There Are No Syllogisms In Scripture

syl⋅lo⋅gism [sil-uh-jiz-uhm] –noun 1. Logic. an argument the conclusion of which is supported by two premises, of which one (major premise) contains the term (major term) that is the predicate of the conclusion, and the other (minor premise) contains the term (minor term) that is the subject of the conclusion; common to both premises is a term (middle term) that is excluded from the conclusion. A typical form is “All A is C; all B is A; therefore all B is C.” (www.dictionary.com)

My students are often reminded that there are no syllogisms in Scripture. Actually, this is not quite true, but it does capture something I hope to impress upon you now even if you have never thought of it before. Popular apologetics involve syllogisms, often lengthy and complex syllogisms, in an effort to persuade non-Christians to embrace the existence of God. The Bible never presents anything remotely similar to this method of showing that God exists.

For example, Genesis 1.1 does not read:

“1. Everything which begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause for its coming into being.”

Rather, it states:

“In the beginning God…”

God is in the beginning of the Bible in an account of what was in the beginning; no syllogism necessary. You did not come to believe in the existence of God through a syllogistic proof, and you are not going to convince anyone else to believe in God with such a method either. You already believed in God, and so did they.

The Bible presents the truth of the existence of God and argues that if it is rejected one is lost in total darkness, unable to make sense of anything. God is not hidden in puzzles that an ancient Greek philosopher named Aristotle thought up, He is present and plain for all to see in that He has revealed Himself to us. This is to be our message to those who attempt to deny the truth.


An Informal Introduction to Presuppositional Apologetics

Please go easy on me as you view these since I have not taught apologetics exclusively in quite some time. What you see here was from memory and my lack of preparation shows! I am having difficulty uploading the first section of this video onto Youtube but will post it here as soon as I am able to. My hope is that this will be of some help to someone.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL_3KXfko4Y&hl=en&fs=1]


On The Contrary: Responding to RedBeetle’s “Got Logic” Video

Two propositions are said to be contraries if they cannot both be true, though they might both be false. Consider these two propositions provided by http://www.dictionary.com/ as an example:

1. All judges are male.
2. No judges are male.

If Proposition 1 (an A proposition) is true and all judges are male, then Proposition 2 (an E proposition), cannot be true. If Proposition 2 is true and no judges are male, then Proposition 1 cannot be true. It cannot be true that all judges are male while at the same time and in the same respect no judges are male. However, Proposition1 and Proposition 2 may both be false at the same time and in the same respect. It is actually false that all judges are male. At the same time and in the same respect it is actually false that no judges are male. Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 are what are known as contraries in logic. Contraries differ from contradictories.

Recently I came across a user on Youtube named RedBeetle who asks, “Did Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen understand basic logic? Does [sic] the followers of these two Neo-orthodox theologians understand basic logic?” He goes on to answer his own question, “Apparently not, for they still maintain that they can prove God exists from the impossibility of the contrary”. RedBeetle maintains that the claim that the existence of God can be proven from the impossibility of the contrary is not a claim that would be made by someone who understands basic logic; however he fails to support his position and it is easily shown to be incorrect.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8QANkYFQ_0&hl=en&fs=1]

RedBeetle claims that in his video he is attempting to explain to “…these Van Tillians that contraries can both be false…” and hopes to do this, “despite the paradoxical madness permeating the minds of Van Tilians [sic]”. Frankly this comes across as nothing more than an empty and condescending remark on his part given the philosophical understanding of many Van Tillians. I, for one, do not need RedBeetle to explain to me what a contrary in logic is, as I already know and have shown as much above. Nevertheless I still use the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God. Thus RedBeetle’s underlying assumption that those who understand basic logic will not use TAG has been falsified. No doubt RedBeetle might attribute my understanding of logical contraries with my simultaneous use of TAG to paradoxical madness permeating my mind, but I think it has much more to do with my actually trying to understand Van Til and Bahnsen in their contexts rather than hastily attempting to dismiss them as “neo-orthodox” and “foolish”. There are other problems with RedBeetle’s assertions as well. For example, given the background and learning of both Van Til and Bahnsen, it is not plausible to attribute a lack of understanding regarding basic logic to the two men. There is a much better explanation for what is going on here than what RedBeetle provides.

The meaning of “contrary” in logic is often counterintuitive to beginners in that field of study. The reason is a familiarity with the popular use of the term. The term “contrary” is used in much broader circles than just philosophers in logic. The first definition for contrary at http://www.dictionary.com/ is “opposite in nature or character; diametrically or mutually opposed”. The contrary of Christianity in this sense of the word is non-Christianity with its many manifestations.

