googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: October 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!

John Godfrey Saxe took an old Indian parable and made this wonderful poem:

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

I've always thought it was funny how people with such limited knowledge and understanding can still have such confidence in their opinions. In regards to science and evolution, there's far more that we don't know than what we do know. It doesn't matter how certain we are about what we do know, what we don't know can still greatly shape what is true.

But beyond the creation v. evolution debate, this poem highlights the error of disbelief in general. The famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, has said many times that he doesn't believe there is a God and hasn't seen any evidence for one. Considering the enormity of the universe and how tiny the fraction is that we have experienced, his view is very much like that of a blind many who has touched only one part of an elephant. He has based his opinion only on his limited experience and can't see the big picture.

I wish I could leave it at that but I've been doing this for a while and I know the common rebuttal offered up by critics who hear this argument. They usually try to turn the tables and say something like, “We'll, Mr. RKBentley, how do you know that somewhere out there in the universe there isn't a Flying Spaghetti Monster?” Here's the big difference: there is evidence for God. We have the revelation of the Bible. We have the historical accounts of Jesus. We have the nation of Israel. All of these things attest there is a God. What similar evidence do we have for the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

I admit that I don't know everything. I also admit there's far more that I don't know than I do know. However, there is One who does know everything and even though I don't know everything, I know Him. I also trust what He says. Other people are welcome to grope about in the dark but His children walk in the light! (John 11:9-10)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Loving God with our Minds: A Series in Logic. Conclusion

It's time to wrap up this series on logic. There are many more things that could be said but we've gone on long enough and I've covered the most common logical fallacies Christian apologists are likely to encounter. I'll conclude this series with a couple of more points.

First, I want to be clear about one thing. A logical fallacy is not automatic proof that a person is wrong. I came across an amusing example a while back that demonstrates how bad logic could occasionally lead to a correct answer. Look at the following:

64/16 > 64/16 > 4/1 > 4

In this mathematical expression, the person canceled out the sixes so 64/16 became 4/1 which equals 4. Ironically, 64/16 really does equal 4 but you obviously can't cancel out the sixes that way. The same approach would not work with most other fractions. It becomes frustrating, then, to explain to the person how he is wrong even though his answer is correct.

Along those same lines, while you are defending the faith against critics, sometimes they will present correct facts couched in bad arguments. If a person sprinkles in some logical fallacies in the midst of some valid arguments, we still need to address the valid points he's raised. If we do nothing but point out his errors in logic, then we are, in a way, using a red herring. You might stymie the critic into silence but you won't persuade him unless you eventually can answer legitimate concerns he has. Pointing out logical fallacies helps rid the debate of irrelevant static and allows you to have a substantive discussion.

Finally, as I said in the start of my series, Christians need to be careful with the arguments we use. One of the visitors to my blog, Steven J, left a comment detailing how he has sometimes heard Christians using logical fallacies. Sadly, he's correct. I've heard them too. It's unfortunate because we don't need to resort to such tactics. Remember, we are the ones on the solid rock. Our thinking should rest on the One who is the Author of logic.

Our job is laid out very clearly in 2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV:

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Further Reading

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Loving God with our Minds: A Series in Logic. Part 7


Sometimes a critic will simply state his opinion is a fact without offering any argument to support it. In my series addressing the “10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer,” I encountered several examples of bald assertions (along with numerous other logical fallacies). Here's one example:

Jonah did not live inside a fish's stomach for three days like the Bible says.”

That's it. That was the entire statement. There was no reason given why the critic believed such a thing didn't happen. He cited no evidence to support his conclusion. Here merely said it didn't happen.

Since bald assertions have no supporting arguments, they are they can be rebutted with an opposing assertion: Jonah didn't live for three days inside a fish? Yes he did! You can see how easy that is.

Bald assertions are a type of red herring. They add nothing to a discussion.

ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE (argumentum ex silentio)

When a person cites the lack of evidence for something as evidence against that thing, he is using an argument from silence. Here's an example so that you can see how this is a fallacy:

The Bible does not say that Jesus ever had a cold. Therefore, Jesus never had a cold.

John attests there were a great many things that Jesus said and did that aren't written down (John 21:25). So it would be wrong to conclude that Jesus didn't have a cold on the flimsy grounds that it's not mentioned in the Bible.

In the creation v. evolution debate, one common example of the argument from silence is this: Human fossils have not be found with dinosaur fossils. Therefore, humans did not live with dinosaurs.

My critics rail when I point it out but this is absolutely an argument from silence.

