Archive for the 'Logical fallacies' Category

Question on religion: Australian Census 2016

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Australian 2016 Census form, Question 19 [1]

Image: question 19 on the paper 2016 Census Household Form.

(The above question is from the Australian paper 2016 Census Household Form)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

One of Australia’s online ejournals, On Line Opinion, agreed to publish my article, Is ‘no religion’ a new religion? (19 July 2016). At the time of last edit of this clip, there were 125 Comments on the article, which is a very high quantity, when compared with other articles. I’d recommend a read of this article to glean my concern over Q 19. ‘What is your religion?’ in the Australian 2016 Census to be taken on 9 August 2016. Instead of placing ‘No religion’ at the bottom of the options, as in 2010, it is now the first option.

Here are some of my own Comments (as OzSpen) to people who responded. They are organised according to topics, so will not be in chronological order:

A.  Definitions of religion

Direction

(image courtesy ChristArt)

designRed-small Space prevents my answering each one of you but I’m noticing some trends in your responses.

1. Ignoring the extended definitions I gave beyond the 1997 Macquarie Dictionary (large 3rd ed). I included information from eminent NT scholar who has taught at Oxford University, Prof N T Wright, and also by Michael Bird and James Anderson.

2. There was a range of logical fallacies committed (this is a limited number of examples):

(a) Appeal to Ridicule (‘Putting your religion on the census form just tells us that you are incapable of making sense of life and have resorted to some pre-packaged explanation for it all’, phanto Tues;

(b) Red Herring Fallacy (Plantagenet, Tues, THOR);
(c) Genetic Fallacy (Cobber the hound, Tues ‘A poor argument poorly made, well worthy of a PHD in religious studies’);
(d) Ad Hominem Fallacy (Suseonline, Tues, ‘Especially the far-right loonie-toons’). All of these involve fallacious reasoning.

3. Jardine (Tues): ‘Everything – every human action – amounts to worldview in action. If you go up the shop to buy some milk, that, according to your definition, is “religion”…. This means your theory is wrong. And useless’. For you to reach that conclusion, you didn’t carefully read the contents I gave of the meaning of religion and worldview.

4. Shadow Minister (Tues): You say that ‘most of us simply don’t believe in anything, and don’t give a crap what anyone else believes as long as they keep it to themselves’. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be making your comments here. Your argument is self-defeating.

Many of you disagree with the perspective I have presented. I didn’t expect much support or unanimity, but I thank you for engaging with the content of my article with OLO (contd).

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 7:25:33 AM

designRed-small This is a continuation of my observations of some of the comments you have made to my article.

1. AJ Philips (Tues), you say, ‘All the sophistry in the world won’t make atheism a religion’ and then you refused to read the rest of the article in which I defined my understanding of religion and worldview. Your refusal to read the article sounds awfully like a closed mind, yet you still interacted with others who had read the article! Andy Bannister disagrees with you. See ‘The Scandinavian Sceptic (or Why Atheism Is a Belief System)’.

2. One of the rules of OLO is ‘Do not flame’. I found several inflammatory comments: ‘I didn’t bother reading the rest of the article. When you can’t even grasp such basic definitions and concepts, or are dishonest enough to try to fit a square peg in a round hole, then there is no point in continuing’; ‘Environmentalism and the Loony Green Left are the new religion’; ‘the something from nothing brigade are certainly the most irrational believers we have today’; ‘Religion is like a penis’, and ‘Declaring synonymy between the two is blatant, self-serving balderdash’.

3. I will engage briefly with the more lengthy posts by Rational Razor, Form Designer, and Pogi later, as I have time.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 7:28:58 AM

designRed-small RationalRazor,

I refer to your Tues post. You are sounding more like a supporter of Hugh Harris’s promotion of secularism in schools and elsewhere.

1. Since you did not identify your source for a definition of secularism, I am left to conclude it comes out of the mind of RR. Your view differs from that of the Macquarie Dictionary (1997, 3rd ed. s v secularism), which gives the definition as ‘1. secular spirit or tendencies, especially a system of political or social philosophy which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship. 2. the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of the religious element’. It defines ‘secular’ as ‘1. Of or relating to the world; or to things not religious, sacred, or spiritual; temporal; worldly’. My article is contending that secularism is as religious as, say, humanism, environmentalism, consumerism, socialism, etc. The Rationalist Society of Australia’s ‘10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia’ is as forthright an example of a Statement of Belief as I’ve seen in any church or denomination.

2. It is not incongruous to claim secularism is at odds with Section 116 of the Constitution if one understands secularism is as religious as Christianity. If the Rationalists want to impose a secular 10-point plan on Australia, that would violate Section 116 if secularism is considered to be religion, having a worldview and praxis (see my article).

3. Your #3 point here is trumped up. My point is that I’m raising the issue that ‘No religion’ can be very religious once one understands the dynamics of the religious categories. My article has nothing to do with making Christians look better. It has to do with honesty about the nature of religion. (continued)

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 8:12:23 AM

designRed-small RationalRazor, (continuation)

4. Please provide the evidence for this point of yours (Tues post) that Australia regards religion as relating to ‘some sort of supernatural entity’. Your statement, ‘This is why ethics and philosophy cannot be taught at the same time as fundamentalist religious instruction in QLD Schools’. There is no ‘fundamentalist religious instruction in Qld schools’(I live in Qld). There is Christian religious instruction, Hindu religious instruction, Muslim religious instruction, etc. (depending on the distribution of such students – and availability of instructors). ‘Fundamentalist religious instruction’ is your pejorative imposition.

5. Of course people are entitled to say that they have ‘no religion’ on the Census of 9 August, but I’m raising the issue that it is a misnomer for many of the –isms around, including secularism, atheism, agnosticism, etc. You say, ‘Most secular people are united in wanting an end ot (sic) the conspicuous privileging of outdated and largely irrelevent (sic) Christian religious beliefs in our society’. This is an example of your promotion of a straw man fallacy against the accurate content of Christianity. I hope you live long enough to meet some people whose lives have been radically changed by an encounter with the living Jesus Christ who is not your anachronistic ‘outdated and largely irrelevant Christian religious beliefs’.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 8:15:40 AM

designRed-small Pogi (Wed),

Your Budget Macquarie Dictionary (3rd. ed 2000) does not agree with the citation I provided. I cited from my hard copy of the unabridged Macquarie Dictionary (1997 3rd ed. s v religion) as I stated in the article. It was the first definition. I wasn’t lying. You have the audacity to quote from the Budget Macquarie Dictionary 3rd ed 2000 but you didn’t bother to check the edition from which I quoted to demonstrate I quoted the truth from Macquarie.
You have invented what I did not say by using a red herring fallacy. You go to a definition of theology, which I did not provide. That wasn’t my emphasis. I provided the definition of religion as ‘a quest for the values of the ideal life’ that involved 3 practices:

(1) The ideal life,

(2) the practices for attaining the values of the ideal, and

(3) the theology or world view relating to the quest for the environing universe (Macquarie Dictionary (1997 3rd ed. s v religion). I didn’t invent any of this in the article. It was obtained directly from Macquarie. You are inventing a straw man when you try to dissociate religion from world view. This is not ‘self-serving balderdash’ (Appeal to Ridicule Fallacy) but what a dictionary designates.

It is obviously not what you like, but your analogies of things flying and things swimming do not float because I was dealing with a definition of how to pursue ‘the quest for the ideal life’ (Macquarie Dictionary). If you think things flying or swimming are a quest for the ideal life, so be it. I’m not into that kind of fantasy or speculation.

You claim, ‘We are made of the same stuff as the stars’. Are you kidding? With flesh and blood?
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 11:51:07 AM

B.  Census Form – redesign

The 2016 Census paper has the category, ‘No religion’, at the top of Q 19: ‘What is the person’s religion?’ See this comparison of 2011 and 2016 Census Forms (image courtesy Hugh Harris, October 31, 2015, New Matilda):

designRed-small Form Designer,

That’s a creative, alphabetical approach to the ‘What is your religion?’ question 19 on the Census form. I cannot imagine the ABS wanting to do your suggested detailed Q 19 for religion as that would require a similar approach to detail in every other question (but surely that is a reasonable request if the ABS is wanting comprehensive Census data).

If the Question remains – as it will be for Census 2016 – who do you think will be completing the ‘No religion’ category? Atheists, agnostics, secularists, environmentalists, socialists, etc.? My point is that the ‘No religion’ category is so poorly defined that the information gained would be essentially useless to decipher, as it tells nothing about those who comprise this group.

There’s the complicating factor that atheists and secularists (for example) wouldn’t like to be included in the broad definition of religion provided by the Macquarie Dictionary.

Ian Royall’s article in the Herald Sun (‘Campaign for “no-religion” census hits advertising block at major shopping centres’, 13 July 2016) admits this: ‘In the 2011 census, 4.7 million, or 22 per cent, chose the “no religion” box or wrote down atheism, agnosticism, humanism or rationalism in the “other, please specify” box’. At least some acknowledged that atheism, agnosticism, humanism and rationalism fit in the category of ‘other religion’. This is the point that I’m raising. They are religions, but are not often seen as such, but need to be exposed for what they are – religious.

The ‘no religion’ campaign for the 2016 Census is promoted by the Atheist Foundation of Australia Ltd, with campaign sponsors, Rationalist Society of Australia and Sydney Atheists (see http://censusnoreligion.org.au/).
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 11:43:28 AM

C.  Imposition on biblical text

designRed-small RationalRazor (Friday),

Your razor is not too sharp today with your presuppositional impositions on Christianity. This kind of statement by you is void of historical and biblical content: ‘”Accurate content of Christianity”? Please! Whatever could you mean? The unverifiable metaphysical claims? The fact that even Christians can’t agree with each other on the basic beliefs. Was Jesus born of a virgin? IS there a Hell? Which discrepant gospel is true? Does it not occur to you that the “accurate content” you speak of is founded upon unprovable assertions. As a well known physicist once said – unverifiable claims are “not even wrong.”’

Eminent Australian historian, Christian, and former teacher of history at Macquarie University, Sydney, Dr Paul W Barnett, begs to differ with you when he investigates “Jesus and the Logic of History” (1997. Leicester, England: Apollos). His assessment is that ‘for us today and for all who have lived beyond the lifespan of Jesus, he can only be the Christ of faith. Nevertheless, that those who lived after the first Easter were people of such faith is itself not a matter of faith but a historical fact… We stand on sure grounds of sound historical method when we reply that the Christ of the early church’s faith was, without discontinuity, the truly historical figure Jesus of Nazareth’ (Barnett 1997:35). I can cite eminent scholars who provide similar historical verification for the Old Testament.

Your presuppositional rationalism and secularism seem to be standing in the way of permitting the historical method to be used to assess details about the historical Jesus.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 12:17:48 PM

D.  Secular religion admitted

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

 

designRed-small Dear RationalRazor (Thurs),

Thank you for identifying that you are the Hugh Harris to whom I referred. I had a hunch you were that person, based on your style of writing and the content of posts.
You don’t like the idea of secularism being identified as a religion. However, it’s way too late to try to convince me otherwise.

Back as far as the late 1930s, there were writers identifying ‘secular religion’. I don’t like using Wikipedia as a source as it is not all that reliable. However its article on ‘secular religion’ is a starter of identification of the ideology of secular religion. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_religion. As World War 2 was approaching, F A Voigt, a British journalist who opposed totalitarianism, identified Marxism and National Socialism (Nazism) as promoters of ‘secular religion’.

Why? It was because of their fundamental beliefs in authoritarianism, messianic and eschatological views.

Paul Vitz has identified self-worship psychology as ‘secular religion’ (Vitz 1977:145).

Emilo Gentile wrote “Politics as Religion” (2006. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press). His first chapter deals with ‘secular religion’. He stated that

the sacralization of politics was given a further impetus during the nineteenth century by various cultural and political movements, such as romanticism, idealism, positivism, nationalism, socialism, communism, and racism, which all put forward global concepts of human existence by adopting various aspects of secular religions intent upon replacing traditional religions. These religions could be defined as religions of humanity…. Any human activity from science to history or from entertainment to sport can be invested with “secular sacredness” and become the object of a secular cult, thus constituting a “secular religion”. In politics, however, the term “secular religion” is often adopted as a synonym for civil religion or political religion…. The concept of a secular religion was therefore already in use by the thirties as a definition for the forms in which totalitarian regimes created political cults (Gentile 2006:xvi, 1, 2).

Therefore, your views promoted in this thread, and consistent with the Rational Society of Australia’s ‘10 point plan for a secular Australia’, fits succinctly under the rubric of secular religion.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 2:09:38 PM

E.  Confusion of religion with relationship with God

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

 

designRed-small G’day Yuyutsu (your Friday post),

You stated, ‘Secularism is not a religion because it does not help its practitioners to come closer to God’. I provided evidence to demonstrate that secularism was a religion or that there are a number of –isms that have been identified as ‘secular religions’.

Since writing my article for OLO, I have located the National Geographic’s, ‘The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion’ (April 22 2016). Available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnostic-secular-nones-rising-religion/.

This article states that

‘But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)’

My understanding, as a Christian, is that you seem to have confused religion with relationship. It was Jesus who stated, ‘’My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10:27). The way to move closer to God is to be one of his sheep so that one is able to hear his voice, know who He is, and follow Him. That’s called discipleship – based on a relationship with Jesus – and it is not defined as religion.

The Old Testament gives a similar emphasis: ‘This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ (Jeremiah 9:23-24) [continued]
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:13:29 PM

designRed-smallYuyutsu (Friday, continued),

However, the Christian faith does believe in pure religion and distinguishes it from worthless religion. This is how it is described: ‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (James 1:26-27).

So the pure, worthy Christian religion proceeds from a relationship with God the Father. It is behavioural and needs to tame the tongue, care for orphans and widows who are distressed, and keeps the person from worldly pollution This worldliness could include secularism, humanism, environmentalism, Communism, consumerism, unhealthy thinking, etc.

It is other-centred in behaviour and also cares about godliness in the individual.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:16:10 PM

designRed-small Yuyutsu (Sat 23 July),

You stated: <<We are all related with God, it’s impossible otherwise, but only some of us actively and consciously seek to come closer to Him. ‘Religion’ is the path that we take to approach God: if the path that we are on does not lead to God, then it cannot be called a “religion” – no matter how many dictionaries say otherwise.>>
That is not my Christian perspective that we are all related to God. We all are made in ‘the image of God’ (Genesis 1:27) but we are separated from God because of our sin: ‘But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear’ (Isaiah 59:2).

As for the word for ‘religion’ in James 1:26-27, I am well aware of what the Greek NT says as I read and teach NT Greek.

