Monday, August 23, 2010

Faulty Dilemmas, Argument of the Beard, Begging the Question, & Complex Question

Moving right along here are some fallacies that will broaden your minds. Some of these we, as Christians, inadvertently commit thinking that we are giving the right answer to a skeptic asking us why we believe what we do.
Faulty Dilemma: This fallacy makes the assumption that in a given situation there are only two alternatives when in fact there are more than two.
Argument of the Beard: This fallacy makes a presumption that there is no real difference between two extremes on a continuum because the differences are small from one to the next and change almost imperceptibly.

Begging the
Question (a.k.a. petitio principii): This fallacy is committed by reasoning in a circle, assuming that the conclusion of an argument is true and using the conclusion as evidence to prove itself. ("I believe the Bible is God's Word because it says that it is God's Word" - Sound familiar?[1])
Complex Question: This fallacy entails that such questions asked in discourse presuppose that a definite answer has already been given to a prior question that was not even asked.

[1] I am not trying to be rough on my Christian brothers and sisters in the faith, but there are reasons better than arguing in a circle for why the Bible IS true and why we believe what we do. It is okay to "swim in the deep end" folks and be a Christian!

Here are some great resources for the study of logic:

Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn,
The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-six Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasononing. Muscatine, IA: Christian Logic and Trivium Pursuit, 2003.

Irving M. Copi and Carl Cohen,
Introduction to Logic (13th Edition).

Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks,
Come Let us Reason: An Introduction in Logical Thinking. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990.

Anthony Weston,
A Rulebook for Arguments. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2009.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Reductive, Genetic and Psycho-genetic Fallacies

We move now into the reductive, genetic and psycho-genentic fallacies (bulverism).  These fallacies are often committed when someone is trying to reduce complex ideas, target a particular beginning with the motivation to ridicule or make an assumption from a psychological reason.  All of them try to hone in on a beginning or a starting point toward that which is attempting to be refuted. Hmm.

Here are the definitions.

The Reductive Fallacy: Reduces complex entities and then attempts to explain those entities in terms of one of its many respects.
The Genetic Fallacy: The genetic fallacy is demonstrated by the belittling or the attempt to refute something by pointing to its humble or inauspicious beginnings.
The Psycho-genetic Fallacy (Bulverism): Making the assumption that one has refuted an idea just because you have discovered the psychological reason why someone believes an idea.

Here are some great resources for the study of logic:

Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn, The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-six Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasononing. Muscatine, IA: Christian Logic and Trivium Pursuit, 2003.

Irving M. Copi and Carl Cohen, Introduction to Logic (13th Edition).

Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks, Come Let us Reason: An Introduction in Logical Thinking. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990.

William Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2009.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why Defend the Faith?

Lately I have been thinking how fast the summer is going. Unlike some of my colleagues having speaking opportunities in various venues, I have been not allowing the "green monster" envy force me in the thinking that apologetics is just done in front of groups of people. That is just one of many venues. Having this in to forefront of my thinking, I have reflected back on the numerous encounters to encourage people to think about the Christian faith. Just last night, I was visiting with a customer where I work, and he noticed 2 Corinthians 5:20 which says in part, "We are ambassadors for Christ." That prompted a conversation to where this gentleman told me that he is searching.

You know that if we think about this long and hard, we must posit the question, "searching for what?"; "searching for 'who'?" Knowing that the last part of Romans 3:11 (c.f., Psalm 14:1-3) tells us that no one does good and no one seeks after God, I find the question of "searching for what?" in my mind more relevant and appropriate. Which tells me that an apologetic or pre-evangelistic dialogue was about to very gently ensue. The purpose of this post is not to discuss this or any dialogue that I have engaged in this summer, despite there being a handful. My desire for this posting is to remind us, with the school year just over the horizon, why apologetics is needed.

Let me share just a few thoughts

I. Apologetics is commanded by God. This is the most important reason: God commands us to use our reasoning in the defense of the faith. We find, all throughout the New Testament, exhortations to defend the faith. Here are some of them:

1 Peter 3:15 says, "...but sanctify (set apart) Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (apologia) [give a response back] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (fear)." This passage tells us several things:

First it tells us that we should be ready. If you are doing the first part, of setting apart Christ as Lord in your heart, and living out the Christian life on a daily basis, I want you to know that people read you as a fifth gospel. They may never read Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, but if someone knows that you are a Christian and they see you living it out, as it says "always being ready". People are going to eventually ask you what is different about you. Being ready in your life also will encourage you to be ready in your preparation as an apologist.[1] There are some great resources out there to pick up and study from. But it is not just having the information, it is also our attitude.

There is a lot of attitude issues in the apologetics community, which seems to be a sense of over-confidence and cockiness. Our attitude at Stand4Truth Apologetics Ministries is to seeking ways toward identifying with the people asking the questions; where they are, and possibly what they are going through. We seek to do this with "gentleness and respect" in a manner that the person knows that we are separating the question from the questioner/challenger. Having an attitude of readiness with this in mind will create a low level of eagerness and confidence. Figure it this way, we have the truth, people are seeking the truth. Respect the questioner, dismantle the question and get the person to see what is in their heart.

Second, when we give that reason to those asking the question (Colossians 4:5-6), we should not expect that every conversation is going to turn into an opportunity for pre-evangelism. Keep in the back of your mind that the one challenging what you believe does need it, but we must first be willing and able to give the answer first, and then leave the results to the Lord on what happens next.[2]

Thirdly and finally, doing pre-evangelism and making Christ Lord in our hearts are unified together. If Jesus is really Lord, then we should be obedient to the Word when it says that we are "destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and ... taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). In other words we should be confronting issues in our own minds and in the expressed thoughts of others that are preventing them from knowing who God is. That is what the defense of the faith (apologetics) is all about.

