Logic & Theology: Case Study #1

Lately I have come across a problem that happens all too often in Christian discourse.  When trying to argue for one’s position, a Christian will often say something like the following:  “The bible is inspired; it says so in 2 Timothy 3:16.”   

Anyone see the problem?  All you philosophers will immediately.  This person has just committed the informal fallacy called “begging the question.”  It occurs when, in the situation above, no real support is offered for the point being put forth, (eg the bible is inspired).  All that is really being done is that the point is simply assumed or restated to be true.

Sadly, I saw this blunder committed more than once in one of my textbooks for class.  Oh well, I guess I can’t judge since I have fallen prey to this mistake.  You must go outside of the bible to “demonstrate” (either deductively or inductively) its truthfulness, at least in the rational sphere.  This little real-life example hopefully shows in a small way why an understanding of logic is necessary to doing theological work.  [HT: McInerny]  

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4 responses to “Logic & Theology: Case Study #1

  1. I think I would much rather focus on the Scriptures’ trustworthiness rather than their truthfulness.

    It is, in my opinion, much more important to demonstrate to a skeptical world that the Scriptures, and more specifically God, can be trusted.

  2. Cliff,

    It sounds like you’ve read McManus’s Soul Cravings. 😉 He makes the connection that truth and trust are never far apart, and God, is usually found somewhere inbetween the two. Ultimately, he concludes that our biggest task is to help a world looking for faith, love, and hope to find God trustworthy.

    Derek,

    I’ve been in some discussions with another believer about women in ministry. Part of our conversation included a discussion about the trustworthiness of the Scriptures. Sadly, he said, “I don’t have to prove the Bible is authoritative. It does not matter what you or I think.” While I understood his sentiment, he missed the fact that someone who does not think so may need some extrabiblical evidence to arrive at the same conclusion. Great mini-post. Give me a call. We haven’t chatted this week. 😉

    Aaron

  3. “I think I would much rather focus on the Scriptures’ trustworthiness rather than their truthfulness.”

    Cliff, i appreciate your sentiments here. It seems to me that you are wanting the discussion to be more practical in nature as it bears on someone exercizing faith in a personal God. Good point.

    That being said, you have created a false dichotomy here that i believe is a little distressing.

    Without an objective* basis for believing the bible to be true, it can’t be trustworthy. I think that this is something we intuitively believe day to day.

    For example: Although you may think that i am trustworthy, it doesn’t mean that when i tell you that the sky is falling that it is true. In fact, if i continue to tell you this despite the fact that it isn’t true, then you might begin to doubt my trustworthiness. (Incidentally, i mean no disrespect by my nursury rhyme example; i just think it works well.)

    You see what i mean? The two are intimately connected. There is no need to disconnect theory from practice; we need both. There is no reason to trust something untrue (thus theory), but a truth that doesn’t bring us closer to “trusting” the one telling us is worthless as well (hence the practical). While you are right that ultimately God’s trustworthiness is the goal, the concept is vacuous if what God says isn’t true.

    *By the way, i am sure that you and i agree that objective truth is impossible to arrive at in its entirety. That also points towards the strength of your quote. That being said, being pretty confident that somethig is true and not believing at all are still very different places to start from. A “wobbly” ladder is better than no ladder! Or as our good friend Aaron says, partial knowledge isn’t no knowledge.

  4. An atheist doesn’t understand this logic, because nothing is greater than logic to them, however, the Word of God is the highest form of authority in any plane of existance. But God doesn’t leave us in the cold, there are at least 3 ways to prove God’s word is true.

    http://www.kingdom-gospel.com/bible.html

    You can prove God’s Word in 3 ways::

    1. Do the word in doctrine and witness truth in your life-

    John 7:16-17:
    “…’My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.’ ”

    2. The Holy Spirit will bear witness of Christ (Jesus is the Word of God – John chapter 1)-

    John 15:26:
    ” ‘When the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me.’ ”

    3. Confirming signs-

    Mark 16:20:
    “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the Word by the signs that followed.”

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