James 1:26 begins, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious’. It uses the adjective, threskos [e=eta], religious. The problem with this word is that this is the only time in the entire NT where the word is used as an adjective. We can’t compare other uses in the Bible because there are none. But when we go outside of the Bible to see its use in Greek, we find some answers.

James 1:26 begins, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious’. It uses the adjective, threskos [e=eta], religious. The problem with this word is that this is the only time in the entire NT where the word is used as an adjective. We can’t compare other uses in the Bible because there are none. But when we go outside of the Bible to see its use in secular Greek, we find some answers.

In the next verse, James 1:27, it speaks about ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God’. What is pure and undefiled? So ‘religion’ can be either worthless or worthy.
• In v. 27 the noun – threskeia [first e=eta] – related to the adjective from verse 26 is used. We find the noun in …
(continued)
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 10:02:13 AM

designRed-small Yuyutsu (Sat 23 July),
(continued)

We also find the noun in …
• In v. 27 the noun – threskeia [first e=eta]- related to the adjective from verse 26 is used. We also find the noun in …

• Acts 26:5 where Paul states that ‘according to the strictest party of our religion I lived as a Pharisee’ (ESV). What factors caused the Pharisees to be proud about their religion? The Pharisees were very influential at the time of Jesus and Paul. Pharisees meant ‘the separated ones, separatists’. John 9:16 helps us to see what kind of religion they were promoting, ‘Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them’. What did they require Jesus to do on the Sabbath? ‘There were 39 prohibited groups of activities on the sabbath’ for the Pharisees and they stressed the law that ‘contained 613 commandments (248 positive, 365 negative’. So what kind of religion is it from Acts 26:5 that Paul used to practise? It was external religion and that is the negative kind that James is talking about. It’s religion by external appearances.

Thayer’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning of threskeia [first e=eta] as ‘primarily fear of the gods; religious worship, especially external, that which consists in ceremonies’, while the noun, threskos [e=eta] refers to ‘fearing or worshipping God; religious (apparently from trew; to tremble; hence properly trembling, fearful)’.[3] So it is possible to perform external religious ceremonies from a correct motive. But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

There’s one other verse that uses this word for ‘religion’ in the NT:
• Colossians 2:18 states, ‘Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels’. There’s that word again, threskeia [first e=eta], ‘worship’. Here, worship of angels, which is talking about worthless religion.

James 1:26-27 uses ‘religious’ and ‘religion’ (adjective and noun) from the same root. James is careful to show the difference between worthy and worthless religion.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 10:31:55 AM

designRed-small Yuyutsu,

You don’t like the idea that religion is defined as ‘belief in deities’. In fact, you state it is a wrong definition.

‘Believe in’ is a legitimate way to describe what one does in relation to God or other deities. We see an example of this in the NT Book of Acts, chapter 16. The context involved the prisoners, the apostle Paul, his friend Silas and the other prisoners in Philippi. While Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God around midnight and the other prisoners were listening, there was a great earthquake that shook the foundation of the prison, the doors were opened and prisoner bonds were broken.
When the prison jailer (person in charge of the jail) woke to see this, he was so distraught that he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide. Paul shouted, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here’. The jailer’s response was to call for lights and he fell down trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. He exclaimed, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

Their response was, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household’ (Acts 16:31). ‘Believe in’ is the Greek, pisteuson peri [it should have been epi – my error], meaning, ‘believe upon/in’. It could have been pisteuson eis (i.e. believe into). The meaning of ‘to believe’ in NT terms means to put all of a person’s trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus. By this kind of trust of the inner being (the heart) of a person, he or she throws the personality into Jesus’ arms for deliverance from sin and to receive eternal salvation.

Epi, the preposition, is used to indicate this trust is to rest on Jesus. This is what the jailer had to ‘do’ to be saved.

Thus, ‘believe in’ God is a legitimate way of describing one’s commitment to God.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 1 August 2016 4:03:52 PM

F.  Use of logical fallacies

(image courtesy chopcow.com)

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that can throw a discussion way off topic and may even get to the point where continuing a discussion is nigh impossible. It is important to recognise, name and explain how these fallacies are used in discussion.

designRed-small RationalRazor (Saturday),

You claim ‘the razor is rational’ but then proceed to give a few irrational razors of responses. You suggest ‘beliefs merited by sufficient evidence’. But you violated that immediately with this statement: ‘Surely, you acknowledge that even if one accepts Jesus is a real historical figure, it doesn’t prove anything about God or Christianity? I accept that the balance of Biblical scholarship agrees there was a historical figure of Jesus, but they don’t agree on much more than his baptism and crucifixion’. You leave out a stack of evidence and then skew the evidence to try to justify your own secular, ‘rational’ reasons. They turn out to be irrational in this example.

Here you have used a faulty generalisation logical fallacy, which gives the meaning of this fallacy, ‘When a conclusion based on induction is unwarranted by the degree of relevant evidence or ignores information that warrants an exception’. So you have engaged in fallacious (erroneous) reasoning because you have not provided one scrap of evidence to demonstrate the reliability or otherwise of the OT and NT documents.

Instead, you have chosen to dump your rationalistic, secular, false views on me, by providing not one piece of evidence to show how documents are found to be historically reliable or unreliable. I have already cited Australian historian, Dr Paul W Barnett’s, views to refute your perceptions here (“Jesus and the Logic of History” 1997). Barnett has refuted your irrational reasoning regarding the NT in his other publications: ‘Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity’ (1999); ‘Is the New Testament history? (2003)’; ‘The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years’(2005); ‘Paul: Missionary of Jesus’ (2008); and ‘Finding the Historical Christ’ (2009).
(continued)

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:23:06 PM

designRed-small RationalRazor (Saturday, continued),

As for the OT, the late Professor Kenneth Kitchen, Personal and Brunner Professor of Egyptology at the School of Archaeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England, conducted research on the credibility of the OT, writing ‘On the Reliability of the Old Testament’ (2003 Eerdmans). He wrote: ‘We have a consistent level of good, fact-based correlations right through from circa 2000 B.C. (with earlier roots) down to 400 B.C. In terms of general reliability – and much more could have been instanced than there was room for here – the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all’ (Kitchen 2003:500).

You say, ‘The gospels did not form part of the earliest narrative and are wildly discrepant accounts of Jesus life, mostly borrowed from ancient myth’. I agree that the Gospels do not form the earliest narratives of the NT. They belong to the Pauline epistles and historian Paul Barnett acknowledged this as the point of entry into historical assessment of the NT in ‘Jesus and the Logic of History’ (1997:41ff). However, you continue with your faulty generalisation fallacies with description of the NT narrative as ‘wildly discrepant accounts of Jesus life’ and ‘borrowed from ancient myth’. I grant that a Comment section in OLO is not the easiest place to engage in detailed discussion of the historical viability or otherwise for any document from history. But this is not the place for you to dump your irrational presuppositions regarding discrepant, mythical accounts. Therefore, you have demonstrated that RationalRazor can become IrrationalRazor very quickly.

‘Does hell exist?’ And you want to discuss the Trinity. One of the rules of OLO is to stay on topic, thus violating this rule. To discuss whether hell exists is for a time when you are prepared to examine the evidence for the credibility of the OT and NT documents.

‘Not only is there no evidence, there is no consensus’, you say. That’s a red herring fallacy. This is fallacious reasoning.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 3:58:27 PM

designRed-smallRationalRazor,

It is you who stated that this information came from me: ‘The historicity of Jesus proves the “accurate content of Christianity”‘. I do not believe that; I did not state that; you have invented that about my views.

You are the one being obtuse by inventing something I did not say. So you have created a straw man fallacy about my views by creating a view I do not promote.

We have no basis to continue a rational conversation when you use the fallacious reasoning of a straw man fallacy in regard to what I wrote.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 9:26:18 PM

designRed-small Pogi,

You wrote: <<I think theist motives, when logically examined, are unintentionally acknowledging that the baggage that accompanies religious faith limits resort to logic, hinders rational reasoning and thus is disadvantageous to those so encumbered. Apparently martyrdom doesn’t always satisfy.>>

You have confirmed what a Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley for 30 years, Phillip E Johnson, concluded: ‘One who claims to be a skeptic of one set of beliefs is actually a true believer in another set of beliefs’ (1998).

You are sceptical of the views I wrote because of your own contrary set of beliefs.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 30 July 2016 12:14:57 PM

See my articles

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion.

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

coil-gold-sm Christians and their use of logical fallacies

coil-gold-sm One writer’s illogical outburst

coil-gold-sm Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic

H.  Conclusion

When I raised the issue of ‘No religion’ on the 2016 Australian Census form as possibly demonstrating that this was opportunity for a ‘new religion’ in an article for On Line Opinion (19 July 2016), the anti-Christians came out of the woodwork to label me with all sorts of false tags. The use of logical fallacies was evident throughout their replies. I don’t recall even one overt Christian who replied.

However, the issue needs to be exposed and even the National Geographic wrote an article this year to expose the ‘No religion’ category that may be rising in the Western world but is decreasing in the African world.

The Scriptures are clear that there are no such people as the ‘no religion’ school who do not know of God’s existence. This is stated clearly in Romans 1:18-20 (NIV), ‘

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

No human being on the planet will be able to stand before God and deny God’s existence because the truth of God’s invisible qualities (his eternal power and divine nature) are clearly seen in creation. This leaves human beings without excuse when they stand before God.

What causes their resistance to God? Romans 1:18 states it clearly: They ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’. From God’s perspective, he does not believe in atheists (see John Blanchard 2000).

I.  Notes

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015. ‘2008.0 – Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016’, released 28 August 2015 (Canberra Time). Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/2008.0~2016~Main%20Features~Religious%20affiliation~111 (Accessed 23 July 2016).

J.  Works consulted

(photo The Right Rev Dr Paul Barnett, Moore College, faculty)

Barnett, P W 1997. Jesus and the logic of history. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

Barnett, P W 1999. Jesus and the rise of early Christianity: A history of New Testament times. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press.

Barnett, P W 2003. Is the New Testament history? 2nd rev ed. Sydney South: Aquila Press.

Barnett, P W 2005. The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Barnett, P W 2008. Paul: Missionary of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Barnett, P 2009. Finding the historical Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Blanchard, J 2000. Does God believe in atheists? Darlington, England/Auburn MA, USA: Evangelical Press.

Gentile, E 2006. Politics as religion. Tr. by G Staunton. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Kitchen, K A 2003. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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.

Vitz, P C 1977. Psychology as religion: The cult of self-worship. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 July 2016.

Journalistic bias in an online newspaper

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

 

Newspaper-5

(image courtesy freeimages)

newspaper_nicu_buculei_01By 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. Fundamental 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: 30 November 2017.

 

Sproul damns Arminianism by association with semi-Pelagianism

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

R. C. Sproul (cropped).jpg   Divine Grace and Human Agency

(photo R C Sproul Sr., courtesy Wikipedia)  (book image, Rebecca Weaver, courtesy Book Depository)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Thumbnail for version as of 01:40, 17 July 2010

(image courtesy commons.wikimedia.org)

 

If you want to denigrate the theology of Arminians, associate them with some heretical or negative theology. Use a poisoning the well logical fallacy. Let’s explain this approach:

This sort of “reasoning” involves trying to discredit what a person might later claim by presenting unfavorable information (be it true or false) about the person. This “argument” has the following form:

1. Unfavorable information (be it true or false) about person A is presented.

2. Therefore any claims person A makes will be false.

This sort of “reasoning” is obviously deceptive. The person making such an attack is hoping that the unfavorable information will bias listeners or readers against the person in question and hence that they will reject any claims he/she might make. However, merely presenting unfavorable information about a person (even if it is true) hardly counts as evidence against the claims he/she might make. This is especially clear when Poisoning the Well is looked at as a form of Ad Hominem in which the attack is made prior to the person even making the claim or claims. The following example clearly shows that this sort of “reasoning” is quite poor in trying to communicate accurately (The Nizkor Project 1991-2012, Fallacy: Poisoning the Well).

1. Poisoning the well of Arminian salvation

(image courtesy slideshare.net)

 

Now apply this to Arminian theology, following this procedure:

1. Associate a person’s Arminian theology (whether true or false) with some heretical or questionable theology like Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism.

2. Therefore, the claims made by that person’s Arminian theology in relation to, say, salvation will be false.

R C Sproul Sr, an ardent and articulate Calvinistic teacher and advocate, did this when he stated:

If I am in the kingdom of God because I made the good response rather than the bad response, I have something of which to boast, namely the goodness by which I responded to the grace of God. I have never met an Arminian who would answer the question that I’ve just posed by saying, “Oh, the reason I’m a believer is because I’m better than my neighbor.” They would be loath to say that. However, though they reject this implication, the logic of semi-Pelagianism requires this conclusion. If indeed in the final analysis the reason I’m a Christian and someone else is not is that I made the proper response to God’s offer of salvation while somebody else rejected it, then by resistless logic I have indeed made the good response, and my neighbor has made the bad response.

What Reformed theology teaches is that it is true the believer makes the right response and the non-believer makes the wrong response. But the reason the believer makes the good response is because God in His sovereign election changes the disposition of the heart of the elect to effect a good response. I can take no credit for the response that I made for Christ. God not only initiated my salvation, He not only sowed the seed, but He made sure that that seed germinated in my heart by regenerating me by the power of the Holy Ghost. That regeneration is a necessary condition for the seed to take root and to flourish (Sproul 2009, emphasis added).[1]

Thus, Sproul has used a poisoning the well logical fallacy to try to discredit a person’s Arminian theology of salvation. Logical fallacies are dangerous when used in preaching, teaching and in conversations because they engage in erroneous reasoning. They make reasonable communication difficult or impossible. What has Sproul done with his example? He has made an attack on Arminianism by associating it with semi-Pelagianism, hoping that this unfavourable association will cause listeners to the Arminian to be biased against his or her teaching. The hope is that people will reject the claims of the Arminian – particularly in relation to salvation – and accept Sproul’s Calvinism.

However, Sproul, in making this poisoning the well fallacy of associating Arminianism with semi-Pelagianism, has made a fundamental mistake. He has not dealt with the theology of salvation that the Arminian presents. Poisoning the well by Sproul is a vicious attack against an Arminian view of salvation (Soteriology), but without having to deal with the Arminian’s elements of salvation.

Before we get to explaining semi-Pelagianism, we need to ask….

2. What is Pelagianism?

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

A Pelagian is a follower of Pelagius (ca. AD 260-340)[2] who was a British monk and theologian, described by Jerome as ‘weighed down with the porridge of the Scots’ (in Cairns 1981:137). He went to Rome about 400 and joined with Celestius to help formulate a view on how human beings can be saved. St Augustine of Hippo (ca. AD 354-430)[3] would not participate. Pelagius reached the conclusion that he

was more willing to give the human will a place in the process of salvation. But Augustine had found his will helpless to extricate him from the morass of sin in which he found himself because of his sinful nature.