Notice that Christianity and non-Christianity are not propositions. The use of the term contrary within the context of logic applies only to A and E propositions, not to whole worldviews summed up in one word labels. RedBeetle thus shows himself to be rather confused when he writes, “So, for example, by claiming Christianity and Hinduism are contraries, the possibility remains that both may actually be false! “. This statement may be true if it is used in a strictly logical sense, but since “Christianity” and “Hinduism” are not propositions this possibility is precluded. RedBeetle is guilty of a misapplication of contrary as he has defined it in his video per Copi. There is a sense in which Christianity and Hinduism are contrary since Hinduism is non-Christian and hence opposed in nature and character to Christianity. It is rather hard to miss this understanding of the topic before us upon a fair reading of Van Til and Bahnsen given the abundant use of “antithesis” to describe the relationship between Christianity and non-Christianity among other things. RedBeetle’s entire presentation appears to be based on an equivocation.

We see the potential for this type of mistake elsewhere as well. For example, I have heard many an intelligent person use the phrase “which begs the question” followed by a question someone might ask after having discovered some piece of information. Obviously the person who uses this phrase in such a context is not referring to the fallacy of ”begging the question”. The reason we know this is because we listen to and interpret the person making the statement in the best possible light within his or her context as we should do if we are to be honest and fair in our endeavors.

When I write and speak of the impossibility of the contrary of Christianity I write and speak of the impossibility of anything which is opposed to Christ in terms of epistemology. Given that Christianity and non-Christianity are worldviews rather than propositions, that presuppositionalists who share my position would never assert that the Bible may be false but in actuality assert the opposite, that Van Til and Bahnsen were fallible but certainly not uneducated, given that we should interpret even the works of our strongest enemies in the best possible light, and given that there is a popular definition for “contrary” which makes good sense in the context of TAG; there is no reason to conclude that presuppositionalists of the school represented on this site mean anything other than what is meant by the popular usage of the term “contrary”. Christianity is not false, and we do not believe that it possibly can be.


Reason is not the answer.

Today during the gathering of my local church I witnessed a couple of young people a few rows in front of me snickering at what I thought was a remarkable presentation of “It Is Well With My Soul” sung by a group of Koreans who worship with us. Aside from many other valuable characteristics the piece was extremely aesthetically appealing yet the young people seemed to chuckle the most at the parts I thought were the most stirring. The almost total lack of appreciation for artistic beauty, not to mention (what I really intend to be in view here) the commonplace mockery of intellectualism prevalent in our culture rarely ceases to discourage me. It is no wonder that presuppositional apologetics so often are met with a blank stare. Our culture consists mainly of unthinking individuals who value entertainment above anything else.

Is there room for elaborate explanations of presuppositional argumentation in a place and time where people care more about obsessing over and voting for American Idol contestants than they do studying political philosophy in order to elect competent government officials? If only we had a culture like that of yesteryear where people really valued reason. Instead we are growing familiar with shrinking liberal arts programs in colleges which cannot afford to do anything other than teach business related courses which are more practical. Practical – at least – if one desires to enter into an almost normative desk job and make as much money as possible to purchase more entertainment than the next guy. Where is there room for presuppositional apologetics in this cultural climate? Most people who even hear a word like “presuppositional” are immediately turned off. We need to return to reason, or so it seems.

A return to “reason” apart from Christ is just as damnable as becoming a vegetable in one’s intellectual life. Even in the past when people allegedly placed much more value upon thought there nevertheless existed an abundance of the same type of fools (in the biblical sense) that exist today. We may become frustrated that people are often not willing to delve more deeply into the things of God and find that this is His world and He has revealed truth. Denying Christ results in complete absurdity in one’s thoughts and behavior, but few are willing to reason with you to ever see this truth through argumentation. Things would however be no different upon having a conversation with a well educated, deeply thinking self-proclaimed atheist who is willing to follow the arguments you present unless God brings that person to repentance from sin and faith in Christ.

People of the past valued reason, and people of today do as well, but reason is not the answer to our current problems any more than a recognition of say, “absolute truth” is. In actuality the abandonment of reason is more consistent for the non-Christian. We challenge the non-Christian concerning his or her supposed autonomy, not concerning his or her reasoning ability, though there are obviously implications which extend to that realm as well via alleged autonomy. My hope is that this brief observation will be an encouragement as well as a reminder to those reading to approach people with the Gospel as it is the only message by which people may be saved.


Always Ready Study – Part 5

My apologies to those who have been waiting on me to post the next installment … again.

This study is part 5, and includes two new members – Josh and Sean. I hope you enjoy it and are able to gain a further understanding of Presuppositional Apologetics by listening in!

