that made it contrary to the senses or reason. I am not making any of this up; it is quite ancient and literally biblical. We can go straight to Galatians 4:24, since apparently Paul himself interpreted things allegorically: “Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants.” If Paul wasn’t orthodox, I have no idea what orthodoxy is, haha.[9]

1. Confusion of allegorical interpretation with allegory

You seem to confuse two things:[10] (1) Allegorical interpretation, and (2) A narrative that says something is described as an allegory.
Do you want me to interpret your above information allegorically, by which I make your statements say what I want them to say and not what you have intended them to mean? Let me try one example:

  • ‘It’s not a diversionary tactic to not provide evidence—I figured you’d already know what I was talking about, since I’ve been at this for a couple months now; you’ve been doing it for significantly longer!’
  • By this, Silmarien means that God’s lack of evidence (for Jesus) is merely God’s way of getting through to Silmarien that God has superior knowledge to Silmarien’s beginning inquiries into spiritual things.
  • If I invented allegorical interpretation of everything you wrote, you would have every right to call it baloney or bunkum. Why? Because allegorical interpretation is an illegitimate method of interpretation because it forces into a text what is not there.
  • When Paul states in Gal 4:24 that he was dealing with an allegory. That was a literal interpretation by Paul to confirm the existence of allegory.

2. Genesis and literalism

You wrote:

A critical examination of the Old Testament is very much the problem, though. God creates animals first and humans second in Genesis 1, but in Genesis 2, Adam is created before the animals. Cain conjures up a wife out of nowhere and then goes off and builds himself a city, even though there’s supposedly nobody to live in it yet. I’m sure there are ways to get around all the continuity issues, but for me, it kind of feels like trying to trap God within the pages of a book. Because my problem with literalism isn’t just liberal post-modernism; it’s also mysticism. The surface level of all things religious tends to leave me cold.[11]

To the contrary,[12] a careful examination of the OT is not a problem. Every one of the issues you raise here from Gen 1 and 2 has been successfully resolved. The differences in the order of creation are quite easily explained.

  • Gen 1 gives the order of events:
  • Chronological order
  • Outline
  • Creating animals

Then,

  • Gen 2 goes into more detail on the content about what was in ch. 1:
  • There is no contradiction, since ch 1 doesn’t affirm when God made the animals. Ch 2 gives:
  • Topical order
  • Details, and the
  • Naming of animals, not creating animals.

Therefore, Gen 1 and 2 provide a harmonious statement that gives a more complete picture of the events of creation (with help from Geisler & Howe 1992:35).

Determining the source of Cain’s wife is an old chestnut. It is easily solved. Your claim is that ‘Cain conjures up a wife out of nowhere’. Were there no women for Cain to marry as there were only Adam, Eve (Gen 4:1) and his dead brother Abel (Gen 5:4)?

Cain probably married his sister or niece because we are told that Adam ‘fathered other sons and daughters ‘ (Gen 5:4 HCSB). Adam lived 930 years (Gen 5:5 ESV) so he had stacks of time to have a pile of children. Was Cain committing incest if he married his sister/cousin? At the beginning of the human race there would have been no genetic imperfections. Genetic defects would have emerged following the Fall into sin. Since only a pair (Adam & Eve) began the human race, Cain had nobody else to marry except a close female relative.

You state that Cain ‘goes off and builds himself a city, even though there’s supposedly nobody to live in it yet’. It’s time that you read Genesis 5 more carefully. ‘Supposedly nobody to live in it’ is bunk, when you read the text.

You say, ‘My problem with literalism isn’t just liberal post-modernism; it’s also mysticism. The surface level of all things religious tends to leave me cold’. Your problems with this statement include:

3. Old Testament reliability

His denigration of Scripture continued:

Regarding historical evidence, I accept logical arguments that take the formula “if not P, then not Q. Q is true, therefore P is true.” Could be applied to the disciples’ transformation, as well as Paul’s conversion. There are plenty of facts that are debatable, but these two are not. I’m also intrigued by extra-biblical evidence in general–Constantine’s vision, Genesis 1 continuing to match up to the Big Bang Theory, but evidence for the Old Testament is probably a bit premature.[13]

Do you affirm the Law of Noncontradiction[14] that ‘A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship’?
Evidence for the reliability of the OT is not premature. Your knowledge seems to have a gap here. Take a read of archaeologist, Egyptologist and historian, Dr Kenneth A Kitchen 2003. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

4. Belief and postmodern deconstruction

This isn’t really an investigation, though, since I actually do believe. Experimentation with prayer has been… pretty conclusive. A lot of it could be attributed to brain chemicals, but when a prayer of “Hey Jesus, if you’re real, can you please help me not be crazy over Calvinism?” results in immediately calming down… well, it can’t be the placebo effect when you don’t actually have faith. The problem is that I already have deconstructed everything–it’s too late to not be a postmodernist when you’ve already torn everything to pieces. I guess all I can do now is try to put it back together in a way that’s reasonably orthodox. I did just order Simply Christian, so hopefully that will help. C.S. Lewis offered some food for thought, but not really on a theological level.[15]

Image result for clipart postmodern deconstructionYou say you actually do believe.[16] What do you believe in? What is the nature of your belief? I’m reminded of a verse that James taught, ‘You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!’ (James 2:19 ESV).

Your claim is that you have deconstructed everything and it’s too late not to be a postmodernist. That fact is not true. What you have written in your post is not postmodern deconstruction. For the benefit of those who don’t understand that language, we should define ‘postmodern deconstruction’.

It means that words and sentences have no inherent meaning in themselves. People who read anything construct their own meaning, which is shaped by culture and life’s experiences. So the author’s intention in the writing is deconstructed, i.e. altered by the reader. The reader determines what the author means. Postmodern deconstruction turns an author’s meaning on its head. The reader determines the meaning.

Silmarien, in your post here, I didn’t read anything that told me I must read it as postmodern deconstruction. I observe how close postmodern deconstruction is to allegorical interpretation. Postmodern deconstruction tears the heart out of any document. You cannot apply for social security, secure a bank loan, or answer the rules of the road to get your driver’s license using postmodern deconstruction.

Therefore, it makes no sense to interpret the Bible, your writing on Christian Forums.net, or your local newspaper using postmodern deconstruction. It’s a great way for any reader to make a writing say anything he/she wants it to say. The fact remains that the true meaning of a text or spoken word is based on what the writer or speaker intended for it to mean. Anything else is an imposition on the text.

So, you do not engage in postmodern deconstruction of ‘everything’. You are selective in what you deconstruct. That’s your liberal bias coming into play and that bias needs to be exposed if you are going to read the Bible objectively and not impose your deconstructed message on it.

D. More examples of liberal bias intruding

All of us need to be aware of how our presuppositions can interfere with our interpretations of documents.

1. Presuppositions meet a brick wall of liberal bias

He wrote:

I would say that everyone has presuppositions when it comes to reading anything–biblical inerrancy is as much a presupposition as historical criticism, and an equally modern take. I can’t ignore things like Zoroastrianism’s influence on Judaism or Platonic elements in Christian theology, so my options are 1) abandon all religion as inherently manmade, or 2) accept that cultural influences don’t negate the truth value of a religion as a whole. I’m actually an existentialist with my reading of Scripture–Paul Tillich right now, a bit of Kierkegaard. But when it comes to actual evidence, I do start deconstructing things into meaninglessness. That part is a problem, but the existentialism is kind of necessary for me.[17]

I agree that all of us have presuppositions,[18] but the key to unpacking them is to compare those presuppositions with the evidence from reality.

  • What you’ve done in announcing biblical inerrancy as a presupposition and a modern take, it that this is a throw away line. Why? You provided not one example for us to examine. Norman Geisler’s edited book, Inerrancy (Zondervan 1979), presents biblical and historical evidence to counter your presupposition. Chapter 12 (by Robert Preus) of this book is, ‘The view of the Bible held by the church: The early church through Luther’, in which Irenaeus is cited from his writing, Against Heresies, ‘We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit’ (Against Heresies 2.28.2). Therefore, you are incorrect to state that biblical inerrancy is a ‘modern take’ (‘Scriptures are indeed perfect’, Irenaeus). Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, lived ca. 125-202. That is hardly a modern take in support of inerrancy – the Scriptures are perfect. Chapter 12 of Inerrancy provides other examples from the church fathers in support of inerrancy. Seems like you have a fair amount of research to do to come up with a correct understanding of what the early church fathers believed about the Bible’s perfection in the original documents.
  • Then you provide the unsupported statement of Zoroastrianism’s influence on Judaism and Platonic influence on Christian theology. That may be so, but you are yet to prove your case. Your assertions merely state your opinions. They don’t provide evidence.
  • Your support of Paul Tillich’s existentialism (I have his Systematic Theology) comes with the critiques of existentialism that don’t make it a worldview to live by. The review, ‘Tillich: An Impossible Struggle’, raises some insuperable difficulties with Tillich’s worldview.
  • Deconstructing into nothingness will lead you to nothingness.
  • Starting with existentialism as being ‘necessary for me’ is a brick wall approach to understanding any world view. You are stuck in a rut of experience that won’t allow you to pursue the evidence wherever it leads because … of your necessity for existentialism. Try existentialism if you are caught speeding and the policeman issues you with a fine. Existentialism is not a world view of reality that leads to payment of the fine.

2. Mysticism’s failures

This inquirer (or stirrer) wrote:

The view of the Gospel of John as a work of mysticism is ancient. It’s only a problem in that it puts me on a different page than most people here–mysticism is one of the major reasons I’m not an atheist. I don’t discount the claims because I think it’s mysticism; I actually take them more seriously. I’m very much on the mystical side, that’s a large part of why taking things at face value does nothing for me. As for Paul… suffice to say that I have no love for 1 Timothy. Apparently there are serious doubts as to its authorship, so that’s one less problem, but there’s still plenty of stuff I’m skeptical about, including his claim to authority when he was never there in the first place. Actually, if you know of any good material on him, I’d definitely appreciate it.[19]

You say,[20] ‘Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions!’ Not really! What I’ve been trying to do is uncover your presuppositions as your post at #17 is loaded with your presuppositions, some of which you mentioned, like your ‘liberal bias’, but there were more presuppositions that needed to be exposed to try to see how they fit the evidence.

I acknowledge that the Gospel of John has some different emphases to the Synoptics, but a mystical interpretation, I find, is an imposition on the text. You seem to be engaged in a begging the question logical fallacy. When you start with John’s Gospel as mysticism and conclude with mysticism, you have achieved nothing. It is fallacious reasoning that doesn’t deal with differences between John and the Synoptics.

There are dangers in mysticism. I recommend a read of ‘What is contemplative Spirituality and Why is it Dangerous?’ (John Caddock 1997).

You say ‘taking things at face value does nothing for me’. I wish you luck in trying that approach with buying groceries, abiding by the road rules, reading your local newspaper, or appearing in court to face the evidence?

Concerning the pastoral epistles, I recommend Gordon D Fee’s commentary, ‘New International Biblical Commentary: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988). A later edition gives details HERE. Fee has a considerable amount of exposition on the authenticity of the pastoral epistles. See his index on ‘authenticity’. R C H Lenski’s Introduction to the pastoral letters, in my view, more than adequately covers the authorship controversy. See Lenski (1961:473-484).

3. Christian existentialism

Now he launches into a brief statement in support of …

Christian existentialism. 😉 I’m all about faith as the ultimate act of courage. It’s what cured me of my atheism, so when I talk about leaps of faith, shutting off your brain is not remotely what I’m thinking of.

I mention that I’m pretty liberal so that people know what they’re dealing with. I don’t know where to start with conservative scholarship and definitely do want to take a look at the other side of the story. I know there’s a lot of bad blood between the groups, but please leave me out of it, haha. The infighting is part of what’s stressing me out.[21]

What is Christian existentialism?[22] Would you conclude that this is a reasonable summary of Christian existentialism? It may be defined as

a philosophy of its own that is not compatible with either secular existentialism, nor traditional Christianity. There is a wide variety of forms of existential religion with differing doctrinal beliefs. Kierkegaard and later Karl Barth are sited for attempting to make theology, particularly the Christian faith, compatible with existentialism.

Its premise is that a person must submit themselves totally to God without reasoning — that is, true absolute faith must be void of philosophy or intellect. Religious existentialism then states such things as:

  • A person is autonomous and is fully free to make choices and fully responsible for them
  • Rational grounds for theology and divine revelation do not exist
  • True faith transcends rationalism and God’s commandments
  • The true God is not the God of philosophers or of rationalism
  • The destruction of wars throughout human history proves there cannot be rational understanding of God or humanity
  • A Christian must personally resolve within self the content of faith from being a myth or mystery to being realty or truth before they will allow an understanding and acceptance of salvation
  • It is impossible to discover personal Being and faith through rational reasoning (All About Philosophy: Christian existentialism).

If faith is ‘the ultimate act of courage’ for you, I have to ask, ‘Faith in what? The god of Zoroastrianism; the Jesus who was not raised bodily from the grave; a liberal Jesus who loves people but excludes damnation?

Where to start with conservative scholarship is what I’ve stated: Follow the evidence wherever it leads. However, if you are going to impose your liberal bias, mysticism and existentialism onto the biblical text or an author’s views, you will invent your own god and jesus and won’t allow the conservative scholars to present their cases . You’ll come out with a godhead that looks like the very one with which you began.

For an examination of the conservative side of the resurrection of Jesus, I’d recommend:

(1) The debate between Gary Habermas (Christian) and Antony Flew (atheist who became deist). It’s available in: Gary R Habermas and Antony G N Flew 1987. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate. San Francisco: Harper & Row. In this book, there is a response to the debate by Wolfhart Pannenberg (pp. 125-135). Pannenberg is the European scholar on the resurrection that I mentioned previously to you.

(2) Norman L Geisler 1989. The Battle for the Resurrection. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

(3) James L Snyder 1991: In Pursuit of God: The Life of A. W. Tozer. Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications.

Yes, there is considerable controversy between liberal and evangelical Protestants. I encourage you not to become involved in slinging matches but to examine the evidence, based on the claims themselves. This will require for both sides to: (a) Examine their presuppositions in the light of reality; (b) Do not impose one’s worldview on the text. (c) Refrain from the use of logical fallacies in challenging an opponent.

Speaking of logical fallacies, do you remember your statement: ‘His [Norman Geisler’s] endorsement of Donald Trump. clip_image009 In all seriousness, I disapprove immensely of the politicization of religion. He seems to mix the two a fair amount, and that makes me believe that I’m not his intended audience’ (Silmarien #29).

Here you have committed a genetic logical fallacy. Any Christian apologist worth his or her salt should be assessing politicians and their policies. You obviously don’t like Trump, but when you dump Geisler’s views because of his support for Trump, you have not engaged in debate of the issues that Geisler raised. Instead, you have wiped his views because of his assessment of Trump’s views. This is erroneous reasoning.

4. Presuppositions about presuppositions

Image result for clipart false teaching public domainHis ducking and weaving among challenges continued, this time with a red herring fallacy,

Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions! I’m comfortable with the idea of miracles, just disinclined to look at them as evidence when I think such claims would have ended up in the stories regardless of whether or not they happened. Just as I think that if prophecies were not fulfilled, the disciples would have started forcing prophecies to fit events (or events to fit prophecies) one way or the other. I don’t accept these things as evidence, but that doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the possibility that they’re true.[23]

You say,[24] ‘Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions!’ Not really! What I’ve been trying to do is uncover your presuppositions as your post at #17 is loaded with your presuppositions, some of which you mentioned, like your ‘liberal bias’, but there were more presuppositions that needed to be exposed to try to see how they fit the evidence.

I think you need to ask: ‘What is the truth about reality, especially concerning the person of Jesus Christ, his death, resurrection, and second coming?’ The answer to that question, along with, ‘What are the attributes of God?’ will unlock a gold mine that will take you into eternity, with the beloved or the lost.

‘What happens one second after your last breath?’ is a dynamite question for which you need answers.
Your posts do read to me like a version of Pascal’s Wager.

Without Christ changing your life, you will not be able to live up to the high moral standards of Christianity. It’s wishful thinking trying to make it on your own.

5. His struggles

In response to what I wrote above, he admitted his struggles. These are his conflicts within:[25]

  • The idea of eternity is terrifying (that’s a big one for him);
  • Annihilation doesn’t sound bad;
  • Damnation means everyone is in trouble;
  • You can’t magically not struggle with doubt;
  • Why would you take the Bible at face value?
  • ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” seems to encompass at least a bit of mystical dabbling’.
  • The religious experience is in a different sphere to intellect.
  • You balk at Luke 16:31 (ESV), ‘He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”’.
  • · You stated: ‘I don’t have an agenda, but if you’ve spent your life rationalizing away everything, it’s hard to make yourself stop’. There’s a paradox in this statement. You really do have an agenda and that is to rationalise away ‘everything’.
  • ‘Not sure why I’d be worshipping Ahura Mazda [a god of Zoroastrianism], but the bodily Resurrection and the concept of damnation are not things that I reject as unbelievable’.

I replied to him this way:[26]

clip_image011 The idea of eternity is terrifying (that’s a big one for you). This is an example where you are kicking against the pricks – against God’s revelation to you eternally. This is what I’m talking about: ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end’ (Eccl. 3:11 NIV). You may not understand this revelation of eternity, but you need to recognize eternity is right there in your innermost being. I urge you not to resist the wooing of the Holy Spirit in revealing what is there already. An understanding of it is in everyone’s heart – eternity.

clip_image011[1] Annihilation doesn’t sound bad, he wrote. Of course zapping people out of existence at death sounds better than eternal torment in hell/Hades. However, what’s the truth? You’ll read about it in Scripture and not in your or my presuppositions.

clip_image011[2] Damnation means everyone is in trouble, according to his view. This is not so. Biblical facts determine that only unbelievers experience damnation. See: Matthew 25:46 NIV; John 3:36 ESV. I’m sticking with Scripture and not Silmarien’s or my presuppositions.

clip_image011[3] You can’t magically not struggle with doubt is what he stated. Agreed! Thomas doubted (John 20:24-29), but when evidence is provided to counter the doubt, doubt should subside to the point of being pacified or removed. I encouraged him to meditate on Psalm 77:11-15 (NRSV) to help him with his doubt?

clip_image011[4] Why would you take the Bible at face value? That’s because it’s a book of history and should be interpreted like any other historical book. Try taking the bombing of Pearl Harbor or Richard Nixon’s presidency at other than face value! For the same reason, we take Jesus’ death and resurrection at face value.

clip_image011[5] ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” seems to encompass at least a bit of mystical dabbling’. I think you’ve missed the meaning. It means loving the Lord with your entire being. I hope you and I are more than mystical beings involved in mystical activities.

clip_image011[6] The religious experience is in a different sphere to intellect is your perspective. That’s one view. I suggest to you that Christianity involves communicating with your inner being with God and that includes the mind.

clip_image011[7] You balk at Luke 16:31 (ESV), ‘He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”’. That’s the human propensity to doubt the historical and supernatural in Christian experience.

clip_image011[8] You stated: ‘I don’t have an agenda, but if you’ve spent your life rationalizing away everything, it’s hard to make yourself stop’. There’s a paradox in that statement. You really do have an agenda and that is to rationalize away ‘everything’.

clip_image011[9] ‘Not sure why I’d be worshipping Ahura Mazda [a god of Zoroastrianism], but the bodily Resurrection and the concept of damnation are not things that I reject as unbelievable’. I found that statement confusing, that you are worshipping a god of Zoroastrianism but you are open to teaching on the bodily resurrection and damnation. Are you wanting to worship a God/god of syncretism?

I thanked him for engaging with me in this challenging discussion. I pray that the Lord will guide him into all truth.

‘But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate [Paraclete] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment’ (John 16:7-8 NLT).?

He seems to be a seeker but his filter of liberal bias is acting as a blockage.

clip_image012

(image courtesy Pinterest)

E. Conclusion

This person with a self-proclaimed liberal bias came onto an evangelical Christian forum with an agenda of a ‘couple of questions’. That’s shorthand for a number of questions that were filtered through his theological liberal worldview.

I have attempted to expose his presuppositions, many of which do not harmonise with reality and especially with a literal reading of the biblical text. He confused the use of allegorical interpretation with a literal hermeneutic stating that a section of Scripture is allegory. At least he admitted that liberal presuppositions can lead to a slippery slope, by which he meant that the liberal bias descends into something worse – he gave an example of nothingness as one alternative.

He is stuck in a rut, not able to understand or accept the historicity of the Gospels. His leap of faith takes him into mysticism and existentialism. He does not want to understand the Book of Genesis literally but pursues allegorical interpretation.

He did admit that he engages in postmodern deconstruction of ‘everything’, to which I responded that he did not state he wanted me to read his posts that way. Postmodern deconstruction falls flat with any document. He cannot apply for social security, secure a bank loan, or answer the rules of the road to get his driver’s license using postmodern deconstruction.

I agreed with him that his posts do look like a version of Pascal’s Wager.

One of the major problems with his liberal bias of a worldview is that it colours all of his investigation of life and the Bible. It is way too easy for him to commit a begging the question logical fallacy, by which he starts with a liberal bias in examining anything and concludes with a liberal bias. That gets him nowhere.