Pelagius believed that each man is created free as Adam was and that each man has the power to choose good or evil. Each soul is a separate creation of God and, therefore, uncontaminated by the sin of Adam. The universality of sin in the world is explained by the weakness of human flesh rather than by the corruption of the human will by original sin. Man does not inherit original sin from his first ancestors, although the sins of individuals of the past generation do weaken the flesh of the present generation do weaken the flesh of the present generation so that sins are committed unless the individual wills to cooperate with God in the process of salvation. The human will is free to cooperate with God in the attainment of holiness and can make use of such aids to grace as the Bible, reason, and the example of Christ. Because there is no original sin, infant baptism is not an essential element of salvation (Cairns 1981:137).[4]

It would be expected that Augustine of Hippo would oppose such a view because he saw that it had these deficiencies: (a) It denied the grace of God by which ‘regeneration is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit’; (b) it rejected the view that the sin of Adam as head of the human race bound all human beings in sin; (c) it was a refusal to acknowledge that human beings’ wills are entirely corrupted by the Fall, i.e. denial of total depravity; (d) rejection of the teaching that human beings’ wills are so corrupted by the Fall that they are unable to exercise the will in regard to salvation. Pelagius’ views were condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431 (Cairns 1981:137-138).

Church historian, Earle Cairns, claims that the Pelagian vs Augustinian issues have been a perennial problem for the Christian church. ‘Twentieth-century liberal thought is only a resurgence of the Pelagian idea that man can achieve salvation by cooperation with the divine will through his own efforts’ (Cairns 1981:138).

2.1 Pelagian beliefs

Thumbnail for version as of 01:40, 17 July 2010What were some of the beliefs of Pelagianism that have caused so much theological heartache throughout church history? They were exposed in Augustine’s writings, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians. These beliefs include:

(i.) Whether Adam had sinned, or had not sinned, he would have died.

(ii.) The sin of Adam was injurious to no one except to himself; and therefore,

(iii.) Little children do not contract original sin from Adam; neither will they perish from life eternal, if they depart out of the present life without the sacrament of baptism.

(iv.) Lust or concupiscence in man is a natural good; neither is there any thing in it of which man may be ashamed.

(v.) Through his free will, as per se, man is sufficient for himself, and is able to will what is good, and to fulfill or perfect that which he wills. Or even, for the merits of works, God bestows grace on every one.

(vi.) The life of the just or the righteous in this life has in it no sin whatsoever; and from these persons, the church of Christ in this state of mortality are completed, that it may be altogether without spot or wrinkle.

(vii.) Pelagius, being compelled to confess grace, says that it is a gift conferred in creation, is the preaching of the law, and the illumination of the mind, to know those things which are good and those which are evil, as well as the remission of sins if any one has sinned, excluding from this [definition of grace] love and the gift and assistance of the Holy Spirit, without which, he says, the good which is known may be performed, though he acknowledges that this grace has also been given for this purpose — that the thing may be the more easily done, which can indeed be otherwise done by the power of nature, but yet with greater difficulty (in Arminius 1977b:389).

Arminius set out to refute Pelagius and concluded:

(i.) Our opinion openly professes that sin is the only and sole meritorious cause of death, and that man would not have died, had he not sinned.

(ii.) By the commission of sin, Adam corrupted himself and all his posterity, and rendered them obnoxious to the wrath of God.

(iii.) All who are born in the ordinary way from Adam, contract from him original sin and the penalty of death eternal. Our opinion lays this down as the foundation of further explanation; for this original sin is called, in Romans 7, “the sin,” “the sin exceedingly sinful,” “the indwelling sin,” “the sin which is adjacent to a man, or present with him,” or “the evil which is present with a man and” the law in the members.”

(iv.) Our opinion openly declares that concupiscence, under which is also comprehended lust, is an evil.

(v.) The fifth of the enumerated Pelagian dogmas is professedly refuted by our opinion; for, in Romans 7, the apostle teaches, according to our opinion, that the natural man cannot will what is good, except he be under the law, and unless the legal spirit have produced this willing in him by the law; and though he wills what is good, yet it is by no means through free will, even though it be impelled and assisted by the law to be capable of performing that very thing. But it also teaches that the grace of Christ, that is, the gift of the Holy Spirit and of love, is absolutely necessary for this purpose, which grace is not bestowed according to merits, (which are nothing at all,) but is purely gratuitous.

(vi.) The sixth of the enumerated dogmas of Pelagius is neither taught nor refuted by our opinion, because it maintains that Romans 7 does not treat about the regenerate. But, in the mean time, the patrons and advocates of our opinion do not deny that what is said respecting the imperfection of believers in the present life, is true.

(vii.) The seventh of the enumerated dogmas of Pelagius is refuted by our opinion; for it not only grants, that good can with difficulty be done by the man who is under the law, and who is not yet placed under grace; but it also unreservedly denies that it is possible for such a man by any means to resist sin and to perform what is good (Arminius 1977b:390-391).

So the exposure of the heretical Pelagian view, which is not that of Classical, Reformed Arminianism, leads to the question …

3. What is semi-Pelagianism?

Is a semi-Pelagian half a heretic since a Pelagian is a heretic? After all, in geometry a semi-circle is half a circle. See:

clip_image002(Fan wave spectrum mosaic, courtesy openclipart)

 

An Arminian-leaning theologian, even though he didn’t want to be identified as Arminian, Henry Thiessen, put Arminius’ interpretation of the imputation of Adam’s sin in the semi-Pelagian camp. He asserted that the Arminian theory was that human beings were sick and ‘the evil tendency in man may be called sin; but it does not involve guilt or punishment. Certainly, mankind is not accounted guilty of Adam’s sin’ until people consciously and voluntarily appropriate these evil tendencies by acts of transgression. This is a position held by the Greek and Methodist churches according to Thiessen (Thiessen 1949:261).

I would add that the Arminian position was what I was taught in Assemblies of God Bible colleges in Australia, Canada (PAOC)[5] and the USA. It was the view that was promoted at Ashland Theological Seminary (The Brethren Church), Ashland OH, when I was a student there in the early 1980s. So, Arminian theology is endorsed by other than Greek and Methodist churches.

Thiessen’s retort was that ‘according to the Scriptures, man sinned in Adam and is, therefore, guilty before he commits personal sin; that man’s sinful nature is due to his sin in Adam’ (Thiessen 1949:261). Is Thiessen correct about the Arminian imputation of Adam’s sin being semi-Pelagian? Arminian theologian, H Orton Wiley, expounded his Arminian position:

Not only are all men born under the penalty of death, as a consequence of Adam’s sin, but they are born with a depraved nature also, which in contradistinction to the legal aspect of penalty, is generally termed inbred sin or inherited depravity (Wiley 1952:98).

3.1 Theological attributes of a semi-Pelagian

Now let’s check out the nature of semi-Pelagianism beliefs. Pelagians do not believe in original sin and consider they have the natural spiritual abilities to respond to God and live fulfilled lives. This is an heretical view, as is that of semi-Pelagianism which ‘believes that humans have the ability, even in their natural or fallen state, to initiate salvation by exercising a good will toward God’ (Olson 2006:17-18). It is Olson’s view that ‘the gospel preached and the doctrine of salvation taught in most evangelical pulpits and lecterns, and believed in most evangelical pews, is not classical Arminianism but semi-Pelagianism if not outright Pelagianism’ (Olson 2006:30). When I attended a Canadian Pentecostal Bible college in the mid-1970s, one of the lecturers told the students he did not believe in original sin. That placed him in the Pelagian camp. I did not know enough about Pelagians at that time to be able to confront him gently – with knowledge of that heretical position.

Wiley accurately defines semi-Pelagianism as a mediating position between Pelagianism and Augustinianism:

It held that there was sufficient power remaining in the depraved will to initiate or set in motion the beginnings of salvation but not enough to bring it to completion. This must be done by divine grace (Wiley 1952:2.103).

In an attempt to rectify the wrong view of equating classical Arminians with semi-Pelagians, Calvinistic theologians, Robert Peterson and Michael Williams, stated:

The Arminians of the seventeenth century … held that the human will has been so corrupted by sin that a person cannot seek grace without the enablement of grace. They therefore affirmed the necessity and priority of grace in redemption. Grace must go before a person’s response to the gospel. This suggests that Arminianism is closer to Semi-Augustinianism than it is to Semi-Pelagianism or Pelagianism. The word Pelagian as a description of Arminians—or Roman Catholics for that matter—does them an injustice because it associates them with a theological tradition that is truly heretical (Peterson & Williams 2004:39).

4. Why the confusion of Arminianism with semi-Pelagianism?

Thumbnail for version as of 01:40, 17 July 2010Classical, Reformed Arminianism is not a version of Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism. Mark Ellis, a Calvinist, translated and edited ‘The Arminian Confession of 1621’. In its introduction, he wrote, ‘If one allows history to define labels, neither Arminius nor the Remonstrants were semi-Pelagian’ (Ellis 2005:vi).

Olson has identified some issues that impact on this Calvinistic association of semi-Pelagianism with Arminianism.

Why do so many Calvinists insist on identifying Arminianism as Pelagian or semi-Pelagian? This puzzles Arminians because of the great lengths they have gone to distance their theology from those heresies. Perhaps critics believe that Arminianism leads to Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism as its good and necessary consequence. But if that is the case, it should be stated clearly. Fairness and honesty demand that critics of Arminianism at least admit that classical Arminians, including Arminius himself, do not teach what Pelagius taught or what the semi-Pelagians (e.g., John Cassian) taught.

Closely connected with the charge that Arminianism is semi-Pelagian if not Pelagian is the accusation that it departs from Protestant orthodoxy by abandoning or rejecting monergism.[6] This was the line taken by Calvinist theologian and author Michael Horton in early issues of the magazine Modern Reformation, which he edits. In an infamous article attacking “evangelical Arminianism” as an oxymoron, Horton declares that “an evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman Catholic.”[7] He claims that Arminius revived semi-Pelagianism and that “Arminians denied the Reformation belief that faith was a gift and that justification was a purely forensic (legal) declaration. For them, it included a moral change in the believer’s life and faith itself, a work of humans, was the basis for God’s declaration”[8] (Olson 2006:81).

R C Sproul Sr.’s claim is that semi-Pelagianism ‘has always taught that without grace there is no salvation. But the grace that is considered in all semi-Pelagian and Arminian theories of salvation is not an efficacious grace. It is a grace that makes salvation possible, but not a grace that makes salvation certain’ (Sproul 2009). Really? That’s not what my research has discovered in examining the theology of Arminius and prevenient grace.

When R C Sproul was asked if Arminians were saved, he said, ‘Yes, barely. They are Christians by what we call a felicitous inconsistency’ (Sproul 1997:25).

(photo courtesy Baylor: George W Truett Theological Seminary)

Roger Olson, an Arminian, wrote:

Sometime late in the 1990s I heard a taped talk by R. C. Sproul where he simply used “semi-Pelagianism” as a synonym for “Arminianism.” In that talk (I don’t know where it was given) he divided evangelicals into two camps—“Augustinians” and “semi-Pelagians.” He treated semi-Pelagianism as a legitimate evangelical option (in contrast to Pelagianism) while criticizing it for minimizing the sovereignty of God. I could tell that by “semi-Pelagianism” he meant Arminianism….

In 2009 I wrote to Sproul and gently corrected his identification of Arminianism with semi-Pelagianism. I offered to send him the book[9] if he would read it. I received his reply dated July 17, 2009. He addressed me as “Dear Roger.” He wrote that “I do not identify semi-Pelagianism with Arminianism, but as you indicate in your letter, that I see it as a variety of semi-Pelagianism.… All Arminians are semi-Pelagians in the sense that we have a relationship of genus and species.” He went on to explain that what “differentiates all forms of Augustinianism from all forms of semi-Pelagianism at bottom is the question of the efficacy of prevenient grace.” According to him, Arminianism is semi-Pelagian because it denies that grace is effectual.

I sent Sproul a signed copy of my book and asked for his response. In it I argue that “semi-Pelagianism” is more than denial of the efficacy of grace for salvation; it is the affirmation of the human initiative in salvation – which Arminians deny. I did not receive a response, so I don’t even know if he read the book. (I have given it to several Calvinist acquaintances and asked them to respond. Most did not)….

But what about Sproul’s definition of semi-Pelagianism? I can say quite confidently that he is wrong. “Semi-Pelagianism” is not any denial of effectual grace (i.e., what is commonly called “irresistible grace”). Every scholar of historical theology knows that “semi-Pelagianism” is a term for a particular view of grace and free will that emerged primarily in Gallic monasticism in the fifth century in response to Augustine’s strong emphasis on grace as irresistible for the elect (Olson 2013).

In simple terms, a Pelagian pursues heretical teaching that denies original sin, elevates natural human ability to take the initiative to receive salvation and live the Christian life. Semi-Pelagianism also is an heretical doctrine that believes that fallen human beings, in their natural state, are capable of initiating salvation and exercising good will towards God. When conservative theologians declare synergism[10] to be a heresy, they should be referring to Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. Arminians agree with those heretical designations (Olson 2006:17-18).

Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange in AD 529. A summary of the Council’s semi-Augustinian decisions is found in Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, vol 3, § 160). Olson, in another publication, confirmed that semi-Pelagianism is heresy and he ‘wondered why a Catholic synod of bishops held so much weight for Protestants, but I agreed that semi-Pelagianism is biblically in error as well as seriously out of step with both Catholic and Protestant traditions (even if many in both folds fall into it out of ignorance)’ (Olson 2013).

By contrast, Arminius maintained the initiative in salvation was with God, so his view was contrary to Pelagian and semi-Pelagian theology. Let’s check out his views on these two heresies.

See the interview of Arminian theologian, Roger Olson, by Calvinist theologian, Michael Horton: ‘Arminian Theology: An Interview with Roger Olson’ (Modern Reformation, February 2007).

5. Arminius’s views on Pelagians and semi-Pelagians

(image courtesy commons.wikimedia.org)

 

In ‘An examination of the treatise of William Perkins’, Arminius dealt with the issues raised by Perkins and said, ‘The whole troop of Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians in the church itself do not know them’ (Arminius 1977c:289). Perkins was an English Calvinist who interacted with Arminius.

In addressing the false teaching of Pelagius, Arminius wrote of ‘the principal dogmas of the Pelagian heresy’. Of the seventh of Pelagius’ dogmas, Arminius wrote that it ‘is refuted by our opinion’. On further Pelagian theology, Arminius wrote that ‘our opinion is directly opposed to the Pelagian heresy’ (Arminius 1977b:389, 391, 397).

