Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Religious Dialogue 101: For the Lazy and Dishonest (Part 2 of 4)

6. Misuse of comparative analogy. When analogy is used as “proof,” it is taken beyond its intended purpose. Analogy merely illustrates something by way of comparison (e.g. Psa. 1:3; Matt. 13:24); it does not prove it. In an attempt to justify infant baptism, Jordan Bajis argues that in 1 Cor. 10:1-4 baptism is likened to the Israelites crossing the Red Sea; since they took their infants and young children with them (Ex. 12:37), infant baptism is therefore valid.1 This is a cart-before-the-horse fallacy, where an illustration is used to prove a point rather than illustrating a point already proven. The Red Sea crossing of the ancient Israelites (“baptized into Moses”) was for the saving of their temporal lives, whereas the baptism of Christ’s new covenant is for spiritual salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21) and thus applicable to penitent believers (Acts 2:37-38; 8:12) rather than innocent babies (cf. Mark 10:13-16). See Are Humans Totally Depraved from Birth?.

7. Inductive reasoning via “begging the question is an attempt to build a case by arguing in reverse from an unproven conclusion with premises that seem to support it.2 Jesus is recorded as saying, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).3 It has been alleged that he (or his followers) plagiarized this golden rule from eastern religions, Greek philosophers, and/or Jewish rabbis, which calls into question the integrity of Christian doctrine.4 However, what Jesus says is noticeably different from the popular ethic of reciprocity (“Give to get something in return”) and the negative and passive version, “Do not do to others what you would not want done to you.” While similar sayings have been attributed to Buddha, Confucius, Isocrates, Plato, Aristotle, multiple Jewish teachers, and others, the first on record to express the positive form of this principle is Jesus the Christ. Moreover, “the Law and the Prophets” he cites (N.B. Lev. 19:18) predate the eastern religions, Greek philosophers, and Jewish rabbis. The fact that just about all civilized peoples and religions throughout history have adopted some form of this moral code is indicative of a maxim of human nature endowed by the Creator. In other words, Jesus articulates an eternal and universal truth.

8. Circular reasoning is a defective ploy wherein the premises of an argument rely on the conclusion for validation; supporting claims cannot stand unless the conclusion is assumed to be true. Although Jesus is clearly identified in the NT as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 22:12-13, 16) – an obvious reference to deity (Rev. 1:6) – the Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to accept it because the Alpha and the Omega is descriptive of Almighty God. According to their dogma, Jesus is not God, therefore no matter what the Bible says, it cannot mean that Jesus is God, because Jesus is not God.5 A Bible believer might affirm that the Bible is God’s word because the Bible says so, and the Bible can be trusted because it is God’s word. Granted, if the biblical record were void of such affirmations, this would be a strong argument against it. Having acknowledged the self-claims of scripture, however, there must be sufficient proof to support the claims (which there is!).6

9. “Apples and Oranges” is an idiom describing the false analogy of comparing things when there is no practical or legitimate comparison. Jesus stated in John 10:16, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” According to the Book of Mormon, the “other sheep” are the Nephites who allegedly settled in the ancient Americas, whom Jesus reportedly visited after his resurrection (3 Nephi 15:21). Others claim that denominational sects are in view, comprising the current global flock of Christendom.7 These interpretations, however, are sifting the biblical text through the religious environment of modern times rather than considering the statement’s immediate context and its fulfillment shortly thereafter. Contextually Jesus is referring to the inclusion of Gentiles into his Jewish flock (John 11:51-52; 17:20-21; Eph. 2:11-22; 3:6 = the unified church), not to proto-Mormonism or to modern-day denominationalism.

10. Pitting scripture against scripture is an inappropriate attempt to counter one biblical statement with another. If the Bible is divinely inspired and its message is consistent, obviously one or both citations have been misapplied. A classic example is when Luke 9:50 is used to defend ecumenical diversity and the broadening of one’s circle of fellowship: “… for he who is not against us is for us” (par Mark 9:40). To justify narrowing lines of fellowship, Luke 11:23 is cited: “He who is not with Me is against Me …” (par Matt. 12:30). In context, however, the first passage addresses arrogant apostles forbidding the good works of a fellow-disciple simply because he was not in the immediate apostolic circle of the twelve. In the latter text, the Lord is condemning antagonistic Pharisees falsely accusing him of doing the devil’s work. To ignore the respective contexts, making application to unrelated circumstances, is to mishandle the word of truth (see For or Against?).
-- Kevin L. Moore

    1 Jordan Bajis, “Infant Baptism,” in Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (1990-1996; accessed 2016), <Link>. Does the analogy of Noah's flood (1 Pet. 3:20-21) prove that animals are to be baptized?    
    2 This is in contrast to deductive reasoning, which relies on true statements of fact (premises) leading to a logically certain deduction. If every premise in the syllogism is true, and the rules of logic are adhered to with clearly defined terms, then the conclusion is necessarily true. In contrast, the inference of inductive reasoning is unproven and most likely unprovable. Nevertheless, beyond the self-evident laws of logic, inductive reasoning can be helpful and even necessary when determining by observation whether the premises of a given argument are valid. For example, by observing certain effects (induction) we can draw reasonable conclusions (deduction) about how gravity will affect an overturned glass of water, the presence of someone on an island by footprints on the beach, the existence of a Grand Designer, et al. See Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Dont Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004): 62-66; also Mitch Stokes, How to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016): 40-41.
     3 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the NKJV.
     4 Brian de Krester, “Pillars of the Christian Faith Demolished: Part III,” in Investigator (May 2010): 133; Dhungarvn the Grey, From Pulpit to Pagan (New York: iUniverse, 2008): 118; Walter Ernest Bundy, The Psychic Health of Jesus (New York: Macmillan, 1922): 10.
     5 “So the evidence points to the conclusion that the title ‘Alpha and Omega’ applies to Almighty God, the Father, not to the Son” (Reasoning from the Scriptures [Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1985]: 413). See Questions for My Jehovah's Witness Friends
     6 See Divine Origin of the Bible; also Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt, “Reasons to Believe the Bible,” <Link>.
     7 H. R. Reynolds and T. Croskery, “The Gospel of St. John,” Vol. 17 of The Pulpit Commentary, eds. H. D. M. Spence and J. S. Exell (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962): 46, 55.

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