The final section on his struggles demonstrates the inconsistencies in his world view. His liberal presupposition overwhelm his ability to consider the claims of Scripture at face value.

F. Works consulted

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When critics ask: A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Lenski, R C H 1961. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (earlier published by Lutheran Book Concern 1937; The Wartburg Press 1946; Augsburg Publishing House 1961; Hendrickson Publishers, Inc edn 2001).

Kurish, N & Fernandez, M 2017. Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US. Brisbane Times, 29 January 2017. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-as-donald-trumps-antimuslim-executive-order-comes-into-force-20170128-gu0p5o.html (Accessed 29 January 2017).

G.  Notes

[1] Christian Forums.net 2017. Questions for Christians (Q&A), Silmarien#8. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/couple-of-questions.68199/#post-1292985 (Accessed 21 January 2017).

[2] The following points are in ibid., OzSpen#17.

[3] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[5] This is my reply at ibid., OzSpen#52, #53.

[6] Kulish & Fernandez (2017).

[7] Misogyny means ‘dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women’ (Oxford dictionaries online 2017. s v misogyny).

[8] Deconstruction means ‘detailed examination of a text in order to show there is no fixed meaning but that it can be understood in a different way by each reader’ (Cambridge dictionary 2017. s v deconstruction).

[9] Christian Forums.net 2017. Silmarien#54.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[11] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[13] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[15] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[17] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

[19] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#71.

[21] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#72.

[23] Ibid., Silmarien#69.

[24] Ibid., OzSpen#70.

[25] Ibid., Silmarien#76.

[26] Ibid., OzSpen#87.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 February 2017.

Journalistic bias in an online newspaper

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

 

Newspaper-5

(image courtesy freeimages)

newspaper_aubanel_monnie_01newspaper_nicu_buculei_01newspaper_nicu_buculei_01newspaper_nicu_buculei_01

By Spencer D. Gear PhD

If a newspaper regularly published articles exposing the negative qualities of Chinese restaurants (one of my favourite foods) but not a word about other restaurants, I’d suspect the publication had a bias.

If the Brisbane Times only published material in favour of the Labor Party and gave no or little coverage to the Liberals/Nationals, there would be an outcry – as there ought to be.

When it comes to Christianity in religious instruction (RI) conducted in state schools in Queensland, it is legitimate for two writers for the Brisbane Times, Amy Remeikis and Hugh Harris, to denigrate Christianity. The purpose of my article is not to comment primarily on the content of RI in Qld (as exposed in these articles) but to demonstrate the bias of the Brisbane Times in providing journalism against Christianity in the public schools but not to give equal time to Christian responses.

1. Bias beefed up newspaper_aubanel_monnie_01

That is what is happening with the Brisbane Times in its online attack on RI in the state schools. I first noticed it earlier this year with Amy Remeikis, ‘Should religion be part of the Queensland state school curriculum?’ (Feb 28 2016).[1] Here, Remeikis presented the anti-RI perspective. There was not one comment from anyone supporting RI, thus presenting intolerance against Christianity and the content of the RI curriculum.

Remeikis did provide some evidence of the RI requirements in another article, ‘”No plans” to change religious instruction in Queensland state schools’ (March 23 2016).[2] However, the presentation of bias in the name of opposition to RI continued by Ms Remeikis in ‘Religious instruction in state schools “soliciting” children to Christian faith’ (June 6 2016).[3]

Remeikis is at it again with ‘Race elements of religious education materials “highly offensive”: Minister’ (Remeikis 2016). Particularly note the comments in this article from Indigenous Christian users of the Connect curriculum:

“I fully endorse the Connect curriculum for Aboriginal students,” Rev Corowa said in a statement released by the QRIN [Qld Religious Instruction Network].

“I have been using it for many years across all year levels.  I love it.  No student or instructor of RI has ever expressed a problem about the material to me.  I believe that the teaching approach is culturally sensitive to the particular needs of Aboriginal students.

“In particular I agree that Aboriginal students can be most teachable when sitting outside in small groups under a tree.  And I never met any student who did not enjoy a barbecue lunch on a Friday.”

Comment was also anonymously provided from a second “Aboriginal community member and Christian leader” via the QRIN.

“I dispute any attempt to claim the Connect material is racist,” the unnamed defender said.

“…I am grateful that Connect has acknowledged the cultural differences of Aboriginal students and our unique role as first peoples of this land.  I’m also sure that all my students, of any culture, would much prefer any education and yarning take place sitting under a tree with a BBQ lunch afterwards.”

2. Controversial, biased articles

It seemed as though writers for the Brisbane Times were watching for opportunities to pounce on something in the RI curriculum to complain about in the next article. This happened in three contentious, anti-Christian articles from a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Hugh Harris:

(a) ‘Religious Instruction in Queensland schools is discriminatory’ (March 14 2016);[4]

(b) ‘The horrifying religious instruction classes planned for Qld schools (April 20 2016),[5] and

(c) ‘Connect religious instruction says vampires fake but Bible is fact’ (June 27 2016).[6]

There are issues that emerge from these articles in the Brisbane Times that include the fact that not one writer in 2016 has been published prior to 30 June 2016 who supported Christianity’s place in the RI curriculum in the state school system. This is an example of partiality in favour of writers who are antagonistic to Christianity and one who overtly supports the agenda of the Rationalist Society of Australia.

I have at least two major issues with Harris’s article of June 27: (1) He promotes a begging the question fallacy, and (2) His refusal to recognise or demonstrate that Christianity is an historical religion. I will address only the first of these.

2.1 Circular reasoning explained

Circular reasoning 4CWhat is a question begging or circular reasoning fallacy? If you start an article or discussion believing that Australian state schools ought to be secular and your conclusion is the same (schools must be secular), then you have committed the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. This also is called begging the question. Hugh Harris begins with the assumption that schools should be secular and concludes that RI should not be taught because we need secular schools.

We can explain this in a more detailed way. The Nizkor Project[7] demonstrates that this fallacy is one in which the premise includes the claim that the conclusion is true. It generally has the following form:

  1. Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).
  2. Claim C (the conclusion) is true.

It is erroneous reasoning because assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) does not provide evidence to reach that conclusion. Harris’s question begging fallacy follows from his association with QPSSS (Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools) and has this pattern:

Harris: The organisation, QPSSS, does not want Christianity in the Qld state school curriculum. (Note: He provided the link to the QPSSS webpage[8] in the first sentence of his article, thus indicating his support of its position.)

QPSSS: ‘QPSSS is a movement for parents and other interested

persons who would like to see state schools become truly secular as befits a multi-cultural, multi-faith country such as Australia’ (also found on the website of Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc).[9]

Harris: Let me find stories in the Connect RI curriculum so that I can denigrate Christianity in the RI state school curriculum. This included rejecting the aspects of the Bible as history.

QPSSS: ‘Tell us what you think. What role should religion play[10] in state school education?’

Harris: ‘The gravest concern is the contest for children’s souls,[11] which is the clear and explicit focus of the Youthworks Connect RI program’.

[For a simpler explanation of how circular reasoning works, see the ‘Feedback’ section 5 below.]

Of course Harris would conclude with objections to contesting for children’s souls through the Christian Youthworks Connect RI program. Why? That is the premise on which he began his article, with a commitment to secular school education.

When he concludes with his presuppositions, he has not dealt with the issues relating to why there is Christian RI in curriculum time in Qld schools. This is question begging erroneous reasoning that the Brisbane Times should not be tolerating from its writers. To which religion did Australia’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, swear at her coronation in 1953? She is still Australia’s sovereign.

3. Rationalist, secular worldview in action

high-voltage-warningIn addition, as a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Harris affirms the ‘10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia[12] in which ‘all Australian constitutions should be reformed to ensure clear separation between religion and the State, and all references to God removed’. His presupposition as a rationalist is for ‘a secular, pluralistic and democratic Australia’ which is promoting godlessness.

What are some of the other beliefs of the Rationalist Society of Australia?

  1. ‘All Australian constitutions should be reformed to ensure clear separation between religion and the State, and all references to God removed’. Why remove all references to God if God exists and belief in God needs to be supported?
  2. ‘Children not to suffer because of the religious views of their parents’.
  3. ‘Education to be strictly secular, not promoting any particular religion’.[13]

Thus, Hugh Harris’s commitment to secular, atheistic thinking in his worldview influences what he promotes in opposing RI in the state school system. This most definitely is circular reasoning. He starts with the presupposition that Australia is to be a secular, pluralistic and democratic society. This manifests itself in education that is to be ‘strictly secular’ and favouring no one religion. So, it gets up his nose when he finds RI taught in the public school. So he opposes it in print and the Brisbane Times gave him space to present his biased worldview of secular atheism.

3.1 What’s the definition of secularism?

The National Society of Secularism (UK) states that ‘secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law’.[14]

Secularism is not atheism.

Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. Secularism simply provides a framework for a democratic society. Atheists have an obvious interest in supporting secularism, but secularism itself does not seek to challenge the tenets of any particular religion or belief, neither does it seek to impose atheism on anyone.

Secularism is simply a framework for ensuring equality throughout society – in politics, education, the law and elsewhere, for believers and non-believers alike.[15]

The Macquarie Dictionary (3rd ed) defines secularism as ‘secular spirit or tendencies, especially a system of political or social philosophy which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship’ and ‘the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element’ (1997. s v secularism).[16] Christian philosophers, J P Moreland and William Lane Craig explain that secularism is ‘a system of doctrines and practices that disregards or rejects any form of religious faith and worship. Its primary objective is the total elimination of all religious elements from society’ (in Got Questions? 2016)[17]

The Rationalist Society of Australia states, ‘It’s time to return Australia to its secular roots’.[18] To the contrary, Australia was founded by Christians through the chaplain on the first fleet, evangelical Anglican clergyman, Richard Johnson,[19] and our roots were affirmed by our current head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, who swore allegiance to the Christian faith at her coronation on 2 June 1953.[20] We have a Governor-General in Australia to represent the Queen and her support of Christianity. Australia’s roots are not secular, but Christian.

Therefore, Harris’s secularist worldview drives his presupposition that schools in Qld should be secular. What is a secular school? He does not answer this and I found its promotion on an atheism website.[21] Therefore, Australian atheists have some bonding with secularists.

Circular reasoning amounts to illogic in action. No Queenslanders should fall for Mr Harris’s erroneous thinking. He wants RI out of the state school system and suspended immediately.[22] That’s the presupposition with which he begins and that’s where he concludes. It’s fallacious question begging reasoning.

3.2 One-way street until….

What did the Brisbane Times do with Harris’s promotion of secularism and call for the elimination of religion from state schools? It gave him several opportunities to ply his rationalist, secularist wares but without opportunity for Christian representatives to respond to expose his tactics. This bias in favour of secularism is exposed in my article. They should have been seeking people from the RI network in Qld to respond to Harris’s allegations.

However, it was only on the day I was writing the first draft of this article (June 30, 2016) that I became aware that the Brisbane Times eventually gave opportunity for Paul Clark, a promoter of RI, to show some of the benefits of RI in ‘Queensland religious instruction gives parents freedom’ (Brisbane Times, June 30, 2016).[23] Clark is ‘acting chair for Queensland’s Christian Religious Instruction Network, a former, decorated teacher, a children’s author and religious instructor’. Rev Clark of Redcliffe Uniting Church, Qld., told me that he had previously submitted an article of reply to the RI antagonism to the Brisbane Times but it was rejected for publication.

4. Am I using the same fallacy?

Could this be the pot calling the kettle black for me, a Christian, when I support Christianity in the RI state school curriculum? It could be seen that way if you didn’t know the facts.

In my education and ministry over the years, I have sought to verify or falsify the tenets of the Christian faith through careful testing of hypotheses relating to Christianity. This was pursued especially in my doctoral dissertation that examined the presuppositions of an eminent historical Jesus’ scholar and I could not verify his conclusions concerning the postmodern Jesus. The Jesus of history will be pursued in another article. However as a starter, see my brief article:

clip_image001 The Bible: fairy tale or history?

Eminent Australian historian (he has been visiting fellow in ancient history at Macquarie University)[24] and former Anglican bishop of North Sydney, Dr Paul Barnett,[25] has concluded that the ‘points of intersection between early Christianity and “secular” history establish that the history of early Christianity is, indeed, genuinely historical and not “mythical” in character’ (Barnett 1997:120).

Barnett as an ancient historian provides evidence that challenges Harris’s attempt to deride the Connect RI curriculum content which states, ‘There aren’t any vampires in the Bible because the Bible is not a made-up book’ (Brisbane Times, June 27 2016).[26] Harris took opportunity to spoof at the curriculum’s statement of the Bible being fact when compared with vampires with language such as, ‘A fundamentalist adherence to the literal truth of scripture is a key element of Connect’.[27]

5. Feedback

feedback red glossy web iconTwo online newspapers rejected this article.

5.1 Comments, but no publishing of article

I submitted it to the Brisbane Times, 30 June 2016 and was advised on 1 July 2016 that it would not be published because a piece defending RI was published on 30 June 2016. If I wanted to comment on news stories dealing with RI I could send in a comment on that story to make any point I wanted.

This is a fob off because the Brisbane Times had published 6 articles opposed to RI and only one in favour from January 1 – June 30, 2016 as far as I could see and I read that newspaper daily. The editor wants me to make ‘comments’ to RI articles but would not accept a 1200 word article addressing the anti-RI issues.

Imagine it? Encouraging me to write words of comment (generally 20-50 words) to an article and rejecting a full length article challenging Harris’s content, presuppositions and a logical fallacy he used. That’s a cute way to minimise the importance of refuting false reasoning and bias by the Brisbane Times. In taking this line, it censored an opposing view. This is not freedom of the press. It is freedom to gag those who challenge secularism.

5.2 Rejection, but helpful comments

After the rejection by the Brisbane Times, I sent the article to another online newspaper for consideration where it also was rejected and these were the reasons given.

5.3 These are some issues with the article

The editor of this online newspaper wrote:

a. Too close to issue: ‘I’m going to decline it. I think you are too close to the issue and you are not explaining yourself particularly well’.

How can I be ‘too close to the issue’ when I have no connection with RI in the schools and am on no RI board? In this article sent to this magazine (see content above) I stated that ‘the purpose of my article is not to comment primarily on the content of RI in Qld but to expose the bias of the Brisbane Times in providing journalism against Christianity in the public schools but not to give equal time to Christian responses’. My article was not designed to address RI but the bias of journalism.
Is that not a reasonable critique of what the Brisbane Times did? Or does this online newspaper not like publishing an article that is critical of the content of another online publication?

When I sought clarification from the editor on this, he said that it meant I was not looking at the issue as a member of the general public might. My assumptions about what they might think are wrong were not persuasive. Why? It is because I’m a Christian minister and that is the problem. His view was that I need to try to walk in the public’s shoes a bit better so that I can try to explain what I’m saying in a better way.

My reply to him was that he had assumed too much about my being a Christian minister. It is 24 years since I was pastor of a church. Before my retirement in 2011, I worked 17 years straight as a counsellor and counselling manager with rebel youth and their disillusioned parents. Most of these were with secular clients. I’ve been up to my neck in dealing with out of control youth, drug addiction, severe depression, marriage and family breakdown. I know what it is to walk with the down and out.
However, I’ve spent the last 5 years writing a 488 page PhD dissertation exposing presuppositions of one of the leading postmodern, reader-response historical Jesus scholars. I didn’t tell him that that scholar was John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar.

b. Defend religious instruction in schools: ‘Rather than complaining about the Brisbane Times I think you would be much better off mounting a defence of religious instruction in schools’.

That is not my role or responsibility because I do not work in the RI network or instruct RI in schools. It is for those people to pursue.

c. A lot of Christians think it is badly done, alienating and a waste of time, and that might be worth dealing with as well as the issues raised in the Brisbane Times pieces’.

From where did he obtain that information? What are the stats to back it up? Is this based on his and others’ anecdotal evidence? It seems that more research needs to be done by this newspaper before making those kinds of presumptive statements.

His feedback to me was that he doesn’t have any stats to back up his statement about ‘a lot of Christians’. It is anecdotal evidence, and by ‘a lot’ he was not referring to the majority. His evidence is from priests, lay people and his own kids. This was not meant to be a conclusive statement.

I find this to be poor evidence from the editor of an online journal. Surely he deserves better data than anecdotal evidence. At least he was not publishing this but it was in an email to me.

d. Argument hard to follow: ‘I had some difficulty following your argument about assuming the conclusion as well. Might need to look at that again’.

He is correct that my explanation of the Hugh Harris’ use of circular reasoning was not as clear as it ought to have been. He said he had ‘some difficulty in following my argument’.

In addition, my language was too academic. It should be at the literacy level of a 15-year-old, one journalist has told me, if I want to be published in newspapers. I received similar feedback from another person to whom I sent the article. Thanks so much for drawing this to my attention. I hope this is a simpler way of explaining circular reasoning (question begging fallacy). I have created this example, using some information from Hugh Harris’s articles:

Hugh: Qld state schools need to be secular.
RI instructor: In spite of Hugh’s objections, the Qld government’s legislation provides for Christian RI in curriculum time in state schools.

Hugh: The only way to guarantee multicultural views are heard is for us to have fully functioning secular state schools.

Thus, Hugh began with the secular and he concluded with the secular, which is erroneous circular reasoning, also known as a begging the question fallacy.

e. RI issues with curriculum in Brisbane Times.

As for the RI issues raised in the Brisbane Times, they are for RI people who are familiar with the Youthworks, Connect RI curriculum to respond. However, I plan to write an article that deals with the historical reliability of the Bible when compared with secular history, vampires and fairy tales. Is this editor interested in considering for publication? I asked this of him in my return email.

f. ‘I’m also perplexed that apparently in RI you can’t proselytise. Not sure how this is supposed to work. This is a comment on what occurs, not on your article’.

I think the editor made a valid point when he said he doesn’t know how the RI curriculum is not to proselytise. My view is that any explanation, clarification, instruction on the Christian faith (or any other topic) cannot get away from supporting the content of that topic. How can explanations on the Christian faith be excused from proselytising? However, that’s for the RI people to address.

I offered the editor two further articles:

  • ‘Comments designed as distractions’ (this is addressed to those who comment on online articles and push their own agendas. Too often these are not related to the content of the article. I see this happening with many topics in online newspapers or journals.
  • ‘Fairytale fables vs facts of faith’

The editor is interested in my submitting further articles on, (1) The historical reliability of the Bible and, (2) ‘Fairytale fables vs facts of faith’.

5.4  A friend’s critique

I sent the article to a friend for critique and she responded:

a. ‘I think it is a bit too intellectual and deep to be considered in a newspaper. I think the online opinion spot is a better place for it’.

b. ‘However, the points you make are valid and need to be stated.  If I were writing it for publication in a newspaper, I would keep it simple and focus on the hypocrisy/bad journalism of only covering one side of the argument, and then make a case for the historical place of Christianity and RI in our culture and the case for children to be aware of the most published book in history.  It has shaped our Judeo-Christian government and society (at least up to recent times) and from that standpoint alone is worthy of teaching’.

c. ‘My son majored in philosophy at university, so I am acquainted with the circular reasoning problem and other devices used in discussion.  However, for the “common man”, I think it’s best to use examples and points that they can relate to’.

 

Those are excellent points, some of which have been addressed above. She is correct that only covering one side of the argument is poor journalism. However, when I examined J D Crossan’s presuppositions in my doctoral dissertation, he is a leading postmodern, historical Jesus scholar also is interested in only one side of the argument.

He has a one-eyed view of calling on those who principally are his ‘intellectual debt’. Crossan is clear (at least to me) about his view of which scholars he should call on for support and critique of his views. It is important to note Crossan’s perspective regarding those who offer a contrary opinion: In quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv; emphasis in original).

That amounts to bias towards his mates’ views. See my articles that deal with this issue:

clip_image001[1] Crossan’s buddies are his scholarly support

clip_image001[2] Only read authors who agree with you?

6. Fundament issues from this encounter

The issues to emerge from this exposure of the Brisbane Times articles and the bias against Christianity include:

  1. Harris wants to get religion out of the state schools. His is a self-defeating position because he wants Christianity out but wants his own religion of secularism in. That’s hypocritical because both are religious positions.
  2. My view is that the responsibility lies with the Brisbane Times to change to an editorial policy that says, ‘We have a responsibility of fairness and justice in our journalism. That means if we present an anti-Christianity article, we MUST allow a right of reply article’. They needed to seek a person to respond to Remeikis’s and Harris’s articles.
  3. Readers need to be alert to how writers attempt to push their own agendas by the use of illogical arguments, using logical fallacies.
  4. I have learned over many years of freelance writing, that there are more rejections of articles than there are acceptance notifications. This is par for the course for me in submitting articles to newspapers or journals. One experienced Christian scholar gave me some wise advice last year after I had submitted a journal article and it was rejected. He said that you need to take note of any feedback you received with the rejection and then submit it over and over to different journals until it is published. That has been his experience.
  5. I’ve learned that I need to modify my writing style to be more in line with the literacy of a mid teen if I want to get published. The editor of the online magazine reduced that even further by saying my writing and sermons should be at the level of a 12-year-old’s education. However, my articles also require more illustrative material for general audience interest.
  6. How should I respond when Harris was objecting, ‘A fundamentalist adherence to the literal truth of scripture is a key element of Connect’.[28] What would happen if I did not read Harris’s article with a literal understanding of the text? If he wants me to realise that he is talking about a literal RI curriculum called Connect in which there is a narrative about vampires and the Bible not being a made up book, I have to read his article literally. I can imagine some of the creative nonsense I could get up to and write as a postmodern, reader-response interpreter. If he wants me to read his article literally, he needs to give every Christian the right to read Scripture literally.
  7. Literal interpretation always allows for inclusion of symbols and figures of speech. Literal ‘means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” in that context would be obvious. although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning’ (Mickelsen 1963:33).