So it should be clear that Arminius should not be identified as a Pelagian as Arminian theology is markedly different to the heretical Pelagian doctrines because (a) All human beings are born sinful; they are born with original sin (Rom 5:12), and (b) salvation is not generated by human beings; it is from God (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:8-9) and needs God’s drawing power to experience it (John 6:44).

James Pedlar explains how Arminian theology is neither Pelagian nor Semi-Pelagian:

Semi-Pelagianism is a mediating position between Augustine and Pelagius which was proposed later. In Semi-Pelagianism, the initial step towards salvation is made by the unaided human free will. In other words, the human person is capable of deciding to turn to Christ in faith, without any divine assistance. After that initial step is made, the Semi-Pelagian position proposes divine grace is then poured out for the “increase of faith.” Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange in 529.[11]

Again, any responsible account of Arminian soteriology will make it clear that Arminians are not Semi-Pelagian. Arminians do not believe that human beings decide to exercise faith in Christ by an unaided act of the will. On the contrary, they affirm that, without divine grace, the fallen human person is incapable of turning to God. Prevenient grace frees the person so that such a response is possible.

What is distinctive about the Arminian position (as opposed to monergistic Reformed accounts) is that God’s grace is resistible, meaning that we can refuse his gracious offer of salvation. However, that hardly means that our acceptance of that offer is some kind of Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian meritorious “work” (Pedlar 2012).

Pedlar, an assistant professor of Wesley Studies and Theology at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada, wrote to demonstrate that Arminian theology is neither Pelagian nor Semi-Pelagian.

6. Arminius: Corrupt human beings need divine grace

In his brief exposition on ‘Grace and free will’, Arminius confirmed that the mind and affections of carnal human beings are obscure, dark, corrupt and unrestrained. This requires the special grace of God to enable human beings to experience God’s spiritual goodness. However, this grace must not do violence to the justice of God.

Arminius wrote:

Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace [praevenit] goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succor in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.

I confess that the mind [animalis] of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this that teacher obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil.

I do not perceive what can be further required from me. Let it only be pointed out, and I will consent to give it, or I will shew that I ought not to give such an ascent. Therefore, neither do I perceive with what justice I can be calumniated on this point, since I have explained these my sentiments, with sufficient plainness, in the theses on free will which were publicly disputed in the university (Arminius 1997b:472-473).

Olson’s summary statement was that ‘Arminius’s synergism places all the initiative and ability in salvation on God’s side and acknowledges the human person’s complete inability to do anything whatever for salvation apart from the supernatural assisting grace of Christ’ (Olson 1999:471).

Jr-copy-for-wiki.gif(photo R C Sproul Jr., courtesy Wikipedia)

 

R C Sproul’s son, R C Sproul Jr, wrote:

My own earthly father [i.e. R C Sproul Sr] has been known to answer this question [i.e. Do Arminians go to heaven when they die?] this way – Arminians are Christians, barely. What he is getting at, one should not be surprised, is wisdom. First, the problem. Why would we even have to ask? The difficulty is two-fold. First, we are blessed with the atoning work of Christ when we repent for our sins, and trust in His finished work on our behalf. How much of our sin must we repent for? All of it. In the Arminian scheme there remains in man a part of him that is still righteous, that part out of which comes his ability to choose the good as it is offered in the gospel. The Arminian is not, according to his theology, fully repentant. Second, we must trust in the finished work of Christ alone. In the Arminian schema, he trusts a great deal in the finished work of Christ, but trusts some in his own ability to choose the good. If a man believes that God does 99% of the saving, and man 1%, then that man is not truly saved. The Galatian heresy is dealing with just this issue….

I would suggest that heaven is full of Calvinists who affirmed with great vigor sola fide, but who in the dark recesses of their hearts, subconsciously, believed that God was pleased with them because of their fervor for sola fide, or because of their fidelity in keeping their quiet times, or their passion for honoring the Sabbath. We are all Pelagians at heart, even those of us who are dyed-in-the-wool Calvinists….

The Arminian says at the same time and in the same relationship, “It’s all Jesus” and “It’s mostly Jesus and partly me.” They are inconsistent, self-contradictory. In the end, those who most fully believe it’s all Jesus will be with Him forever. Those who more fully believe it’s Jesus and them (sic) will hear Him say, “Depart from me I never knew you.” To put it another way, we are justified by trusting in the finished work of Christ alone, not by articulating a doctrine of justification by faith alone. We too, we Calvinists that is, make it into heaven by a happy inconsistency. That is, we all have error in our thinking. And every error contradicts what is true. Were we to adjust the true things we believed to make them consistent with the false things we believe, we would all end up in damnable heresy.

We have to affirm, at the same time, that Jesus came to save sinners, but not all sinners. He will save those sinners to whom His Spirit gives the gift of faith. That will include those who don’t know where the gift came from, as long as they actually have the gift. We ought also to remember that if we are right on this issue, if Calvinism is true and Arminianism false, we are right by the grace of God, not our own wisdom. What do we have that was not first given to us? (Sproul Jr 2012, emphasis added).

Could that kind of teaching have influenced what a prominent Arminian supporter experienced in a private appointment with a student on a college campus? The student said: ‘Professor Olson, I’m sorry to say this, but you’re not a Christian’. The context was an evangelical, liberal arts college that did not have ‘an official confessional position on Arminianism or Calvinism’. The denomination that controlled the college and seminary had Calvinists and Arminians in its ranks. When Olson asked the student why this was so, the reply to this author and Arminian professor was, “Because my pastor says Arminians aren’t Christians’. Olson stated that the pastor was a well-known Calvinist who later distanced himself from that statement (Olson 2006:9).

See the YouTube video, an interview with R C Sproul, on ‘Why are Western Reformed Christians so influenced by Arminian theology?

R C Sproul Sr. again:

When I teach the doctrine of predestination I am often frustrated by those who obstinately refuse to submit to it. I want to scream, “Don’t you realize you are resisting the Word of God?” In these cases I am guilty of at least one of two possible sins. If my understanding of predestination is correct, then at best I am being impatient with people who are merely struggling as I once did, and at worst I am being arrogant and patronizing toward those who disagree with me.

If my understanding of predestination is not correct, then my sin is compounded, since I would be slandering the saints who by opposing my view are fighting for the angels. So the stakes are high for me in this matter.

The struggle about predestination is all the more confusing because the greatest minds in the history of the church have disagreed about it. Scholars and Christian leaders, past and present, have taken different stands. A brief glance at church history reveals that the debate over predestination is not between liberals and conservatives or between believers and unbelievers. It is a debate among believers, among godly and earnest Christians.

It may be helpful to see how the great teachers of the past line up on the question.

“Reformed” view Opposing views
St. Augustine

St. Thomas Aquinas

Martin Luther

John Calvin

Jonathan Edwards

Pelagius

Arminius

Philip Melanchthon

John Wesley

Charles Finney

(Sproul 2011:5-6).

Notice what Sproul Sr did? He falsely included Pelagius with the Arminian views when Arminius is a ‘Reformed’ view. In the ‘Reformed’ view he did not include the theologically liberal ‘Reformed’ scholars such as Paul Tillich (1886-1968), Karl Barth (1886-1968), Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976), Bishop James Pike (1913-1969), or Sir Lloyd Geering (b. 1918). Theologically liberal Arminians could include Charles Chauncy (1705-1787), Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766), and Henry Ware Sr (1764-1845), as well as conservative Arminians who included Adam Clarke (1760-1832), Richard Watson (1781-1833), William Pope (1822-1903), and John Miley (1813-1895).

Thumbnail for version as of 01:40, 17 July 2010The fact is that Classical Arminianism is a Reformed view. To his dying day, Arminius was a Dutch Reformed minister. At death he was ‘in good standing with the Dutch Reformed Church’, a Reformed denomination.[12] Carl Bangs is a leading scholar of the life and theology of Arminius, being the author of Arminius: A study in the Dutch Reformation (Bangs 1985). Olson’s summary of Bangs’ view of the Dutch reformer was that

Arminius considered himself Reformed and in the line of the great Swiss and French Reformers Zwingli, Calvin and Bucer. He studied under Calvin’s successor Beza in Geneva and was given a letter of recommendation by him to the Reformed church of Amsterdam. It seems highly unlikely that the chief pastor of Geneva and principle (sic) of its Reformed academy would not know the theological inclinations of one of his star pupils (Olson 2006:48).

What is a Reformed Arminian in the twenty-first century? Such an Arminian follows the primary doctrines articulated by Arminius and the Remonstrance. Matthew Pinson explains:

Reformed Arminians take their cues from Arminius himself and thus diverge from the mainstream of subsequent Arminianism. They are Reformed in their understanding of sin, depravity, human inability, the nature of atonement, justification, sanctification and the Christian life.  Reformed Arminians subscribe to the penal satisfaction understanding of atonement and justification by the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience to the believer. Thus, only by departing from Christ through unbelief—a decisive act of apostasy—can a Christian lose his or her salvation. Furthermore, they argue, apostasy is an irrevocable condition. These perspectives mark Reformed Arminians off from the mainstream of Arminian thought, since most Arminians disavow Reformed understandings of atonement, justification, and sanctification (Pinson 2002:15-16).

The battering of Arminianism continued from an eminent Calvinist:

7. J I Packer’s uncomplimentary remarks about Arminians

J. I. Packer (photo courtesy InterVarsity Press)

 

These quotes are from Packer (1958):

The “five points of Calvinism,” so-called, are simply the Calvinistic answer to a five-point manifesto (the Remonstrance)[13] put out by certain ‘Belgic semi-Pelagians’[14] in the early seventeenth century. The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation. (The charge of semi-Pelagianism was thus fully justified). From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first, that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal…. Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.

The denials of an election that is conditional and of grace that is resistible are intended to safeguard the positive truth that it is God who saves. The real negations are those of Arminianism, which denies that election, redemption and calling are saving acts of God. Calvinism negates these negations order to assert the positive content of the gospel, for the positive purpose of strengthening faith and building up the church….

The Calvinist contends that the Arminian idea of election, redemption and calling as acts of God which do not save cuts at the very heart of their biblical meaning; that to say in the Arminian sense that God elects believers, and Christ died for all men, and the Spirit quickens those who receive the word, is really to say that in the biblical sense God elects nobody, and Christ died for nobody, and the Spirit quickens nobody. The matter at issue in this controversy, therefore, is the meaning to be given to these biblical terms, and to some others which are also soteriologically significant, such as the love of God, the covenant of grace, and the verb ‘save’ itself, with its synonyms. Arminians gloss them all in terms of the principle that salvation does not directly depend on any decree or act of God, but on man’s independent activity in believing. Calvinists maintain that this principle is itself unscriptural and irreligious, and that such glossing demonstrably perverts the sense of Scripture and undermines the gospel at every point where it is practiced. This, and nothing less than this, is what the Arminian controversy is about….

This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the ‘five points’ are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen!…

Certainly, Arminianism is ‘natural’ in one sense, in that it represents a characteristic perversion of biblical teaching by the fallen mind of man, who even in salvation cannot bear to renounce the delusion of being master of his fate and captain of his soul. This perversion appeared before in the Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism of the patristic period and the later scholasticism, and has recurred since the seventeenth century both in Roman theology and, among Protestants, in various types of rationalistic liberalism and modern evangelical teaching; and no doubt it will always be with us. As long as the fallen human mind is what it is, the Arminian way of thinking will continue to be a natural type of mistake. But is not natural in any other sense. In fact, it is Calvinism that understands the Scriptures in their natural, one would have thought inescapable, meaning; Calvinism that keeps to what they actually say; Calvinism that insists on taking seriously the biblical assertions that God saves, and that he saves those whom he has chosen to save, and that he saves them by grace without works, so that no man may boast, and that Christ is given to them as a perfect Savior, and that their whole salvation flows to them from the cross, and that the work of redeeming them was finished on the cross. It is Calvinism that gives due honor to the cross….

Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity, natural only in the sense in which all such sins are natural, even to the regenerate…. Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh (emphases added).

So the eminent professor, J I Packer, has fallen for the Calvinistic trick of a poisoning the well fallacy by identifying Arminianism with heretical Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism, a label which he claims is ‘fully justified’. It may be a position adopted today by many who call themselves Arminians, but it is not the teaching of James Arminius, his immediate followers, and that of Classical Reformed Arminianism. It is an heretical version that has crept into churches. However, let’s be clear. What Packer calls Arminianism is not Arminian at all but it is prostituted Arminianism, a heresy that must be called semi-Pelagianism, to the exclusion of Classical Arminianism.

(image courtesy remonstrancepodcast.com)

 

The Five Articles of Remonstrance (A W Harrison translation) dealt with:

clip_image004 Conditional election

clip_image006 Unlimited atonement

clip_image008 Total depravity

clip_image010 Prevenient grace[15] [resistible grace]

clip_image012 Conditional preservation

Arminius: I can err but not be a heretic

This is a final word from Arminius himself concerning his teaching: ‘It is possible for me to err, but I am not willing to be a heretic’ (Arminius 1977b:475).

Conclusion

R C Sproul Sr associates Arminianism with semi-Pelagianism. He wrote: ‘I have never met an Arminian who would answer the question that I’ve just posed by saying, “Oh, the reason I’m a believer is because I’m better than my neighbor.” They would be loath to say that. However, though they reject this implication, the logic of semi-Pelagianism requires this conclusion’ (Sproul 2009).

Here he used a poisoning the well fallacy by associating the doctrine of salvation of heretical semi-Pelagianism with Arminianism.

Image result for clipart semi-PelagianIn this article, I examined the doctrines of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism to show that Pelagians deny original sin and promote the view that each person has the ability to choose good or evil and thus to choose salvation. It was demonstrated how Arminius refuted the teachings of Pelagius.

Semi-Pelagians hold that human beings have sufficient human power in the depraved will to initiate salvation but divine grace is needed to bring it to completion.

Both Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism were rejected by Arminius and his followers as heresy in the seventeenth century. Classical, Reformed Arminians contend that a person’s will is so corrupted by sin that it needs enabling, prevenient grace for redemption to take place. This grace comes prior to a person’s response to the Gospel. Arminianism is closer to semi-Augustinianism than semi-Pelagianism. It does an injustice to Arminians to place them in the same camp as heretical semi-Pelagians.

However, R C Sproul Sr claims the logic of semi-Pelagian Arminians means that they have made the ‘good response’ in accepting salvation in Christ. So, are Arminians Christian? Sproul Sr.’s response was, ‘Yes, barely. They are Christians by what we call a felicitous inconsistency’. His son, R C Sproul Jr went further than this conclusion: ‘In the Arminian schema, he trusts a great deal in the finished work of Christ, but trusts some in his own ability to choose the good. If a man believes that God does 99% of the saving, and man 1%, then that man is not truly saved’.

