Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation
Logic and reason are far from being incompatible with biblical Christianity. Rather, they are essential. Without them it is impossible to deduce anything from the true propositions of the 66 books of Scripture, the Christian’s final authority. This applies to Creation, one of the foundational doctrines of Christianity. Examples of valid and fallacious reasoning are discussed, with emphasis on showing how logical reasoning can support the truth of biblical creation, and demonstrate the fallacies in many evolutionists’ arguments.
Logic is the science of the relations between propositions. Logic can tell us what can be inferred from a given proposition, but it cannot tell us whether the given proposition is true in the first place. All philosophical systems rely on logical deductions from starting assumptions—axioms—which, by definition, cannot be proven from prior assumption. For our axioms, it is rational to accept the propositions revealed by the infallible God in the 66 books of the Bible.
Martin Luther correctly distinguished between the magisterial and ministerial use of reason.1
The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over Scripture like a magistrate and judges it. Such ‘reasoning’ is bound to be flawed, because it starts with axioms invented by fallible humans and not revealed by the infallible God. But this is the chief characteristic of liberal ‘Christianity’. It is refuted by Scriptural passages such as Isaiah 55:8–9
8 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.
9 ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’
Note that this does not say ‘My logic is higher than your logic’. If so, then if we believed 2+2=4, God could believe 2+2=5. What it does mean is that God knows every true proposition, while we know only a part. Another passage is Romans 9:19–21
19 One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?’
20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’
21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to Scripture. This means that all things necessary for our faith and life are either expressly set down in Scripture or may be deduced by good and necessary consequence from Scripture.2
Many Scriptural passages show that Christians are not supposed to check in their brains at the church door, but to use their God-given minds in subjection to God’s Word, e.g. Isaiah 1:18
18 ‘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 as crimson, they shall be like wool.’
36 ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
37 Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.’
2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
1 Corinthians 2:16
16 ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.
Note—mind of Christ, not feelings or emotions of Christ.
Much confusion arises when some people disparage ‘head knowledge’. For example, Geoff Smith, who was Pastor of the large Auckland Bible Church (New Zealand), has pointed out that in some churches, anything that has to do with rational thinking is suspect and strongly discouraged.3 Rational thinking is branded as something coming from the flesh. People of the Spirit won’t try to understand what’s happening—they will simply accept the ‘blessing’. The catch words are unmistakable: ‘Don’t try to understand this’, ‘Don’t try to analyse this’, ‘Don’t try to figure this out with your mind’, etc.
In such thinking there is no real understanding that faith is always built on knowledge. The prophet Isaiah asks repeatedly ‘Do you not know, have you not heard?’(Isaiah 40:21,28).
Jesus repeatedly asks: ‘Have you not read …?’ and tells the Sadducees that they are in error because they ‘do not know the Scriptures or the power of God’ (Matt. 22:29).
In his letters Paul constantly shows that true, functional faith is always built on knowledge. Conversely, deficient faith is traced back to its unmistakable cause—deficient knowledge. Paul repeatedly asks the question ‘Don’t you know …?’ (Rom. 6:3, 16; 11:2; 1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 5:6; 1 Cor. 6:2, 3, 9, 15, 16, 19; 1 Cor. 9:13, 27). Notice also the same question being asked by James (James 4:4). Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch: ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ (Acts 8:30).3
Part of the confusion lies in the misunderstanding of the word ‘heart’ in the Bible. Some people make a false contrast between ‘head-knowledge’ and ‘heart-trust’. When interpreting Scripture, it is important to work out what the authors meant by the term. In this case, one should work out what ‘heart’ meant to ancient Semites, not what it means in Hollywood pop-psychology. In the Bible, the word ‘heart’ is used 75% of the time to mean the mind or intellect. However, the Bible frequently contrasts the heart and the lips—sincerity vs. hypocrisy, for example:
5 The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
1 The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.
The New Testament concept of faith is compatible with reason. The Greek word for ‘faith’ is πίστις (pistis) which is related to the verb πιστεύω (pisteuo) meaning ‘believe’, and πείθω (pietho) meaning ‘to convince by argument.’ It never has the connotation of ‘believing six impossible things before breakfast’, but ‘is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’ (Heb. 11:1). Many non-Christians have a misconception of biblical faith, and unfortunately some Christians have accepted this.4
Logic in Biblical preaching and witnessing
Christ’s chief apostle, Peter, commanded us (1 Peter 3:15):
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
The Greek word translated ‘answer’ in 1 Peter 3:15 is in fact ἀπολογία (apologia). This term is derived from the Greek words ἀπὸ (apo) = away from and λόγος (logos) = logic/reason, so means ‘out of logic/reason’, so refers to a reasoned defence that would be given in a court of law. The classic example is Plato’s Apology, Socrates’ defence against the charges of atheism and corrupting the youth. The word also appears in the negative in Rom. 1:20: unbelievers are ἀναπολογήτους (anapologētous) (without excuse / defence / apology) for rejecting the revelation of God in creation.
The word for ‘reason’ above is λόγος (logos), in this context meaning evidence that provides rational justification for one’s belief.
