Recently someone, on Facebook, suggested to me that Critical Thinking cannot co-exist with Christianity. Can you imagine the shock that spread all over my face, like measles! I was literally lost of words, but then marshalled some strength and told him his statement was ridiculous. It is absurd to talk about something you hardly know, more so with exaggerated self-confidence. Long ago I made it a point not to purport to know what I don’t know; it has helped me learn. It helps me read a lot and widely so that when I sit down to write, I do it cogently. I infrequently write for an audience of obsequious acolytes: I write stuff that I expect to be appreciated or critiqued by ingenious minds and not weapons-grade horse shit. Now you can understand why I was struck with utter mental trauma. Before any sceptic can state that Critical Thinking is unimportant in Christian Faith, then he or she must show what these chaps employed in their great works if not Critical Thinking – C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, John Calvin, Augustine of Hippo, J.I. Packer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Francis Chan, Lee Strobel, Thomas Aquinus, Francis A. Schaeffer, Karl Barth, Peter Kreeft, Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Baruch Spinoza, John Bunyan, Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, among others. At the same time, the arguer must confirm that he or she is pretty intelligent than these guys, some of which were/are practising philosophers.
The rigour and barbarity with which atheists, sceptics and gnostics drive their case cause the objective person to speculate, with Queen Gertrude, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (Shakespeare).
As is ordinarily the case, many of their criticisms are only directed toward wanting practitioners of Christianity—those who confess to be Christians, but whose beliefs and/or practices do not justly and correctly depict New Testament Christianity. The fact is that no atheist can authenticate his or her unbelief by pitting it against the true doctrines of Christianity. And if there is any, then come forth and demonstrate it. The truths of genuine, New Testament Christianity, are logically consistent. Inevitably, they came from the utterly rational mind of the timeless God.
The term “logic” simply means correct reasoning. A person is logical when he or she reasons correctly. Being “illogical” is equal to employing incorrect reasoning. So, to say, Critical Thinking is foreign to Christianity is manifest imbecility.
Critical Thinking is part and parcel of Christendom
Does the Bible display an affinity with the laws of thinking and logic? Did Jesus, Paul, and other inspired speakers and writers argue their cases, demonstrate their propositions, and employ rational, reasonable discourse? The truth is that those who were elected by God (prophets, apostles, and Bible writers) to express His will to the world regularly presented their divinely inspired message with logical scrupulousness. They never once committed a logical error (and if they ever did, then point out to me please). They continuously argued the case for Christianity thoughtfully and rationally—definitely what one would anticipate if they were guided by the perfect rational Mind.
Take an example of Jesus: His first documented conversation consisted of a logical discussion between Himself (at the age of twelve) and the Jewish scholars. “All who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47, emphasis added).
All rational discussions (even those about the existence or non-existence of God) need the prior framework of logical absolutes. You are bound to have a difficult time making sense of any discussion if the Laws of Logic weren’t available to guide the conversation and provide rational limits. I entirely concur with Physicist Stephen Barr, when he says, “How ironic that, having renounced belief in God because God is not material or observable by sense or instrument, the atheist may be driven to postulate not one but an infinitude of unobservables in the material world itself.” Atheists should not even talk about logic, for their worldview does not provide a grounding for Logic Laws. Logic laws are not observable.
The popular opinion among atheists, sceptics and gnostics are that by being cynical of religion (particularly Christianity), they are practising Critical Thinking. However, Critical Thinking implies not only challenging authority and generally held views but your own opinions as well.
Whether we like it or not, Christian culture is grounded in “reason and the scriptures” – whether its Martin Luther standing before the Diet of Worms, C.S. Lewis apologetically defending the faith through radio waves, or Jonathan Edwards detailing the philosophical argument for the captivity of the soul – we are a community founded on the ability to reason.
Thou shalt not commit a logical fallacy
Christians should always be ready (1 Peter 3:15) to answer the typical charges levelled against the Gospel. Most of the objections are based on simple logical fallacies.
The following is a list of some of the most common fallacies used by non-Christians. You do not have to be a William Lane Craig; with a PhD in Analytic Philosophy, to notice them.
Note: The ordinary non-Christian, the one on Facebook, with one-liner posts and funny memes, does not know that his or her arguments are logically erroneous. He is honest in his views. Hence you need to be patient and kind in sharing with him why his arguments are invalid.
Feel free to add to the list.