— BK

Always Ready – Part 5


The New Presuppositionalists

I have noticed as of late that there is an increase in discussion amongst atheists about the subject of presuppositions. I think this is just great. After all, one of the most difficult tasks in debate (formal or otherwise) with unbelievers is getting them to understand the role that presuppositions play in their thinking. We’ve talked about this here at Choosing Hats in great detail, both in posts and in our Bible Study on Bahnsen’s “Always Ready”. This is the good news.

The bad news is that I do not believe that these same atheists understand how completely foundational these very presuppositions are to their reasoning process. Despite their concurrence that such things exist, and their commentary about the role they play, the atheists that I have read or listened to fall prey to the same thing many Christians do – assuming the very presuppositions they are defending, without the realization they are doing so.

Presuppositions exist at many levels, but it is the foundational ones (those which are most basic) that I am interested in highlighting here. It is just the nature of these particular presuppositions that makes them impossible to step outside of while evaluating them. For the Christian, the most basic of all presuppositions is the existence of God. That means that logically speaking it is not possible for a Christian to evaluate anything at all without ultimately presupposing God, including the belief that God exists. This is, after all, the very source of the complaint of circularity against those presuppositionalists who employ TAG.

The unbeliever has their basic presuppositions, too. One of the most basic is the belief that they are able to reason without a foundational appeal to the God of the Bible. It isn’t that they necessarily deny God’s existence directly as part of their reasoning process, but rather it is the fact that they presume to even question whether God exists at all. Doing so implies that they believe it is possible to know at least one thing (whether or not God exists) without ultimately relying upon God to answer that question.

Van Til uses the analogy of a telescope, where the telescope is God and the star is any fact that a person wishes to investigate. The epistemologically self-conscious Christian will always look through the telescope anytime they wish to investigate a “fact”. The unbeliever on the other hand attempts to look directly at the star without the aid of the telescope, thinking they will be able to have an accurate view of the fact. The real problem is uncovered when the “star” in question is the existence of God.

The unbeliever assumes that there is no telescope that is required in order to determine whether there exists a telescope which is required to “see” any “fact”. They attempt to look directly at the “fact” of the star in order to see whether or not there is a telescope which is required in order to see any facts at all. The problem is self-evident. If the Bible is true and such a God as this exists, the unbeliever is never going to conclude that such a God exists simply by looking directly at the “stars” (i.e. using un-aided human reason).

This is, to me, the clearest example of a foundational presupposition that no matter how hard they try, the atheist cannot *logically* “put aside” in order to question whether or not God exists.

— BK


More on John Loftus and Control Beliefs

A recent post by Chris not only gained my interest as a contributor, but also the interest of the individual whose article Chris was commenting on. This led me to dig a bit deeper into the article referenced at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/john_loftus/christianity.html to see what all the fuss was about. In doing so, I came across a rather interesting treatise by John Loftus on why it is unreasonable to be a Christian.

Due to the size of the article, and the limits I currently have on time (which I hope will be lifted once the new year comes around) I have determined to respond to just one paragraph from a single section that Loftus titles “Philosophical Reasons (1)” for not being a Christian. I chose the paragraph I did because it demonstrates a variety of problems that I find with his line of reasoning.

To provide some context for the paragraph I critique in a moment, consider what Loftus says early on in his article:

“Let me begin by talking about “control beliefs”—beliefs that control how one views the evidence. Everyone has them, especially in metaphysical belief systems where there isn’t a mutually agreed upon scientific test to decide between alternatives. While we are largely unaware of them, they color how we see the world. Whether regarded as assumptions, presuppositions, or biases (depending on the context), they form the basis for the way we “see” things. As Alfred North Whitehead noted, “Some assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know that they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them.””

On the one hand, I am very excited to see Loftus speak about “control beliefs” or “presuppositions”, as there too many on both sides of the debate don’t realize they exist, and don’t realize the impact they have. Furthermore, I specifically like the term “control beliefs” as it makes the point so clear that these beliefs actually do control, to a great deal, the conclusions that we come to. On the other hand, I don’t think that Loftus notices that these very beliefs control his own argument against Christianity to the point that he engages in circular reasoning on more than one occasion.

Here then is the paragraph in question, broken into individual thoughts, and my comments on each:

“For instance, Christianity claims that God is a triune God, though no simultaneously orthodox and reasonable understanding of the Trinity seems possible.

As Loftus never tells us just what he believes is unreasonable about the Orthodox view of the Trinity, I am going to have to go out on a limb and guess that it is the claim that there is one God existing as three persons. If I am correct in my guess, then I am stymied as to what Loftus finds unreasonable about this. Unless he misunderstands the position (as some do) to mean that God is both 3 and 1 at the same time and in the same sense, I see no grounds at all for his charge of unreasonableness.

“Though Christians usually think of God as a free agent, God is not free to decide his own nature.