7. Christians to maintain the higher ground

Image result for clipart religion public domainWhat are the origins of a civilisation’s greatness and which ‘misguided beliefs’ threaten ‘to unravel its progress’? ‘The Bible transformed the social, political, and religious institutions that have sustained Western culture for the past millennium, and discover how secular corruption endangers the stability and longevity of Western civilization’ (Mangalwadi 2011:rear cover).

7.1 Secularism is a religion

Christians must not allow the secularists to control the debate on secular state schools. Secularism itself is a religion. A ‘religion’ can be defined as:

a. ‘a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects’.[29]

b. ‘the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices’.[30]

c. ‘something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience’.[31]

d. ‘A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion’.[32]

On the basis of these definitions, secularism and atheism can be labelled as religions as they contain fundamental sets of beliefs and practices that people follow with great devotion and build their ethical systems on them. Some beliefs of secularism can be found HERE, while some beliefs of atheism are HERE.

8. Conclusion

I pursued the bias and a logical fallacy of Hugh Harris, an author and member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, in his publications against RI in the Brisbane Times. I tried to demonstrate that he engaged in the use of circular reasoning, which is erroneous logic. When he uses such illogical statements, he cannot reason effectively about the content of RI in the state school system.

Secularism was defined and its influence as a religion on Hugh Harris’s worldview was noted.

I took the opportunity to critique the response from one editor who was making judgments on my article that were not consistent with my content.

The content of RI in state schools needs to be addressed by those who are RI leaders and the RI mass media liaison officers. However, I expect that the antagonists of RI will pursue their agenda to try to get it out of curriculum time in the schools (like has happened in the State of Victoria). I expect them to comb RI curricula with a fine-tooth comb to find something to grumble about that does not fit the secular, rationalist or atheistic agendas.

As long as Christians have the opportunity to present RI in the state school system, I encourage them to do and be what Jesus said:

Flower23  ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot’ (Matt 5:13 NIV).

Flower23  ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden’ (Matt 5:14 NIV).

9. Works consulted

Barnett, P 1997. Jesus and the logic of history. Leicester, England: Apollos.

Cable, K J 2016. Johnson, Richard (1753-1827), Australian dictionary of biography (online). Available at: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/johnson-richard-2275 (Accessed 4 July 2016).

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Got Questions 2016. What is secularism? (online). Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-secularism.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

Mangalwadi, V 2011, The Book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of western civilization. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Moreland, J P & Craig, W L 2003. Philosophical foundations for a Christian worldview. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Remeikis, A 2016. ‘Race elements of religious education materials ‘highly offensive’: Minister’, Brisbane Times (online), June 20. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/race-elements-of-religious-education-materials-highly-offensive-minister-20160620-gpnpvi.html (Accessed 5 July 2016).

10.  Notes


[1] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/should-religion-be-part-of-the-queensland-state-school-curriculum-20160227-gn5bwb.html (Accessed 30 June 2016)

[2] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/no-plans-to-change-religious-instruction-in-queensland-state-schools-20160323-gnpv8l.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[3] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/religious-instruction-in-state-schools-soliciting-children-to-christian-faith-20160606-gpcxtw.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[4] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/religious-instruction-in-queensland-schools-is-discriminatory-20160311-gngjyd.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[5] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/the-horrifying-religious-instruction-classes-planned-for-qld-schools-20160420-gobbpk.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[6] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[7] Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/begging-the-question.html (Accessed 20 June 2016).

[8] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/QldParentsSecularStateSchools/photos/a.1444857872442174.1073741827.1443949422533019/1651201725141120/?type=3&theater (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[9] Available at: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?t=25369 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[10] Available at: http://pandcsqld.townhallapp.io/en/questions/457 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[11] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[12] Available at: https://www.rationalist.com.au/10-point-plan-for-a-secular-australia/ (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Nationalist Secular Society: Challenging religious privilege, ‘What is secularism?’ Available at: http://www.secularism.org.uk/what-is-secularism.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[15] Ibid.

[16] This is the same definition as that in dictionary.com (2016. s v secularism). Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/secularism (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[17] This quote seems to be from Moreland & Craig (2002) but no page number was cited in the Got Questions article and I was unable to locate the page number through Internet searching.

[18] Loc cit., The Rationalist Society of Australia, ’10 point plan for a secular Australia’.

[19] See Cable (2016).

[20] See details of her commitment to the Christian faith for the Commonwealth countries she rules at: http://www.oremus.org/liturgy/coronation/cor1953b.html (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[21] Available at: http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?t=25369 (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[22] Available at: http://rationalrazor.com/ (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[23] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/queensland-religious-instruction-gives-parents-freedom-20160630-gpv8o6.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[24] See Barnett, P Listings 2016. Available at: http://www.moorebooks.com.au/ap_barnett_p.html (Accessed 2 July 2016).

[25] See The Right Rev Paul Barnett. Available at: https://www.moore.edu.au/emeritus-faculty/paul-barnett (Accessed 2 July 2016).

[26] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/connect-religious-instruction-says-vampires-fake-but-bible-is-fact-20160627-gpslcs.html (Accessed 30 June 2016).

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] dictionary.com (2016. s v religion). Available at: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/religion (Accessed 4 July 2016).

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Oxford dictionaries ( 2016. s v religion). Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/religion (Accessed 4 July 2016).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 July 2016.

Logic and Christian discussions

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Logic function OR vector clip art

(image courtesy publicdomainvectors.org)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Can you engage in logical thinking and be Christian? Some ordinary Christians think that logical thinking and spiritual thinking are an antithesis. They don’t want to allow the two.

Yet, Isaiah 1:18 (ESV) could find no conflict between reasoning (logic) and being spiritual, ‘Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’. The NASB and KJV use similar language, while the NIV translates as, ‘”Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD’. However, the principle is the same. God wants to reason with people so they can settle a matter.

Based on this kind of Scripture, Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks wrote, Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Geisler & Brooks 1990). Geisler said his first teacher of logic, Howard Schoof, exhorted, ‘The next best thing besides godliness for a Christian is logic’. To this Geisler added, ‘Clean living and correct thinking make a potent combination’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:7).

1.  What is logic?

The use of logic is important in any discussions, including Christian discussions, and especially in Christian apologetics. What is the role of logic in the use of the Christian mind?[1] I’ve been particularly helped in growing in my faith and use of Christian apologetics by Geisler & Brooks book from a few years ago, Come, Let Us Reason (Geisler & Brooks 1990).
Their definitions of logic are:

(1) “Logic really means putting your thoughts in order” (p. 11), or as a more formal definition,
(2) “Logic is the study of right reason or valid inferences and the attending fallacies, formal and informal” (Geisler & Brooks 1990: 11, 12).

If logic is the study of correct reason, what do you think is the place of logic in the Christian faith, and especially in apologetics?
What’s the point of even raising logic as a necessary part of Christian apologetics?

I am reminded that the term, ‘theology’ is made up of two NT Greek words: theos = God and logos = word or logic. So we could say that theology is the study of the logic of God, or theology is a rational discourse about God (Geisler & Brooks 1990:15).

Is it possible to have a reasonable discussion on this Christian Forum without the use of correct logic?

How do you see logic, reason and the supernatural God and the use of the Christian mind?

But that’s not how some people in the pews see it.

1.1  Christians leap beyond logic, says one

How do you think a Christian would respond to the above definitions and information about logic? Here is the first response:

Logic is a product of the mind.

It can be utilized at times when rightly dividing scriptures, but then again, it takes The Holy Spirit to enlighten the passages for such a thing to be known in the first place.

Additionally, Christians routinely leap beyond logic, in fact, the whole born again experience was a Spiritual experience from GOD that is not understood by the natural man. It cannot be discerned or known by him/her at all.

So no, you wouldn’t see me as an advocate of logic, it relies on the mind, and that is secondary to the Spirit.[2]

Therefore, since logic is a practice of the mind without the Spirit – according to this person – then Christians need to go beyond logic to experience God. So to this fellow, logic would not be promoted as it relies on the mind and thus is secondary to the Holy Spirit. How then does that engage with God’s view, ‘Come, now, let us reason together, says the Lord’ (Isa 1:18)? This fellow is already off base with God’s view.

I’m not suggesting that there is not supernatural, spiritual intervention by God at salvation and at other times, but that is not designed to zap a Christian of the need to practice logic. Logic will always be part of the Christian armour, the spiritual armoury.

There were many more who came to the rescue of affirming the need for logic.

1.2  Christians need to use logic

(image courtesy keyword suggestions)

A person cited Charles Ryrie on basic theology, ‘Reasoning involves using the laws of logic. These include the law of non-contradiction which says that you can’t have A and not-A at the same time and in the same relationship…. The law of non-contradiction is not simply one person’s opinion of how we ought to think, rather it stems from God’s self-consistent nature. God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13), and so, the way God upholds the universe will necessarily be non-contradictory’.[3]

clip_image002[1]Another’s view was that meaningful communication was an impossibility if logic is not used. That includes formal or informal logic.[4] Predication is equally impossible without logic, making Science not even possible without it. There really is no escaping logic, though people have tried, and ever failed’.[5]

clip_image002[2]This person found it ‘funny’ in his response to the person who doesn’t advocate logic because he may not realise it but he is using logic to invalidate his statement against logic. ‘Logic is a lot like grammar, even though you may not know anything about it, none-the-less you use it everyday of life without even realizing it’. The person explained that ‘the second you start reasoning is the second you yourself are using logic’. The person provided another definition of logic, ‘Logic is the science that explains what conditions must be fulfilled in order that a proposition may be proved, if it admits proof’ (Carveth Read 1914). I had asked, ‘If logic is the study of correct reason, what do you think is the place of logic in the Christian faith, and especially in apologetics?’ This person’s response was thoughtful and appropriate: ‘It serves to define the guidelines we must follow when defending our faith. It helps us to not make the common mistakes of the “village apologists”. It also aids us in truth and in using it correctly shows us to be reasonable’.[6]

clip_image002[3]The Bible advocates the use of our minds as God created the mind with the marvellous capacity to reason. God has set in place the laws of the physical universe and these include making logic possible. ‘He urges us in the Bible to study, and time after time, particularly through the New Testament letters, he shows us how formidable a well-reasoned and logical argument or discourse can be. Jesus encouraged people to ask questions, Paul encouraged people to think through his arguments, and Peter encouraged people to be ready with an answer to those who ask them of their faith…. My mind must be convinced, and the way that happens is through logic. Fortunately, the Bible and Christianity are very logical and convincing when approached with an open and unbiased mind’.[7]

It’s a self-evident truth that logic is needed in any argument.

clip_image002[4] It is needed for maths to work and it is used in every philosophy to make sense of it. This includes Scripture I’m of the opinion that God gave me a brain, and He expects me to use it – especially in the interpretation of His Word’.

He emphasised that we all need solid reasoning in any argument to make sense and to justify an action. ‘If you do things based on pure emotions, you’re likely to do something completely ridiculous. It just doesn’t work. While humans are emotional beings, we’re also rational beings. It’s important to recognize that rationality should perform over emotion at all times (at least, ideally)’. He used Jesus in the Gospels as examples of His using clear reasoning on many occasions. ‘He didn’t randomly do or say anything; it had a point’.[8]

1.3  So use of logic is a bummer

(image courtesy moving minds)

How should I respond to the fellow who does not advocate the use of logic and places it secondary to the spiritual? I countered:[9]

Logic is a product of language that God has created.

You state, ‘It can be utilized at times’. It must be used all the time if we are to have a reasonable conversation here in English on this forum, according to the definition I gave: ‘Logic really means putting your thoughts in order’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:11).

God put his thoughts in order to give us the Scriptures. You put your thoughts in order for me to be able to read your statements. You used logic and I am doing that as I type these sentences.

So, you won’t advocate logic because it relies on the mind and must be secondary to the Spirit? You were an advocate of logic when you put your thoughts in order to write to me. You may not realise you are doing it, but you have to use logic to be able to communicate.

Human beings didn’t invent logic. They discovered it.

God is the author of all logic. So, technically speaking, God does not flow from logic; logic flows from God…. [There are] statements we make about him [God] that we analyze with logic. Logic simply provides a way to see if those statements are true—if they fit with the reality of who God really is…. God is not being tested by some standard outside himself. Logic flows from God. It is part of his rational nature, which has been given to us in his image. Using logic in theology is simply applying God’s test to our statements about God. It is God’s way for us to come to the truth (Geisler & Brooks 1990:17-18).

Yes, there are rationalists who try to determine truth by ‘reason, evidence, and modern secular, democratic values’.[10] However, Christians try to discover truth, using reason and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Reasonable people use logic to test the truth of their and others’ statements about God.

If we want to continue this discussion, all of us have to use logic. That’s the way God has made us. It is part of his image in us.

The come back to my analysis was:

Logic will never restore a maimed leg.

Our ability to conform to the image of His Son and do those works that Jesus did requires faith given to us, which is something in the realm of GOD, and that is certainly not logical to most, certainly not to the unbelieving.

You can make the case for logic here if you so desire, but it is a limitation to what GOD can do beyond that logic. Most likely you are not interested in that leap beyond logic, which is understandable in these times.[11]

Fortunately another person was on the ball with an appropriate response:

clip_image002[5]’Miracles are not illogical if you believe through logic that God exists. You are almost making a Hume type argument here, but that was fatally flawed once you introduce a Divine Being into the probability equation. In fact, if you watch the Bart Ehrman vs William Lane Craig debate you will see Ehrman make this kind of claim and then William Lane Craig go in for the kill on the rebuttal.

The fact is, what you are espousing here is logic and you don’t even realize it. You use it everyday of your life and don’t realize it. What then is the opposite of logic? It is illogic and I don’t think anyone wants to be claiming that that is what they are using when it comes to apologetics.

I think you just don’t understand how to use logic and belief together, this is where philosophy and a Christian worldview go hand in hand’.[12]

My reply to the concocted view that logic doesn’t restore a maimed leg was:[13]

We are not discussing logic as not being a means of supernatural intervention. However, when the Lord arranged for the recording of miracles in Scripture, what did he do? He used a logical order and arrangement to convey them to us. See the record of the healing of the man born blind in John 9:1-41.

Please remember the definition of logic that I gave when I started this discussion: ‘Logic really means putting your thoughts in order’. God put his thoughts in order so that we could read and understand them in all of Scripture, not just in describing the supernatural intervention.

Do you call God’s miraculous intervention ‘the leap beyond logic’? I am not a cessationist, so I believe that God can supernaturally intervene in our world and he continues to give the gifts of the Spirit. I don’t know if this is what you refer to when you speak of ‘the leap beyond logic’.

In saying that there are mysteries in understanding God (I agree), does not indicate God is not interested in logic. Communicating logically means that God puts his thoughts in order and we put thoughts in order when trying to communicate with others.

2. Distorted understanding of logic and Christianity

I was in discussion online with a few people on the role of logical thinking in Christian proclamation and reading of Scripture on another forum where there were more anti-logic promoters. These are some examples of the interactions:

clip_image004 ‘Logic is the carnal mind in action. A function of the thought process’.[14]

It was appropriate that this view was rejected by this person who wrote:

Logic is used regardless of whether or not the mind is carnal. Besides, you are here using logic (it’s unavoidable), which would mean you are thinking carnally (according to you). One would have to throw out the Bible if you were correct…. Logic has always been around. Meaningful communication is impossible without it; staying alive is impossible without it.[15]

The plot thickened:

clip_image004[1] ‘So you’re saying that logic exists independent of the carnal mind. That it just, is. As if logic (obviously) exists also in heaven and the Kingdom realm.

I don’t think that any of us know enough about the Kingdom realm to be able to make that call.

Not everything in scripture is logical. I’m pretty sure logic is carnal.[16]

The logical response has to be that given by this person: ‘Premise, logic exists because God thinks and created it and made languages. Unless you like me posting in really unreadable posts which would be, far, far more difficult to understand’.[17]

I joined this discussion:[18]

Of course, logic – in itself – is not dependent on the carnal mind. There can be carnal philosophers who engage in illogic, but to do that they must have a fundamental understanding of logic to determine it is illogical.
Please tell me if you need logic to interpret these two sentences:

  • Jesus rose bodily from the grave.
  • Jesus’ rose from the grave as an apparition. (Apparition means a vision or ghost-like appearance).

Are those two statements true? If not, why not? He did not respond to this challenge. These are examples of the law of non-contradiction. A cannot be non-A. No two contradictory statements (like the 2 above) can be both true at the same time and in the same sense. So, one cannot agree that Jesus rose bodily from the grave and that Jesus’ resurrection was an apparition. Those are contradictory statements.

You can’t read what I write in this article without following the logical rules of grammar, i.e. using logic. In what kind of language was the Bible written? It is not esoteric, spiritual, illogical, and out of the realm of reality. The Bible is written in human languages for which we need logical, grammatical rules to understand them.

So, the Bible must be interpreted according to fundamental rules of language and these include logical grammar. The Bible is not written in some super-spiritual lingo that needs the esoteric insights of Theosophy, Gnosticism, or occult practitioners.

Therefore, it is not dependent on the carnal mind. It is dependent on the God who invented logic so that we can communicate.

How do you think that person would respond to this information? Here goes!

clip_image004[2] Logic is dependant on the carnal mind, I’ll give you that. But as for the language being logical and the Bible not being able to be written without logic…

Uh, no. None of the earths (sic) languages are logical. (Ok, probably none of them.) But English (was my best subject) is seriously illogical!!

If English was logical, you’d see grammar check alongside spell check. Where is it? Lol the computer can’t make grammar check work.

Your example did not demonstrate logic effectively, but I applaud your effort. The lack of logic is apparent all over the English language, there is no hard & fast rules for our language.

Suppose you kiss your wife. Suppose you give her more than one kiss, what’s that? Kisses, right.

Suppose you have an ox. Suppose you have more than one ox, what’s that? The logical answer is oxes, but English isn’t logical, so it’s oxen. See what I mean, Brother?

And what’s up with silent letters? Either put it in there and pronounce it, or leave it out, geez.

You can demonstrate understanding in language, but not logic. For there is no logic. Where’s the word logic, in scripture? In fact, show me anything logical in scripture!

It says what is and it isn’t logical…but it’s true.[19]

3.1  A ridiculous outburst

How should I respond to such an outlandish tirade? Here goes:[20]

  • You got your first sentence wrong. I did NOT say that ‘logic is dependant on the carnal mind’. I said, ‘Logic – in itself – is NOT dependent on the carnal mind’ (emphasis added).[21]
  • ‘None of the earth’s languages are logical’. You have a strange view of logic. What does logic mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines logic as, ‘a proper or reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something’ (s v logic). Therefore, all of the earth’s languages are logical in the sense that they use language to engage in a reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something.
  • You have given examples of: spell check, grammar check, kissing my wife, oxen, silent letter, nothing logical in Scripture. These examples demonstrate that you have a distorted understanding of the role of logic.
  • Whether it is oxes or oxen is a tradition that has crept into English spelling. It has NOTHING to do with whether it is logical or not. It has EVERYTHING to do with convention in spelling. And have a guess what? You need to use logic to be able to read whether your statement about oxes vs oxen is what you want to discuss. Remember that logic is a reasonable way of thinking about something. You think it should be oxes but others consider oxen is the better name. Why don’t you investigate the etymology of why oxen was chosen and not oxes. By the way, here’s a logical explanation of why it is oxen and not oxes. Are you able to use logic to read this article?
  • As for the singular kiss, I’m happy with that logic and with the plural, kisses; that’s convention. How about you investigate why the plural is not kisss?
  • Like it or not, you must use logic in language to obtain understanding. Your distortion of the meaning of logic is coming through.
  • Where’s the word logic in Scripture? Let’s try 3 examples:

6pointblue Isaiah 1:18: ‘”Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

6pointblue Isaiah 43:26: “Put Me in remembrance, let us argue our case together; State your cause, that you may be proved right.

6pointblueMark 11:29-33: ‘And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. “Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” They began reasoning among themselves….’

  • By the way, a word doesn’t have to be used in Scripture for its teaching to be there. Try finding Trinity or Bible as words in the Scripture.

Here is another objection:

clip_image004[3] ‘I know it takes a logical mind to read and to understand the literal, but it also takes a Spiritual mind like that of Christ to understand spiritual’.[22]

Since this was directed at one of my comments, I replied:[23] To say that it takes the Spiritual mind to understand the spiritual, is to tell me I don’t have a spiritual mind. You are incorrect. I have a mind subjected to the Holy Spirit and He has provided logical statements in Scripture for me to understand. The ‘Spiritual mind’ which you are exalting seems to infer that I don’t have it and you do have it, and it is a special dynamic given to the spiritual person like yourself. Is that what you are trying to communicate?