Christ’s half-brother, Jude, commanded in verse 3 of his epistle:
‘… earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.’
This implies a real intellectual battle to convince people of something righteous and true. Paul elaborated on this in 2 Corinthians 10:4–5:
4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Of course, evolution is the major anti-God pretension of our age, so we must make great efforts to demolish it.
Accurate Definitions of Words
It is impossible to have a logical discussion with people if there is no agreement on meanings of words, or with those who are dishonest with their terminology. Socrates, in Plato’s Phaedo, stated succinctly, ‘To use words wrongly and indefinitely is not merely an error in itself, it also creates evil in the soul.’
Many cults, including liberal ‘Christianity’,5 often use biblical terminology, but invest the words with entirely new meanings.6 They resemble Humpty-Dumpty who replied scornfully to Alice’s ignorance of what he meant, ‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’7
Some prize examples of semantic gymnastics can be found in the ramblings of liberal ‘Christians’. Since they are being paid to defend doctrines they don’t believe, they redefine them instead. That way, they can pretend they are not violating their ordination vows. For them, God is not the Creator, but the ‘ultimate concern’; ‘Jesus is Risen’ means that His influence continued after His death; ‘Christian faith’ need not consist of holding any doctrines, although the NT states that those who forsake orthodox Christian doctrine have departed from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1, 5:8, 2 Tim. 3:8; cf Eph. 4:5).
These are all examples of stipulative definitions. This fallacy is common among evolutionists who contrast ‘scientists’ and ‘creationists’. A creationist would respond by producing evidence that there are thousands of practising scientists who believe in biblical creation. But some evolutionists respond that such people cannot be true scientists because no true scientist can accept a creationist explanation, regardless of his qualifications or research experience.8 This becomes essentially a circular argument: all who are qualified in science and practice science and reject creation are opposed to creation.
The worst example of intellectual dishonesty is equivocation, that is, switching the meaning of a single word part-way through an argument. This deceitful practice is used by many evolutionary propagandists when defining the word ‘evolution’.
The theory of evolution really means the development of all living things from a single cell, which itself came from non-living chemicals. This directly contradicts the Bible and has no scientific support. But many propagandists define evolution as ‘change in gene frequency with time’ or ‘descent with modification’ and use Darwin’s finches and industrial melanism in the peppered moths as clinching proof of ‘evolution’ and disproof of creationism! An example is the atheist Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the pretentiously named National Center for Science Education, the leading US organisation devoted entirely to evolution-pushing.9 She approvingly cited a teacher whose pupils said after her ‘definition’: ‘Of course species change with time! You mean that’s evolution?!’10
Of course no creationist disputes that changes occur through time, but creationists disagree that the type of change required for molecules-to-man evolution occurs, i.e. changes that increase information content.
Sense and Reference
Philosopher Gottlob Frege (1848–1925) posed a problem in his famous example “Hesperus is Phosphorus” (the evening star is the morning star).37
Long ago, Pythagoras showed that they are both the same object, the planet Venus. But is someone saying “Hesperus is Phosphorus” saying exactly the same thing as “Hesperus is Hesperus”? Obviously the latter is trivially true as a=a, but when Pythagoras said the former statement, he was conveying new information: that these two apparently different objects were really the same thing. This also means that someone not knowing that could say “Hesperus is not Phosphorus” without meaning that he is denying the trivially true “Hesperus is Hesperus”. Frege argued that Hesperus and Phosphorus had a different sense (German Sinn), although they have the same reference (German Bedeutung)—Venus—because they convey different attributes (shining in evening or morning).
This can be applied to the cults mentioned above: when they use the same words, they don’t have the same reference, e.g. the biblical Jesus v false christs. In another case, although Jesus affirmed Genesis as history, is a theistic evolutionist necessarily calling Christ a liar? Not necessarily: a theologically conservative Christian evolutionist would likewise affirm the same ‘reference’ as the Christian creationist: that Christ always told the truth. But some genuine Christians may not realize that Jesus affirmed that Genesis was history—a ‘sense’ (especially the new Christians as mentioned in the article Can Christians believe evolution?). Thus they would be like someone not realizing that Hesperus was the same object as Phosphorus, but would still affirm that Hesperus is Hesperus.38
Another application has been exposing the scientific ignorance of some environmental activists and gullible supporters. People are asked to support a ban on ban ‘dihydrogen monoxide’, with lists of all its terrifying dangers of this stuff. This hoax exploits the ignorance of many people that the two senses ‘dihydrogen monoxide’ (and ‘hydrogen hydroxide’ and the proper chemical names ‘hydrogen oxide’ and ‘oxidane’) and ‘water’ have the same reference: H2O.
Truth and Falsity
A simple definition of truth and falsity goes back at least as far as Aristotle (384–322 BC): ‘If I say of what is that it is, I speak the truth. If I say of what is not that it is, I speak falsely.’ That is, a statement is true if it corresponds to the facts, and false otherwise.
This should be obvious, but the atheistic anti-creationist Ian Plimer wrote:
‘In my view, the Bible is not true. However, it is the Truth.’11
Of the many crass blunders he makes in logic, mathematics, science and exegesis, which are well documented on [this] website,12 this is the worst.