Arminius’ theology was that corrupt human beings need divine grace prior to redemption. He called this prevenient grace. See my articles to explain this grace:

clip_image013 Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?

clip_image013[1] Prevenient grace – kinda clumsy!

clip_image013[2] Do Arminians believe in election and total depravity?

clip_image013[3] Does God only draw certain people to salvation?

J I Packer, an outstanding theologian in many areas of doctrine, was fallacious in his reasoning at this point. Similarly to the Sprouls, he used a poisoning the well fallacy by associating Arminians with semi-Pelagians when he wrote of the Remonstrance that was put out by certain ‘Belgic semi-Pelagians’. The Remonstrance manifesto by Arminians led to examination and pronouncements by Calvinists against the Remonstrance at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) and the development of the summary TULIP doctrines of Calvinism.

Packer went further in committing a straw man fallacy by stating that Arminianism made a person’s salvation dependent ultimately on people themselves. He made the false accusation against Arminians that saving faith was ‘viewed throughout as man’s own work’. Arminius and Classical Reformed Arminians reject Packer’s caricature as false. His error is his wrong association of semi-Pelagianism with Arminianism and his failure to understand the doctrines of Classical, Reformed, Arminian soteriology.

Arminius understood that he could err but he was not a heretic. Some of the prominent Calvinists, quoted above, place Arminius in the heretical semi-Pelagian camp. The error Arminius made was that it was for later generations of theologians to examine his teaching. Sadly, some have concluded that he was an heretical semi-Pelagian. I place him in the orthodox, evangelical camp which regarded salvation as from the Lord. There was no salvation unless the Lord drew the person to salvation through prevenient grace, but that drawing could be resisted.

One of the difficulties faced in the contemporary evangelical church is that there is not enough preaching on this topic to gain clarity of understanding. So, as a result, many people in the pew seem to be semi-Pelagians in their practice of Christianity in thinking and behaviour with regard to salvation. It does raise the issue: Are these people saved if they are relying on self to initiate salvation.

I would find it encouraging and amazing to have a preacher expound these verses and their implications:

clip_image015 ‘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 ESV).

clip_image015 ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ (John 12:32 ESV)

Works consulted

Arminius, J 1977a The writings of James Arminius, vol 1 (online). Tr by J Nichols & W R Bagnall. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). Available at: Works of James Arminius, Vol. 1 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Accessed 11 December 2013).

Arminius, J 1977b The writings of James Arminius, vol 2 (online). Tr by J Nichols & W R Bagnall. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). Available at: Works of James Arminius, Vol. 2 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Accessed 11 December 2013).

Arminius, J 1977c. The Writings of James Arminius, vol 3. Tr by J Nichols & W R Bagnall. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. Available at: Works of James Arminius, Vol. 3 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Accessed 3 June 2016).

Bangs, C 1985. Arminius: A study in the Dutch Reformation. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church, rev & enl ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Ellis, M A 2005. Trams & ed, The Arminian Confession of 1621. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications (a division of Wipf and Stock Publishers).

Horton, M 1992. Evangelical Arminians? Modern Reformation 1(3), May/June. Available (with subscription) at: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=issuedisplay&var1=IssRead&var2=58 (Accessed 13 March 2016).

Olson, R E 1999. The Story of Christian Theology; Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Olson, R E 2013. R. C. Sproul, Arminianism, and Semi-Pelagianism. Society of Evangelical Arminians (online), July 4. Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/r-c-sproul-arminianism-and-semi-pelagianism/ (Accessed 1 November 2015). This article also is available at Patheos, February 23, 2013, at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/02/r-c-sproul-arminianism-and-semi-pelagianism/ (Accessed 13 March, 2016).

Packer, J I 1958. J. I. Packer’s introduction to a 1958 reprint of John Owen’s, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. London: Banner of Truth. Available at: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/packer_intro.html (Accessed 1 November 2015).

Pedlar, J 2012. Why Arminian theology is neither Pelagian nor Semi-Pelagian, 10 May. Available at: https://jamespedlar.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/why-arminian-theology-is-neither-pelagian-nor-semi-pelagian/ (Accessed 2 June 2016).

Peterson, R A & Williams, M D 2004. Why I Am Not an Arminian. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Pinson, J M 2002. Introduction. In J M Pinson gen ed, Four views of eternal security, 7-20. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Sproul, R C 1997. Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Sproul, R C 2011. Chosen by God, rev & updated. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Sproul, R C 2009. Grace alone. Tabletalk magazine (online). Ligonier Ministries, June 1. Available at: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/grace-alone-sproul/ (Accessed 1 November 2015).

Sproul Jr, R C 2012. Ask RC: Do Arminians go to heaven when they die? R C Sproul Jr (online), April 13. Available at: http://rcsprouljr.com/blog/ask-rc/rc-arminians-heaven-die/ (Accessed 1 November 2015).

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Wiley, J M 2012. Distinguishing Classical Arminianism from Semi-Pelagianism. A Blog for Theology & History (online), 16 December. Available at: https://johnmichaelwiley.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/distinguishing-classical-arminianism-from-semi-pelagianism/#_ftnref (Accessed 3 June 2016).

Wiley, H O 1952. Christian theology, vol 2. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

Notes


[1] From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org.

[2] Lifespan is from Cairns (1981:137).

[3] Lifespan is from Cairns (1981:146).

[4] At this point, Cairns acknowledged the assistance of Bettenson and Kidd for obtaining this information (Cairns 1981:483 n. 11)

[5] PAOC is the acronym for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, the Assemblies of God equivalent in Canada.

[6] Olson stated that ‘monergism especially means that God is the sole determining agency in salvation. There is no cooperation between God and the person being saved that is not already determined by God working in the person through, for example, regenerating grace. Monergism is larger than Calvinism’. Olson uses ‘monergism to denote God’s all-determining will and power to the exclusion of the free human cooperation or resistance’ (Olson 2006:19, emphasis in original).

[7] Here Olson is quoting Horton (1992:18).

[8] This is citing Horton (1992:16).

[9] The book is Olson (2006).

[10] Synergism refers to ‘belief in divine-human cooperation in salvation’ and Olson uses it in the sense that ‘it merely means any belief in human responsibility and the ability to freely accept or reject the grace of salvation’ (Olson 2006:13, 14).

[11] Some details of this decision are recorded in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol 3, §160).

[12] Christian History (online), ‘Jacob Arminius: Irenic anti-Calvinist’. Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/theologians/jacob-arminius.html (Accessed 3 June 2016). After Arminius’s death in 1609, it was a group of Dutch Reformed pastors and theologians that composed The Remonstrance (see next endnote).

[13] ‘The Remonstrance was prepared by forty-three or so (the exact number is debated) Dutch Reformed pastors and theologians after Arminius’s death in 1609. It was presented in 1610 to a conference of church and state leaders at Gouda, Holland, to explain Arminian doctrine. It focuses mainly on issues of salvation and especially predestination’ (Olson 2006:31).

[14] The footnote at this point was, ‘John Owen, Works, X:6’.

[15] The A W Harrison translation of this link was not available at the time of writing this article (3 June 2016), hence this link to the Dennis Bratcher (ed) edition of The Remonstrance.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 September 2016.

Logic and Christian discussions

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

function%20clipart

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.

Contentious theology: Falling away from the faith

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

(courtesy pinterest.com

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you want a warmed up or heated discussion in church or online in a Christian forum, raise a passage like this one, Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV), and contend that a person can fall away from the faith – commit apostasy!

A person quoted this verse and then stated, ‘The writer of Hebrews seemed to think that it is possible for Christians to fall away’.[1]

They were never Christians

This kind of response was predictable. I’ve encountered it many times during my 50 years of Christian experience:

The scriptures you’ve quoted above are NOT speaking about a child of God or Christians , as you put it, rather the word “some” in Heb 6:4 must be qualified, and these are they who are the Tares that God allowed to grow together with the Wheat in the church environment. The Tares are the unsaved and the Wheat the saved. In every congregations of the world, without exceptions, there are saved and unsaved people who gather together in the local churches. The Tares are those that will fall away although they heard the true Gospel preached (enlightened), and have tasted of the heavenly gift (salvation), and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit (communion).

The key verse in understanding Heb 6:4-6 is found in Heb 6:9 which do not speak about a child of God or salvation, but of unbelief which is explained in Heb 3:17-19.

God is the Author of the Bible and I don’t believe He intended that it is possible for His child to fall away!

2 Pet 2:20-22 are companion scriptures to Heb 6: 4-6.[2]

The context refutes that view

I responded:[3] This is not what the verses say in context, we read Heb 5:11-6:8 (ESV):

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

6 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

The context of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) is very clear that these people are those:

  • Who have become ‘dull of hearing’ (5:11).
  • By this time, for those for whom Jesus ‘became the source of eternal salvation’ (5:9), ‘ought to be teachers’ (5:12), i.e. Christian teachers, but they needed ‘someone to teach you again’ (5:12).
  • Teach what? ‘The basic principles of the oracles of God’ (5:12).
  • These Christians needed to go back to ‘milk’ and not be fed ‘solid food’ (5:12).
  • ‘Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness’ (5:13). So, the author is not talking about unbelievers but about those who are ‘unskilled’ in righteousness. He is not referring to those who do not know and experience righteousness.
  • He is addressing those who are children in righteousness (5:13). Nevertheless, they are Christians of righteousness, but still need milk as children of God when they should be more mature.
  • However, ‘solid food is for the mature’. These are those who have ‘powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil’ (5:14).
  • The author’s call is that these Christians ‘leave the elementary doctrine of Christ’ (6:1) – the milk – and ‘go on to maturity’ so that the foundation of Christ – repentance – will not be laid again. This problem they were encountering was a ‘foundation’ of ‘dead works and of faith toward God’ (6:1).
  • This elementary doctrine also included ‘instruction about washings’, ‘laying on of hands’, ‘resurrection of the dead’ and ‘eternal judgment’ (6:2). Obviously these kinds of doctrines were involved in these Christians’ belief in and teachings of the ‘milk’ of being ‘unskilled in the word of righteousness’ (5:13).
  • Then the author launches into the warnings of apostasy contained in Heb 6:4-6 (ESV), in which the teaching is that for those who apostatise from the faith by falling away, ‘they are crucifying once again the Son of God’ (6:6), thus making it ‘impossible to restore [them] again to repentance’ (6:4).
  • Then comes the analogy of  land that has absorbed the rain that falls, produces a crop for those who cultivate it and the blessing is thus received from God (6:7).
  • But if that crop ‘bears thorns and thistles’, ‘it is worthless’ and is ‘cursed’ and ‘burned’ (6:8).

So, it is possible for Christians to feed on the milk instead of the food and be immature in their faith and then become vulnerable to the temptations to apostatise and fall away from the faith.

That’s the context of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) as I understand it. It is addressing Hebrew Christians who are warned that they could apostatise BUT ‘in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation’ (6:9). Who are the ‘beloved‘? Christians, of course!

The writer of Hebrews had this longing for the believers to whom he addressed this letter: ‘We desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises’ (Heb 6:11-12 ESV).

So the writer is dealing with immature Christian believers who had been feeding on milk instead of solid food. For these, the temptation to fall away from the faith was always a possibility. But for these Hebrew Christians, the writer desired better things – perseverance in the faith.

I don’t believe the context, based on this reasoning, allows us to say that these people were ‘NOT speaking about a child of God or Christians’ (the language of the person on the forum). They were immature Christians who could be tempted away from the faith and fall into apostasy.

So close, but not a Christian

Image result for cross public domain(www.clipartlord.com)

 

How do you think this person would respond to the above exposition? Here goes:

Unfortunately, the passage concerned is Hebrews 6:4-6 which speaks that there will be “some” (in a church setting), who will fall away.

I was merely responding to Barrd’s post #10 where she claimed those who will fall away are Christians, just as you do but in a different twist, by saying these who fall away are also Christians but unskilled in the doctrines of Christ. I have yet to read in the Bible that anyone lacking in the knowledge of scriptures cannot be saved!!

We are not saved because of knowledge of Scripture.

FYI, the gist of Hebrews 6:4-6 is about someone who was brought so close to salvation but rejected it!

Consider these scriptures which are self explanatory:

1Jo 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Heb 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

Heb 3:17-19 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

To God Be The Glory.[4]

What has he done here?

Red herring fallacy in place of evidence

Red Herring Clipart(courtesy clipartsheep.com)

 

This fellow has done what many Christians resort to. My response was that I am flabbergasted that I provided an extended examination of the context to demonstrate the nature of the salvation that the people of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) had. He refuted not a word of this, but then gave this red herring logical fallacy:

‘FYI, the gist of Hebrews 6:4-6 is about someone who was brought so close to salvation but rejected it!’

Could I be wasting my time in providing this person with an exposition in context? Seems so![5]

This person is imposing his view on the text. In biblical interpretation, this is called eisegesis, that is, ‘The reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, of a meaning that is not supported by the grammar, syntax, lexical meanings, and over-all context, of the original’ (Exegesis v. eisegesis).

Conclusion

Hebrews 6:4-6, when examined in context, demonstrates that it is speaking about Christians who are so immature in the faith that they are still being fed on spiritual milk.

They are so weak in the faith that they do not persevere but are tempted away from the faith and may even commit apostasy.

A person who had a pre-commitment to once-saved-always-saved theology could not accept this explanation so engaged in fallacious reasoning by committing a red herring logical fallacy. It’s impossible to have a logical conversation with anyone who uses a logical fallacy and will not deal with the illogic of his or her views.

Therefore, Heb 6:4-6 teaches that it is possible for Christians living on the milk of the Word to be so immature in the faith that they can fall away from the faith. This apostasy is so serious that they cannot be restored to repentance, which means they are lost permanently because ‘they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt’ (Heb 6:6).

It is serious charge to make against Scripture to make it say what it does not say. To the contrary, those who promote eternal security and deny apostasy are teaching false doctrine.

Notes


[1] Christianity Board, Christian Theology Forum, ‘The Law & The Gospel’, The Barrd#10, 8 October 2015. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21997-the-law-the-gospel/#entry263608 (Accessed 12 October 2015).

[2] Ibid., Jun2u#18.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[4] Ibid., Jun2u#20.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#22.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 December 2015.

Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion[1]

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

By Spencer D Gear

Image result for logical fallacies public domain

(courtesy Google public domain)

It is so easy for people to be engaged in a topic in person, in a lecture, or online and use illogical reasoning. I encountered this in two locations recently, one was in an online newspaper and the other was in a Christian forum. Before examining how this happened, I need to define the nature of logical fallacies.

A. Definition of logical fallacies

What is a logical fallacy? 20WL Online Writing Lab (Purdue University) provides this definition:

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 (‘Logical Fallacies‘).

This Purdue University link gives examples of these logical fallacies, naming of them and how they are used.