Here’s another promotion of the illogical:

clip_image004[4] Can we truly reason the spiritual things with logic, no, for they are beyond our deductive reasoning and that is why we need the Holy Spirit to teach us, John 14:26.  This is what Jesus said in John 3:12, If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? Nicodemus is a great example of one trying to use logical reasoning as he did not understand that of the spiritual that Jesus was talking about in John 3:1-6.[24]

4.  Reason, spiritual things and logic

Now to a response to that kind of illogical thinking:[25]

Can I ‘reason the spiritual things with logic’? Yep! I need logic to understand the language I speak and to read what you have written here and to read the Scripture. God has invented logic so that we can understand each other when we speak or write. I’m blessed to know that God created logic so that we can communicate with each other and that He can communicate with us.

Now to John 14:26. Its context is John 14:22-29,

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe (John 14:22-29 NLT, emphasis added).

You want John 14:26 (NLT) to mean what it does not mean in context. Jesus told his disciples information while he was still with them on earth, but he was going away and the disciples would need reminding what Jesus told them. Obviously they didn’t have a perfect memory of all that he had told them. For that purpose, the Holy Spirit (the Advocate, Paraclete) would remind them what Jesus had told them. The Advocate would not be giving them new revelation through teaching (your language is ‘that is why we need the Holy Spirit to teach us, John 14:26’). Not so!

Jesus was addressing Judas (not Iscariot) and the other disciples. He was instructing them about what would happen when he left them. He was not giving information for Christians down to the 21st century to follow. This has caused leading evangelical commentator, D A Carson, to write about John 14:26 (NIV):

The promise of v. 26 has in view the Spirit’s role to the first generation of disciples, not to all subsequent Christians. John’s purpose in including this theme and this verse is not to explain how readers at the end of the first century may be taught by the Spirit, but to explain to readers at the end of the first century how the first witnesses, the first disciples, came to an accurate and full understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ. The Spirit’s ministry in this respect was not to bring qualitatively new revelation, but to complete, to fill out, the revelation brought by Jesus himself (Carson 1991:505, emphasis added).

In context, John 14:26 (NLT) is teaching something quite different to what you want to promote. Careful exposition of the text is necessary, rather than cherry picking a verse to make a point that is not in the text in context.

As for John 3:12, Jesus was speaking to a respected Jewish leader, Nicodemus, who did not know the Lord. He needed his spiritual eyes to be opened. This verse is not telling information that you want it to mean. Again, cherry picking a verse aborts the meaning you are pushing.

As for John 3:1-6 (NLT) and Nicodemus, the issue had nothing to do with dumbing down ‘logical reasoning’ (your language). Nicodemus, a Pharisee, knew Jesus, the Teacher, was sent from God ‘to teach us’, but he needed his eyes opened regarding being born again (John 3:3 NLT). Then Jesus revealed the truth to Nicodemus of the need to be born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5-6 NLT). This was an issue of proclamation of the Gospel (even though prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection). These 6 verses are not teaching antagonism to logical reasoning. They are teaching content – the need to be born again to enter God’s kingdom.

5.  Logical fallacies

24x36” Wall Posters(image courtesy www.yourlogicalfallacyis.com)

 

One of the areas of logic that I’ve had to give more attention to in pursuing research studies and on Christian forums has been the use of logical fallacies. Some that I have seen in various readings elsewhere and in forum threads have included:

 

(image courtesy pinterest.com)

clip_image006 Begging the question, where the conclusion is sneaked into the premises. I noted this in my analysis of Jesus Seminar fellow, John Dominic Crossan’s writings, for my PhD dissertation. Crossan also uses….

 

(image courtesy theupturnedmicroscope.com)

clip_image006[1] Special pleading – the evidence supporting only one view is cited and the other is excluded. Crossan does this with his statements like, in quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he only quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv).

Image result for straw man clipart public domain(image courtesy clker.com)

clip_image006[2] Straw man – drawing a false picture of the other person’s argument;

clip_image006[3] Red herring – evading a question by changing the subject. This is a very common one in Christian discussion. I’ve drawn it to the attention of many posters on Christian forums and one moderator told me to quit using it. He wrote: ‘Please refrain from repeatedly claiming that other members are presenting red herrings and logical fallacies. Address the position with scripture to support yours, and NOT the person whom you are responding to’.[26]

A person replied to this post with this brilliant assessment:

It is quite possible that people have no idea that they are presenting logical fallacies. Pointing out that they have done so and explaining why they are, in fact, logical fallacies, is a means of helping the person avoid such errors in the future and to be able to identify them when others use them to misrepresent reality. This is a particularly valuable tool to be able to apply in a presidential election year when politicians are spewing non-stop nonsense at us from every direction.

Therefore, explaining to someone that their thought process was illogical and how it went awry is showing the person enough respect to assist them in avoiding such errors in the future. It has the potential of providing them with the tools to more effectively deal with every aspect of life. It’s not demeaning or insulting. It’s didactic.

To properly address a position with scripture, one must avoid logical fallacies. Pointing out a fallacy is NOT addressing the person. It is actually assisting the person (by Jim Parker).

However, this post was removed super quickly by a moderator. I wonder why? Jim has provided an extremely insightful diagnosis of why it is necessary to expose people’s illogic when they use logical fallacies in conversations or on a forum like this one.

Red Herring by algotruneman (image courtesy openclipart)

clip_image006[4] Ad hominem – argument by character assassination or personal attack. I see this sometimes in flaming on Christian forums online, but fortunately the moderators are onto this very quickly. However, they are not as alert to the other fallacies being perpetrated.

clip_image006[5] Genetic fallacy – something should be rejected because it comes from a bad source. I often see this in evolution vs creationist debates where an evolutionist states evidence from the Book of Genesis should be rejected because of those fighting fundies (or conservative evangelicals) who want to interpret it literally and they know nothing about science. Genesis is mythology, anyway, they say![27]

Another expressed the problem with use of logical fallacies on Christian forums:

Goodness, I’ve surely encountered every logical fallacy known to man throughout the many years of doing apologetics on internet forums, and been guilty of committing a number of them myself.

I would have to say the most common, are probably Ad hominem, Straw man, and one form of Red herring or another (often appeals to motive, popularity, authority, etc.). Another common fallacy which sometimes grates on my nerves is the…

(image courtesy slideshare.net)

  • false dilemma – where one option which is false is being forced when there remains an unmentioned true option. For example, when discussing the Sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, many argue in terms of options as either free will or hard determinism, without ever considering or mentioning “compatibilist free will” or as I often call it compatibilism. Quite often I believe the reason the fallacy is committed though is just a lack of knowledge, without intentionally excluding.

Faulty generalizations can be really annoying, how many times have you read something and afterwards thought  something to the effect of “no, they’re wrong, and they’re oversimplifying the issue (whatever it might be)”?[28]

For an excellent overview of the use of some of the most prominent fallacies used in writing and speaking, see,

clip_image009

Fallacies

6.  Abuse does not excuse legitimate use[29]

What I think causes some Christians to balk at the idea of using logic in communication is what is seen in liberal theology using the historical-critical method where people promote autonomous human reason to arrive at conclusions that are contrary with Scripture.

This shows how humanistic reasoning can be abused, but it does not negate the use of logic in our communication. Those who are opposing the use of logic, are engaging in a self-defeating exercise. This is because they are using logic in the sentences they write to oppose the use of logic.

Many things in Christian exegesis, theology, apologetics, Bible study, etc., can be abused. The abuse of something does not negate its legitimacy when used for the correct purposes. One or 10 faulty Fords (motor vehicles) doesn’t make every Ford junk – I drive a Toyota Camry.

Abuse does not exclude legitimate use of a thing, theology or issue.

7.  The gifts of the Spirit and logic

Speaking of the ministry and gifts of the Holy Spirit, one person wrote:

But it doesn’t require our logic when it is happening….

Utterance by The Holy Spirit is Him (sic) talking through us for the edification of the Body, and it is He superseding our faculties to GOD’s glory. Such events go beyond our mind since it is His mind speaking, not ours.[30]

My reply was: When the Holy Spirit ministers in and through me, he has been doing it according to biblical mandate,[31]

clip_image011 ‘Let all things be done for building up’ (I Cor. 14:26 ESV);

clip_image011[1] ‘Let others weigh what is said (1 Cor. 14:29);

clip_image011[2] ‘But all things must be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor. 14:40).

clip_image011[3] ‘Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up’ (1 Cor 14:16-17).

clip_image011[4] ‘In the church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue’ (I Cor. 14:19).

Here the gifts are seen and demonstrated for intelligibility. To be intelligible, God uses the logic of organised thoughts.

You don’t seem to want to grasp that in all communication, including edification for the local church through the gifts of the Spirit, involves logical thoughts.

Doing it any other way is unintelligible. Even the gift of tongues in the church required interpretation with logical thoughts given in sentences for people to understand.

Logic in sentences and the ministry of the Holy Spirit go together as a hand in a glove.

Image result for Toronto blessing The alleged Toronto Blessing is extremism in action.

(‘Toronto blessing’ photo courtesy bibelfokus.se)

8.  Conclusion

The alleged super spiritual advocates consider that to use logic is to employ the carnal mind and one does not need logic if a person has a spiritual mind. To say that logic is an example of the carnal mind in action is to distort the basic understandings of logic.

This was challenged by those who understood the nature of logic as involving putting thoughts in order. Correct reason and dealing with valid inferences entails attending to logical fallacies, whether formal or informal. It was shown how Christians need to use logic for ordinary conversation and argumentation to take place.

It was shown that human beings did not invent logic but that God is the author of logic. Where does logic appear in Scripture? Isaiah 1:18 speaks of Lord exhorting, ‘let us reason together’. Isaiah 43:26 pursues the emphasis, ‘Let us argue our case together’, and in Mark 11:29-33 Jesus spoke to the chief priests, scribes and elders about the authority he used to perform his miraculous works and ‘they began reasoning among themselves’. These three sets of verses demonstrate that Scripture is not against logic since it encourages reasoning activities.

Examples were given of logical fallacies committed by some Christians in discussion. As for the gifts of the Spirit, they must be intelligible for the congregation to understand. Abuses in these gifts do not prohibit the proper use of the gifts.

So the Christian must use logical reasoning for legitimate conversation, preaching and presentation of Scripture to take place.

9.  Other resources

See my articles:

clip_image013 What’s the place of logic in Christian apologetics?

clip_image013[1] Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion

clip_image013[2] Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

clip_image013[3]Christians and their use of logical fallacies

clip_image013[4]One writer’s illogical outburst

 

10.  Works consulted

Carson, D A 1991. The Gospel According to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Geisler, N L & Brooks, R M 1990. Come let us reason: An introduction to logical thinking. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Read, C 1914. Logic: Deductive and inductive (online). London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co Ltd. Available at: http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/37/logic-deductive-and-inductive/456/chapter-1/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

11.  Notes


[1] I started this discussion in Christian Forums.com 2012. Christian Apologetics Center, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, OzSpen#1. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/logic-in-christian-apologetics.7651514/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

[2] Ibid., ARBITER01#2.

[3] Ibid., golgotha61#3.

[4] Formal logic also is called deductive logic because it moves from premises to conclusions. Informal logic also is known as inductive logic because it moves from statements of evidence to conclusions, but it can extrapolate from the evidence and generalise conclusions.

[5] ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, Apologetic Warrior#4.

[6] Ibid., secondtimearound#5.

[7] Ibid., AndieGirl#6.

[8] Ibid., Audacious#7.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#8.

[10] The Rationalist Society of Australia ‘believes religious doctrine should not override evidence-based reasoning in public policy-making. This does not mean we believe theists and theistic organisations should not participate in the political process – only that their arguments must, like anyone else’s, be based on reason, evidence and modern secular, democratic values’ (Policies: Politics and government, available at: https://www.rationalist.com.au/about-us/policies/, accessed 27 May 2016).

[11] Ibid., ARBITER01#9.

[12] Ibid., secondtimearound#10.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[14] Christian Forums.net 2016. Apologetics & Theology, ‘Scriptural fundamentalism & literal interpretation’, Edward#130. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/scriptural-fundamentalism-literal-interpretation.64665/page-7 (Accessed 25 May 2016).

[15] Ibid., Free#131.

[16] Ibid., Edward#134.

[17] Ibid., jasonc#138.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#139.

[19] Ibid., Edward#154.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#162.

[21] See ibid., OzSpen#139.

[22] Ibid., for_his-glory#141.

[23] Ibid., OzSpen#143.

[24] Ibid., for_his_glory#150.

[25] Ibid., OzSpen#160.

[26] Ibid., Mike#146. My response to him was, ‘I only address the issue of logical fallacies when a person has committed one of them. I do it because logical discussion is prohibited when erroneous reasoning is used. However, I will obey your command. Instead of saying that a person has, say, committed a red herring, I’ll have to say something like, ‘The issue I raised was that of John 3:3 and regeneration before salvation. Let’s get back to that topic’. Would that be a better approach? (ibid., OzSpen#148).

[27] Christian Forums.com 2012. Christian Apologetics Center, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, OzSpen#12. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/logic-in-christian-apologetics.7651514/ (Accessed 26 May 2016).

[28] Ibid Apologetic Warrior#17.

[29] Ibid., OzSpen#29.

[30] Ibid., ARBITER01#77.

[31] Ibid., OzSpen#79.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 May 2016.

Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic

Saturday, June 20th, 2015


(courtesy clker.com)

By Spencer D Gear

What would you say to someone who said the following?

clip_image002 Of the supreme God of the universe, ‘Superstition is not “complicated.” It’s the easy way out – it doesn’t require education, or deep thinking, just an unquestioning adherence to cultural traditions, and a clownishly arrogant willingness to explain the unknowable as if it were known’.[1]

clip_image002[1] Is the Christian faith superstition? ‘That is my opinion, yes. It is a very elaborate belief system, with a complex theology and a long history, but ultimately never ranges out from under the umbrella of “superstition”’.[2]

clip_image002[2] ‘I think it’s clownishly arrogant for people to purport to explain the unknowable as if it were known, which is what religion does about things like life after death, eternity, etc’.[3]

clip_image002[3] ‘If we want to understand the mysteries of the universe, the last thing we should do is unthinkingly embrace the explanations recorded in primitive Iron Age texts.

Imagine if we did that in other areas of life (medicine, architecture, human rights).  It’s 2015’.[4]

clip_image002[4] ‘An average student today knows more about the nature of the universe and of this world than the most learned sages of the Iron Age’.[5].

clip_image002[5] ‘Christianity relies upon Iron Age understandings of man’s origins and the nature of the world.

It would be preposterous for us to apply that same primitive thinking to other areas of modern life (medicine, architecture, human rights), though some religious people attempt to in some areas’.[6]

clip_image002[6] ‘Christianity comes out of that primitive era, and unlike other fields of endeavor, philosophy, social systems, science – remains largely mired in Iron Age thinking’.[7]

clip_image002[7] ‘I was just referring to the persona or characteristics of the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions – just as we ascribe certain characteristics or traits to the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology. The Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’.[8]

There you have a sample of an anti-Christian antagonist who has chosen to grace himself on a Christian Forum. Why would an anti-Christian want to even join with a group of Christians to stir the pot with his hostility towards and ridicule of the Christian faith?

My posting on Christian forums over the years has taught me that they seem to do it for at least three reasons:

(1) They enjoy scoffing at the Christian faith to try to demonstrate their supposed superior knowledge,

(2) They love showing up Christians who don’t know their product as well as they should.

(3) For some, there is a considerable amount of arrogance displayed in trying to challenge Christians on what they believe. That’s what you’ll see in David’s responses if you care to follow that thread on the Internet.

A. Notice what he does

What do the above examples show us about David’s enmity towards Christians and Christianity? Let’s look at two examples:

1. Christianity is superstition

One of his examples was: ‘Superstition is not “complicated.” It’s the easy way out’. David’s starting point is that belief in the supreme God is ‘superstition’. So what is his concluding point? He was asked that by Cheryl, ‘Is it your opinion that the Christian faith is superstition?’[9]

What do you think he would conclude? Here it is: ‘That is my opinion, yes. It is a very elaborate belief system, with a complex theology and a long history, but ultimately never ranges out from under the umbrella of “superstition”’.[10]

What is he doing here? He could be trying at least two possible activities:

(1) He has done a lot of investigation and concluded that Christianity is ‘superstition’. Or,

(2) He assumes it is superstition and therefore concludes that it is superstition.

#If he uses the second approach (which seems to be his demonstration in the first few posts), he is committing what is known as a question begging logical fallacy, which is also known as circular reasoning. It is circular because if one starts (belief in God is superstition) where one finishes (‘Superstition is not “complicated”’), one has gone nowhere except around in illogical circles. It has not dealt with the evidence about whether or not there is a supreme God.

This fallacy has been explained this way:

Begging the Question is a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true. This sort of “reasoning” typically has the following form.

a. Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).

b. Claim C (the conclusion) is true.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious [logically unsound] because simply assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) in the premises does not constitute evidence for that conclusion. Obviously, simply assuming a claim is true does not serve as evidence for that claim (Dr Michael C Labossiere, The Nizkor Project, Begging the Question).

So when David begins with a statement that belief in the supreme God is belief in superstition, he is not going to conclude differently unless he seriously addresses the evidence for the existence of the true God or no god. He has not demonstrated that in the Internet thread. He chooses not to engage with the evidence but to label it as ‘superstition’. This is a deceptive way to avoid getting into discussion about the evidence for God and Christianity. It’s a misleading way to avoid dealing with the evidence.

2. god is a major league tyrant and sadist

A second of his examples above was: ‘I was just referring to the persona or characteristics of the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions – just as we ascribe certain characteristics or traits to the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology. The Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’.

Note his emphases:

  • ‘the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions’;
  • ‘just as … the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology’;
  • ‘Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’.

Again, he is using a question begging logical fallacy because he commences with god, ‘the imaginary tyrant’, moves to the parallel with the Greek gods and Greek mythology’ and ends with god labelled as ‘a major league tyrant and sadist’. He has provided not one piece of evidence to support his claims except using the throw-away line, ‘based on biblical descriptions’. He gives not one example in that post of any description from the Bible.

However, Cheryl picked him up on this:

‘Quoting Dawkins’ claim about God and agreeing with it does not prove that his (or your) description of God of the OT is accurate. Please give us examples from the Bible (chapter and verse) on how each of these words apply (sic) to the character of God and we can discuss those passages in context to the entire Biblical narrative. Otherwise, Dawkins’ (or any other atheist’s) opinion about the Biblical God carries no weight in this discussion, at least with me’.[11]

However, David used another technique in these examples to avoid dealing with the evidence. He engaged in ridicule of the faith: ‘Imaginary tyrant’ who is in parallel with ‘the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology’. AND, the ‘Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’. He is scoffing at the Christian’s God. He is engaging in ridicule. He has committed the appeal to ridicule fallacy, which is also called the appeal to mockery or horse laugh. Here is one explanation:

The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an “argument.” This line of “reasoning” has the following form:

1. X, which is some form of ridicule is presented (typically directed at the claim).

2. Therefore claim C is false.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because mocking a claim does not show that it is false. This is especially clear in the following example: “1+1=2! That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!” (Dr Michael C Labossiere, The Nizkor Project, Appeal to Ridicule).

Keep a watch out for the use of logical fallacies to derail an argument. It happens online, in personal conversation, and can be used by public speakers and those in the mass media. An excellent overview, with examples, of some of the major fallacies used to promote illogical answers is in The Nizkor Project: Fallacies. I urge you to review them and be able to identify them. I recommend that you learn to recognise these fallacies by name.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

B. The illogic of logical fallacies

As I respond to some of David’s replies, you will note that I try to identify his use of logical fallacies. What is a logical fallacy?

‘A fallacy is, very generally, an error in reasoning. This differs from a factual error, which is simply being wrong about the facts. To be more specific, a fallacy is an “argument” in which the premises given for the conclusion do not provide the needed degree of support’ (Labossiere 1995).

Why should we even be concerned about people using logical fallacies in conversation or when they write? What is your response when a person doesn’t deal with the issues you are raising? They may give you the flick pass of avoidance, change the topic, reach a conclusion that is unrelated to the flow of the conversation, and may abuse you. Does that cause you to want to engage in discussion with them? Is it possible to have a rational conversation with people who do this? Politicians who face the media are experts at not answering the question asked and only giving the party line for that topic. What kind of fallacy is that?

When someone uses such a fallacy, it is almost impossible to have a logical conversation with the one who is committing a logical error. He or she is being illogical in the discussion. When discussions become irrational – because of false logic – there is no way to get back on track until the matter is addressed.

C. Tactics that fail

Let’s check on David again to see what he is up to. How does he attempt to derail a thread by other tactics?

