Saturday, September 26, 2009

Making sure that what I say makes sense

Justin Taylor has notes from Peter Kreeft's Socratic Logic:
To make a convincing argument you have to fulfill all three of the following conditions:

Your terms are clear.
Your premises are true.
Your logic is valid.
If you want to critique someone’s argument, you have to show an error in just one of the following:

They are using a term ambiguously.
They are using a false premise.
They are committing a logical fallacy (i.e., the argument is invalid; the conclusion does not follow from the premises).
 Often it takes more than logic to persuade someone, it has to be worth it and not just true. Other times it takes less than logic, because people do things for illogical reasons because it seems beneficial. Either way, I figure it's worth at least trying to make sense.


  1. Good to see good logic being commended.

    Evangelicals have been too long ashamed of admitting their dependence and need of the principles and rules of true thinking and discussion.

    And I've only heard the phrase, "I only want to tell people what the bible says because everything else is just human thinking" a couple of times this year so far!

    Although, a few nights ago I had an enthusiastic commendation for, "Using the words of Jesus" in something. Which rather left me wondering about what the perceived value of the event might have been, if I hadn't.

    I found this quote quite striking, “Many preachers use psychological manipulation without altogether realizing they are doing so. It is gratifying to perceive a powerful emotion gripping a congregation. We too easily jump to the conclusion that God is at work when in fact this may not be the case at all. This is why so much sterility follows powerful meetings: the power is sometimes psychological and not spiritual. Psychological manipulation cannot produce ongoing spiritual renewal.”
    (John White, Nehemiah – Excellence in Leadership, p111)

    But this shouldn't surprise us a great deal.

    Here are some questions to wonder about: Why are evangelicals so ashamed of logic? is it just a lack of understanding what it is that cause evangelicals to treat logic like a dependable but unloved railway track?

    The train of verbal revelation can't run without the rails of logic, yet when was the last time you heard an evangelism training talk/sermon, or considered giving one on critical thinking, logic and fallacies?

    I'm teaching on this topic at OCCA in a couple of weeks time, so this is good timing for me.


  2. Challenging words, Tom. I quite liked Why Good Arguments Often Fail on this. How do I become more logical, and clearer in argument?

    The John White quote is interesting. I wonder how we can be passionate about things which demand passion in communicating them, while avoiding manipulation, especially when commending the gospel and Jesus with joy, and even expressing sorrow for those who have suffered loss, or whatever is appropriate to the talk and situation, and communication of God's Word. Any top tips? I guess it's more trusting the Word to do it's work and not adding in extraneous emotional pulls on people.

  3. A: "I only want to tell people what the bible says
    B: "Why is that?"
    A: "...because everything else is just human thinking"
    B: " you do want to persuade people then?"
    A: "uh, oh yeah."
    B: "which is what happens in the Bible"
    A: "really?"
    B: "Yeah, Paul proved, argued, demonstrated and persuaded people"
    A: "But he said human wisdom was foolish"
    B: "Which must mean that 'human wisdom' doesn't mean just stating something without reasons"
    A: "So what does it mean?"
    B: "Coming up with our own idea of who God should be..."
    A: "So what should I do...?"

  4. It's all doctrine of creation (or lack thereof) IMHO.

    This "Bible as magic" assumes that the words of Jesus (or Paul, Isaiah) etc act spiritually on us in a way totally removed from the rest of who we are as people. Argument bad, word good, is just a variation on a theme of physical bad, spiritual good.

    It's the new gnosticism.

    I like approaching it this way, because one always provokes a reaction from the type of people who say these things! ;)

  5. That is a provocative way to deal with it... Seems to me that a lack of doctrine of creation lies behind a whole lot of contemporary problems... finding that as I study Genesis 1-4 again at the moment (not that doctrine of creation only comes from there)..