B. Examples of fallacies

clip_image002

(By Openclipart)

One of the most helpful lists and explanations of fallacies I’ve found has been The Nizkor Project Fallacies. One of the most common fallacies I hear or read Christians and others use is the red herring fallacy. This is 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” has the following form:

1. Topic A is under discussion.

2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).

3. Topic A is abandoned.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious [i.e. deceptive] because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim (The Nizkor Project – Red Herring).

This is an example of how I have heard Christians use this deceptive reasoning (it happened to me recently at a meeting for a Member of Parliament who is an evangelical Christian).

1. Topic A: That Christian MP supports traditional marriage and not homosexual marriage; he’s convinced God invented marriage and heterosexual marriage is God’s order for humanity.
2. Topic B: That makes him a lousy Christian with such intolerance.
3. Topic A was abandoned.

C. An example from an online newspaper

clip_image003

(courtesy Click2Houston)

There was an article in the Brisbane Times,[2] 13 September 2015, ‘Campaign to legalise nude beaches in Queensland’.[3] In the ‘Comments’ section at the end of this article, I responded as Dougie:[4]

 

In this story, one person from Poona stated: ‘You would think that perverts and blokes like that would probably come along as well and we don’t want them in Poona that’s for sure’. That’s exactly what happened at Maslin Beach SA.

On 15 February 1975, Maslin Beach, 40km from Adelaide’s CBD, became Australia’s first legal nudist beach.[1] In 2004, a 36-year-old male paedophile abducted three boys, aged 8, 9 and 10 at an Adelaide park, and took them for a naked swim at Maslin Beach. The boys were not found until the next day. The paedophile “pleaded guilty to abducting the boys and was found guilty of causing them to expose their bodies for his prurient interest” and was jailed for three years.[2]

One nudist went public in Qld., stating that “legal nude beaches have been a part of life in several Australian states and territories for many years without any problems.” [3] The Maslin Beach conviction refutes that idea. We can discover many other problems worldwide associated with nudist beaches.

Notes

[1] CNN Travel, 21 Nov 2011, ‘Naked, wet, free: 15 sexy skinny dips’. Available at: http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/escape/worlds-15-greatest-places-skinny-dip-520132 (Accessed 13 September 2015).
[2] ABC News, 8 July 2005, ‘Man jailed for three years for triple abduction’. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2005-07-08/man-jailed-for-three-years-for-triple-abduction/2054254 (Accessed 13 September 2015).
[3] Paul McCarragher, ABC News Wide-Bay, 21 December 2005, ‘Clothing-optional beaches: A nudist’s perspective’. Available at: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.nude/DWhiDufMnMg (Accessed 13 September 2015).

Commenter Dougie, Location Brisbane, Date and time: September 13, 2015, 6:30AM

What kinds of further responses do you think my comment would elicit? Here are four samples of how those with comments about my post avoided dealing with my content by their use of logical fallacies (you can read several other comments to see further examples):

1. One response:

So on the basis that 30 years after a nudist beach was approved a pervert- who abducted 3 boys somewhere else took them there. we should ban nudist beaches. so. by your logic (and I use the word loosely) if he had taken them to a park we should close all parks – good job he didn’t take them to coles and woollies.[5]

2. Another: Go nude south of the border

Just want to mention that for Brisbane / Gold Coast residents that there is a perfectly legal nudist beach south of the border. It’s called Tyagarah Nature Reserve . As this is a National Park an entry fee of $7 applies.. There is (sic) eco toilets available there as well.[6]

3. Clothes-free everywhere in Europe

Seriously, what is all the fuss about. Clothes free beaches are everywhere in Europe and there doesn’t seem to be any moral decline there. The notion of these areas attracting the wrong type of people is ridiculous. If anything, these beaches should be closer to major centres where the Police can react if required rather than choosing a remote beach that is difficult to access and is unpatrolled by lifesavers. We are supposed to be all about jobs, jobs, jobs and increasing our tourist numbers. Perhaps this could actually help.[7]

These are classic examples of a red herring fallacy. They deal with the content of my post, but present a different view to divert attention from the information I presented. It’s a misleading response and is used to avoid the specifics of the issues I raised. There are also aspects of an appeal to mockery fallacy in bluebird’s response as mockery/ridicule is used as a substitute for evidence to deal with what I had presented as an example for not supporting nudist beaches.

I did respond to Andrew and the claim about free beaches in Europe and no moral decline. I wrote:

So you think, ‘Seriously, what is all the fuss about. Clothes free beaches are everywhere in Europe and there doesn’t seem to be any moral decline there. The notion of these areas attracting the wrong type of people is ridiculous’. There is other evidence.

Are there any reports from Europe of the negative consequences associated with nudist beaches? Let’s check 2 examples:

a. At an ‘open beach’ at Huk, Oslo, Norway, nudists ‘are being increasingly harassed by photographers, flashers and vulgar requests and police have had to respond several times’ in the summer of 2005. ‘I don’t go to Huk any more,’ according to a 52-year-old woman who wanted to remain anonymous. Why? She asked the police to intervene ‘after feeling threatened by a man on the beach’. [1]

b. So, Andrew, is there any other evidence of moral decline? Nudists want more than just nudist beaches for sun baking and swimming. In Holland, a beach for public sex is wanted: ‘The Dutch Naturists Federation (NFN) has called on the government to set aside certain beaches for people who like to have sex in public. Naturists feel that displays of public sex do not belong on regular nudist beaches, a spokesperson for the NFN said in a radio interview…. Public sex involving couples and orgies in the open air are also said to [be] a growing phenomenon.’ [2]

And you want to convince readers and me of no moral decline? Could you have a blind spot or is your reading selective?

Notes

[1] ‘Flashers pester nudists’, Aftenposten: News from Norway (Online), 12 August 2005. Available at: http://vikings.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=537 (Accessed 14 September 2015).

[2] Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 10 August 2005, ‘Not under our boardwalk, we’re naturists’ (Dutch naturists want beach for sex in public). Available at: http://www.expatica.com/nl/news/country-news/Not-under-our-boardwalk-were-naturists_131516.html (Accessed 14 September 2015).[8]

4. How do you think another would respond to my comments about what is happening in Europe and the moral decline?

This person stated:

Dougie the nudists in Holland are merely saying they want people who want to have sex on a beach to go elsewhere. Get their own beach. Because Nudists don’t want that on our beaches.[9]

This person again:

So how many paedophiles have there been in churches? Perhaps we should consider closing churches since they obviously attract perverts. The perverts are textiles not nudists. That paedophile in South Australia also bought the boy smokes and alcohol so perhaps we should ban any shop selling cigaretts or any pub in Australia as well?[10]

My reply to this person was, ‘Marskete, your response, like many others in this thread, is a red herring logical fallacy. It does not address the details that I addressed in my post of 14 Sept.’[11] When posters are off and running with their own agendas and not dealing with the specific content of my posts, they have committed red herring fallacies. Logical discussion is, therefore, hijacked in this situation.

D. An example from a Christian forum

I started a discussion on Christianity Board (CyB) about this same issue of logical fallacies being used by posters. I started a thread, ‘Logical fallacies hijack discussion’:[12] In the thread, ‘The doctrine of OSAS‘, a couple of us have been discussing the serious repercussions of Christians using logical fallacies in discussions on CyB. We have noticed some Christians violating the laws of logic in that particular thread.

I provided some of the above information in the CyB thread. Here are some of the responses that demonstrate that people either don’t know what they are doing or deliberately hijack the discussion.

1. One hijacker: Man’s reason instead of Holy Spirit

This fellow wrote:

Whatever happened to the Holy Spirit, or is He just a figment of mans (sic) imagination?

Oh but we have the bible. books, cds, dvds colleges who need Him any more, lust just trust mans reasoning (sic).

oh_14:26  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Oh how it would be that man could just trust God.[13]

My reply was as follows: ‘Here you are giving us a red herring logical fallacy. You have demonstrated my very point. Don’t you understand what you have done with your kind of response as a red herring? I’m not sure you know what a logical fallacy is when you violate the logical rules of discussion like you have done with this post’.[14]

This fellow continued with a clanger:

never seeing a red heering (sic)…what do they looklike (sic), do they taste nice.

Logical reasoning, trying to fit God into teh (sic) image of man… bible speaks of that somewhere.

There is no logic to God, His ways are not our ways His thoughts not ours.. No matter how big a box you create you will not fit Him in it.

In all His Love[15]

designRed-small The howler is, ‘There is no logic to God’. I couldn’t let him get away with that one. Here is my retort:[16]

You seem to be living in another world where you claim that there is no logic to God. Come on, mate! What kind of a Bible do you read? Is it a Bible with words, grammar, sentences, paragraphs (semantics)? If it is, these are examples of God demonstrating his logical results in the universe.

The mere fact that you are attempting to converse on this forum with a logical discussion demonstrates that God has given you the ability to attempt to be logical.

However, you have built a straw man fallacy here with your view that ‘there is no logic to God’. That is an irrational, straw man fallacy. God has built logic into his universe, but because of the fall of human beings into sin, we botch up logic like you have done with your response to me.

We cannot have a logical conversation when you want to deny the very logic that God has built into the universe to be able to communicate on this forum.

I call you to be a reasonable man who learns the nature of logical fallacies and quits using them.

designRed-small His comeback was:

Remember Saul, Pharisee of Pharisses (sic),

considered all his learning as dung compared to knowing the risen Lord…after his eyes where (sic) opened and when He became Paul.

God is spirit, and the time is when we must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

In all His Love.[17]

This super spiritual perspective needed a rejoinder. I wrote:[18]

You have given another demonstration of what the OP shows. You have responded with a red herring logical fallacy.

Why is your response here a red herring fallacy? It is because you have presented an irrelevant topic when the topic of the thread is ‘Logical fallacies hijack discussion’. You have tried to divert attention from this topic to try to convince others and me that, like Saul the Pharisee, learning is as dung when compared with knowing the risen Lord. It is deceptive (fallacious) reasoning for these reasons:

(1) The topic under discussion is logical fallacies and how they hijack discussion.

(2)  You have introduced a totally different topic – like Saul, the Pharisee, learning is as dung.

(3) Therefore, you have abandoned the topic of this thread. This exposes your diversionary tactic (the red herring fallacy).

Your kind of reasoning sounds spiritual but it really promotes falsehood because your changing the topic of discussion to what you want to talk about does not engage with the arguments presented in the OP (original post), ‘Logical fallacies hijack discussion’. It’s an example of a dishonest approach to the topic. Your dishonesty is in hijacking the discussion. You have given a perfect example of the topic of the OP.

I urge you to get back to the promotion of truth by dealing with the topic of the OP and not intruding with your own self-generated topic of diversion.

2. Another response

clip_image004(Socrates, Wikipedia)

These are four points from another’s reply:

I don’t want to debate the use of this system or philosophy or rules of engagement (for lack of a better term), but I do want to bring up a few questions.

(1) What would this system do with one who uses the Socratic Method of reasoning? That is, one who asks a series of questions in order to find a better and concrete conclusion.

(2) What of Ecc 12:13 which tells us to hear the conclusion of the whole matter?
I ask these first two questions because it seems to me that one could dismiss an arguement (sic) too early. In other words, someone can make a statement which to you may not be relevant when if you’d hold your peace, the relevance will appear.

(3) What shall we do with the apostles, servants and even Jesus himself who appear (at least on the surface) to violate such rules?
I have 4 examples in mind, but let me expound on one: In Matthew 12 we find the Pharisees criticizing Jesus and his disciples for picking corn and preparing it on the Sabbath. Jesus starts his reply by talking about David eating the shewbread. Now, he (Jesus) quickly offers a second point and then a third to make his entire response valid. But initially, he was talking about David and the shewbread while the Pharisees were talking about working on the Sabbath. That alone seems tp (sic) be a red herring argument (sic). Like I said, Jesus quickly brought it into relevance, but my point is that Jesus did point to sonething (sic) else outside the initial complaint. Which of course, brings us back to tge (sic) importance of hearing the conclusion.

(4) Is it possible that this system could self destruct? Again, lack of a better term. But I have seen questions posted which are baiting in nature. That is, the question is so carefully asked that theree (sic) is only one answer which is logical, yet the question itself is flawed? All objections to the question can be dismissed by waving the red herring flag or any other of these fallacy flags. No, I don’t have an example to present, but I’m sure that veterans of this board have seen it before.[19]

My answer to him was:[20]

I want to acknowledge that you have some excellent points here that must be considered in any discussion on this topic. However, the OP deals with mistakes in reasoning, which many Christians seem to be ignorant of or deliberately use to divert attention away from a certain topic.

I briefly answer your 4 questions:

(1)  There would be no problem with my engagement with someone using the Socratic method of reasoning with a series of questions. The problem of logical fallacies would arise with, say, a red herring fallacy if those questions were not directed to the topic being discussed.

(2)  I do not disagree with your understanding of Eccl. 12:13 (the KJV gives the better understanding, ‘Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter’, which seems to be a more accurate understanding than the ESV: ‘The end of the matter; all has been heard’. I’m not a KJV-only). Logical fallacies deal with errors of reasoning and not with failure to reach conclusions. It is not rejecting the conclusion or rejecting the notion of waiting until all is heard. They are fallacies of engagement in discussion or debate – in reaching that conclusion.

(3)  I’m not opposed to hearing the conclusion. It is the kind of reasoning that is included. If I were to jump in and say something like, ‘That is not dealing with the topic I raised so it sounds like a red herring to me’, Jesus would legitimately respond: ‘I’m getting to a conclusion that is directly related to your topic and so is this example I’m giving’.

(4)  Could the system self destruct? Possibly, but we are talking about errors of logic/reasoning. Those errors could be challenged to be truthful instead of errors, but evidence would need to be presented for me to understand better what is being claimed. Since God has built logic into the universe, logical errors are subject to being influenced by sinful human beings. Of course there is the possibility that errors regarding logical fallacies could be made.

I don’t regard logical fallacies as a philosophy but as exposing flaws of reasoning. Could someone hide behind exposing logical fallacies? Perhaps. However, it is more likely (as seen in CyB) that people hide behind their use of logical fallacies in derailing a thread and highjacking (or hijacking) a topic.

3. That hijacker again

designRed-small Another usurper gave his two bits on the Christian forum:

I ask God so I can get a better understanding of the bible. He isnt (sic) dead you know,

God is teh (sic) God of the living not the dead.

I would rather know God and Jesus than teh (sic) bible. Knowing the bible cant (sic) save you.

Php_3:8  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

And he was a very learned man, Pharisee of pharisees he called himself.[21]

What has he done here? This is how I replied: You have erected the straw man logical fallacy.