In logic, an argument is defined as a sequence of statements comprising premises that are claimed to support a conclusion. As shown above, Scripture teaches that Christians are to argue in this sense. This is not the same as being argumentative, or arguing just for the sake of arguing.
Arguments can be either deductive or inductive. Deductive reasoning is reasoning from the general to the particular. Inductive arguments reason from a finite set of examples to a general rule. Deductive arguments are the most important, so I will concentrate on them below.
A syllogism is a common type of deductive argument with two premises and a conclusion.
A valid argument is one where it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false, i.e. the conclusion follows from the premises. Note that validity does not depend on the truth of the premises, but on the form of the argument.
One example of a valid argument with true premises is:
1) All whales have backbones;
2) Moby Dick is a whale;
∴ Moby Dick has a backbone.
An example of a valid argument with a false premise and false conclusion is:
1) All dogs are reptiles;
2) All reptiles have scales;
∴ All dogs have scales.
An invalid argument with a true premise and true conclusion is:
The sun is larger than the earth;
∴ polytheism contradicts the Bible.
This is invalid because the conclusion contains terms not contained in the premise. It is important to recognise valid forms of argument, and use them.
Many invalid arguments can be found in the works of politicians. On the astute British television political satire, Yes Prime Minister (episode ‘Power to the People’), two head civil servants (Sir Arnold Robinson and Sir Humphrey Appleby) illustrated ‘politician’s logic’:
1) Something must be done;
2) This is something;
∴ We must do it.
As pointed out in the program (see clip below), this is just as invalid as:
1) All cats have four legs;
2) My dog has four legs;
∴ My dog is a cat.
A sound argument is a valid argument with true premises. The conclusion of a sound argument must be true. So, to prove the conclusion of a valid argument, it is sufficient to prove all premises are true. For example:
1) Abortion is intentional killing of a fetus;
2) A fetus is an innocent human being;
3) Intentionally killing an innocent human being is murder;
4) Murder is forbidden by God;
∴ Abortion is forbidden by God.
The form of the argument is valid, premises (1) and (3) are true by the normal definitions of words, (2) can be proven by science and Scripture (Gen. 25:22 and Lk. 1:41 use the same words for unborn and born children), (4) is proven by Gen. 9:6, Ex. 20:13, Rom. 13:9, so the argument is sound.
A contradiction is defined as the conjunction of the affirmation and denial of a premise, in the same time, place, and sense (i.e. p and not-p, or in symbolic form, p.~p). For any pair of contradictory premises, one must be true and the other false. The Law of Non-Contradiction prevents both premises being true, while the Law of Excluded Middle points out that a pair of contradictory premises exhausts all possibilities. Another way of putting it is: a proposition must be either true or false—not both true and false, nor in some limbo state in between truth and falsity. This can be useful in listing all possible alternatives and refuting all of them but the correct one.
C.S. Lewis’s famous Trilemma argument is a good example.
Jesus Christ is reported to have claimed to be God. The reports are either true or false.
1) If the reports are false, the reporters either knew they were false or they did not.
1a) If they knew they were false, they were liars—but who would die for what they know is a lie?
1b) If they did not know, then it is a big problem to explain how legends could accumulate around a historical figure in such a short time.
2) If the reports are true, then Jesus was either speaking falsely or truly.
2a) If Jesus spoke falsely He either knew it or he did not.
2ai) If He knew, He was a liar.
2aii) If He knew not, then He was a lunatic, since a claim to be God is the most absurd claim a mere creature can make.
2b) If Jesus spoke truly, then He really is God.
Anti-Christians often charge the Bible with contradicting itself, as they realise that if the charge were proven, it would show that it affirms at least one false statement, thus disproving divine authorship. But most of these sceptics are ignorant of the above definition of a contradiction.
For example, Mt. 20:29 ff. which states that Christ healed two blind men does not contradict Mk. 10:46 ff. which states that Bartimaeus was healed, as the latter does not say only Bartimaeus was healed.
Some other alleged contradictions can be resolved by showing that words are being used in different senses, e.g.:
John 1:18 vs Exodus 24:9–10: in the former, Jesus states, ‘No man has seen God [in His full glory as Sovereign of the Universe] at any time; the only begotten God [Jesus] … has explained Him.’ In the latter, Moses was clearly beholding a veiled presence of God, metaphorically referred to as ‘under His feet’. In Exodus 33:18–23, a distinction is also made between beholding God’s full glory (‘face’) and His veiled presence (‘back’).
Although many cults claim that the biblical doctrine of the Trinity is self-contradictory, it is not. The oneness and threeness of God refer to different aspects. The three eternal and co-equal Persons of the Godhead—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—are the same in essence but distinct in role—three Persons (or three centres of consciousness) and one Being.
An important aspect of contradiction is self-refutation. Many statements by anti-Christians might appear reasonable on the surface, but when the statement is turned on itself, it refutes itself. Some common examples are:
- ‘There is no truth’—this would mean that this sentence itself is not true.
- ‘We can never know anything for certain’—so how could we know that for certain?