1. Unthinking, primitive Iron Age religion

David wrote: ‘If we want to understand the mysteries of the universe, the last thing we should do is unthinkingly embrace the explanations recorded in primitive Iron Age texts. Imagine if we did that in other areas of life (medicine, architecture, human rights).  It’s 2015’. I replied: ‘That’s a question begging (circular reasoning) fallacy, David!’[12]

How would you expect him to reply? ‘How so, Spencer?[13] My response was:[14]

You started with this premise:

‘Stand to reason? No. If we want to understand the mysteries of the universe, the last thing we should do is unthinkingly embrace the explanations recorded in primitive Iron Age texts.

Imagine if we did that in other areas of life (medicine, architecture, human rights).  It’s 2015.

You start with ‘recorded in primitive Iron Age texts’ and then conclude, ‘Imagine if we did that in other areas of life’. That’s circular reasoning, a question begging logical fallacy. When you conclude with your premise that’s the essence of this kind of fallacy and you committed it. We cannot have a rational conversation when you do this. It’s a fallacious understanding.

2. Least educated children know more than Christians

David was up to his circular reasoning tricks, plus another one:[15]

‘Evolution was not recorded in Iron Age texts. Science does not rely upon the superstitions of ancient primitives, but religion often embraces them.

“Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion” (Christopher Hitchens)’.

My response was:[16]

Here you are promoting another question begging logical fallacy.

Christopher Hitchens also uses this fallacy but also uses a fallacy of ridicule with his use of language such as,

  • ‘bawling and fearful infancy’;
  • ‘babyish attempt’;
  • ‘infantile needs’;
  • ‘least educated of my children knows more … than any of the founders of religion’.

Both David and Hitchens have used logical fallacies that inhibit reasonable conversation. David’s response to me was:

I see. Unless we redefine language in a smokescreen of tangled and tortured academic rhetoric, to the point of meaninglessness, “reasonable conversation” is not possible.

I reject that notion. I’m sure that brand of mental gymnastics will go over well — and is even necessary — in defending a dissertation about the historicity of miracles in mythology, but in this casual setting, you might consider simply attempting to mount a plainly-worded counter-argument. If that’s possible.[17]

He’s scoffing at me and my replies (I’m only a couple of weeks away from defending my PhD dissertation and have mentioned it on the forum). He’s engaging again in the fallacy of ridicule. He’s not dealing with the issues I raise but ridiculing my views. Logical discussion cannot be pursued when a person does this and he needs to be challenged with the naming of his fallacies and showing how false illogic cannot be pursued to maintain a reasonable conversation.

#

3. Clownish arrogance

David is up to it again!

I think it’s clownishly arrogant for people to purport to explain the unknowable as if it were known, which is what religion does about things like life after death, eternity, etc.

I believe that mankind has some answers, and some partial answers, and that many things remain a complete mystery due to the infantile state of our science, and our still-feeble understanding of human psychology.[18]

How would you reply? This was my retort:[19]

Your ‘clownishly arrogant’ accusation (appeal to ridicule) and your other statements in this post indicate that your answers are restricted by your commitment to naturalism which you say includes ‘the infantile state of our science’.

When you start with naturalism, that also includes ‘our still-feeble understanding of human psychology’ (your language), you will not include that which will open up mysteries of the naturalistic unknowable, life after death, eternity, etc.

It will not allow you to consider how you can experience eternal life now and in the life to come. That needs you to be open to revelation from God through Scripture. That includes the testing of Scripture by the tests you apply to any literature to determine its reliability.

More implications flow from your belief about God than from any other subject. If you would reject your commitment to naturalism and be open to God’s revelation, you would find a remarkably new world that,

(1)  Shows from where you and the whole human race came;

(2)  That will lead you to understand who you are and why you are here on earth.

(3)  It will tell you the rights and wrongs of values. How you should live morally will come from this openness to God and his revelation.

(4)  And have a guess what? This will tell you where you are going. There is life after death because God has revealed it as so.

When you give up your naturalistic worldview (which does NOT require rejection of science), you will find that the revelation of the nature of the world through Scripture, fits like a hand in glove with reality.

If there is no God and He has not revealed his plans for you, me and the universe, there is no ultimate reason for living. I find no meaning and purpose in life; there is no right or wrong in life except my shaky opinion. Then it doesn’t matter how you or I live. We can eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

However, I urge you to consider the implications of your naturalistic worldview. It doesn’t prepare you for the Final Judgment (read about it in Matthew 25:31-46).

I know you won’t like what I’ve said here, but your commitment to the restrictive world of naturalism, leaves a big hunk of your world blank.

Thank you for considering these matters.

#

D. A worldview of a difference

A thoughtful person wrote:

‘I consider this discussion an example of contrasting worldviews – in this case, Naturalism vs Theism’. If we can’t agree on whether we live in an open system where there is a spiritual element or a closed system where there is no spiritual dimension, there will be no agreement.

Here is a chart of 5 worldviews which may help anyone reading this thread:

http://www.xenos.org/classes/papers/5wldview.htm’.[20]

This one hit the mark and I replied:[21]

Thank you for a thoughtful post.

Yes, this is a worldview issue of naturalism vs theism in this case between David and me.

However, there is another dimension: Each worldview needs to be checked against the evidence. Or, to put it another way: How does a worldview compare with the comprehensive reality available to us?

I consider that a major difference between David and me is that I want to examine the evidence available to me to reach a decision on whether that worldview matches reality.

I’ve checked out naturalism, theism, pantheism, panentheism, atheism and agnosticism and I’ve found that the most comprehensive understanding of reality is Christian theism. I have an open approach to considering evidence. I don’t exclude any of these -isms, but I compare their content with the evidence.

The Christian worldview answers prominent issues relating to:

1. The origin of the universe with its design;

2. Why there is evil in the world and how to deal with it.

3. Purpose for life;

4. Hope in life that prepares one for death.

I have not found acceptable answers to these 4 questions in the other -isms. The Scriptures confirm two areas for obtaining information about our world and human life: (1) Creation – the created universe (see Romans 1:16-32; Psalm 19:1-6), and (2) Scripture (see 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

E. Rational worldview – give up logical fallacies

David now decided to attack my exposing his logical fallacies with this post:

You will never be able to handle the Rational worldview until you give up your logical fallacies of (1) superstition dressed as history, and (2) sophistry.

It matters not at all to me whether you choose to participate in a rational examination of religious beliefs. But it’s unreasonable for you to assume or expect that rational people will redefine the language to accommodate your personal beliefs.[22]

My rejoinder was:[23]

Those are not logical fallacies that you mentioned. They are your presuppositions that you are imposing on me.

We cannot have a rational discussion when you continue to use logical fallacies such as the one you use regularly here – the fallacy of ridicule.

You have this added issue: ‘The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 2:14).

You will continue to ridicule Christians because you will not accept these things until Jesus changes you through repentance and faith in Jesus. I will continue to pray that the Lord will draw you to consider a holistic worldview that includes the dynamics of spiritual reality.

I continued:[24]

In case you have forgotten, David, the ‘Fallacy – Appeal to Ridicule’ (Michael C. Labossiere 1995, in The Nizkor Project), which you use regularly against me, other Christians, Christianity, and Christian beliefs, means:

Also Known as: Appeal to Mockery, The Horse Laugh.

Description of Appeal to Ridicule

The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an “argument.” This line of “reasoning” has the following form:

1. X, which is some form of ridicule is presented (typically directed at the claim).

2. Therefore claim C is false.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because mocking a claim does not show that it is false. This is especially clear in the following example: “1+1=2! That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!”

You use this fallacy of ridicule throughout your responses to me with statements such as,

  • ‘superstition dressed as history’;
  • ‘sophistry’;
  • ‘Your view of life strikes me as desperately sad, and wasted if it requires a crutch as unimaginative as that offered by organized religion’;
  • ‘To manufacture an artificial “purpose” oriented toward a fantasy life’;
  • ‘subservient to the imagined demands of some “loving” (but frankly, ugly) tyrant’;
  • ‘The childish belief that we need religion in order to have morality, to know right from wrong, is deeply flawed and erroneous’;
  • ‘You talk about the afterlife as if it were a known fact, because, God revealed it to us”;
  • ‘The bible is the word of God, because God has revealed to us that it is. Where did he reveal it to us? In the bible. ‘
  • ‘It’s lazy to reject all of science – a work in progress — in lieu of a magical story’ [This is not only part of David’s fallacy of ridicule but it is a false allegation. Not once have I stated that I ‘reject all of science’. I have said to the contrary that I accept the scientific enterprise. Go read my posts with accuracy.]
  • ‘If one needs the bible for morality, they have bigger problems than knowing right from wrong. ‘
  • ‘Your list above would only be remarkable if Christianity didn’t provide answers to all of them’;
  • ‘What good would a manmade religion be if….’, and
  • ‘Once emancipated from the crippling entanglements of Iron Age religions, humans are genuinely free to explore the answers to those 4 issues in a rational, more honest, more fulfilling way’

This is fallacious reasoning for the reasons given above and you do it constantly against me. When will you wake up to what you are doing? I don’t fall for fallacious reasoning.

When you make a statement like, ‘What good would a manmade religion be if….’, you are displaying your presupposition as your conclusion. Thus you are using a Begging the Question Fallacy.

I hope that you will get to the point of giving up your use of logical fallacies against Christians and deal with the evidence for their beliefs.

F. You have not called my bluff

At one point I decided to leave the conversation because of David’s constant use of logical fallacies. Reasonable discussion, dealing with the evidence of Christianity, is impossible with someone who refuses to acknowledge what he does with fallacious reasoning. So I came back with this response:[25]

Let’s get something clear. You have NOT called my bluff. I’ve called you for your regular use of logical fallacies against me. But you won’t admit to what you are doing.

For there to be ‘a reciprocal exchange’, there has to be an acknowledgement by both of us when we use illogical reasoning.  Logical fallacies, which you use, are false reasoning. You won’t admit what you do when you are called on the specifics.

I base my calling you for fallacious reasoning on the evidence you present. If you can agree to not use logical fallacies against others and me, we can have reasonable conversations. Up to this point, you have not admitted to this and your regular logical fallacies committed in your responses to me continue.

Will you agree to quit doing that so that we can discuss the evidence rationally? This especially includes quitting your ad hominem fallacies and fallacies of ridicule against the Christian faith and me. Can we agree to not use logical fallacies and call each other on them when we use them?

It seems to me that you are in such a habit of putting down the Christian faith by your use of logical fallacies that they come from you naturally without your giving too much thought to what you do. I could be wrong. Are you doing this, knowing what you are doing, to denigrate the faith of believers?

This is part of David’s response. He will not admit to what he does with his use of logical fallacies. He blames me. Take a read:

It’s absurd for you to predicate all “logical discussion” here on me pre-emptively “admitting” your charges. I don’t admit to your all-inclusive list of fallacies because it is a wholly-subjective and self-serving means for you to discount the very essence of my arguments without addressing them.

In other words, your litany of fallacies is not a reasonable critique. It is a rhetorical smokescreen to mask your unwillingness to engage on issues you presume to already know the truth about….[26]

He doesn’t like being challenged with his use of fallacies and accuses me of not giving ‘a reasonable critique’. I’ve been very reasonable with him. I know of many people who would have verbally assaulted him for what he is doing to me. However, it does affirm that it’s impossible to have a rational conversation with him.

I replied:[27]

‘[Logical] Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim’ (20WL Purdue University, Logical Fallacies).

Here you have resorted again to the Fallacy of Appeal to Ridicule against me.

You also did it in your statement to Noelle,

‘No. I was just referring to the persona or characteristics of the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions – just as we ascribe certain characteristics or traits to the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology.’

You don’t seem to be aware of how you shipwreck discussion with others and me by your use of logical fallacies.

# G. Straw man argument

David wrote:

Luke was not an eyewitness, and if he spoke to eyewitnesses, we have no way of knowing. In fact, we don’t even really know who Luke himself was. The identity of the author of that gospel, and when it was written, remain conjecture.

An effectively anonymous second-hand (at best) account of supernatural events is not “evidence” that satisfies legitimate historical scholarship, and so cannot be considered a refutation of anything.[28]

I replied:[29]

Here you are responding with a straw man argument. Nowhere did I state that Luke was an eyewitness. That’s your invention – your straw man. This is what I did say:

Luke refutes your view:

‘Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught’ (Luke 1:1-4 NIV).

Luke has eyewitness accounts available to him. He had carefully investigated the issues and wrote an orderly account.  So your view that they ‘are unsubstantiated’ is refuted by Luke’s evidence.

You state: ‘If he spoke to eyewitnesses, we have no way of knowing.’ Again, this is a false assumption. We have the same way of knowing as we do with any other person from history. There are distinct methods of historical investigation by which we check historical reliability:

(1) The transmission of the MSS;

(2) External evidence, and

(3) Internal evidence.

There are criteria that historians use to determine historical veracity. When these are applied to Luke’s Gospel, they stack up well.

Craig Blomberg has articulated these and tested them in his publication, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Blomberg 1987). His conclusion was:

‘The gospels may be accepted as trustworthy accounts of what Jesus did and said. One cannot hope to prove the accuracy of every detail on purely historical grounds alone; there is simply not enough data available for that. But as investigation proceeds, the evidence becomes sufficient for one to declare that what can be checked is accurate, so that it is entirely proper to believe that what cannot be checked is probably accurate as well. Other conclusions, widespread though they are, seem not to stem from even-handed historical analysis but from religious or philosophical prejudice’ (Blomberg 12987:241).

It seems to me that Blomberg has hit the mark with assessment of your views. They ‘seem not to stem from even-handed historical analysis but from religious or philosophical prejudice’. You start out as a skeptic of the truth and reliability of the Gospels and that is where you conclude. It’s a question begging fallacy.

You claim: ‘In fact, we don’t even really know who Luke himself was. The identity of the author of that gospel, and when it was written, remain conjecture.’

That is partly true. The Gospel originally was anonymous but from the latter half of the 2nd century and onwards it has been identified with Luke, the ‘beloved physician’ (Col 4:14) and the Apostle Paul’s companion.

As for the date of writing, there are indicators. I Howard Marshall who has devoted extensive study to the Greek text (see his Greek Text commentary on Luke, Eerdmans1978) stated that Luke’s writing the Book of Acts before AD 70 (the fall of Jerusalem) indicate that ‘on the whole a date not far off AD 70 appears to satisfy all requirements’ for Luke (Marshall 1978:35).

Other historians have indicated that Luke is a first-class historian. Here is some of the evidence summarised:[30]

How reliable was Luke as an historian in his Luke-Acts documents? Others have gone before us who have assessed this.

See, ‘Luke the historian in the light of research‘ (Dr A T Robertson).

Here is a summary of some of the challenges to ‘Luke the Historian‘ (Stringer 2015) and the results:

Luke’s accuracy in historical and geographical matters is so thoroughly established that to deny it would be pure folly. This fact has not always been recognized.

In the mid-nineteenth century, a scholar named Eduard Zeller launched a severe attack on the historical accuracy of Acts. Among those who accepted his flawed conclusions was an eminent Scottish archaeologist named Sir William Ramsay. In fact, Ramsay led an archaeological expedition with the intention of proving that Acts was the error-filled product of a 2nd-century writer. It turned out, however, that Ramsay proved the opposite of what he had set out to prove. His years of research compelled him to describe Luke as “among the historians of the first rank” (St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, p. 4). In 1897 he published his conclusions in the famous volume just referenced, in which he defended the proposition “that Acts was written by a great historian” (p. 14).

Today, Luke is widely accepted as a remarkably accurate historian. The distinguished Roman historian A.N. Sherwin-White states: “For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming…any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted” (Roman Law and Roman Society in the New Testament, p. 189). Colin Hemer’s comparison of Luke with the well-known historian Josephus is telling: “The work of Luke is marked by carefulness but that of Josephus by carelessness” (The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, p. 219).

Luke wrote of events that occurred over a geographical area ranging from Jerusalem to Rome, including such vastly diverse regions as Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy. His history spans a period of about 30 years in which the political and territorial situations were always changing. Boundary lines and political offices were in a constant state of flux. And Luke did not write in generalities; he did not omit technical details so as to avoid mistakes. Yet, his detailed references have proved to be accurate. Rackham observes that such accuracy as is found in the book of Acts would have been impossible for one writing 50 years later (The Acts of the Apostles, p. xliii).

Critics have challenged Luke’s accuracy, but archaeological discoveries have overturned the challenges. One such instance was the charge that Luke erred in the term he used to designate the ruler of Cyprus in Acts 13:7. The term Luke used (translated “deputy” in the KJV) means proconsul. For many years critics argued that Luke should have used the term procurator because, they explained, Cyprus was an “imperial” province, and imperial provinces were ruled by procurators. Archaeology, however, has proved Luke to be right and his critics wrong. Cyprus was indeed an imperial province, and therefore governed by a procurator, when it first came under Roman jurisdiction. However, what Luke’s critics did not know was that in 22 B.C., Cyprus was made a “senatorial” province, and senatorial provinces were ruled by proconsuls. In fact, archaeologists have found coins and inscriptions on Cyprus using the term proconsul as the title of its rulers. According to Luke, the proconsul ruling Cyprus when Paul visited the island was named Sergius Paulus—an interesting point in view of the fact that an inscription discovered on the north coast of Cyprus included the words, “in the proconsulship of Paulus.”

A similar example is found in Luke’s account of events in Thessalonica. The word Luke used in Acts 17:6 for “rulers” is a specific title: politarchs. This word is not used as an official title anywhere else in Greek literature. Consequently Luke was charged with using the wrong title to refer to these city officials. However, once again, Luke has been proved right and his critics wrong. Archaeologists have found a number of inscriptions that unquestionably prove that the term politarch was an official title of certain city officials in ancient Macedonia. One of these inscriptions was found on the ancient arch that spanned the famous highway leading into Thessalonica. On this arch there is a listing of seven names of magistrates who wore the title politarch.

Luke’s historical accuracy has held up under the most intense and zealous scrutiny. All attempts to discredit this inspired author have themselves been thoroughly discredited’.

David is out of step with the research on Luke and his credibility as a historian. His philosophical and anti-Christian scepticism are coming through. I’m going with the evidence and not with his presuppositions.

H. Conclusion

This interaction with David has taught me some valuable lessons:

  1. Watch for the logical fallacies that opponents use to try to disrupt logical discussion. This means that …
  2. You need to know these fallacies and call them by name.
  3. There is a significant need among Christians in a declining Christian culture to know their product – the Scriptures and Christianity. I urge you to call upon your church to establish courses in apologetics to address issues that you are likely to find at work, university or in the market place. As a good starter, try Norman Geisler & Frank Turek, Is Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (2004). Apologetics courses deal with some of the major issues antagonistic to the faith. These include: (a) What is truth? (b) How do I know there is a God? (c) Why is there so much evil in the world and why doesn’t God stop it? (d) Is the Bible credible and reliable? (e) Why was it needed for a good man, Jesus, to die for sins? Why couldn’t God do that without the shedding of innocent blood?
  4. Please remember that it is only Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, who changes people from the inside out. Jesus saves! Human beings cannot save themselves and they need a proclamation of the Gospel in person or in a group. There is an urgent need to engage in proclamation of the Gospel.
For further discussions on logical fallacies, see also:

clip_image003Logical fallacies hijack discussions (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image003[1]One writer’s illogical outburst (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image003[2] Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image003[3] Christians and their use of logical fallacies (Spencer D Gear)

I have concluded that David fits into this category. He’s an ornery [stubborn], resistant, agnostic sceptic who responds like this:

Unwanted Truth

(Courtesy ChristArt)

Works consulted

Blomberg, C 1987. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Geisler, N L & Turek, F 2004. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Labossiere, M C 1995. Fallacies. The Nizkor Project (online). Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ (Accessed 8 June 2015).

Marshall, I H 1978. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text (The New International Greek Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Stringer, J 2015. ‘Luke the Historian,’ in Answering Religious Error, April 3, Available at: http://www.answeringreligiouserror.com/inspiration/luke-the-historian/ (Accessed 20 June 2015).

Notes


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Public Affairs, ‘Superstition Vs. Eyewitness/Faith/Historical Document’, David Woodbury#1, June 1. Available at: http://christianfellowshipforum.com/ (Accessed 29 June 2015).

[2] Ibid., Woodbury#3.

[3] Ibid., Woodbury#11.

[4] Ibid., Woodbury#21.

[5] Ibid., Woodbury#29.

[6] Ibid., Woodbury#35.

[7] Ibid., Woodbury#37.

[8] Ibid., Woodbury#73.

[9] Ibid., Cheryl#2.

[10] Ibid., Woodbury #3.

[11] Ibid., Cheryl#75.

[12] Ibid., ozspen#22.

[13] Ibid., Woodbury#24.

[14] Ibid., ozspen#31.

[15] Ibid., Woodbury #32.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., Woodbury#36.

[18] Ibid., ozspen#42.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., Cheryl#34.

[21] Ibid., ozspen#45.

[22] Ibid., Woodbury#47.

[23] Ibid., ozspen#51.

[24] Ibid., ozspen#52.

[25] Ibid., ozspen#69.

[26] Ibid., Woodbury#71.

[27] Ibid., ozspen#74

[28] Ibid., Woodbury in ozspen#98.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., ozspen#99.
Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

Did Jesus die for the elect or the whole world?