ARGUMENT FROM IGNORANCE (argumentum ad ignorantiam)

This is similar to the argument from silence but varies in a significant way. It argues that a position is true because merely because it has not been proven false. For example, in 1895, Lord Kelvin, the President of the Royal Society of England, confidently announced, “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” Lord Kelvin spoke out of ignorance. No one had ever flown before and so he believed flight was impossible. Of course, a few short years later, two brothers who owned a bicycle shop in Ohio flew the first airplane at Kitty Hawk, NC.

In my dealings with opponents of the Bible, one argument from ignorance I've heard deals with the Ark and the Flood. An evolutionist poster went into great detail describing large wooden ships of recent history. In the last couple of centuries, wooden ships have been built that measure 300-400’ – sometimes longer. It’s been our experience, however, that wooden ships this large leak terribly and require constant pumping to stay afloat. His point was this: if modern ship builders are not able to build large, water-tight wooden ships, then how could Noah have built the Ark? He was saying, in a sense, “We can’t build a water-tight, wooden ship of this size so therefore the Ark is impossible.”

The flaw is this argument is that it isn’t evidence that the Ark truly couldn’t be built – it’s only evidence that the poster didn’t know how such a boat could be built. It’s evidence of our lack of imagination or understanding. It’s simply an argument of our ignorance.


In Latin, non sequitur means, “it doesn't follow.” This is where a person's conclusion is not supported by his premise. There are several forms of non sequitur but they all fall under the umbrella of the conclusion not following the premise. An extreme example of this would be: “Men wear pants. Therefore Sally does not wear pants.”

Real examples are seldom as extreme as that but you'd be surprised how blatant Bible critics can be. Here is a real world example I've come across that is about as ridiculous as my example above:

You know how science works. You happily use the products of science every day: Your car. Your cell phone. Your microwave oven. Your TV. Your computer. These are all products of the scientific process. You know that science is incredibly important to our economy and to our lives... [conclusion] God did not make the world in 6 days.”

Do you see what I mean? The premise about how important science is, in spite of being true, does not support the conclusion that God did not create the world.

Further Reading

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 8

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Loving God with our Minds: A Series in Logic. Part 6


The false dilemma is when a person presents only a few alternatives when more might exist. A textbook example of this is Richard Dawkins famous quote about creationists: It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).” This is a false dilemma because Mr. Dawkins left out still one other possible alternative – namely that creationists are correct.


Occasionally, critics will cite an anecdotal example as being representative of the whole. Kent Hovind, for example, is a young-earth creationist whose ministry was to debate evolutionists. He is a gifted speaker but he received his doctorate from a less-than-prestigious college. Later, he was convicted of not paying taxes and was sentenced to prison. He's not really representative of the modern creationist movement but you wouldn't know that from what critics say about him.

A website called, “The Sensuous Curmudgeon” posted an article titled, “Kent Hovind: Creationist Role Model.” Hmm, do you see how that might suggest that all creationists are like Hovind? The article details the personal problems of Hovind and ends by saying, Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Creationists.”


Sometimes in a debate, instead of using a reasoned argument, a person will appeal to some emotion in his audience. This can take several forms but they all fall under this one broad category. Here are some specific types of appeals to emotions:

Appeal to Consequences: The folks at the National Center for Science Education have been claiming for years that if we teach creation to kids, they will suffer academically and America will fall behind the rest of the world in scientific advancement. This claim is not only completely unfounded (see my post on this topic), it is also irrelevant. If something is true then it is true regardless of the consequences. Would the critic prefer we teach a lie because it is more socially beneficial?

Appeal to Fear: Sometimes a critic will portray his opponent's position as dangerous. “If these Christians have their way, we will return to the dark ages and the Inquisition!”

Appeal to Incredulity: This occurs when a critic doesn't explain exactly how his opponent is wrong but merely states how the idea seems far fetched. “Christians actually believe Jesus will appear in the sky someday and 'call them home.'”

Appeal to Motive: This is a type of ad homenim where the critic attempts to make the audience suspicious of his opponent by questioning his motives. “My opponent is very committed to the creation issue because he makes a lot of money selling books about creation.”

Appeal to Flattery: In a debate, a critic might try to flatter his audience in an attempt to win them over. “I know that most people listening tonight are intelligent and rational people. They will certainly see how my opponent is wrong.”

Loaded Words: This is a clever, rhetorical device where a critic will insert unflattering and emotionally charged words into his argument. “Creationists believe the ridiculous idea that God magically spoke the world into existence.”