- ‘A statement is only meaningful if it is either a necessary truth of logic or can be tested empirically’ (the once popular verification criterion for meaning of the ‘Logical Positivists’)—this statement itself is neither a necessary truth of logic nor can it be tested empirically, so it is meaningless by its own criteria.
- ‘There are no moral absolutes, so we ought to be tolerant of other people’s morals’—but ‘ought’ implies a moral absolute that toleration is good.
4) Conditional Statements and Implications
These are of the form: ‘if p then q’ (if p is true, then q is true). Another way of putting it is ‘p implies q’, or in symbolic form p ⊃ q (or p → q). Yet another way is saying that p is a sufficient condition for q, while q is a necessary condition for p. P is called the antecedent; and q is called the consequent.
Asserting the truth of the implication (p ⊃ q) does not in itself imply that the antecedent (p) is true—only that if p were true, q must logically follow from it. For an example of a misunderstanding of this point, some use the following passage to ‘prove’ that it is possible to speak with ‘angelic tongues’—1 Cor. 13:1–3:
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Paul makes several conditional statements showing that without love, no matter what other wonders he might hypothetically be able to perform, he would be nothing. He is no more asserting that there are special angelic tongues than that he moved mountains or gave his body to the fire. There may be passages to support a common Pentecostal practice, but this is not one of them (at Creation Ministries International, we take no position on this issue).
Another good example is Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12:27:
27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.
I doubt that any Christian would claim that Jesus was asserting that He drove out demons by Beelzebub! He was showing that if His opponents were right in their accusation, then the accusation would equally apply to their own people. Jesus’ argument is an example of reductio ad absurdum (see below).
|p implies q||p⊃q|
|p is true||p|
|therefore q is true||q|
|Affirming the Antecedent||Modus ponens|
|Table 1: Affirming the Antecedent|
|p implies q||p⊃q|
|q is false||~q|
|therefore p is false||~p|
|Denying the Consequent||Modus tollens|
|Table 2: Denying the Consequent|
From a conditional statement, one can construct two types of valid inference: modus ponens (Table 1) and modus tollens (Table 2). Modus ponens is Latin for ‘method of constructing’. The reason it is called ‘affirming the antecedent’ is that the argument proves that the consequent must be true if the antecedent is affirmed. Modus tollens is Latin for ‘method of destroying’. This type of argument proves that the antecedent must be false if the consequent is denied.
There are two types of invalid inference: the fallacies of affirming the consequent (Table 3) and denying the antecedent (Table 4).
|p implies q||p⊃q|
|q is true||q|
|therefore p is true||∴ p|
|Table 3: Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent|
|p implies q||p⊃q|
|p is false||~p|
|therefore q is false||∴ ~q|
|Table 4: Fallacy of Denying the Antecedent|
To illustrate: starting with the implication: If Jesus rose from the dead (p), then His bones cannot be found (q); and combining this with four possible premises as follows:
1) Jesus rose from the dead (p is true)
∴ His bones cannot be found (q is true)
2) Jesus’ bones cannot be found (q is true)
∴ He rose from the dead (p is true)
A reminder: validity is independent of the truth or falsity of the premises or conclusion. We accept that Jesus rose, but not that every dead person whose bones are missing also rose.
3) Jesus did not rise from the dead (p is false)
∴ His bones can be found (q is false)
The conclusion does not follow; many people who did not rise were cremated.
4) Jesus’ bones can be found (q is false)
∴ He did not rise from the dead (p is false)
- valid (despite the fact that both premises are false).
The founders of many counterfeit religions still have skeletons mouldering away, which is proof that they are not risen.14
One use of modus tollens is the reductio ad absurdum argument, i.e. showing that a premise is false by demonstrating that it implies an absurd conclusion.
An example is the effort by Bishop John Shelby Spong15 to show that homosexual acts are OK because some animals practise them. As it stands, the argument is invalid. To make it valid, another premise is needed that states: whatever animals do is OK.
1) Animals practise homosexual acts;
2) Whatever animals practise is OK;
∴ Homosexual acts are OK.
To prove the argument to be sound, that premise must be proved to be true. Conversely, to prove the argument to be unsound, the premise must be shown to be false. This can be done by showing that it leads to a ridiculous conclusion:
1) Animals practise rape and cannibalism;
2) What animals do is OK;
∴ Rape and cannibalism are OK.
Now if one does not accept the conclusion, if one is logical one must reject one or more of the premises. As (1) is empirically true, (2) must be the false premise. So Spong’s argument contains a false premise and is thus unsound.
Another example: pro-abortionists often claim that the unborn child is merely a disposable part of the woman’s body. However, see what happens if this premise is combined with other indisputable premises in the following argument:
1) If a is part of b and b is part of c, then a is part of c (This is called a transitive relation—an example is: if a brick is part of a wall and a wall is part of a house, then the brick is part of the house);
2) A male unborn baby has a penis (that is, a penis is part of him);
3) This baby is part of the pregnant woman;
∴ A woman pregnant with a male baby has a penis.