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Crucify

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

If you’ve ever visited Christian forums on the Internet, you’ll see a regular stream of back and forth between Calvinists and Arminians on the extent of the atonement.

After my engagement in one of these (I’m a convinced Reformed/Classical Arminian), I wrote to a supporter of an Arminian view of the atonement[1] that no matter how many verses OT or NT we muster to show that atonement was unlimited, for the world, for everyone, there is a barrier that cannot be overcome. Those who have a presupposition that requires limited atonement, will constantly make world = part of the world. They will say that world does not mean everyone; everyone = some; all = many; you’re not taking the context into consideration, etc.

I cannot see any way through. When there is a presuppositional bias towards a certain theology, it is very difficult to move, even when evidence to the contrary is presented. This is what this person and I have found in this discussion with Calvinistic limited atonement (particular redemption) advocates.

I think we are wasting our keyboard skills and breath trying to convince limited atonement folks of unlimited atonement as I find that there is a solid rock theological barrier against Christ’s death being the propitiation “also for the sins of the world” (1 John 2:2) and Jesus was to “taste death for everyone” (Heb 2:9).

A Calvinist came back with the cynical and inaccurate reply:

Do you realize that if I replaced “limited atonement” with “universal atonement” and “Calvinists” with “Arminian” (and other references), it would make the same argument against you?

Just thought I’d point that out. I’m sure it’s some sort of logical fallacy, though.[2]

Then he took to my idea and made it into his Calvinistic perspective. He wrote:

I think you are wasting your keyboard skills and breath trying to convince unlimited atonement folks of limited atonement as I find that there is a solid rock theological barrier against “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:14, 15 NASB). Or “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44 NASB).[3]

You might be saying as you read this article: But surely you have the same problem? You could say: You also have a strong, biased view that is as stubborn as the other person’s. That might be true or false.

I can honestly confirm that if there was an absolutely certain scriptural mandate that Jesus only died for the elect, I would be enthusiastically promoting it. However, there are too many Scriptures to counter the Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement. I have presented some of this evidence above.

I recommend Ron Rhodes outlined reasons for rejecting limited atonement. See his article,The Extent of the Atonement: Limited Atonement Versus Unlimited Atonement’.

Logical fallacy committed

clip_image001

What is a logical fallacy? Dr. Michael C. Labossiere has provided this explanation:[4]

In order to understand what a fallacy is, one must understand what an argument is. Very briefly, an argument consists of one or more premises and one conclusion. A premise is a statement (a sentence that is either true or false) that is offered in support of the claim being made, which is the conclusion (which is also a sentence that is either true or false).

There are two main types of arguments: deductive and inductive. A deductive argument is an argument such that the premises provide (or appear to provide) complete support for the conclusion. An inductive argument is an argument such that the premises provide (or appear to provide) some degree of support (but less than complete support) for the conclusion. If the premises actually provide the required degree of support for the conclusion, then the argument is a good one. A good deductive argument is known as a valid argument and is such that if all its premises are true, then its conclusion must be true. If all the argument is valid and actually has all true premises, then it is known as a sound argument. If it is invalid or has one or more false premises, it will be unsound. A good inductive argument is known as a strong (or “cogent”) inductive argument. It is such that if the premises are true, the conclusion is likely to be true.

A fallacy is, very generally, an error in reasoning. This differs from a factual error, which is simply being wrong about the facts. To be more specific, a fallacy is an “argument” in which the premises given for the conclusion do not provide the needed degree of support. A deductive fallacy is a deductive argument that is invalid (it is such that it could have all true premises and still have a false conclusion). An inductive fallacy is less formal than a deductive fallacy. They are simply “arguments” which appear to be inductive arguments, but the premises do not provided enough support for the conclusion. In such cases, even if the premises were true, the conclusion would not be more likely to be true.

My response in the online example was:[5]

You have committed another logical fallacy[6] when you try to demonstrate that because Christ died for believers that he did not die for the ungodly (the reprobate, unbelievers, etc).

While the texts you have given demonstrate that Jesus laid down his life for the sheep, I found nothing in your two texts to confirm that Jesus died only and exclusively for those who are believers in the church.

We have examples of how this happens on a human level. I love my friend John whom I have known for 30 years. When I say that I love John, it does not say that I don’t love Monty whom I have known since 1978 and is a close friend.

We know that the NT teaches that God loved the world and gave his one and only Son for it (John 3:16), but the Scriptures also stated that Jesus is ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2). God our Saviour wants all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9); and Jesus tasted death for everyone (Heb 2:9). It also teaches that he gave his life for the church – the sheep (John 10:15).

Ron2

Ron Rhodes (courtesyReasoning from the Scriptures’)

Ron Rhodes provides further examples:

There are certain Scripture passages that seem very difficult to fit within the framework of limited atonement. For example:

Romans 5:6 says: “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” It doesn’t make much sense to read this as saying that Christ died for the ungodly of the elect.
Romans 5:18 says: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.”

Regarding this verse, John Calvin says: “He makes this favor common to all, because it is propoundable to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all [i.e., in their experience]; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive Him.”
Regarding the two occurrences of the phrase “all men,” E. H. Gifford comments: “The words all men [in v. 18] must have the same extent in both clauses.”

1 John 2:2 says: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” A natural reading of this verse, without imposing theological presuppositions on it, seems to support unlimited atonement.
Isaiah 53:6 says: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).

This verse doesn’t make sense unless it is read to say that the same “all” that went astray is the “all” for whom the Lord died.
“In the first of these statements, the general apostasy of men is declared; in the second, the particular deviation of each one; in the third, the atoning suffering of the Messiah, which is said to be on behalf of all. As the first ‘all’ is true of all men (and not just of the elect), we judge that the last ‘all’ relates to the same company.”

Theologian Millard Erickson comments: “This passage is especially powerful from a logical standpoint. It is clear that the extent of sin is universal; it is specified that every one of us has sinned. It should also be noticed that the extent of what will be laid on the suffering servant exactly parallels the extent of sin. It is difficult to read this passage and not conclude that just as everyone sins, everyone is also atoned for.”

1 Timothy 4:10 says: “…we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.”

There is a clear distinction here between “all men” and “those who believe.” Erickson notes that “apparently the Savior has done something for all persons, though it is less in degree than what he has done for those who believe.”

In 2 Peter 2:1, it seems that Christ even paid the price of redemption for false teachers who deny Him: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.” Millard Erickson notes that “2 Peter 2:1 seems to point out most clearly that people for whom Christ died may be lost….there is a distinction between those for whom Christ died and those who are finally saved.”

So I don’t fall for the line that Jesus died for the church so he cannot have died for all of humanity. Why? Because what this person online was perpetrating was a misleading logical fallacy that is called a fallacy of ‘biased sample’ or afallacy of confirmation bias’. Jesus’ death for the church and for all of humanity are solid biblical teachings. His teaching on limited atonement denies one of these biblical emphases.

How do you think he would reply to the above about the fallacy of biased sample? His response was simple: ‘And….you still completely missed the point of my post. Hopefully it wasn’t deliberate’.[7]

My reply was:[8]

You have committed a red herring logical fallacy with your response. Your comment did not address the content of my post. In addition there was your committing a fallacy of biased sample in the previous post.

I directly dealt with the content of your post from John’s gospel, dealing with Jesus’ dying for his sheep AND for the whole world, and demonstrated how you committed another fallacy.

You can’t tolerate it when I call you for your use of a fallacy of biased sample. So what do you do? Give me another logical fallacy – a red herring. This is used to divert attention away from the content of my post about the fallacy of biased sample to a topic that he wanted to speak on. But it leaves the charge of his committing the fallacy of biased sample unanswered by this poster.

I asked him when he would quit his use of logical fallacies so that we can have a rational conversation. I am not hopeful that that will happen as he is too committed to his unbiblical doctrine of limited atonement. He is not ready to give that up in his TULIP theology.

Let’s look at some definitions of logical fallacies that this person used:

Fallacy of biased sample

What is the nature of a fallacy of biased sample? The Nizkor Project provided this definition:

Also Known as: Biased Statistics, Loaded Sample, Prejudiced Statistics, Prejudiced Sample, Loaded Statistics, Biased Induction, Biased Generalization

Description of Biased Sample

This fallacy is committed when a person draws a conclusion about a population based on a sample that is biased or prejudiced in some manner.[9]

The example I have been pursuing in this brief article,[10] was of a fellow who wanted to demonstrate that Jesus died only for God’s elect (his sheep, the church) but he excluded the verses that demonstrate that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. His bias is towards limited atonement, so he is determined to pull out verses that support such a view. His approach is one of jeopardy for his view because when it is examined against Scripture, we find two views presented:

(1) Jesus died for his sheep, the church, the elect of God, AND

(2) He died for the sins of the whole world – everyone.

When a fallacy of biased sample is used, it prevents the continuation of a logical discussion between two people.

What about the use of logical fallacies?

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (from Purdue University) made this comment about the use of logical fallacies:

Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim. Avoid these common fallacies in your own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others.

I particularly watch for them in my own arguments but also keep an eye open for their use in the writing or conversation of others. I’ve noticed there are far too many of them used on Christian forums and I have called a number of posters for using them. Many do not like this tactic as it catches them out. It shows how they are avoiding engagement with rational arguments in discussions.

However, rational discussions are not possible when people engage in the use of logical fallacies.

There is another parallel fallacy that this person could be using, it is the….

Fallacy of confirmation bias

A related fallacy is:

confirmation bias (similar to observational selection): This refers to a form of selective thinking that focuses on evidence that supports what believers already believe while ignoring evidence that refutes their beliefs. Confirmation bias plays a stronger role when people base their beliefs upon faith, tradition and prejudice. For example, if someone believes in the power of prayer, the believer will notice the few “answered” prayers while ignoring the majority of unanswered prayers (which would indicate that prayer has no more value than random chance at worst or a placebo effect, when applied to health effects, at best).[11]

observational selection (similar to confirmation bias): pointing out favorable circumstances while ignoring the unfavorable. Anyone who goes to Las Vegas gambling casinos will see people winning at the tables and slots. The casino managers make sure to install bells and whistles to announce the victors, while the losers never get mentioned. This may lead one to conclude that the chances of winning appear good while in actually just the reverse holds true.[12]

Another has helpfully described conformation bias:

Confirmation bias is the tendency to favor evidence and information which already supports previously held ideas or beliefs. The human mind will trick itself into protecting currently held beliefs regardless of evidence….

Confirmation bias is comprised of two main behaviors. The first behavior is searching and the second is filtering or appraising.

Searching

When searching for information a person with confirmation bias will actively search for information that supports their currently held belief, think liberals hitting up CNN or conservative only watching Fox. This aspect to confirmation bias is all about  filling up your time with material that reinforces your world view.

Filtering or Appraisal

Alternatively, the mind may also filter out information which contradicts the currently held belief. When appraising multiple pieces of information a person might favor their current belief over contradictory data. In this case picture a liberal rejecting anything they hear from Glenn Beck or a conservative rejecting something they hear from CNN.[13]

So the fallacies of biased sample or confirmation bias are the ones used by this person who was promoting Calvinism’s limited atonement while ignoring the Scriptures that disagreed with this perspective.[14] He seems to have deliberately chosen biblical information to support/confirm his view, to the exclusion of other biblical information that confirms that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world of all people.

Conclusion: Observe how people use logical fallacies

You need to know your product – the name and nature of logical fallacies – to be able to notice them in conversation, particularly in discussion or debate. When you see this happening, I encourage you to calmly and gently draw this to a person’s attention.

Why is it not possible to have a rational conversation with people who use logical fallacies? Simply stated: A logical fallacy is an error in logic so accurate, logical discussion then is impossible.

Norm Geisler & Ron Brooks put this challenge to us:

Of making many fallacies there is no end. For every right way to think there is at least one wrong way. The real shocker is that the wrong ways often sound more persuasive! This is the power of sophism. So as not to be trapped in the persuasive pit of these fallacies, practice in recognizing them is necessary (Geisler & Brooks 1990:115).

I highly recommend the Geisler and Brooks publication (see works consulted) and The Nizkor Project’s online site on ‘Fallacies’.

Works consulted

Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N L & Brooks, R M 1990. Come let us reason: An introduction to logical thinking. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Notes:

 


[1] Christian Forums, Soteriology, ‘If faith is a gift from God…’m OzSpen#316, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-32/ (Accessed 21 October 2013).

[2] Hammster#342, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-35/.

[3] Hammster#408, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-41/#post64342160 (Accessed 21 October 2013).

[4] The Nizkor Project, ‘Fallacies’, available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ (Accessed 25 November 2013).

[5] OzSpen#409, ibid.

[6] I received the essence of this idea from Norm Geisler (1999:75).

[7] Hammster#410, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-41/.

[8] OzSpen#411, http://www.christianforums.com/t7780352-42/.

[9] The Nizkor Project, ‘Fallacy: Biased Sample’, available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/biased-sample.html (Accessed 21 October 2013).

[10] Hammster (see above).

[11] Jim Walker, ‘List of common fallacies’ (online), 2009, available at: http://www.nobeliefs.com/fallacies.htm (Accessed 21 October 2013).

[12] Ibid.

[13] Logic & Critical Thinking 2011, available at: http://logical-critical-thinking.com/human-thoughts/confirmation-bias/ (Accessed 21 October 2013).

[14] Hammster, as above.

 


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

When Christian thinking becomes fuzzy

Friday, October 25th, 2013

roberta-and-jim

(photographs of Pastor Jim Cymbala and Roberta Langella, courtesy Pulpit & Pen)

 By Spencer D Gear

When I point the finger at fuzzy thinking, I also recognise that I’m a fellow traveller. I can be guilty of illogical thinking at times. When that happens, I appreciate those who care enough about me to point this out. In writing this article, I’m in no way making out that I’m a superior Christian who does not make mistakes or engage in fuzzy thinking at times.

When I use the term ‘fuzzy thinking’, I am referring to fuzzy logic – including the use of logical fallacies, the inability to think clearly, and the ability to read incorrect meaning into a person’s writing and speaking. This too often manifests itself in use of logical fallacies without admitting one uses them; accusation of false meaning to what a person states; and this may get to the point of speaking falsehood about a person.

Are any of you tired of the church being run by CEOs and the promise of growth in the church through following a church growth paradigm? What about that rock band on stage that entertains the group while most of them remain silent and do not enter into the singing what are supposed to be congregational songs?

I had an experience like this in the last 12 months with a local church and its evangelical pastor (well, the denomination has a reputation for being evangelical) when I emailed him to ask if I could attend one of the mid-week groups of his church and would he provide an address. He told me that the group would be way too contemporary for me. I have never met this pastor personally and have never spoken to him. My wife and I had visited his church once when we moved to this region and it was obvious that the person we met as we left the meeting had conveyed our feedback to the pastor. The pastor was in the service but was not the preacher. There was no reading of the Scriptures and their making the service contemporary seemed to be foremost on the mind of those leading the service

What is God’s view?

Bill Muehlenberg

Bill Muehlenberg (courtesy CultureWatch)

I was so impressed by this penetrating insight by Bill Muehlenberg:Dysfunctional Churches Mean Dysfunctional Societies‘, that I sent a group email to my Christian friends. A couple of them responded (which doesn’t happen all that often when I forward a group email link). One brother in Christ said he would share this message with his church.

My friend, Mike, gave feedback to me about that message and provided a link to a powerful message by Jim Cymbala that deals with getting the church back to the fundamentals and addressing the dysfunctional in our churches. I must admit that the name of Jim Cymbala did not ring a bell with me. He’s not one of my known and favourite Christian authors. I have never read any of his books or heard any of his sermons. I have since learned that he has written a number of books published by Zondervan. These are listed on his church’s website at The Brooklyn Tabernacle

Please be assured that I will sit up and take more notice when the name, Jim Cymbala is mentioned after hearing this sermon. His heart seems to be beating with Holy Spirit motivation. However, I will be a critical realist in my assessment of what he says and writes. I can’t buy into his comments about preaching from the Old Testament. Mike’s comment about this is valid when he said that the online DVD of Jim’s sermon was good but he was not in harmony with him when he spoke about refraining from preaching from the Old Testament. Mike said that it all points to Christ, but in the context of Cymbala’s sermon, he can let that slide. Why? It was because ‘he was more taking aim at preachers who simply don’t preach Christ and the cross at all’.

I urge you to take a listen to a message that knocked me off the wall of my comfortable Christianity. Has Jim Cymbala from Brooklyn Tabernacle, New York city, hit the mark or not? Here’s the link to that message: General Council: Jim Cymbala.

I pray that the Lord will use this message to get to our hearts. Some of you may disagree with points of his Pentecostal theology, but his content reminded me so much of the prophetic insight of the late A W Tozer (1897-1963).

Accusation of double talk

I was to experience some fuzzy Christian thinking as a result of forwarding the link to Jim Cymbala’s sermon. This is how it unfolded.

When I sent the Cymbala link to a pastor friend, his reply was that it was ‘great stuff’ until Cymbala ‘referred admiringly to George Wood, who has formed a liaison with Mormons’. He asked if I knew this. His emphasis was that ‘Jim didn’t mention that [about George Wood’s Mormon association] although he rightly preached about the only name’ as proclaimed by Saul who became ‘Paul, the Apostle’, in the chapter Jim C preached from – Acts 13. Dr George O Wood[1] is the General Superintendent of the USA Assemblies of God (A/G-USA).

He went on to accuse Jim Cymbala of using ‘double talk in the Church’. This pastor was careful to use the qualification, ‘in my opinion’. Whenever a person uses these words, I look for solid evidence to back that opinion. It did not come as this pastor displayed some of his fuzzy thinking.

He regards Cymbala has having a ‘perceived successful past’ and that what Cymbala said in this message ‘is obnoxious in the eyes and ears of the Lord’. The pastor gave this proviso: ‘That in my opinion is the biggest hindrance to the move of God for which we all crave. May the Lord deliver us’. This ‘perceived successful past’ language is a put down of Cymbala and what has happened through his ministry at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in downtown New York City. The Brooklyn Tabernacle website provided this information about Cymbala:

In the early 1970s Pastor Cymbala took over the leadership of The Brooklyn Tabernacle on Atlantic Avenue in downtown Brooklyn. The small, struggling congregation numbered less than twenty people and met in a small, run-down building surrounded by the physical and moral blight of the inner city. No money was available for adequate salaries during most weeks in those early years, so Pastor Cymbala and Carol took second jobs and struggled to make ends meet both in the church and at home.

Nevertheless, this was where they felt God had placed them, and they soon realized that it was a unique opportunity to see the power of the gospel of Christ in action by loving and ministering to all colors and kinds of people. Most were poor and many wrestled with the typical inner-city problems of drug or alcohol abuse and the pain of disintegrating families. At the time, the New York City area, with its challenging social problems and urban decay, was kind of a “forgotten mission field.” Most church buildings were nearly vacant on Sundays since their once-strong congregations (and their denominations) had long before fled to suburbia. But Pastor Cymbala and Carol believed that this was the very spot where God’s love could meet the most desperate of human needs. Right away they realized the necessity of real prayer to secure God’s grace and power in their ministry. The Tuesday Night Prayer Meeting, though very small at the start, became a central feature in the life of the church and has remained so to this day.

Realizing the limited impact that any one church can have in a large metropolis like New York, the leadership of the Brooklyn Tabernacle began to plant churches in other needy areas of the city. As they trained pastors and sent them out with small groups of workers from the congregation, a replication of the work in downtown Brooklyn was begun. At the same time, The Brooklyn Tabernacle began to look beyond its own locale to plant missionary stations that have grown and evolved in impoverished places like Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Over the years, other works have been established by the grace of God in Israel, Guyana, and the Philippines. The leadership for most of these ministries has been raised up by God from the congregation, which itself represents so many parts of the world. These missions have experienced a demonstration of the far-reaching power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today Pastor Cymbala oversees a congregation of several thousand people. Many of the inner- city problems are still there, but so is the congregation’s dependency upon the grace of God, who has raised up workers to direct outreach to children, women, men, youth, seniors, the homeless and people in shelters, among others (The Brooklyn Tabernacle).

So my pastor friend was displaying fuzzy Christian thinking with his statement that Jim Cymbala had a ‘perceived successful past’. This is misrepresentation through use of a logical fallacy of biased sample. One could arrive at a conclusion of ‘perceived successful past’ by ignoring or distorting the evidence.

How should I respond to this agitated brother in Christ who is a long-term friend? I have preached in his church.

Fuzzy thinking and judgmental attitude

I replied that I thought he was being way too harsh on Jim Cymbala. The fact that he mentioned George Wood in a sermon does not in any way indicate that Cymbala agrees with what George Wood said and did with the Mormons. With his making that kind of association, I told him that he had committed a genetic logical fallacy. Because Cymbala mentioned Wood does not make Cymbala’s exposition false or improper. A genetic logical fallacy ‘is a line of “reasoning” in which a perceived defect in the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence that discredits the claim or thing itself. It is also a line of reasoning in which the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence for the claim or thing’ (Nizkor Project 1991-2012).