The question over what it means to be a “free agent” has been argued for a very, very long time. Christianity itself has different views, although I believe the Bible clearly presents a compatibilistic (i.e. non-libertarian) view of the will. What this means, in short, is that people are free just as long as they are not coerced in the choices they make. Furthermore, their choices are themselves ultimately determined by their nature. For instance, God cannot lie, as it is not within his nature to do so. Unregenerate man cannot help but sin, because it is his nature to do so.

Whether or not Loftus agrees with me on the nature of the will, he is clearly arguing from within his own set of control beliefs (or beliefs derived from them) when he claims that God cannot be properly called a “free agent” as God is unable to determine his own nature. The Bible states otherwise, and for Loftus to argue that his set of control beliefs are more appropriate based on appealing to his own definition of “free agent” is ultimately begging the question.

“Though conceived of as a “spiritual” being that created matter, no known “point of contact” between spirit and matter can be found.”

This is nothing more than an argument from personal conviction. The inability to identify the metaphysical mechanics behind how the material and immaterial interact does not, in and of itself, lend credibility one way or another. It only appears to do so from within the set of control beliefs that one is relying upon. The control beliefs Loftus subscribes to has an “answer” to this issue, but so do Christians, namely that God is ultimately behind any and all interaction of not only the material realm, but the immaterial as well.

The most that this objection can do for Loftus is further convince him that his set of control beliefs are correct, when already viewed from within his set of control beliefs. It doesn’t do anything to the Christian who has their own answer as well.

“Though Christians take it as a brute fact that God never began to exist, if we apply Ockham’s razor a simpler brute fact is to presume that nature itself never began to exist.

It is no more “simple” for Loftus to assume the universe has always existed than it is for a Christian to assume that God has always existed. For the Christian, the existence of God is the most basic and ultimate control belief, and so any other explanation is going to be more complex (i.e. it will introduce unnecessary entities). For Loftus, God is by no means the most basic control belief, and so any introduction of God into anything at all will always seem more complex than leaving him out of the picture entirely. Loftus appeals to a non-Christian set of control beliefs in framing his argument, and therefore ultimately begs the question at hand.

“God evidently never learned any new truths and cannot think, since thinking demands weighing temporal alternatives.”

It is true that God has never learned any new truths, as learning something “new” implies you did not know it prior to learning it. Given that God is omniscient, there was never a time he was in a position of needing to learn anything at all. I’m not really sure of the relevance of this to the discussion. It certainly isn’t a reason, even from within the control beliefs that Loftus subscribes to, to believe God does not exist.

As to God’s “thinking”, Loftus makes a general assertion as to what thinking demands, without apparently ever giving thought to what the Bible says about God’s own thoughts. Furthermore (and more importantly) he apparently does not consider what the Bible says about his own thinking process as an unregenerate individual. The very fact that Loftus believes he can accurately evaluate God against some standard external to God himself demonstrates quite clearly that Loftus is again framing his argument from a non-Christian set of control beliefs, and therefore (once again) begging the question at hand.

“This God is everywhere, yet could not even know what time it is since time is a function of placement and acceleration in the universe; or if timeless, this God cannot act in time.“

I will not address this particular item at this time and in this critique, as the question of the nature of time, what it means to b

e
timeless, etc. is an extremely complex subject and is worthy of a separate discussion. However, lest Mr. Loftus think I am conceding this point, let me make it clear that I am not. I believe he is guilty of the same problem as seen above, arguing against something by appealing to a contrary set of control beliefs, and therefore begging the question.

I will address this item in a separate post as time permits.

“He evidently allows intense suffering in this world and does not follow the same moral code that he commands his believers to follow.”

How does God’s allowing of intense suffering in the world (which he most certainly does) make it unreasonable to believe in God? If Loftus is attempting to argue the Problem of Evil here, then he should spell it out in detail. A passing allusion to a common argument against God, especially one which has been refuted time and time again, is insufficient.

As to God following the same code he has given to all mankind (not simply his believers), why is this an issue for Loftus? Rather than argue whether God does or does not follow this code, or whether he should follow it if he does not, I would like to know why it would be a problem if he did not? How would this make it any less reasonable to accept the existence of God as a control belief?

“And so on.”

Loftus seems to imply here that there are even more “reasons” to accept his set of control beliefs over those of the Christian, yet he doesn’t share them with us. I certainly appreciate the fact that we all must stop writing at some point and move on to other priorities, but “and so on” is a mere statement of opinion – it doesn’t give us anything to evaluate, and so it adds nothing of any substance to this discussion.

I have no doubt that I make my own set of assumptions about Mr. Loftus in this critique, given that I know very little about him, and have read very little of his writings. I hope that he will feel free to correct any misrepresentations I may have made, and that he will also feel free to interact with those of us here at Choosing Hats.

— BK