As the conclusion is false (feminists would detest it especially), at least one of the premises must be as well. All premises are indisputably true except the pro-abortionists’ (3), which was the disputed issue. So this argument proves it false.16
An example of a fallacious reductio ad absurdum is the argument that the Sadducees used against the Resurrection—Matthew 22:23–34
23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.
24 ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him.
25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother.
26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh.
27 Finally, the woman died.
28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?‘
Note that they tried to refute the Resurrection by showing that it leads to the absurd conclusion that in this hypothetical situation the woman would not know whose wife she is. Jesus’ answer shows the masterful logic of the Logos of God.
29 Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
First, Jesus points out that the starting presuppositions are wrong—the Sadducees only accepted the Pentateuch as Scripture, while Jesus, like the Pharisees, accepted the same books as the Protestant Old Testament. If they had not been ignorant of what the Scriptures were, they would have realised that Scriptures like Dan. 12:2 clearly teach the Resurrection.
Then He notes that if a conclusion of a valid argument is false, then it is enough for only one of the premises to be false. The false premise in the Sadducees’ argument was not the resurrection, but that people would be married in heaven:
30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
However, refuting any number of arguments against a position does not in itself prove that position. So Jesus proved His own position, on the Sadducees’ own terms, using Scripture they accepted:
31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,
32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.‘
33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
Even the Scriptures accepted by the Sadducees (and which Jesus affirmed as being ‘what God said’) taught the resurrection: Christ demonstrated this with an argument showing that the Pentateuch taught that God was the God of the patriarchs and the God of the living. Therefore the patriarchs were living in a sense in Moses’ day, centuries after they had died physically. Note also that the argument depends on the present tense of the verb ‘to be’ implied in the Hebrew verbless clause of the passage (Ex. 3:6) Jesus cited. His argument makes no sense if He did not believe in verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture.
The fallacy of denying the antecedent is committed by some groups that teach the error of baptismal regeneration by citing the following statement of Christ according to the Majority Text of Mark 16:16:
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
The first part of the verse is an implication: if a person believes and is baptized then he will be saved. It is invalid to argue from this that anyone who is not baptized will not be saved. The second part is an explicit statement that unbelief results in condemnation.
To demonstrate the fallacy, examine the following statement which is in the same logical form: ‘Whatever has feathers and flies is a bird, but whatever does not have feathers is not a bird.’ This statement does not teach that there are no flightless birds.
Another example of the fallacy of denying the antecedent is when some people are upset because we can no longer use a stock creationist argument (e.g. the depth of meteoritic dust on the moon to prove a young moon17). But the argument in schematic form is as follows, and the fallacy should be clear:
1) If the moon dust argument works, then the moon must be young;
2) The moon dust argument doesn’t work;
∴ The moon cannot be young.
This should be a lesson that our primary evidence should always be the infallible written testimony of One who was there and never errs, not the evidence of fallible scientists who weren’t there and often err.
An example of the fallacy of affirming the consequent is using verified predictions as ‘proof’ of a scientific law.18 That can be seen if we analyse it:
1) Theory T predicts observation O;
2) O is observed;
∴ T is true.
To see why this does not follow, consider:
1) If I had just eaten a whole pizza, I would feel very full;
2) I feel very full;
∴ I have just eaten a whole pizza.
But I could feel very full for many different reasons.
On the other hand, the famous falsification criterion for a scientific theory devised by the late Sir Karl Popper is based on the valid denying the consequent:
1) Theory T predicts O will not be observed;
2) O is observed;
∴ T is false.
We can apply this analysis to a major evolutionary argument:
1) If organisms X and Y have a common ancestor, they will have homologous structures;
2) X and Y have homologous structures;
∴ X and Y have a common ancestor.
This demonstrates that it is an example of the fallacy of affirming the consequent. The conclusion is not proven—the homologous structures could be due to a common designer, leaving a ‘biotic message’ that there is a single designer of life rather than many .19
On the other hand, ornithologists like Alan Feduccia argue against dinosaur-to-bird evolution for many good reasons, including a recent discovery that dinosaur embryos have an embryonic thumb that birds lack (I–II–III and II–III–IV digit patterns respectively).20 The argument is:
1) If birds evolved from theropods, they will have homologous digits;
2) Bird and theropods do not have homologous digits;
∴ Birds did not evolve from theropods.
However, philosophers like Imre Lakatos point out that core theories are not tested in isolation, but are ‘protected’ by auxiliary hypotheses. Denying the consequent only shows that one of the premises needs to be false, and it need not be the core theory. So the auxiliary hypotheses are modified instead. In schematic form, the valid argument is as follows:
1) Theory T and auxiliary hypothesis A predict that O will not be observed;
2) O is observed;
∴ Either T or A is false.
For example, Newton’s theory predicted certain motions of Saturn, provided there were no other massive objects interfering. When Saturn didn’t move as predicted, either Newton’s theory was falsified, or there was another massive object perturbing the orbit—this turned out to be the planet Uranus.23
The above was explaining the logic of the falsification criterion. This was not necessarily to endorse it—a coherent definition of science is hard to come by.