I asked: Are you going to invalidate Albert Mohler’s ministry as President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary  because he also addressed the Mormon Brigham Young University? See:A clear and present danger‘. I asked him not to associate me with promotion of double-speak. When my wife and I were living in the USA, I was invited to speak (we both sang and played – piano and guitar) at a Mormon break-away group, The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was very clear on where I stood on the exclusivity of salvation through Christ alone.

I told that Christian minister that I do not endorse what George Wood did, but that does not make a devil of ‘double-speak’ out of Jim Cymbala because he mentioned George Wood who was in the meeting where Cymbala spoke.

It is my view that Cymbala was spot on with his emphasis from Acts 13:1-4. I think that Jim hit the mark, a message that many contemporary evangelical churches need to hear.

How would you expect my pastor friend to reply?

‘There is no other name’

The pastor said that it was not only that Jim Cymbala mentioned George Wood but also that he did it in ‘in the immediate context of his commending the early Christians for standing for the uniqueness of salvation through Jesus – “there is no other name”’. He claimed that I missed the point because Wood has ‘forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA [Assemblies of God USA] has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’.

He did clarify that his reference to ‘double speak’ was to Jim C and George W and not to me and my preaching at a break-away Mormon group.

How should I reply?

Misrepresenting my views

I told him that I do not appreciate it when he misrepresents what I said to him. This is what I wrote: ‘I do not endorse what George Wood did, but that does not make a devil of “double-speak” out of Jim Cymbala because he mentioned George Wood who was in the meeting where Cymbala spoke’.

His statement to me was, ‘Also you have missed the point. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’.

At no point have I ever said that I justify what the Assemblies of God – USA did. I exhorted him to please not misrepresent my view and invent what I did not say. He can stand his ground. That is his business. But misrepresenting my views is reprehensible.

Jim Cymbala was not engaged in double-speak in his exposition of Acts 13:1-4 and its application to the contemporary church. By this pastor’s saying that ‘Jim Cymbala referred admiringly to George Wood’, it says absolutely nothing about Jim C supporting George W’s position on the Mormons. As I said previously, that is his use of a genetic logical fallacy, which promotes illogic and prevents us having a rational conversation on this topic.

The pastor’s response to my calling him for misrepresenting my view and his use of a logical fallacy was that ‘by arguing about words we will get nowhere. The issue as far as I am concerned is JC [Jim Cymbala] and his impassioned appeal to return to fundamental Christianity with the spectre of GW’s [George Wood’s] treachery hanging over the entire scene. I am sorry that you deduced some attack on yourself by my words. That certainly was not my intention’.

My response was that I did not say that he attacked me. I said that he misrepresented what I said (he lied about what I stated) and that’s what he did. I asked him to repent of this sin towards me and acknowledge the sin he had committed?

We are not arguing about words. I am discussing his illogic in his use of a genetic logical fallacy in his associating Jim Cymbala with George Wood’s ‘liaison’ with Mormons. What Jim said had nothing to do with endorsing George Wood on Mormonism. I asked him: ‘Don’t you understand the danger in conversation when you use logical fallacies? I urge you to gain an understanding on how you did this. I have provided you with a link to the nature of a genetic logical fallacy (see above)’.

His reply demonstrated that he did not understand the seriousness of what he did in misrepresenting = lying about what I said. This person is a long-term friend with whom I’ve had many times of wonderful fellowship in the Lord and disagreement over certain issues. This was another one of the latter. He stated that he did not want to continue the conversation ‘in which you attribute to me an accusation about lies is descending to a level that I don’t want to pursue in the interests of mutual respect and friendship’.

Now he said that he would not continue the conversation, but what did he do? He came back with ‘obviously we both feel disappointed and I’m sorry I raised the matter with you’. Then he went on to accuse me of misrepresenting him ‘in not accepting or inter-relating with my point’. I have no idea what he means by this because I have rejected his point of Jim Cymbala supporting what George Wood is doing with the Mormons. I have been inter-relating with him if that means I am in email conversation with him. However, I have no idea what he is driving at when he accuses me of not inter-relating with his point. If I disagree with his point, does that mean I am not relating with him. That is a misunderstanding of the meaning ofrelatein the English language.

He stated that he feels no need to repent and that he is sorry that I feel the way I do. It has nothing to do with how I ‘feel’. It has everything to do with what he wrote in his email and what he sated about my views. He wrote: ‘Also you have missed the point. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’.

That is where he was lying about me. I never, ever justified anything to do with George Wood and Jim Cymbala’s ‘liaison’ with Mormonism. I did not justify it. I did not try hard to justify it. I NEVER justified it. That’s where he lied about me. Why can’t he own up to his sin against me on this occasion?

Slipping and sliding Christian

How do you think he replied to my charge that he lied to me when he said, ‘you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’? His reply was that his comment ‘was intended as a generic comment and was not directed against you. To the extent that you saw it that way, I do sincerely apologise. I think taking it in the context most would agree that I was not implying that you were trying to justify GW or JC in their respective views on Mormonism, whatever they may happen to be. I trust this puts the matter to rest. I will not respond further unless something new comes up’.

I find his labelling it as a ‘generic comment’ to be his rationalisation – trying to squirm out of admitting what he did. Why? I doubt his explanation because of the way he was addressing me in the email. When he wrote ‘you’, he was referring to me as he was writing to me. These are his exact words: ”Also you have missed the point. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’ (emphasis added). The personal pronoun, ‘you’, is used three times in these two sentences. The meaning comes from the first use of ‘you’ which states, ‘Also you have missed the point’.  Who has missed the point? I have missed the point he is trying to make. He is not making the point to some generic you that he claims. The two uses of ‘you’ that immediately follow are based on the meaning of the first ‘you’. The first ‘you’ is definitely referring directly to me: ‘You have missed the point’. So the other meanings of ‘you’ are also addressed to me. Therefore, this brother in Christ is engaged in slipping and sliding about the meaning of what he said, i.e. he was rationalising his lying behaviour about what he said to me.

I cannot agree that he was using it in the generic sense as the context of those two sentences demonstrate. My view is that he was engaged in fuzzy Christian thinking. He is trying to wriggle out of his lying about me by rationalising. I could be wrong in this understanding, but the context of the three uses of ‘you’ is dictated by the first meaning. And that was definitely directed at me, ‘You have missed the point’.

It doesn’t put it to rest for me because I see it as a classic example of a Christian who is rationalising to cover up his sin against me. He was addressing me directly and when he said, ‘You can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’, he was addressing me in the singular in an email. It was ‘you’ singular to whom he was speaking but he wants to get off the hook by saying that it was intended as ‘a generic comment’. I am not convinced. It was a specific comment to me but he is not at the point of acknowledging it as lying to me. I’ll have to leave it rest with him and the Lord. I have made no further contact via email with him.

This, as I see it, is fuzzy thinking where he is a slipping-and-sliding Christian who is into avoidance. He is not being transparently honest with me. I did my best to convince him, but he was not moved. He gave me his made-up spiel of filtered reasoning, saying it was a generic meaning. It seems as though it was designed to get him off the hook, but I don’t buy it. Fuzzy thinking is what I call it.

What do the Scriptures say about doing things this way? Does it have anything to indicate how people need to deal with those who lie? Both Old and New Testaments are clear about lying being forbidden and what happens to liars:

arrow-small Proverbs 19:9, ‘A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish’ (ESV).

arrow-small Proverbs 12:22, ‘Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight’.

arrow-small Psalm 101:7 ‘No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes’.

arrow-small Colossians 3:9-10 ‘Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’.

arrow-small  John 2:4 ‘Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him’.

arrow-small Ephesians 4:25 ‘Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another’.

The Scripture is very clear that the false witness, liar, and deceitful person should not be found among Christians. Therefore, my interaction with the Christian pastor who seems to be lying about what I said, is to leave him with the Lord. I am not the final judge. I can only make my assessment with what he said in context. And it certainly seemed to be dishonesty through the words he delivered.

Another side to Jim Cymbala

There’s another perspective on the Jim Cymbala story that I became aware of when I was advised by Steve Langella on 9 March 2017 through the ‘Contact Form’ on this website. Steve’s story of his sister, Roberta Langella, and Jim Cymbala are quite alarming, in my view, and are explained in these two articles:

Flower7The Story Behind the Story – Roberta Langella and Pastor Jim Cymbala – Part 1’ (October 16, 2016), and

Flower7In Roberta’s Own Words – The Story Behind the Story of Jim Cymbala and Roberta Langella – Part 2’ (October 28, 2016).

Flower7 See also Seth Dunn’s article in Pulpit & Pen, ‘Jim Cymbala and the Ghost of Testimonies Past’ (October 28, 2016).

It is my view that this tragedy should not be swept under the carpet.

Being cobelligerent or joining a false anti-Christ religion

I said to my friend that he claimed that George Wood had ‘a liaison with a false anti-Christ religion’ in his association with Mormons. I mentioned that I thought that it would do him good to read what Francis Schaeffer meant by becoming cobelligerents with people who have similar values in certain organisations. I do this when I support Cherish Life, an anti-abortion group that used to be called Right to Life. Although many Roman Catholics are associated with this group, we give common support in opposing the abortion holocaust in Australia / Queensland.

See Daniel Strange’s article, ‘Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend?’ (September 2005).

What is the abortion situation in Australia? These were 2009 figures:

How many abortions occur in Australia?

Life Network Australia – Monday, July 13, 2009

clip_image001 Abortion crosses in a field

An estimated 80,000 – 90,000 surgical abortions are performed in Australia each year.This equates to approximately 250 per day, or one abortion for every 2.8 live births. One in three Australian women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

An accurate number can not be calculated using the current systems of statistical collection. 5 An analysis of the available data has been prepared by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

There are no statistics available for the number of chemical abortions in Australia. The ‘morning after pill’, Postinor-2 is available over the counter and accounts for an unknown number of early abortions. A combination of drugs, Methotrexate and Misoprostal, is also widely used to induce abortion before 7 weeks gestation. This is done as a general consult by doctors and the number is not recorded.

For anyone or any group that stands against this holocaust, I will join with them to oppose such slaughter as a cobelligerent.

What is a cobelligerent?

The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines the noun, cobelligerent, as ‘a nation, state, or individual that cooperates with, but is not bound by a formal alliance to, another in carrying on war’. As an adjective, it is ‘relating to such a cooperation’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:422-423).

Francis Schaeffer.jpg

Francis Schaeffer (courtesy Wikipedia)

The late Francis Schaeffer defined a cobelligerent this way: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

 Theopedia provided this explanation:

Co-belligerence, strictly speaking, is waging a war in cooperation with another against a common enemy without a formal alliance. The term co-belligerence indicates remoteness and differences between the co-belligerent parties although jointly pursuing a common objective. In Christianity, it refers to an alliance between denominations, which are normally opposed on doctrinal grounds, for a common social goal.

According to one author, it can be defined as a cultural philosophy that warrants questionable alliances in order to make social impact and change against the moral slippage that plagues our nation — these alliances created and fostered “on the basis of one thing and one thing only – the cause at hand.”[2] A case in point would be conservative evangelicals allying with the Roman Catholic Church in joint efforts to oppose abortion.

Some Christians have issues with a cobelligerence perspective. See Steven J Camp’s article, THE NEW DOWNGRADE…12 dangers of Evangelical Co-Belligerence related to the Manhattan Declaration. There are dangers in being a cobelligerent, but these are reduced when one focusses on why one is joining with another group with which there may be major differences on other occasions. This is not a proclamation of salvation through Christ alone and a promotion of Trinitarian Christianity. It is generally associated with cooperating with others on moral and national issues for which they have a common opponent. Steven J Camp, based on this article, lists 12 dangers of cobelligerence. These are:

1. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so outside the authority of Scripture and therefore cannot affirm Sola Scriptura in its practice.

2. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so without “preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” For the sake of cultural unity the offence of the cross is purposely removed.

3. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence adopt a secular view of being salt and light—applying that reality to anyone who rallies with them on the social cause which their moral conscience agrees.

4. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so in support of a moral imperative derived from works righteousness thinking God is pleased and society redeemed with the veneer of pseudo-spirituality.

5. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so to the purposed exclusion and amputation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in their social causality.

6. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence must yoke themselves with nonbelievers; they do so in direct disobedience to God’s Word forfeiting His favor and invoking His judgment.

7.DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence lose sight of eternity in those because of temporary social moorings and therefore become calloused and hardened against the very ones that need the gospel. They therefore cannot fulfill the Great Commission for they have elevated worldly concerns above another eternals soul.

8. DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence live as political agitators fighting for morality against the very authorities that the Lord has sovereignly placed in power.

9. DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence fight to protect religious rights, violate the Scriptures in John 18:36 where our Lord said, “if my kingdom were of this world, my disciples would be fighting.” But His kingdom is not of this world—all our rights lie only in Christ.

10. DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence seldom get around to sharing the gospel with their opponents; the societal concerns on cultural or political issues have overshadowed and robbed them of seeing their opponents as sinners in need of Christ (cp, Luke 14:21ff).

11. DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence dumb-down the body of Christ to the status of a political action committee for the purpose of flexing our religious muscle to sway candidates, issues, morals, elections and party platforms to line up with our social-moral values. This violates the standard of Scripture as to the purpose and function of God’s church: “which is the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

12. DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence will never win the culture wars, though they might improve them some. But they will have failed miserably by sacrificing the gospel message, sound doctrine, theology, the church, and the biblical duties that the Lord has called us to all along “for a piece of political pie” with the reward of temporary fame, increased fortune and the still unrealized fantasy of a moral Christianized world without Christ and His truth at the core.

These dangers are minimised, in my underst nding, when one acknowledges the real purpose of cobelligerence as defined by Francis Schaeffer: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

As a cobelligerent, a person is not joining with people to evangelise them with the Gospel of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ alone. We are joining others for a common cause in dealing with vital cultural issues of public justice in our society.

Dr George O Wood

General Superintendent

What about George Wood and the Mormons?

What is the truth about what George Wood has been doing in his meeting with the Mormon leadership and speaking to students at Brigham Young University? There is an organisation called TruthKeepers that was concerned over George Wood’s association with the Mormons. C H Fisher of TruthKeepers opposed George Wood and his association with the Mormons. In September 2013, Fisher wrote:

AoG General Superintendent George Wood Validates Mormonism

Posted on September 25, 2013 by C.H. Fisher

Assemblies of God “CEO” George Wood recently addressed Mormon students and faculty. After reading the article about his speech I am convinced that he did more to validate Mormonism than he did to identify it as outside of Christianity. One of the most chilling statements in the article (Assembly of God CEO addresses BYU students) is, “Wood showed that God is playing a role in all religions and that Christians are more united than they sometimes think.” It is as if Wood doesn’t recognize Mormonism as a cult. But surely he must know the truth. How long will it be before Mormon evangelists are preaching in A0G churches? How can the AoG stop that from occurring since Wood has set a precedent? The part about “God playing a role” in all religions reveals his ecumenical agenda. It is the same agenda as the heretical and diabolical Emergent Church Movement, i.e., the merger of all religions into one under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church. What about the next time men in white shirts and black pants, riding bicycles two by two, knock on an AoG adherent’s door? Wood had better hope and pray a weak soul does not answer, especially one who knows that Wood has cast his favor on Mormonism. He will be held accountable for their lives on the Day of Judgment.

It is time for AoG ministers and members to accept the fact that their movement has been infiltrated and seized by emergent heretics that are intent on converting it into the largest New Age denomination in the world. George Wood is obviously a Rick-Warren-style heretic, the friendly face of evil, a beguiling most effective tactic of Satan. Some people may protest my calling George Wood a heretic. I do not do so pejoratively, but as a logical conclusion of his actions and words. I defend my remark by pointing to the fact that we should not be swayed by outward appearances, clever words, or people’s positions. It is tempting to become enamored by the sheep’s clothing, and fail to recognize the evil within. We should also be careful not to be desensitized by the last day’s wickedness that is suffocating our world today. It is obvious to any Spirit-filled believer that Wood is not acting under the auspices of the Holy Spirit. If he is not being led by God, there is only one other entity that could be leading him.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14 NKVJ)

When will AoG ministers and members take a bold stand? It costs something to stand, and the price can be very heavy. Ministers could be charged by the hierarchy for insurrection and excommunicated. Members might lose their membership. However, those are small prices compared to what the persecuted church is paying in other parts of the world. Complaining about the issue on forums and blogs will not solve the problem. I know people stuck in the apostate Episcopal Church that have been complaining about the degradation for decades, but have done nothing about it. They will complain until the day they die and evil will march onward unmolested, gobbling up souls as it goes. If professing Christians cannot even stop one man from perverting their Movement, how are they going to fare in the really dark days of unprecedented evil dominion? If they compromise now, how far will they compromise then to avoid discomfort and inconveniences?

God must be dealing with many individuals about this, but they are ignoring Him. They would never willingly attend a satanic meeting, but they would allow heretics speak at their meetings, to invade their organization, to dominate them, and to represent them. They did not act when Wood invited heretical Rick Warren to speak at the General Council. Therefore, Wood was not hindered from inviting a pagan to speak at the most recent General Council. Again, there was no measurable resistance. Therefore, he is emboldened to speak favorably at a Mormon meeting. When the next outrage occurs, will they express shock and voice complaints until the shock wears off? Will they then mumble until the next outrage occurs only to react in the same way? Everyone appears to be whistling past the graveyard, hoping it will all blow over and things will return to normal. That is not going to happen. It is a spiritual cancer that cannot be wished or ignored away.

Lack of organized resistance allows and in fact emboldens evil people to commit more evil as they grow in power. Whether it is a nation, organization, or a small group, lack of action is the fodder that evil grows in. Cattle may complain about the treatment they are receiving, but will do little of nothing about it. They outnumber their handlers, but allow themselves to be controlled and harvested. Imagine the same number of lions being herded by a few people into a pen for slaughter. I am reminded of an old adage. “The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Another one that is equally relevant is, “No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” I do not know the source of these quotes, but I recognize the heart.

This was George Wood’s response that was published on the TruthKeepers website of 26 September 2013:

George Wood Explains his Involvement with the LDS

Posted on September 26, 2013 by C.H. Fisher

It was my privilege and opportunity to speak with students last week at Brigham Young University on my faith and family. For those who may have questions regarding my appearance at BYU and meetings with some in the LDS leadership, let me provide some context.

In the greater Salt Lake City area there is an evangelical association called Standing Together. It’s comprised of approximately 100 evangelical churches that in recent years have been reaching out in friendship to LDS leaders and members. Our Assemblies of God pastors and churches in Salt Lake City are involved in Standing Together. Such contacts have produced an openness not previously experienced. Just two weeks before me, Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Theological Seminary in Charlotte, spoke at BYU. Two weeks after me, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, will speak at BYU. And, it is my understanding that Ravi Zacharias has been invited to return to preach at the Mormon Tabernacle early next year. He has done so previously.

Two years ago the National Association of Evangelicals held a meeting in Salt Lake City. At that time, Standing Together arranged a meeting with approximately 125 or so of us in the governor’s mansion for an address by a top LDS leader, Dr. Jeffrey Holland. That resulted in a conversation and friendship between him and me that ultimately led to my being invited to speak at BYU and also have opportunity to meet with several LDS leaders and a few members of the BYU Law School and Religious Education faculties regarding common concerns: religious liberty, how to work effectively to resist the cultural and secular pressures to push persons of faith out of the public square, the increasing coarseness within secular culture and the pressure that exerts on youth; as well as issues related to abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and end of life concerns.

I was invited to speak to BYU students on the subject of Faith and Family. There were no restrictions on what I could say. One of the key leaders, knowing my personal testimony, requested that I speak on this subject. Students were not required to attend and gave up their lunch hour to do so. About 400 students crammed into every seat in the auditorium, and the overflow room – twice the size of the auditorium – also filled up with students. For 45 minutes, I spoke freely about how the Pentecostal Movement came to be, how the Assemblies of God arose out of that Movement, how my parents became AG missionaries, miracles in my family including my Dad (through the intercessory prayer of my mother) who was spared from poisoning by Tibetans on the mission field and my sister being healed of near blindness when she was 18. I told how during a revival at Central Bible College she had a vision of Christ on the cross, reached to take blood from the cross to apply to her eyes, but in actual reality took her glasses off and flung them across the platform. When she came out of the vision, she had perfect sight. I talked freely about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues. I went on then to share my experience of faith, and ended by noting that faith is not subjective but is based on the objective reality of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. The students listened in rapt attention and when I was finished, gave a prolonged ovation. I leave the results to the Lord.

I’m providing for you a quote from one of our AG pastors, Ray Smith, pastor of Salt Lake Christian Center. He was in the audience at BYU.
———
Dr. Wood,
Thank you so much for your lecture that I was privileged to attend. Your message obviously led by the Holy Spirit was exceptional. I cannot help but intercede for the hundreds of students that were able to hear you talk in their language (Story, Family and Faith) as if you were talking to a group of CBC students. Telling your story of your search for truth and the markers of faith that influence your decisions is, (in my opinion) exactly what they needed to hear. Theology with a personal narrative is so compelling to LDS students. I know that we will see fruit in eternity from your willingness to go out of the box and into the marketplace of the Mormon faith.
———-
The Executive Leadership Team and the Executive Presbytery have been kept fully informed and have approved my willingness to establish these contacts and relationships. I do not pretend to know what the Holy Spirit might be doing within the LDS leadership, but I do believe the Spirit opened this door.