Guilt by Association: Sometimes a critic will compare his opponent or his opponent's position to some unpopular person or group. A very common example of this is to say, “Hitler was a Christian.” It's funny how they never point out how Mother Theresa was a Christian. Besides that though, no large group is represented by a single member (see “hasty generalization”). To condemn Christianity based on the beliefs of Hitler would be as irrational as condemning evolution by saying, “Hitler believed in evolution.” If something is true, then it's true regardless of who might endorse it.

Wishful Thinking: Some people believe something is true simply because they want it to be true. An example of this might be a mother who says, “I know my son didn't commit this crime.” The mother might not really know it, she just really wants to believe he's innocent. In a discussion about Christianity, you might have heard someone say something like, “I know God will accept everyone into heaven.” Obviously, the person has no foundation for such a belief. It's merely wishful thinking.

Further Reading

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 7

Part 8

Monday, October 10, 2011

Loving God with our Minds: A Series in Logic. Part 5


I have posted this quote on my blog before:

When the rocks say they are 4 billion years old and the Bible says they are less than 10,000 years old; who do you believe: the author of the Bible or the author of the rocks?

Quotes like this are examples of reification where people attempt to turn abstract ideas into concrete terms. In literature, it's similar to the grammatical device of personification. This is fine in literature or poetry but it's a fallacy in a logical debate.

In the above quote, the speaker claims “the rocks say they are 4 billion years old.” My family is from eastern Kentucky and I grew up visiting my grandparents and cousins who lived in the Appalachian mountains. Needless to say, I've seen more than a few rocks in my life and I've never heard one of them talk! I can say with certainty that you have never heard a rock talk either. How then, can rocks “say” they are billions of years old? The reality is that it's some scientists who study rocks that say the rocks are billions of years old. The rocks haven't said a word.

Reification occurs fairly frequently. Here are some other examples:

“Science has proven the Bible wrong.”

“The evidence says that evolution is true.”

“Fossils tell us that the earth is very old.”

Things like “science”, “evidence”, and “fossils” are not living. They don't “do” anything. Only people can say or do things. In any debate, remember that you're not debating the evidence; you're debating what someone is saying about the evidence.


Special pleading is where a person holds himself to a different standard than he applies to you. This fallacy rivals ad hominem as the most common in the evolution v. creation debate because most secular science rests on a premise that contradicts itself. Here's an example that I've posted many times before. It's one of my favorite quotes from evolutionists:

"Creation science" is a contradiction in terms. A central tenet of modern science is methodological naturalism--it seeks to explain the universe purely in terms of observed or testable natural mechanisms. Scientific American Magazine, July 2002 [emphasis added]

In this quote, Scientific American claims that methodological naturalism is a fundamental tenet of modern science. However, there is no “scientific evidence” for this. They admit it's a “tenet” - a philosophical assumption akin to a religious belief (look it up).

Whenever evolutionists demand we only use “scientific evidence” in a debate, they are engaging in special pleading. They are saying that our philosophical or religious belief that there was a supernatural creation is not valid while their philosophical or religious belief that there must be a natural explanation is valid.


A lot of evolution involves circular reasoning. Perhaps the most glaring example is the use of index fossils. Evolutionists often date rocks according to the fossils they find in the rocks AND they use rocks to date the fossils. Here's a hypothetical conversation that illustrates this:

EVO: “This rock is 60 million years old.”

CREO: “How do you know that?”

EVO: “Because the fossils in the rock are of animals that lived 60 million years ago.”

CREO: “But how do you know the animals lived 60 million years ago?”

EVO: “Because they're in rocks that are 60 million years old!”

Of course, evolutionists don't see it that way. However, when scientists date a stratum as Triassic, for example, simply because of the fossils found in it, it is absolutely a case of circular reasoning.

Another example of circular reasoning is found in the term “survival of the fittest.” If “fit” is defined by something's ability to survive, we're left with a tautology – namely, “things that survive survive.”

While circular reasoning may occur within evolutionary theory, in this series we're more interested in circular reasoning that occurs in discussions between Christians and non-Christians. We sometimes see this when evolutionists reject the “evidence” for creation.

Evolutionists often ask for “evidence” for our theory. I believe that fossils are evidence for creation. Yet when we present them as evidence, evolutionists reject it based on their own interpretation of fossils. In other words, they claim fossils aren't evidence for creation because they are evidence for evolution. They are saying, in a sense, “these rocks can't be young because they're old.” You can see the circular argument.

Now one interesting thing about circular reasoning is that Christians are often accused of using it. The claim usually centers on our view of the Bible. Critics claim that we believe the Bible is the word of God merely because the Bible says it's the word of God. That's not exactly accurate. If the Bible is true, I would expect it to affirm itself to be true. By analogy, if someone asked me if I'm RKBentley, I would answer that I am. It's not circular to expect something true to affirm itself to be true.