In the hands of evolutionists, ‘unscientific’ becomes a swear-word with which to attack creation. But it is more important whether creation or evolution are true or false, than whether one is more ‘scientific’ than another. Sometimes evolutionists are so keen to attack creationists that they don’t realise their self-contradictions. For example, the philosopher P. Quinn (an anti-creationist himself) demonstrates the illogicality of the Marxist evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould:
‘… Gould claims that “‘Scientific creationism’ is a self-contradictory phrase precisely because it cannot be falsified”…Ironically, in the next sentence Gould goes on to contradict himself by asserting that “the individual claims are easy enough to refute with a bit of research.” Indeed, some of them are! But since they are so easily refuted by research, they are after all falsifiable and, hence, testable. This glaring inconsistency is the tip-off to the fact that talk about testability and falsifiability functions as verbal abuse and not as a serious objection in Gould’s anti-creationist polemics.’24
5) Disjunctive Syllogism
The disjunctive syllogism is a valid form of argument familiar to those who have sat multiple choice examinations. Sometimes, a process of elimination can rule out all possibilities but one, which must therefore be true. An example is: Fred is flying either on QANTAS or Air New Zealand; he is not flying QANTAS; therefore he is flying Air New Zealand (see Table 5).
|Either p or q||p v q|
|p is false||~p|
|therefore q is true||
|Table 5: Disjunctive Syllogism|
To be sure that the conclusion is true, one must be sure that all possible alternatives are listed. The surest way is to apply the Law of Excluded Middle and have the disjunctive (either/or) premise contain a pair of contradictories (p or ~p)
An important example is that there are only two real explanations for the origin of different kinds of life—creation or evolution. For example, Professor D.M.S. Watson wrote:
‘evolution [is] a theory universally accepted not because it can be proven by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.’25
I.e.: C v E; ~C; ∴ E.
As this is a disjunctive syllogism, it is a valid argument. But it cannot be over-emphasised that validity and truth are not the same—this argument is not sound! Many evolutionists starting with Darwin have used this reasoning. This also demonstrates the atheistic bigotry behind much evolutionist thinking. Of course, creationists can use the equally valid argument:
C v E; ~E; ∴ C.
I.e. evidence against evolution is automatically evidence for creation. This is both valid and sound.
Many evolutionary propagandists dispute this reasoning when creationists use it, on the grounds that creation and evolution are not the only alternatives. Creationists are thus accused of the fallacy of false alternatives, that is, the disjunctive premise leaves out a possible alternative. But as shown, many evolutionists agree there are only two, so there are double standards at work.26 This can be shown by the Law of Excluded Middle: either things were made (creation) or they weren’t (evolution). It is true that biblical creation is not the only alternative, so it is not proven by disproof of evolution. Biblical creation is certainly consistent with disproof of evolution, unlike atheism.
A genuine example of the fallacy of false alternatives is the following ‘proof’ of the punctuated equilibria version of evolution:
1) Life must have evolved either gradualistically or via punctuated equilibria;
2) There are major problems with gradualism (absence of fossil intermediates, and inability to construct a functional series);
∴ Life must have evolved via punctuated equilibria.
Other common fallacies
So far I have discussed deductive reasoning. As discussed, inductive arguments reason from a finite set of examples to a general rule. The reason they are less important is that they don’t guarantee the truth of the conclusion—they are formally invalid by the definition of validity in logic. For example, just because we find that 1000 crows are black, it does not follow that the 1001st crow will not be an albino.
Science by its nature is inductive, not deductive. Science always uses a finite number of measurements, each of which has an uncertainty, so science can never give a complete picture of reality. Hence, although science can be useful, it can never be a threat to the Christian Faith.
The error of trying to disprove a belief by tracing it to its source. For example, Kekulé thought up the (correct) ring structure of the benzene (C6H6) molecule after a dream of a snake grasping its tail, but chemists don’t need to worry about correct ophiology to analyse benzene!
However, many anti-Christians commit this fallacy when they try to disprove Christianity by pointing out alleged parallels in pagan mythology.29 Another example is: ‘You only believe Christianity because you were indoctrinated by your parents and culture; if you came from a Hindu family and culture you would be a Hindu’, with the spoken or unspoken impression ‘thus Christianity need not be preferred over Hinduism’. In neither case can anything be inferred about the truth of Christianity from reasons a Christian’s belief allegedly originated.
Many evolutionist propagandists believe that they simply need to demonstrate that a creationist has a ‘fundamentalist’ religious belief to discredit his purely scientific claims. The double standards are glaring—the radical atheist or even Marxist beliefs of many leading evolutionists30 are often ignored, although these beliefs determine which scientific explanations are acceptable and which are not.
Fallacy of Division
For example: a truck is heavy, therefore all its atoms are heavy. This example is obviously fallacious, but other equally fallacious arguments are advanced in all seriousness. Some New Agers like Teilhard de Chardin claim that because living beings are conscious, then their atoms must have some consciousness.
Fallacy of Composition
The opposite to the Fallacy of Division. An example is: all cells are light, therefore all animals containing cells are light.