There is much more I could say, but those who trust my leadership will know that I would not have opened this door except the Spirit and our leaders “bade me go.” For those who do not trust my leadership, probably nothing I say will suffice and I simply leave that to the Lord.

There was a release from BYU [Brigham Young University] that some are quoting and I close with reference to that. On the whole the release summarized well my visit, closing with this quote from me, “The whole aspect of the Christian faith, and my personal faith, rests upon whether or not Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.”

There are two brief references in the BYU release that require my clarification.

First, there was no interfaith discussion with the students. The leadership of BYU placed no restrictions on my message to the students and I freely shared about my faith and family. I did have private discussions with several in LDS leadership regarding the differences that separate us doctrinally; but also we discussed where we could work together within the public square on religious liberty and issues of morality.

Second, the BYU release quoted me as saying that “God is playing a role in all religions and that Christians are more united than they sometimes think.” While I do believe that the Holy Spirit is seeking to draw all persons to Jesus, I did not state what was attributed to me, but I do believe that there is common ground on issues facing our country and culture that we can stand united on. If evangelicals, Roman Catholics, LDS and others can stand together on issues of marriage as between a man and woman, right to life, and religious freedom – our country and culture will be better for it.

Finally, I must say that all within the LDS community treated me with utmost kindness and respect. One of their senior leaders said to me, “America needs the Assemblies of God.” I believe that was said most sincerely. I love and pray for the friends I have made within the LDS community over these past two years. I live, pray, and witness in expectation that we will live to see the prophecy of Pentecost fulfilled, that in these last days the Spirit will be poured out on all.

Thank you for your patience and prayers. I trust this explanation is helpful to you. Blessings!

You can read C H Fisher’s response to George Wood’s address at:My Response to George Wood’s Explanation of Involvement with the LDS‘. This is Fisher’s conclusion re George Wood, the Assemblies of God (USA), and the Mormons:

I believe that it is obvious the Holy Spirit was not involved in this event. After two years of involvement with Mormons, Dr. Wood has made some dear friends, bonded with LDS leaders, won their respect, and incited them to believe that they have achieved one of their major goals, acceptance by mainstream Christianity. One could hobnob with a group of atheists in the same manner, speak at their conference, and leave them with the same impression. It all adds up to one thing, i.e., there was no conviction by the Holy Spirit at that meeting. However, Dr. Wood claims that he was led by the Holy Spirit. I find it difficult to believe that a group of people immersed in great darkness, deceived and most likely possessed by demons, would feel comfortable, accepted by, and a kinship with the Holy Spirit. I also doubt that the Holy Spirit would pass up an opportunity to convict such a group of their lostness and bondage. Conviction is the primary work of the Holy Spirit.

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: (John 16:8 NKJV)

Although sinners may feel a Christian’s love, acceptance, and compassion for them, they will also feel conviction. I do not believe that it is possible to be anointed by the Holy Spirit without sinners being convicted. Further, I do not believe it is possible for a Spirit-filled believer to speak to a group of deceived and delusional sinners without his or her words being anointed unless the believer has somehow quenched the Holy Spirit. If ones agenda is to gain respect, cause people to feel comfortable and accepted, and to establish a bond of friendship and communion, there will be no conviction in that one’s words. In fact, that agenda is carried out by thousands of Christian preachers every Sunday morning. Some of them, such as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Judah Smith, and other pastors of mega churches, are masters of speaking without a hint of conviction. They convert a great number of followers, not of Christ, but of them. Accolades from sinners after one speaks are the hallmark of a dead message, enticing words of man’s wisdom, lacking the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power.

Dr. Wood apparently believes that he was led by the Holy Spirit to spend two years with an Emergent group currying the favor of the LDS. But remember, this is the same Dr. Wood that invited a New Age guru, Ruth Haley Barton, to speak at the General Council. He is the same AoG leader that promotes Spiritual Formation and its deadly heresy Contemplative Prayer. It is the same Dr. Wood that supports Emergent heretic Rick Warren. This is the Dr. Wood that engineered and ensconced into the AoG an ecumenical agreement with the Roman Catholic Church. Now he joins with an ecumenical/interfaith group to socialize with and give validity to Mormonism. In my opinion, Dr. Wood is in lockstep with the Emergent Church Movement and will continue to carrying out what he believes is God’s agenda to turn the AoG into the largest New Age denomination in the world. His clever response will be sufficient for individuals that need only the skin of a reason to continue supporting him. For the ones that discern by the Holy Spirit, it falls well short of an adequate explanation.

I have asked my pastor friend to provide me with documentation to support his claim from George Wood and the Assemblies of God – USA that  ‘George Wood, who has formed a liaison with Mormons…. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far’.

I asked: Has this link denied the Trinitarian faith and the uniqueness of salvation through Christ alone? Has this link with the Mormons denied the deity of Jesus Christ and supported the view that we can become gods (Mormon doctrine)? What evidence does he have that George Wood and the Assemblies of God – USA have denied the fundamentals of the evangelical faith in their ‘liaison’ (his word) with the Mormons?

He has made some strong allegations against George Wood and the USA A/G and their connection with the Mormons. I have asked him to provide me with documentation of this from George Wood and the USA that confirms their denial of fundamentals of the evangelical faith?

A Mormon interview with George Wood

The Mormon publication, Deseret News, published this interview on 24 September 2013,George Wood, head of the Assemblies of God: Flexibility fosters growth’. Was there any emphasis on the fundamentals of the evangelical/Pentecostal faith in this interview? It needs to be remembered that this is the published interview that would need to be consistent with Deseret News policy and LDS doctrine. I could not find any published emphasis on the evangelical fundaments that were significantly different from LDS teaching. These are a few grabs from that interview:

6pointblue-small ‘My parents were pioneer missionaries in China (where he was born in 1943) and Tibet. It has given me a great love for missions and for reaching people who don’t know the Lord’.

6pointblue-small ‘While across the world our doctrine is the same, we have developed a very flexible structure in terms of how the church organizes itself…. We are also very flexible in style of worship’.

6pointblue-small ‘In the U.S. one-third of our people are under the age of 25. Worldwide it is the same. One of the reasons is, while we have stayed true to our understanding of apostolic doctrine, we have been extremely flexible in terms of our structures and worship style and creative in our ways to reach people.

We place a great deal of focus on discipleship and personal experience through … the baptism of the Holy Spirit, where we encourage personal prayer and the laying on of hands from which we expect young people to receive the gift of the spirit evidenced through praying in a language they did not learn, or speaking in tongues’.

There is no firm statement here of salvation through faith in Christ alone, affirmation of the Trinitarian faith and the deity of Christ. It amounts to speculation if we want to assume why there are not such statements. It may be because (1) The context of the interview was not to deal with fundamentals of the faith; (2) George Wood did not make such statements, or (3) George Wood made such statements but those which would conflict with Mormon doctrine were excluded from the published interview. There could be a number of other reasons.

In summary

In promoting an outstanding sermon by Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle online, I got into an unexpected discussion with a pastoral friend who wanted to associate Jim Cambala’s message with an endorsement of General Superintendant George Wood’s (AoG USA) association with Mormons. In opposing Cymbala and Wood, my friend used a genetic logical fallacy, accused me of agreeing with such a view (then backed off, saying the ‘you’ had a generic meaning). He engaged in some fuzzy Christian thinking, in my estimation, in his interaction with me. This short article is designed to demonstrate how Christians ought to quit their fuzzy thinking and get back to transparent communication. I can be guilty of such as well and need to be called to account if I do that.

Sadly, there’s a negative side to Cymbala’s situation with the suicide of Roberta Langella.

Works consulted

Schaeffer F 1980. Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H Revell.

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

The Nizkor Project 1991 – 2012. Fallacy: Genetic fallacy (online). Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/genetic-fallacy.html (Accessed 25 October 2013).

Notes:


[1] This article states that:

The son of missionary parents to China and Tibet, Dr. Wood holds a doctoral degree in pastoral theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and a juris doctorate from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, Calif. He did his undergraduate work at Evangel College in Springfield, MO and served the college in several capacities, including being director of spiritual life and student life from 1965-71. Dr. Wood was ordained with the Southern Missouri District in 1967 (‘General Superintendent Dr. George O Wood’, Accessed 25 October 2013).

[2] Steve Camp, ‘The Great Divide’.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 March 2017.

Interested in low interest rates? Try apologetics in the church!

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Full Trust

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

I was in a discussion on a Christian forum on the question, ‘Is Jesus God?’ A fellow responded:

I have the Bible to do that. If they don’t believe the Bible why woud (sic) they believe what some man says? You and I cannot convince anyone that Jesus was God. Only God’s Holy Spirit can lead people into the truth.[1]

Why was the ministry of apologetics dismissed in this response?

Our pluralistic world

I responded as follows:[2]

We live in a world that also has the Muslim Quran, the Hindu Vedas, the Book of Mormon, etc. How are you going to convince people that they ought to listen to the Gospel from the Bible?

The Mormons speak of a ‘burning in the bosom’ that awakened them to the ‘truths’ of Mormonism. How will you convince them that the Holy Spirit leading you into the truth is different from the burning in the bosom and that you have the truth?

Just believe

How would this person reply to such content?

I can’t convince them. It is not my job to convince gthem [sic]. If given the opportunity all I can do is tell them what I believie [sic] and why I believe it.  Then they are God’s problem….

All one can do with Mormons is show them where some things in the other writings, the BOM for example, contradict the Bible and wher [sic] some of the prophecies of past leaders did not happen.

Again I canot [sic] convince them of anything. All I can do is tell them wht [sic] I believe and why I beleive [sic] it. Then it is up to God.

I am in sales not management.[3]

This is an example of why the church is in such a sorry state with its ministry of pre-evangelism, known as apologetics. This ‘just believe’ mentality that it is not the Christian’s responsibility to convince anyone of the Gospel and to clear up difficulties with the Gospel, is expressed here as, ‘all I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it’ and the rest ‘is up to God’. This ‘just believe’ mentality is very damaging to the Christian’s and the church’s responsibility to exercise the ministry of apologetics when people have objections to the Christian faith.

It is also damaging to the promotion of thinking Christianity. Why are Christians required to ‘be transformed by the renewal of your mind’ (Rom 12:2) if they are not required to do some biblical thinking and living in the real world?

The problem with ‘only believe’ and apologetics

My response was as follows.[4] The problem with this fellow’s comeback is that it contradicts a command of Scripture, which is the primary reason for doing apologetics with people who have questions about the Christian faith, including questions about the reliability of the Bible.

This is what I find in the command of the fundamental statement of 1 Peter 3:15,

but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (ESV).

What is commanded of all Christians?[5] The command in the Greek language is translated at ‘honour’ in the ESV. Other translations have the meaning as:

 

  • ‘sanctify[6] Christ as Lord’ (NASB; NRSV; NAB);
  • ‘sanctify the Lord God’ (NKJV);
  • ‘revere Christ as Lord’ (NIV);
  • ‘you must worship Christ as Lord’ (NLT);
  • ‘set Christ apart as Lord’ (NET);

So Christians are commanded to honour, sanctify, revere or set apart Christ as the holy Lord and they do that by being ready/prepared to make a defence of the faith to anyone who seeks a reason for the hope that Christians have. They must always be prepared for an apologia (a defence of the faith). How is this to be done? It is delivered with gentleness and respect.

The exhortation here is that all Christians must honour Christ by being ready to do this. Whenever we come across someone who asks tough questions about the Christian faith, including penetrating questions such as, ‘Surely you are not telling me that you accept that Bible crap? (which someone said to me)’, we have to be ready to give a defence (an apologetic). What was this fellow recommending? His statement was that ‘it is not my job to convince them’. That is far from the exhortation in 1 Peter 3:15. All Christians, including this fellow, are commanded to give a defence of the biblical perspective. I found him to be diluting – even running away from – the biblical exhortation to be engaged in the pre-evangelistic ministry of apologetics.

Apologetics is pre-evangelistic in the sense that it is an attempt to provide answers to objections to the Christian faith that may be in the way of a person receiving the Gospel message. These are some of the primary objections I have struck over many years of proclaiming the Gospel and defending the Christian faith and have addressed them on this homepage.

3d-red-star-small The existence of God.

See:

A biblical theist responds to an atheist;

Evidence for the existence of God;

What is a biblical method for defending the Christian faith (apologetics)?

3d-red-star-small The trustworthiness, integrity and accuracy of the Bible.

See:

Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

3d-red-star-small The problem of evil and suffering.

See:

September 11 & other tragedies: Why doesn’t God stop it?

Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

Did God create evil?

Isaiah 45:7: Who or what is the origin of evil?

‘I will beat the hell out of God’;

Can God do anything and everything?

We may never come across anyone who doubts the authority and integrity of, say, the Bible, but we must be ready – prepared – to respond if someone asks. This is not being ready with this person’s remark, ‘All I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it.  Then they are God’s problem’. That is fobbing off our biblical responsibility.

Yes, we need to be ready to share the truth of what we believe, but we are to give a reason (an apologetic) to those who ask questions – even penetrating questions like, ‘You Bible people don’t seem to have an answer for all the garbage that is happening in the world like Syria, the Sudan, Afghanistan, 9/11, the Japanese tsunami, etc.’

Not everyone will need this kind of pre-evangelism, but when they do seek answers, we must be ready, willing and able to give an answer. This includes being prepared to reply: ‘Wow! That’s a penetrating question and I’ll have to think further about it. Can I get back to you?’

Heart faith and defense of faith

What is interesting and critical about 1 Peter 3:15 is that it links heart faith with defence faith. Those who honour Christ the Lord in their hearts are also those who are ready and prepared to engage in apologetics for the Christian faith. This is not a, ‘Just believe’, or ‘I tell them what I believe’, kind of response.

If Jesus is truly our Lord, we will want to be obedient to the command of 1 Peter 3:15 and not fob somebody off with, ‘This is what I believe and this is why I believe it’. Instead, we will be eager, prepared and ready to ask: ‘What questions do you have about the Christian faith? Let’s see if we can dialogue to find answers for you and if I don’t know the answers, I’ll seek them out and get back to you’.

First Peter 3:15 goes hand in glove with our biblical requirement in 2 Corinthians 10:5, ‘We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (ESV).

This requirement is that we, as Christians, not only confront the issues that trouble our own thinking, but also deal with the ‘lofty opinions’ of others that are raised against knowing God, the Bible and other aspects of the Christian faith.

This is some of what the ministry of apologetics involves, but this fellow on the forum fobbed it off with his statement: ‘Again I cannot convince them of anything.  All I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it.  Then it is up to God. I am in sales not management’.

Biblically, I find this to be a false perspective. He is in sales so he knows that there will be those who object to some features of the product and, if he is pressing for a sale, he will deal with the objections. It is his responsibility to give an apologetic for the Christian faith – he is commanded to honour Christ the Lord and to do that requires that he provide an apologetic response to questions about the faith.

Of course God is involved in convincing people of the truth of the Gospel, but that does not exempt him from engaging in pre-evangelism. He is commanded to engage in apologetics with everyone who seeks answers for their objections to the faith.

Will he become ready and prepared to do this with gentleness and respect? Or will he continue to fob off this responsibility?

Resorting to use of a logical fallacy

When I shared some of the above material with the fellow mentioned, these were some of his responses:[7]

  • I can and do answer such quesions [sic] but I cannot convince them they are true and neither can you.  Does everyone you explain the Scriptures to fall donw [sic] and worship God?  There is no command to convince anyone that the Scriptures are true.  Only God the Holy Spirit can do that’.
  • ‘I am prepared to do that and do when somone [sic] asks me to, but I have not convinced many that what I beleive [sic] is true’.
  • ‘When you tell me you have been 100% effective in convincing those who ask, get back to me’.

[8]Telling people what you believe and why you believe it is not the ministry of apologetics of 1 Peter 3:15. Apologetics is not declaration, but an endeavour to wipe away the cobwebs of doubt that are presented to us. It is pre-evangelism.

I told him that if his response to me is any guide, he doesn’t seem to be convinced of the need for the ministry of apologetics, so why would he want to give them an effective apologetic answer? I suggested that he become exposed to more of the teaching of Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig and Norman Geisler on apologetics. Geisler’s book, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker Books 1999) is a marvellous resource for so many aspects of an apologetic ministry with an evangelical Christian response.

When he stated, ‘When you tell me you have been 100% effective in convincing those who ask, get back to me’, he was using a straw man logical fallacy. At no point have I ever stated to this person or anyone else on Christian Fellowship Forum that I’m 100% effective in convincing people. Here he has used a straw man fallacy.

What’s a straw man logical fallacy? Dr. Michael C. Labossiere, professor of philosophy Florida A&M University,gave this definition:[9]

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of “reasoning” has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).

3. Person B attacks position Y.

4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Dedicated to 12 million Holocaust victims who suffered and died
at the hands of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime

When a person uses logical fallacies, it makes it extremely difficult – it is nigh impossible – to have a logical conversation. Therefore, I find it necessary to expose the use of logical fallacies in a conversation, especially online. I have engaged in discussions on other Christian forums in which I found it necessary to draw attention to such fallacies. Most will not admit to their fallacious reasoning. I think it’s often because they don’t understand what logical fallacies are and how they use them.

I find that in some/many TV and radio interviews, politicians are experts at using the red herring fallacy. No matter what question is asked by the interviewer, the politician has a political agenda he/she wants to push and will promote it, no matter what the question that was asked. Going off topic in the answer (a red herring) is commonly used by politicians when in mass media interviews.

In this person’s response to me on this Christian forum, there were also elements of a red herring logical fallacy. Dr. Lobossiere explained: ‘A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic…. This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim’.  [10]

Conclusion

Apologetics has reached a very low level of importance in the evangelical church, in my view, for these reasons:

  1. ‘To equip the saints for the work of ministry’ (Ephesians 4:12) is not high on the agenda in many of these churches. Getting a handful of leaders to do the ministry by themselves is standard fare in some churches. So equipping other believers is not a strong suit for pastors and teachers in such churches.
  2. Learning to defend the faith, using apologetics, seems to be left to leading public apologists for the Christian faith. A pastor said to me recently, ‘Whenever I have people with questions about evolution and creation, I refer them to Creation Ministries InternationalThey have lots of pertinent responses. I’m not equipped to do that’. Amazing! A pastor who doesn’t want to equip himself to an adequate level to be able to provide a ready apologetic for those who question creation.
  3. When one has a presuppositional approach, ‘Just believe’ and ‘I cannot convince you’, which is being defended in some churches, then evidential apologetics will not be considered a necessary ministry.
  4. I attended an evening presentation in 2013 by leading Indian cultural apologist, Vishal Mangalwadi, ‘What GOOD is Christianity?’
  5. At question time I asked him, ‘Why is the ministry of apologetics given such a low priority in today’s evangelical church?’ He pointed to the contemporary emphasis in churches on telling stories about the faith and this does not harmonise well with the nature of apologetics. I found this to be a pointed and true observation. See Mangalwadi’s book, The Book That Made Your World; How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (2011. Nashville: Thomas Nelson).
  6. I consider that there is an additional problem: Thinking Christianity is in short supply. In churches that place such a strong emphasis on the experience of knowing Jesus and the charismatic gifts (I am a supporter of such gifts), there is a problem integrating a warm Christian faith with logical, thoughtful, apologetic ministry. That’s why it’s important to emphasise 1 Peter 3:15 as these two ministries go together. They are both needed for the health of the Christian Church. However, there is a necessary biblical emphasis on the need ‘to be renewed in the spirit of your minds’ (Eph. 4:23) and Christians ‘have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ (Col 3:10).(Col 3:10).
  7. I don’t recall ever hearing a sermon by a regular pastor of a church on the need to be a thinking Christian who engages in logical discussions, exposes logical fallacies, and uses discernment in knowing when to stop a conversation in pre-evangelism when it becomes argumentative.

If this minimising of the ministry of apologetics is not rectified, there are grim consequences for Christian upper high school and university students who have their faith challenged in these places of learning.

Why is apologetics of such low interest in the church? It is not given the place it deserves by church leaders in equipping believers for the work of ministry (Eph 4:12) AND I suggest it could be that not enough Christians are seeking answers for some tough, challenging questions that are asked of them by unbelievers. Or, are too many Christians out of touch with unbelievers and their issues against the Christian faith?

Notes:


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Bible Study & Discipleship, ‘Is Jesus God?’, Kermit, who responds sometime as ‘k’ for kcdavis222, #9, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=6&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122312 (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[2] Ibid., ozspen #14.

[3] Ibid., kcdavis222 #16.

[4] Ibid., ozspen #20.

[5] For some of the following content, I used material from Norman L Geisler 1999. Apologetics, Need for, in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, p. 37.

[6] The footnote was ‘set apart’.

[7] kcdavis222 #21, loc cit., available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=16&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122312 (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[8] This is my answer at ibid., ozspen #24.

[9] The Nizkor Project 1991-2011, Fallacy: Straw Man, available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/straw-man.html (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[10] This quotation is courtesy of The Nizkor Project, Fallacy: Red Herring, available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/red-herring.html (Accessed 31 August 2013).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.