On the other hand, many atheists hold a worldview that contradicts itself. They might claim, for example, they don't believe anything without evidence yet there is no evidence that truth is only obtained by evidence so they indeed believe something without evidence. They're being irrational. It would be as though someone believed I'm John Smith in spite of the fact that I claim to not be John Smith.

Irrational people are difficult to persuade. When someone follows circular reasoning, he sees everything as proof for his beliefs.

Further Reading

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Loving God with our Minds: A Series in Logic. Part 4


An extremely common tactic employed by critics is to use the red herring. A red herring is a fact or detail raised by your opponent that is unrelated to the topic. This is done in an attempt to derail the conversation or to force the Christian to waste time addressing irrelevant issues. The thing that is so annoying about red herrings is that the points raised often contain an element of truth – they're just not pertinent to the subject. In a debate about evolution and creation, for example, my views on something like Revelation are not directly relevant.

One of my very early blogs was a response to an editorial in the Courier Journal written by militant evolutionist, James K Willmot in which Willmot committed a number of logical fallacies. In the midst of his rant against the then new Creation Museum, Willmot made the comment, AIG also believes in a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation.” This would certainly qualify as a red herring. It contains an element of truth since I'm sure that AiG accepts the entire Bible as the inspired word of God. However, they also recognize the obvious use of symbolism in the book of Revelation. AiG certainly does not believe there will be a “literal” harlot named Babylon who rides on the back of a scarlet beast in the last days. However, just the simple fact that AiG would have to clarify this point demonstrates the danger of a red herring. AiG is put on the defensive and is forced to waste time defending a point that's not relevant to the creation v. evolution debate in the first place.

The best way to deal with a red herring is to let it go. If someone you've engaged in debate throws out a red herring, tell him, “that's interesting. Maybe we'll discuss that later but for now could you please address the topic?”

ARGUMENT BY VERBOSITY (Argumentum verbosium)

Many evolutionists will often try to make a point by simply throwing out terms. It's a type of red herring. One very common example of this occurs when an evolutionist says something like, “Evolution is supported by geology, biology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, paleontology, anthropology, dendrochronology, … etc.” It seems like the longer the evolutionist can make the list, the more evidence it is for evolution. The reality is that none of it is “evidence” for evolution; they're merely empty words. “Biology” for example, is a scientific discipline which studies living things. To merely say “biology” isn't evidence for evolution any more than saying “theology” is evidence there is a God. How does biology support evolution? When the critic answers that, then he actually begins to address the topic. Until then, he is merely spouting words.

One time on FaceBook, an atheist once wrote, “Things creationists must deny” followed by about 20 terms; included were many of the terms above but there were several others including “logic” and “trigonometry.” Besides being a straw man, how should a Christian respond to that? Does anyone really expect me to write even a short paragraph for each term explaining how I don't disagree with it?

Besides simply throwing out terms, another variation of this fallacy is to roll out long, detailed terminology in hopes of confusing your opponent or even to wear him down. I cannot count the number of times I've been in internet debate forums where an evolutionist will merely cut and paste a lengthy section from some technical paper. The sad fact is that, in most cases, it would simply take too long or too much space to post a reply so it's easier to just skip over it. This gives the false impression that the creationist is unable to answer the question.

It's true that we defend our positions with words. However, there's no rule that says the most words wins. Throwing around long lists of terms or minutia isn't an argument.


The No True Scotsman fallacy is where a critic argues that the only legitimate position is his and thus every dissenting position is illegitimate. The name of this fallacy is derived from this classic example:

Person 1: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

Person 2: “My uncle Angus puts sugar on his porridge.”

Person 1: “Well, no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

In that example, poor uncle Angus is disqualified from being a true Scotsman only on the flimsy grounds that he puts sugar on his porridge when such a qualifier is merely arbitrary.

I've mentioned before that the ad hominem is the fallacy most frequently used by critics. Since the No True Scotsman is a type of ad hominem, we see it too used frequently. Here are some common examples:

No legitimate scientist believes in creation.”

The Creation Museum is not a real museum.”

No rational person believes in God.”

Have you ever heard any of these before? If you've spent any time debating opponents of Christianity, I'll bet you have. We identify groups by a common denominator. All Christians, for example, believe in Christ (though they might believe different things). Be on the look out, though, for arbitrary conditions. There are legitimate scientists who believe in creation. The Creation Museum is a real museum. And rational people do believe in God!

Further Reading

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8