This is Latin for ‘after this, therefore because of this’. But just because B happened after A, it doesn’t mean B was caused by A. Gordon Clark gives the following example of this fallacy:
‘In the late seventies the Internal Revenue Service [USA] undertook to harass Christian schools…. [They] tried to revoke the tax exemption status of Christian schools, holding them guilty of race discrimination until they could prove themselves innocent by certain processes impossible to fulfil in some localities. One of the arguments the IRS used was that those schools were organized just after laws of racial discrimination were enacted. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. One of the defenses used by the Christians was that the schools were organized just after the Supreme Court banned the Bible and Prayer. One might add that they were organized after violence, drugs and sex became intolerable in the public schools.’31
A more recent example of this fallacy is the claim by the atheist, Alex Ritchie:
‘I suggest that the name change from Creation Science Foundation [Australia] to Answers in Genesis is a shrewd and timely precaution to safeguard this religious organisation from the possibility of legal action, following the precedent of the Plimer/Roberts case.’32
Of course, Answers in Genesis in the USA changed its ministry name three years before this, and the official company name of Answers in Genesis (Australia) at the time still remained Creation Science Foundation Ltd., ACN 010 120 304 (ACN = Australian Company Number). The reason for the change in ministry name is explained in this article: the ministry’s axioms are the propositions of the Bible, not the theories of fallible scientists. [Ed. Note: In 2006, the ministries in Australia, Canada, NZ and South Africa all changed their names to Creation Ministries International]
The basis for logic
A final question is, why should logic work at all? Not only can unbelievers not make a sound case against Christianity, but an atheistic world-view attacks the very basis of reasoning itself. This was realised by the famous Communist evolutionist biologist, J.B.S. Haldane:
‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose my beliefs are true … and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’33
In a debate between the Christian, William Lane Craig and the atheist, Frank Zindler,34 Zindler claimed that our logical processes evolved for survival value. Craig pointed out that this provides no reason for us to trust their validity, only their value in survival.
Even Darwin wrote in an early private notebook, ‘Why is thought, being a secretion of brain, more wonderful than gravity as a property of matter?’35 But this argument is self-defeating. For it applies to that thought of Darwin’s too, and to every thought about evolution, hence we have no reason to trust them.
The famous Marxist paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould claimed that the mind was an illusion produced by the brain.36 So why should we trust anything Gould says, if his thoughts are illusions?
This only shows that many atheistic theories actually refute themselves. Thus there is no need for independent empirical tests for them. Conversely, the Christian doctrine that we are created in the image of a logical God is an excellent explanation for our logical faculties.
I wish to thank my logic mentor Ross Powell (MA) of Wellington, New Zealand, an expert in logical paradoxes, who taught me almost everything I know about logic. But any errors in this article are mine alone.
References and notes
- For a good discussion, see Craig, W.L., Apologetics: An Introduction, Moody Press, Chicago, chapter 1, 1984. Return to text.
- For an extensive discussion on the role of logic in Christianity and many examples, see Clark, G.H., Logic, The Trinity Foundation, POB 68, Unicoi, TN 37692, 1988. Return to text.
- Smith, G. The ‘Toronto Blessing’, Apologia 4(2):37–40, 1995. Return to text.
- A generally first-rate book on the importance of developing a Christ-like mind is Moreland, J.P., Love Your God With All Your Mind, Navpress, Colorado Springs, 1997. Its main disadvantage is that Moreland is ‘sixty-forty in favor of the old-earth position’ (p.107), possibly because of a slight over-emphasis on extra-biblical revelation. Return to text.
- Machen, J.G., Christianity and Liberalism, Macmillan, New York, 1924. Return to text.
- Martin, W.R., The Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN, 1985. Return to text.
- Carroll, L. Through the looking-glass, and what Alice found there (with fifty illustrations by John Tenniel) Macmillan, London, 1877. Return to text.
- One example is Schafersman, S. Letter, Geotimes, August 1981. Cited in Bird, ref. 26, Vol. II, pp. 77–78. Return to text.
- See Batten, D. and Sarfati, J., How Religiously Neutral are the Anti-Creationist Organisations?, 1998. Return to text.
- Scott, E., Dealing with anti-evolutionism, Reports of the National Center for Science Education 17(4):24–28; quote on p. 26, with emphasis in original, 1997. Return to text.
- Plimer, I.R., Telling Lies for God, Random House, Australia, p. 289, 1994. Return to text.
- See The Ian Plimer Files. Return to text.
- Obviously I can give only a basic outline here. A more formal, in-depth coverage can be found in Hughes, G.E. and Londey, D.G., The Elements of Formal Logic, Methuen, London, 1965. Return to text.
- Thanks to the Wellington Christian logician Ross Powell for this example. Return to text.
- An extensive critique of Spong’s errant and heretical views is Bott, M.R. and Sarfati, J.D., What’s wrong with Bishop Spong? Apologia 4(1):3–27, 1995. Return to text.
- This argument is dramatised in the form of a Socratic Dialogue in Kreeft, P., The Unaborted Socrates, IVP, pp. 44–47, n.d. (after 1987). Return to text.
- Snelling, A.A. and Rush, D., Moon dust and the age of the solar system , Journal of Creation 7(1):2–42, 1993. Return to text.