Over in Philippians 1:7 the Apostle Paul speaks of his mission as one of "defending and confirming the gospel." He adds in verse 16, "I am put here for the defense of the gospel" (Phil 1:16). And with all the false ideologies that permeate the religious landscape, we are put where we are to defend it as well.

Jude 3 declares: "Beloved, while making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt it necessary to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith once for all given over to the saints." The people Jude was writing to had been assaulted by false teachers and he needed to encourage them to protect (literally agonize for) the faith as it had been revealed through Christ. Jude makes a significant statement about our attitude as we do this in verse 22 when he says, "have mercy on some, who are doubting." Apologetics, then, has plenty of warrant for expressing compassion. It is not just having a passion to defend the faith, it is a passion to reach the person you are dialoguing with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Titus 1:9 makes the knowledge of Christian evidences a requirement for church leadership. An elder in the church should be "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict." With relativism and forms of religious pluralization in the culture, people change churches and sometimes bring with them teachings that may not be biblical. This is one of many reasons along with the elder body equipping the people to do the same is where apologetics is important in the practical sense in the local church.

In 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Paul declares that "the Lord's bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth." Anyone attempting to answer the questions of unbelievers or correcting wayward teaching in the church will surely be wronged and be tempted to lose patience, but our ultimate goal is that they might come to a knowledge of the truth that Jesus has died for their sins.

Indeed, the command to use reason is part of the greatest command. For Jesus said, "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38) [3]. We cannot love our neighbor nor the breathren as ourselves unless we love God first.

So we see from Scripture that apologetics is commanded by God. But there is a second element to why we are to be involved in the task of apologetics and that the realm of reason.

II. Reason Demands Apologetics. God created us with minds to operate in the realm of human reason. The intellect and the capacity to reason things out is part of God's image in us (Gen. 1:27 cf. Col. 3:10). Indeed, it is that by which we are distinguished from "brute beasts" (Jude 10). God calls upon us to use our reason (Isa. 1:18) to discern truth from error (1 John 4:6) and right from wrong (Heb. 5:14). A fundamental principle of reason is that we should have sufficient grounds for what we believe.[4] An unjustified belief is just that--unjustified.

Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." (ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ) And an unexamined belief is not worth believing. The question of "why do we believe what we believe" has never been more important. Therefore, it is incumbent upon Christians "to give a reason for their hope." This is part of the great command to love God with all our mind, as well as our heart and soul (Matt. 22:36-37).

Because God and reason demand that we engage in apologetics, we see that we cannot keep the Christian faith and our humble confidence in the truthfulness of the faith "that was once for all delivered to the saints" to ourselves. There is a third element to why we defend the faith and that is...

III. The World Needs Us to Engage in the Apologetic Task. Many people refuse to believe without some evidence, as indeed they should. Why say indeed they should? Because we should not be forcing someone to believe something if they are not willing to investigate it for themselves. Just because you or I say something is true, does not mean that what we are sharing is really true. We tell the atheist that brute fact argumentation is not going to de-convert a Christian with a response, why should we try and do the same thing.

God has created us as rational beings but He does to expect us to live irrationally. He wants us to look before we leap.

This does not mean there is no room for faith! Christianity is not a blind leap of faith into the dark but a step of faith into the light--into the light of evidence. He does not want us to leap in the dark, but to run in His light.

No person is going to get onto an elevator unless he has some reason to believe it will hold him up. Likewise, no reasonable person gets on an airplane that has a broken wing and smoke coming
out the tail end. Belief that is prior to belief in. Our faith is as only as good as the one in whom it is placed. Thankfully there is evidence to dovetail with faith. Therefore evidence and reason are important to establish belief that. Once this is established, one can place his faith in it.

IV. What are the Results of Engaging in the Apologetic Task?

The fact that there are results that are produced while engaging in the apologetic task is a common misnomer among many Christians. It is often said that apologetics never helps to bring anyone to Christ. This is a serious misrepresentation of the facts.[5]

Augustine of Hippo is one example. There were several significant rational turning points in Augustine's life before he came to Christ. First, was reasoned out the problem with Manichaean dualism. One significant turning point here was the success of a young Christian debater of Manicheans called Helpidius (see The Confessions).

Second, Augustine reasoned his way out of total skepticism by seeing the self-defeating nature of it (see his Against the Academics).

So we see that there are some good reasons for why we should defend the faith. God commands it. Reason demands it. The world is calling for answers to the difficult questions regarding meaning and purpose. Lastly, God is the one who gets the glory for the results.

If you would like to email us about what you have engaged here, please feel free to do so. We would love to hear from you.

[1] Let me give you word of encouragement. Even though it is good to be well studied in the task of apologetics; even though you may not have taken some courses in apologetics online or on a campus; and even though you may not have attended any apologetics training seminars; let me encourage you with this: any time you open your mouth, you are an apologist for Him! Never forget that.

[2] I find that many folks will try and lead the "happy pagan" to the foot of the cross by using some methodology that they learned in church when that person is not even at the point of accepting the evidence we are sharing with them. Are we being disobedient to Christ by not dragging them to the cross? No, in fact we may be more disobedient by dragging them down the "saw dust trail" and creating the possibility of a false profession of faith.

[3] May I also add John 13:34-35 which is the commandment for us as disciples. This one does not negate the Great Commandment, nor the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)

[4] I will sometimes play the "rebel's advocate" and ask a fellow believer why they are a Christian. Often times in response to that, I get how they became a Christian. What this shows in many situations a lack of investigation, and lack of encouragement by the church at large to investigate why Christianity is the true faith.

[5] See Greg Koukl's book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009): 35-38, where he discusses the fallacy of thinking that one cannot argue a person into the Kingdom. This whole discussion is depending upon the soteriology of the one making the claim.