1. The Fallacy of False Assumptions
In both logic and law, “historical precedent” means that the responsibility of providing proof squarely lies with those who set forth new ideas and theories, and not on those whose ideas have already been tested. The old must tests the new. The already established authority judges any new claims to authority. Since most of the other religions came along many centuries after Christianity, they have the burden of proof and not Christianity. The gnostics must demonstrate that what they are telling us is true. And you don’t prove that by quoting an economist who purported to do the work of historians and linguists, and whose conclusions are widely regarded as bizarre. I am talking about Zacharia Sitchin. The Bible tests and judges them. When the Bible and their Holy Books contradict each other, the Bible must logically be given first place as the older authority. And we can start from there and move forth to a plausible conclusion.
2. Arguing in a circle
If you have already assumed in your premise what you are going to state in your conclusion, then you have ended where you began and proven nothing. I have noticed gnostics do this frequently. They will tell you that Jesus was never crucified. Their reference is a volume of gnostic writings. They will hardly quote reputable scholars who corroborate New Testament accounts. And they will seldom refute what these scholars maintain.
Atheists would tell you that there is no God because there is no proof of God, and there is no proof of God because there is no God. An ill-tempered atheist on Facebook, who is most likely angry with God, does not know this kind of reasoning leads nowhere. The anger against the concept of God has so befouled his argument to the extent that he cannot discuss anything about God without turning emotional. And there you discover that their problem is not intellectual but emotional.
3. False Analogy
Comparing two things as if they are parallel when they are not really the same at all.
Examples: Gnostics erroneously assume that they share the same concept of Jesus with Christianity. However, the Gnostic Jesus is not the historical Jesus. Their information about Jesus is mostly historically misleading. Majority of scholars disagrees with Gnostics claims. For example, Bart Denton Ehrman, who is not a Christian, considers the New Testament as the most reliable source of the historical account of Jesus Christ. To Ehrman, Gnostic gospels are as unreliable as it can get.
If anyone thinks that the Gnostic gospels are more credible than the New Testament, then kindly ask them to list at least twenty scholars in disciplines of History and Textual Criticism who agree with them. They must be acclaimed scholars of equal academic status to the likes of Bart Ehrman.
“I think that the Gospel of Thomas was written about 20 years after John; my opinion on this is the majority opinion; almost everybody who studies Thomas thinks of it as later than John with a few notable exceptions, including Elaine Pagels. She’s the main one, but most people think Thomas was written in the early second century. And Mary was written sometime after that. So I think these gospels are highly important for understanding how people were portraying Jesus, but they’re not as useful for establishing what Jesus was really like, as the New Testament Gospels are.” Bart Denton Ehrman.
If you encounter someone who thinks the Gospels are not historical, and still maintains that, even after presenting evidence from scholars in the same field, then you could be dealing with a jerk.
4. The Fallacy of Equivocation
If we assume that everyone has the same definition of such words as God, Jesus, revelation, inspiration, prophet, miracle, etc., we are committing an elementary logical fallacy.
When an atheist or sceptic says, “Christians and Non-Christians worship the same God,” he/she is committing the fallacy of equivocation. While Christians worship the Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Non-Christians worship either a Unitarian deity or deities. Obviously, they are worshipping a different god from ours.
6. “Red Herring” Arguments
We commit this fallacy when we change the subject in the middle of a debate or an argument – most likely to cause a distraction, either knowingly or unknowingly. For example, a Christain can claim that there must be a God or something transcendent because there is common transcultural core to all mystical experiences, and in a rejoinder, the atheist says that, ‘Well I just think religious people are hypocrites and that religion does more harm than good.’ You can see the rejoinder has nothing to do with the claim of the Christian.
This happens when we misrepresent the claims or arguments of an opponent. For example, when an atheist claims that Christian God is an imaginary friend in the sky. That is not what Christianity teaches, and such an assertion could show how shallow the sceptic is. No serious atheist argues that way. Additionally, it is a false analogy.
Another example: The gnostics who claim that Christians worship many gods. That is misrepresenting the concept of Trinity. The best way is to attack the idea and tear it apart.
Gnostics understanding of the Old Testament is weird. They think the word Elohim suggest that we worship many gods.
Granted, Elohim is a plural noun. But to wildly claim that that means Christians worship many gods is average ignorance. Elohim is a plural noun with a singular meaning. The Old Testament writers used it over 2,500 times, usually with singular verbs and adjectives (as in Genesis 1:1), implying that God is one, yet more than one—what some commentators have referred to as the ‘uniplurality’ of the Godhead.
In conclusion, I would urge all who happens to read this post to be alert and sound in all their dealings. Let no one take you down the garden path.