So you would rather know Jesus than the Bible?? You can’t know Jesus apart from the revelation of Jesus IN the Bible. That’s the false view you have created with your straw man fallacy.[22]

E. Logical fallacies trip up Christians

clip_image005How do you think Christians could use the following logical fallacies? Let’s use the topic of this article as an example.

6pointColored-small Ad hominem;

‘Only stupid people like you would dare to blaspheme the Holy Spirit by forcing us to examine logical fallacies. What idiotic stuff!’

6pointColored-small Begging the question (circular reasoning);

‘Logical fallacies are corrections of logical errors. Of course I believe in them, including ad hominem, hasty generalisation, red herring and straw man’.

6pointColored-small Genetic fallacy;

‘You only believe in these stupid fallacies because they were taught to you by that philosopher of logic in Uni. If it weren’t for him, you wouldn’t believe this unspiritual stuff’.

6pointColored-small Poisoning the well;

‘You shouldn’t take any notice of this fellow’s teaching about logical fallacies because he’s an Open Theist who doesn’t believe that God is absolutely sovereign in the universe. Don’t believe a word he says about logical fallacies. He’s a Open Theist bad egg’.

6pointColored-small Straw man.

‘John exposes logical fallacies, has a position at University X in the theology department, and teaches that God is absolutely sovereign in the universe. But Bill, one of his fellow faculty members, presents Open Theism in that department and claims that John is really an advocate for modified Open Theism. Therefore, it is false to claim that John supports God’s absolute sovereignty’.

F. Be specific when identifying fallacies

In identifying logical fallacies that a person uses, it is important to state the exact fallacy that is being used. Why should that be?

Firstly, it labels the specifics so that any person with a knowledge of logical fallacies can check the accuracy of the nature of the logical fallacy used so that the person can be challenged. Secondly, it demonstrates that the accuser also has an exact knowledge of the content of the fallacy about which he/she is accusing the presenter.

Logical fallacies are serious impediments to logical discussions in any sphere of debate or conversation. I missed one of these recently at a small political gathering. I was engaged in a discussion with three other people where a former councillor at a local council was part of the conversation. I talked about a former leading politician whom I labelled as arrogant. The councillor chimed in, ‘But he was such a friendly person. Whenever he came to a group, he would be moving among people and greeting them, shaking hands and speaking openly with them’. I realised later that I should have said, ‘That’s a red herring’. How come? My topic was talking about the politician’s cockiness. I was not dealing with his friendliness. I should have said nicely, but firmly, ‘That’s a red herring’. If the councillor objected, I’d say, ‘I was discussing how the politician presented himself on the media as an egotistical individual. I was not talking about his sociability. Now, let’s talk about his narcissistic bent’. However, I missed out on that conversation. I was wise after the fact.

G. Conclusion: What to do about fallacies

It is a common contemporary trend in both the secular and Christian worlds to highjack debates and discussions through the use of logical fallacies. These fallacies need to be exposed in gentle and specific ways. It doesn’t matter whether it is in private conversation or in a public meeting or debate. Know the major logical fallacies that people use and call them out when they use them.

Do not simply accuse a person of using a logical fallacy. Name the fallacy and be capable of explaining its nature.

Notes


[1] Some of this material is based on a thread I started as OzSpen at Christianity Board, ‘Logical fallacies hijack discussion’, 19 September 2015. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21931-logical-fallacies-hijack-discussion/ (Accessed 19 September 2015).

[2] I live in Brisbane, Qld., Australia.

[3] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/campaign-to-legalise-nude-beaches-in-queensland-20150912-gjl98l.html (Accessed 13 September 2015).

[4] Part of my statement is a grab from my article of 2011, Nudist beaches not smart idea for the Smart State.

[5] Ibid., Brisbane Times, bluebird of Brisbane, September 13, 2015, 3:40PM.

[6] Ibid., dodgeymech, Wellington Point, September 14, 2015, 9:13AM.

[7] Ibid., Andrew, South Brisbane, September 13, 2015, 10:45AM.

[8] Ibid., Dougie, Brisbane, September 14, 2015, 12:34PM.

[9] Ibid., Marsketa, Coolum Beach, September 17, 2015, 6:28PM.

[10] Ibid., Marsketa, Coolum, September 14, 2015, 10:33PM.

[11] Ibid., Dougie, Brisbane, September 16, 2015, 5:45PM

[12] OzSpen#1, 19 September 2015, available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21931-logical-fallacies-hijack-discussion/ (Accessed 20 September 2015).

[13] Ibid., mjrhealth#5.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#7.

[15] Ibid., mjrhealth#9.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#12.

[17] Ibid., mjrhealth#13.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#17.

[19] Ibid., FHill#15.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#34.

[21] Ibid., mjrhealth#39.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#40.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

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.

Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

Monday, June 8th, 2015

clip_image002

Logic portal (Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

On a semi-regular basis, I meet a fellow on a Christian forum who delights in condemning other Christians and me by his use of logical fallacies.

Here are a few examples he used:

Christianity comes out of that primitive era, and unlike other fields of endeavor, philosophy, social systems, science — remains largely mired in Iron Age thinking. Hence my perfectly reasonable comment — imagine if we relied upon primitive Iron Age thinking when it came to medicine, etc.[1]

Here he uses a question begging logical fallacy.

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?

When someone uses such a fallacy, it is almost impossible to have a logical conversation with that person 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.

Begging the question fallacy

This is how I replied to David’s ‘Christianity comes out of that primitive era’ and is ‘primitive Iron Age thinking’:

This is your question begging fallacy again. Since you say Christianity ‘remains largely mired in Iron Age thinking’ you are inferring that ‘Iron Age thinking’ is what you will expect from Christianity today and you would NOT expect that to happen in medicine, etc.

You will never be able to handle the Christian worldview until you give [up] your logical fallacies of (1) question begging and (2) ridicule. When will you admit your use of logical fallacies against Christians and a Christian worldview on this forum?

I read your posts very carefully and I can see the fallacious reasoning. I’m no dummy when it comes to logic.[2]

God Eyes

ChristArt

Anti-Christian antagonist’s appeal to ridicule fallacy

The non-Christian, David’s, response was:

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.[3]

My reply was:

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.[4]

David started this thread by citing a Christian, Judith, who wrote: ‘The supreme God of the universe is an enigma, therefore atheist (sic) find it too complicated to believe in him’. His response to her was:

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.

Little children love fairy tales and mythology, so indoctrinating them from their earliest years pays dividends for a lifetime.[5]

This kind of accusation against the Christian faith of ‘superstition’, ‘unquestioning adherence’ and ‘clownishly arrogant willingness’ cannot go unchallenged in my estimation as an evangelical Christian who believes the Gospel. So, my response to him was:

Your ‘clownishly arrogant’ accusation (appeal to ridicule fallacy) 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 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 from 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.[6]

To another poster, Cheryl, I wrote:

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 agnostism 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).[7]

In another response to me, David wrote:

Has it occurred to you that one of the central purposes of a religion — more or less any religion — is to provide answers to life’s mysteries? 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 it didn’t have an origin story, or didn’t have a plan for thwarting evil, or didn’t give purpose to life, or didn’t give hope in life, or didn’t make one feel better about our inescapable deaths?

Islam answers those 4 questions. So do various Native American religions. So does Judaism, which doesn’t hold that Christ is the messiah.[8]

My reply was:

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 that Christianity is

  • ‘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 your 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.

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.[9]

God's Ears

ChristArt

Conclusion

David is but one example of a non-Christian who loves to ply his antagonism against Christians on a Christian forum and uses logical fallacies to try to side-track Christians from the real discussion. The core issues involve

a. the reliability of the Scriptures; see my articles:

clip_image004 Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

clip_image004[1] Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

clip_image004[2]Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

clip_image004[3] Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

b. the Gospel message, which includes

The Content of the Gospel . . . and some discipleship

c. eternal life or eternal damnation.

clip_image006Can people KNOW they have eternal life in this life?

clip_image006[1] Does a Christian experience eternal life NOW?

clip_image006[2] Continue in the faith to guarantee eternal life

clip_image008 HELL & JUDGMENT

clip_image008[1] Is hell fair?

clip_image008[2] Is there literal fire in hell?

clip_image008[3] Hell in the Bible

clip_image008[4] Are there degrees of punishment in hell?

clip_image008[5] Facts about Hell

clip_image008[6] Torment in Old Testament hell? The meaning of Sheol in the OT

clip_image008[7] ‘I will beat the hell out of God’

Christians also are capable of using logical fallacies in their discussions. See my article, Christians and their use of logical fallacies.[10]

For further discussions on logical fallacies, see also:

clip_image009 Logical fallacies hijack discussions (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image009[1] One writer’s illogical outburst (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image009[2] I highly recommend the site, The Nizkor Project, that includes a list and explanation of the many logical fallacies with exposition by Michael Labossiere (1995).

clip_image010

Works consulted

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

Notes


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Public Affairs, ‘Superstition Vs. Eyewitness/Faith/Historical Document’, David Woodbury #37, June 6, 2015. Available at: http://christianfellowshipforum.com/ (Accessed 8 June 2015).

[2] Ibid., ozspen #41.

[3] Ibid., David Woodbury #47.

[4] Ibid., ozspen #51.

[5] Ibid., David Woodbury #1.

[6] Ibid., ozspen #42.

[7] Ibid., ozspen #45.

[8] Ibid., ozspen #50.

[9] Ibid., ozspen #52.

[10] Christian Forums is a very large forum at: http://www.christianforums.com/. I’ve encountered some who use various fallacies on this forum, but especially the red herring fallacy and the straw man fallacy. On this forum I normally hang out among Baptists, Salvation (Soteriology), Soteriology debate, and Christian Apologetics as OzSpen.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

One writer’s illogical outburst

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

File:Logic portal.svg

Logic portal (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

How should we deal with a journalist who writes an op-ed piece in a popular newspaper online and uses unreasonable tactics? I am choosing to expose this writer’s illogical devices.

John Birmingham,[1] for the Brisbane Times, wrote an opinion piece, ‘For God’s sake, how did he get out?’ (February 6, 2014).[2] Part of Birmingham’s cynicism was:

I’m sorry, Kentucky. We could have kept him here, you know. We have a large containment facility where we store all of our Ken Hams, a free range Wallyworld we like to call the Sunshine State. I’m not sure how Ham got out of the Queensland high school system where he had been teaching – ahem – science, and made his way to your fair shores, but, sorry about that.

This is part of his ‘comment’ on the USA debate between Australian-born creationist and former Queensland science school teacher, Ken Ham, and popular scientist, Bill Nye. The debate was held at the Creation Museum, Petersburg, Kentucky, on February 4, 2014, and the debate was titled: ‘Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?’. All of the criticism was against Ken Ham, the creationist. I did not read one piece of critique of Bill Nye’s views. In fact, apart from identification of Nye as one debater, I didn’t read a thing about Nye’s views. There was only one snippet of news grab video associated with the article. It was nothing more than a grab one would get from a TV news bulletin. To listen to the debate, see, ‘Bill Nye debates Ken Ham’.

We will notice that John Birmingham used logical fallacies in his article and some of the comments which follow use logical fallacies that create situations where it is impossible to have a logical discussion. Reasonable conversation becomes futile. “Wallyworld’ labelling is using an ad hominem fallacy. Hang on, as I attempt to explain.

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?

When someone uses such a fallacy, it is unattainable to have a logical conversation with that person as the person 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.

I struck an example of an illogical discussion in this well-known journalist’s article in an opinion piece in an online newspaper.

Birmingham’s use of logical fallacies

Back to Birmingham’s cynicism and tactics in his article. He stated that

I’m sorry, Kentucky, that Ken Ham had nothing better to offer in argument than biblical passages and a weird new division between ‘observational science’ and ‘historical science’ which seemed to be based on a deeper categorical separation between ‘confusing thinky stuff often involving big sums’ and ‘awesome bible stories which would be even more awesome with a hard-rockin’ but not too hard Christian rock soundtrack.’

a. Appeal to ridicule

Notice his tactics:

  • ‘Ken Ham had nothing better to offer in argument than biblical passages and a weird new division between “observational science” and “historical science”’ (Birmingham 2014).

Here Birmingham committed the logical fallacy known as, ‘Appeal to ridicule fallacy’,[3] also known as ‘appeal to mockery, the horse laugh’. Labossiere explained the nature of this fallacy:

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 (Appeal to ridicule fallacy: Labossiere 1995).

Birmingham’s appeal to ridicule continued: ‘“confusing thinky stuff often involving big sums” and “awesome bible stories which would be even more awesome with a hard-rockin’ but not too hard Christian rock soundtrack”’.

Birmingham is not dealing with the issues raised by Ham or Nye; he is only interested in scoffing at Ham’s tactics in the debate. It is a fallacious tactic using the illogic of an appeal to ridicule fallacy.

The ridicule continued against Ken Ham:

I promise you, Kentucky, this will not happen again.

We’ll get Mr Ham back here and make sure he’s securely confined again where he belongs. Teaching science in the Queensland school system (Birmingham 2014).

The ridicule is used to avoid dealing with the issues Ken Ham raised in the debate. It is obvious that Birmingham is against the content of Ham’s portion of the debate but not once in this article did he engage his readers with the evidence Ham raised. Birmingham’s points were to denigrate Ham and what Ham considers is a biblical position on creation. Birmingham’s view was:

We have a large containment facility where we store all of our Ken Hams, a free range Wallyworld we like to call the Sunshine State. I’m not sure how Ham got out of the Queensland high school system where he had been teaching – ahem – science, and made his way to your fair shores, but, sorry about that.

That’s another appeal to ridicule. It’s a despicable tactic to avoid dealing with the issues raised. It’s a scoffing ploy to avoid fronting the matters Ham advanced. It is sloppy, illogical journalism that is meant to divert attention from the content of the debate.

Birmingham did it especially with the title of his article, ‘For God’s sake, how did he get out?’ He detests biblical creation, but has no problem using ‘God’ in what seems like a blasphemous way. ‘How did he get out?’

He’s talking about how he got out of Queensland, Australia with this language: ‘Border control somehow slipped up and let Ken Ham out of the country’; ‘Ken Ham out of the country’, ‘I’m not sure how Ham got out of the Queensland high school system’, and ‘we’ll get Mr Ham back here and make sure he’s securely confined again where he belongs. Teaching science in the Queensland school system’.

But there is more….

b. Ad hominem fallacy

Birmingham’s use of logical fallacies continued. As an adjunct at the end of his article, he wrote an ‘updater’ in which he gave his assessment of those who made comments to his article:

Vintage comments below. Who’d a thunk a blog about nut job creationism would bring out the nut job creationists. I’d be fascinated for all the fairy tale fans who comment today to add some extra data. Just for me. If you believe the world was created in six days, could you also tell me whether you find the science of climate change to be (a) compelling, or (b) a conspiracy of super wealthy lab coat wearing geeks (Birmingham 2014)

Notice what he does here.