- Clark, G.H., The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God, The Trinity Foundation, POB 68 Unicoi, TN 37692, 1987. Return to text.
- ReMine, W.J., The Biotic Message, St Paul Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1993; see review . Return to text.
- Ann C. Burke, A.C. and Feduccia, A., Developmental Patterns and the Identification of Homologies in the Avian Hand, Science 278(5338):666–8, 1997; perspective in the same issue, pp. 596–7 by Hinchliffe, R. The Forward March of the Bird-Dinosaurs Halted? Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Bird-dinosaur link challenged, Journal of Creation 12(1):5–7, 1998. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J.D., Dino-bird evolution falls flat , Creation 20(2):41, 1998. [See also the other articles under Did birds really evolve from dinosaurs?] Return to text.
- For extensive discussion of the views of Popper and Lakatos, and other attempts to define science, see Bird, W.R., The Origin of Species Revisited, Philosophical Library, New York, Vol. II, chapters 9–10, 1991. Return to text.
- Quinn, P., The Philosopher of Science as Expert Witness; in: Recent Work in the Philosophy of Science, ed. J. Cushing, C. Delaney and G. Gutting, 1984, pp. 32, 43, 1984; Cited in Bird, ref. 26, p. 121. Return to text.
- Watson, D.M.S., Adaptation, Nature 124:233, 1929. Return to text.
- Bird, W.R., The Origin of Species Revisited, Philosophical Library, New York, Vol. II, chapter 11, 1991. Return to text.
- Gould, S.J. and Eldredge, N., Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism; in: Models in Paleobiology, T.J.M. Schopf (ed.), Freeman, Cooper and Co., San Francisco, pp. 82–115, 1972. Return to text.
- Batten, D.J., Punctuated equilibrium: come of age? Journal of Creation 8(2):131–7, 1994. Return to text.
- Ronald Nash has dealt with such claims in detail, for example, Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions? See also Was Christianity plagiarized from pagan myths? Refuting the copycat thesis. Return to text.
- Batten, D.J., A Who’s Who of evolutionists , Creation 20(1):32, 1997. Return to text.
- Clark, ref. 2, pp. 17–18. Return to text.
- Ritchie, A., Dropping the Pretence: The Creation Science Foundation changes its name, The Skeptic 17(4):13,15, 1997. Return to text.
- Haldane, J.B.S. Possible Worlds, p. 209; cited in Lewis, C.S., Miracles, Fontana, London, p. 19, 1960 (first published 1947). Return to text.
- See Atheism vs Christianity: Where does the evidence point? A debate between Mr Frank Zindler and Dr William Lane Craig, Apologia 5(1):21–29, 1996. Return to text.
- Cited by Wieland, C., Darwin’s real message: have you missed it? Creation 14(4):16–19, 1992. Return to text.
- Gould, S.J., The Darwinian Revolution in Thought. Lecture, June 6, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 1990. Return to text.
- Frege, F.L.G., Über Sinn und Bedeutung, Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik 100:25–50, 1892 (On Sense and Reference, Journal of Philosophy and Philosophical Criticism). In Greek mythology, Hesperos (Greek Ἓσπερος ) is the Evening Star, the planet Venus in the evening. He is the son of the dawn goddess Eos (Roman Aurora) and is the brother of Phōsphoros (Greek: Φωσφόρος = light-bringer, often translated as Lucifer in Latin; another name is Eōsphoros Ἐωσφόρος = dawn-bringer), the Morning Star. But Frege’s original German paper used ‘the evening star’ (der Abendstern) and ‘the morning star’ (der Morgenstern). See also Venus: cauldron of Fire. Return to text.
- Similarly, Thomas Aquinas pointed out that one can have a false opinion without being intentionally heretical, even if that false opinion has heretical logical consequences. But if one holds to the false opinion stubbornly after the logical consequences are explained, then there is a problem. He uses the superficially trivial biblical statement that Samuel was the son of Elkanah: this is not an article of saving faith, but denying this would logically imply denying biblical inerrancy, which to him was as serious as for any evangelical today:
Article 4. Whether it is lawful to have various contrary opinions of notions?
I answer that, Anything is of faith in two ways; directly, where any truth comes to us principally as divinely taught, as the trinity and unity of God, the Incarnation of the Son, and the like; and concerning these truths a false opinion of itself involves heresy, especially if it be held obstinately. A thing is of faith, indirectly, if the denial of it involves as a consequence something against faith; as for instance if anyone said that Samuel was not the son of Elcana, for it follows that the divine Scripture would be false. Concerning such things anyone may have a false opinion without danger of heresy, before the matter has been considered or settled as involving consequences against faith, and particularly if no obstinacy be shown; whereas when it is manifest, and especially if the Church has decided that consequences follow against faith, then the error cannot be free from heresy. For this reason many things are now considered as heretical which were formerly not so considered, as their consequences are now more manifest.
So we must decide that anyone may entertain contrary opinions about the notions, if he does not mean to uphold anything at variance with faith. If, however, anyone should entertain a false opinion of the notions, knowing or thinking that consequences against the faith would follow, he would lapse into heresy.
Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 32. The knowledge of the divine personsReturn to text.