· He uses ‘thunk’, which is crass language for lack of thinking by idiots. The Urban Dictionary gives the meaning of ‘thunk’ as, ‘Hillbilly terminoligy for thought’ (Urban dictionary 2004. S v thunk). Another definition was, ‘bastardization of thought. Used only by idiots with poor grammar’ (Urban dictionary 2003. S v thunk).

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘Nut job creationism’;

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘Nut job creationists’;

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘Fairy tale fans who comment’;

blue-corrosion-arrow-small Six day creationists: Could you ‘tell me whether you find the science of climate change’ compelling or a conspiracy?

‘Thunk’ and ‘nut job’ are designed as name calling or an attack against the person. What is this? It is known as an ad hominem fallacy and is illogical (fallacious) reasoning:

An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of “argument” has the following form:

1. Person A makes claim X.

2. Person B makes an attack on person A.

3. Therefore A’s claim is false.

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made) [Ad Hominem: Labossiere 1995].

c. Red herring fallacy

What is Birmingham doing when he asks, ‘Six day creationists: Could you “tell me whether you find the science of climate change” compelling or a conspiracy?’ The topic is six day creationism but he goes to ‘the science of climate change’. What is he doing? He’s switching topics. He doesn’t want to discuss the topic he raises, ‘six day creationists’, but goes to what he wants to discuss – climate change. This is known as a red herring fallacy because he switches topics but going to an irrelevant topic that is not related to the theory put forward by six day creationists.

What’s the nature of a red herring fallacy? It’s also called a smoke screen or a wild goose chase.

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” has the following form:

1. Topic A is under discussion.

2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).

3. Topic A is abandoned.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim (Red Herring: Labossiere 1995).

Birmingham’s model set for the commenters

I took the opportunity to respond online to Birmingham with a comment:

I have come to respect the Brisbane Times as a reliable online news service.

That objectivity flew out the journalistic window with this comment.

John Birmingham’s cynical sarcasm of the Nye-Ham debate on creationism and science was an example of bias. The assessment of the debate in, ‘Clash over worldviews’ (Creation Ministries International), at least treated the content of the Nye vs Ham debate seriously. But that would be too creationist savvy for Birmingham.

Now is the time for the Brisbane Times to present a balanced perspective by asking a creationist, say from the Brisbane-based Creation Ministries International (that employs PhD scientists), to respond to the debate and publish in the Brisbane Times.[4]

File:Nicolas P. Rougier's rendering of the human brain.png

Nicolas P. Rougier’s rendering of the human brain.png (courtesy Wikipedia)

The rant and rave

Then came the predictable tirade of comments against what I, a reasonable and responsible Christian, wrote. Let’s examine a few of the comments:

a. Ad hominem

Here’s one of them:

Dougie,
I hold responsible CMI, Church of ‘Christ’ or whatever the whackos call themselves and people like you for the following-
Back around 1999 2000 I was studying with a young man at tertiary Level in the subject of Physics.
We were lab partners and I very much enjoyed his company.
He left Uni after succumbing to the shit that causes brain and knowledge cancer called ‘Christianity’.
I am Christian, but the shit these cults use is very potent.
Like suicide bombers going to heaven in ISlam I guess.
Messes their heads up right and proper.
I tried after a plea from his family to call him back from picking nuts for some ‘church’.
Slave Labour in other words.
I don’t know where he is but I wish him well.
This type of ‘Religion’ is a mental illness.[5]

Note his ad hominem attacks, ‘the whackos … and people like you’; ‘the shit that causes brain and knowledge cancer called “Christianity”’; ‘the shit these cults use’, ‘Slave Labour in other words’. These are illogical ad hominem fallacies that prevent reasonable discussion of the issues raised.

To say, ‘I am Christian’, and then speak about ‘the shit that causes brain and knowledge cancer called “Christianity”’, smacks of hypocrisy.

Then this person is using another fallacy.

b. Genetic fallacy

He blamed CMI [Creation Ministries International], Church of ‘Christ’, ‘Christianity’ and me (he doesn’t even know me apart from what I wrote) for what happened to a young man studying physics with him.[6] Blaming other organisations, Christianity and me for causing this situation is using a genetic logical fallacy where ‘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’ (Genetic fallacy: Labossiere 1995).

Another commenter perpetrated the same fallacy when he wrote:

I roared with laughter when commenter Dougie suggested that Creation Ministries International, the Brisbane based Young Earth Creationist outfit, be asked to provide some context or commentary on the debate.
Dougie must have a short memory. Ken Ham committed a fraud against CMI when he stole CMI’s magazine subscriber base. When CMI filed suit against Ken Ham for “unbiblical, unethical, and unlawful behaviour”, Ken Ham shot straight back claiming CMI staff had “spiritual problems”, including inferring they had issues with “immorality, witchcraft and necrophilia.”

The dispute dragged on, acrimoniously, from 2005 to 2009, confirming to Christians and non-Christians alike that neither Creationist outfit neither understands or follows the teachings of Jesus. Hardly surprising.[7]

Observe his approach. He did not deal with the issue I raised but used the conflict about fraud between Ken Ham and CMI. This is blaming issues with two organisations and this has nothing to do with the matter which I raised. When Nathan referred to a defect in the origin of a claim rather than dealing with the claim itself, he committed a genetic logical fallacy.

By the way, I do not support Christians taking Christians to court on the basis of what is taught in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 (NLT). However, Nathan scuttles logical discussion about the creation-evolution debate by spinning off into a discussion he wants to pursue about Ken Ham vs CMI conflict (a genetic fallacy). This shipwrecks logical discussion about the issues at hand.

c. Appeal to ridicule

Nathan also committed the appeal to ridicule fallacy of flaming and goading me with his comment, ‘I roared with laughter when commenter Dougie suggested….’. He also did it with his statement, ‘confirming to Christians and non-Christians alike that neither Creationist outfit neither (sic) understands or (sic) follows the teachings of Jesus. Hardly surprising’.

There are quite a few other responses to me that I could examine for fallacies used, but let’s look at one more by Big willie Style:

@ Dougie “Now is the time for the Brisbane Times to present a balanced prspective…”

a. The article includes video footage of the debate between Nye & Ham. You’re free to investigate further, as is anyone else, and get both sides of the argument.

b. You do realise Blunt Instrument is an opinion column? JB [John Birmingham] isn’t BT’s [Brisbane Time’s] resident writer on scients, religion, politics or anything else. He’s free to give his opinion, as are you.

c. “A balanced perspective”. Spare me. Fairfax and the ABC are the only sane media organisations left in this country. Jump over to one of the Daily Terror’s online articles and try and post a comment that disagrees with their status quo. All the reason, logic and correct grammar in the world won’t help you get it through the moderator. For an institution that bangs on about free speech, the Murdochracy is doing its best to ensure otherwise.[8]

Big willie has engaged in one of the common fallacies to side-track an argument. He built a….

d. Straw man fallacy

What is that? ‘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” 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’ (Straw man: Labossiere 1995).

How does Big willie do this? He cited what I said, ‘Now is the time for the Brisbane Times to present a balanced perspective…’ Then he gave what he considered was ‘a balanced perspective’:

coil-gold-sm There is video footage of the debate in the article. No there is NOT, Willie. There is only a TV news grab, not the whole debate. What he failed to say was that John Birmingham’s article, even though an opinion piece, did not fairly address the issues raised by BOTH debaters. John hoed into Ken Ham’s views but Bill Nye’s views were given a clean slate.

coil-gold-sm I’m free to investigate further (both sides of the debate). That does not give a balanced written piece of opinion by JB. I had to Google for the debate online.

coil-gold-sm The writer is free to give his opinion because it is an opinion piece of writing. Fair enough! But opinion when it is one-eyed is not giving an opinion on the content that both men in the debate gave. It is bigotry when only one side is lambasted by a writer.

coil-gold-sm If I want ‘a balanced perspective’, I should go to Fairfax or the ABC says Big willie, as they ‘are the only sane media organisations left in this country’. The others are described as ‘Daily Terror’s online articles’ and ‘Murdochracy’.

These points are obviously in support of Big willie’s view but he is presenting a picture of a person who ‘simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position’. I’m speaking about the Ham-Nye positions. It’s a straw man fallacy (Straw man: Labossiere 1995).

In his last point, Big willie has committed another fallacy with his preferring Fairfax and the ABC over the Daily Mirror (which he calls Daily Terror) and Murdoch (News Limited) newspapers/publications, which he called ‘Murdochracy’. This is another example of the appeal to ridicule fallacy.

Conclusion

Logical discussion by both writers and those who provide comments to those writers (even letters-to-the-editor) can be inhibited when logical fallacies are used. An examination of this article by John Birmingham and some of the comments has demonstrated that some of the common fallacies used were: appeal to ridicule, ad hominem, red herring, straw man, and genetic fallacy.

It is important for readers of any material to be aware of the nature of logical fallacies, name them where possible, and to show how logical discussion is handicapped by the use of fallacies.

The creation-evolution debate is only one of the topics that attracts those who engage in this kind of illogical activity. Logical fallacies use fallacious reasoning that causes logical discussion to be shipwrecked on the rocks of unreasonableness.

I invite you to read all of the comments to the John Birmingham article to identify the use of further logical fallacies. I have relied on Michael Labossiere’s identification and explanation of a group of logical fallacies.

What kinds of logical fallacies are used in this comment?

That is correct. JB [John Birmingham] is biased. We all are.

He is biased in favour of common sense, critical thinking and evidence based knowledge.

On the other hand there are a lot of people posting here who are biased in favour of believing stories that are clearly not meant to be true or accurate.

Take your pick.[9]

Works consulted

Birmingham, J 2014. For God’s sake, how did he get out? Brisbane Times (online), February 6. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/blunt-instrument/for-gods-sake-how-did-he-get-out-20140205-321yi (Accessed 30 May 2015).

Labossiere, M C 1995. Fallacies. The Nizkor Project (online). Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ (Accessed 30 May 2015).

Notes


[1] The Brisbane Times identifies John Birmingham as ‘a columnist and blogger for Fairfax Media. He is also an award winning magazine writer and the author of Leviathan, the Unauthorised Biography of Sydney, which won the National Award for Non-Fiction. He amuses himself in his down time by writing novels which improve with altitude’. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/by/John-Birmingham (Accessed 30 May 2015).

[2] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/blunt-instrument/for-gods-sake-how-did-he-get-out-20140205-321yi (Accessed 30 May 2015).

[3] All examples of logical fallacies in my article here are by Michael C Labossiere (1995).

[4] Dougie, North Lakes, Qld, February 06, 2014, 7.56AM, available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/blunt-instrument/for-gods-sake-how-did-he-get-out-20140205-321yi (Accessed 30 May 2015).

[5] Ibid., Dino not to be confused with, Sydney, February 06, 2014, 5:38PM.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., Nathan Zamprogno, Sydney, February 06, 2014, 1:49PM.

[8] Ibid., Big willie Style, February 06, 2014, 9:05AM.

[9] Ibid.,Seedysea, February 06, 2014, 11:36AM.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

Logical fallacies hijack discussions[1]

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Logic function Exclusive-NOR vector drawing

(public domain)

Spencer D Gear

Over the last 10 years, I have participated in 6 Christian forums[2] worldwide and I’ve discovered that one of the most common ways to high jack a discussion has been with the use of logical fallacies.

What is a logical fallacy? To put it simply, a logical fallacy is an error in reasoning. It is a way of stating an argument where the the premises given do not support the conclusion in a statement. It is illogic in action. When this happens, it is difficult to have a logical discussion with a person.

I’ve been greatly helped in understanding the use of logical fallacies by Dr. Michael C. Labossiere, the author of a fallacy tutorial. You can find his material on The Nizkor Project site.

I mention two common fallacies that I see on Christian forum sites:

File:Kipper.JPG

kipper (wikimedia)

A.    The red herring fallacy

Labossiere explains:

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” has the following form:

1. Topic A is under discussion.

2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).

3. Topic A is abandoned.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim (Fallacy: Red Herring).

This can happen on any Christian forum when a person, say, is discussing reasons for opposing once-saved-always-saved (OSAS) with Bible verses. A person can reply that that is not what the Bible teaches and then give a group of Bible verses to oppose the person who opposed OSAS. What does this do? It does not deal with the exact verses that a person used to oppose OSAS. The response was off and running with pro-OSAS verses. This is using a red herring fallacy and logical discussion is brought to a halt as the issue is not being dealt with – the verses that oppose OSAS.

Another fallacy that often arises is:

B.    The straw man fallacy

Labossiere’s explanation is:

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 (Fallacy: Straw Man).

I have seen this fallacy from time to time in two situations:

(a) When anti-charismatics try to expose the ‘error’ of Pentecostals. A false view of Pentecostals is not difficult to construct when one sees extremism in the movement. However, when all Pentecostals are painted with the extremist brush, it is using a straw man fallacy.

(b) Calvinists who paint all Arminians as Pelagians or semi-Pelagians. This is using a straw man fallacy.

There are a number of other fallacies I’ve seen used on Christian forums. These have included:

3d-shinnyblue-star-small Ad hominem. Most moderators of Christian forums exclude this fallacy because it most often is a flaming or goading technique.

3d-shinnyblue-star-small Begging the question (or circular reasoning). This is where a person reaches a conclusion but it is based on his/her premise. Of course that will be the conclusion reached because the person’s presuppositions demand that conclusion.

3d-shinnyblue-star-small Appeal to authority;

3d-shinnyblue-star-small Genetic fallacy.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Do any logical fallacies bother you in discussions with people on Christian and other forums or in discussions with people? Do you remind them of these fallacies? It is good to know the name and nature of logical fallacies. A professor of IT attends my church and he tells me that it really gets under his skin when students and staff use logical fallacies.

What say that we watch each other and the fallacies we might use in any responses on Christian forums or in personal discussions?

Some other sites dealing with logical fallacies

3d-shinnyblue-star-smallA list of fallacious arguments’,

3d-shinnyblue-star-smallLogical fallacies’;

3d-shinnyblue-star-smallLogical fallacies and the art of debate’;

3d-shinnyblue-star-smallLogical fallacies’;

3d-shinnyblue-star-smallOnline Writing Lab: Logical fallacies’ (20wl, Purdue).

Notes


[1] I started a thread with this title at Christianity Board, Christian debate forum, ‘Logical fallacies high jack discussion’, OzSpen#1, available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21503-logical-fallacies-high-jack-discussion/ (Accessed 26 May 2015).

[2] These have included Christian Fellowship Forum, Christian Forums.com, Christian Forums.net, Christianity Board, UK Christian Web, and another UK forum whose exact title I forget.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 December 2015.