Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Review (7): The Ultimate Proof of Creation

Lisle’s conclusion reminds his readers that the debate over origins is a war of worldviews. Even this is no surprise, as our ultimate standard, the Bible, prophesied that we would face such opposition at the intellectual level. Appendix A, called “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth,” is an important overview of the sad truth that Christians will disagree with other professing Christians on the origins issue. Lisle mentions that, though Christians have argued over different ways to read and interpret the Bible, there’s really only one right way to do this, and that’s in the “natural” or “straightforward” way. In other words, reading and interpreting the Bible with the “grammatical historical” approach is the only rationally defensible way to do so. We read the Bible understanding the context and the purpose or intent that the author had when he wrote it - and this takes some effort!

Lisle says, “Upon inspection, we will find that worldviews based on non-natural readings of the Bible have the same defects as secular worldviews… When we apply the “AIP” test (looking for arbitrariness, inconsistencies, and/or the ability to account for preconditions of intelligibility) to non-natural approaches to Scripture, we will find that such views do not pass the test.” Lisle refutes a few of the more common views to Scripture that fall under his definition of non-natural. These faulty and ultimately irrational views include: “The Scriptures bow to ‘Science’ View,” revelation through nature, various metaphorical views, and the eclectic view. He suggests that these views are ultimately self-refuting, and that proponents of these views uphold a double standard by expecting their readers to read them in a natural way when they themselves refuse to read the Bible that way.

Appendix B, called “Answering the Critics – Part 1,” is the first of two concluding extras in the book. Here, Lisle posts actual arguments sent to Answers in Genesis along with his replies and analysis. In some cases, there are counter-arguments and counter-replies as well. This appendix includes the practical application of the basic tools Lisle has introduced in the first half of The Ultimate Proof of Creation. Appendix C, called “Answering the Critics – Part 2,” is the final portion of the book, and Lisle again posts dialogues in which he has engaged through Answers in Genesis, either online or via mail. This appendix practically applies the more advanced tools Lisle has taught throughout the second half of the book.

If the reader does nothing else with Lisle’s book than read the Appendices, he or she has still walked away with a wealth of practical tips for defending or even merely considering the Bible’s truth and authority. Lisle does the Christian community a favor in writing The Ultimate Proof of Creation, and if any agnostics, atheists, or particularly thoughtful professing Christians who deny or even doubt the truth of biblical creation read his book, they will be forced to provide more obviously irrational answers to questions they don’t want to ask (for that reason) or see the futility of their worldview. By equipping Christians to defend their faith, Lisle also brings non-Christians and non biblical creationists to an uncomfortable place where they will either deny the clearly presented ultimate proof of creation and cling to their irrationality or hopefully by grace swallow their pride in repentance and take not a blind leap of faith into the dark against all reason, but a small and reasonable step of faith into the light.

Book Review (6): The Ultimate Proof of Creation

Lisle begins chapter 9, called “Closing the Loopholes,” by noting the importance of the “ultimate standard.” He says, “Everyone has an ultimate standard, whether he realizes it or not. If it is not the Bible, it will be something else.” Since this statement may seem questionable, Lisle defends it and concludes: “So we have established the following: (1) Everyone must have an ultimate standard (there is no “neutrality”). (2) An ultimate standard cannot be proved from another standard (since there is no greater standard, and appealing to a lesser standard is fallacious). (3) An ultimate standard cannot be merely assumed (otherwise, we couldn’t know anything at all). This leaves only one possible answer to the question of how an ultimate standard is proved. An ultimate standard must prove itself. It must be self-attesting. It must provide criteria for what is to be considered true, and by which all claims are judged – including the ultimate standard itself.”

Christians will immediately recognize that the Bible meets these criteria; but Christians and others may also recognize that this reasoning appears circular. Indeed it is circular. But Lisle points out two crucial things about circular reasoning: “1. It is absolutely unavoidable. 2. It is not necessarily fallacious.” Lisle carries out explanations for these assertions and claims that only the biblical creationist circular argument passes the tests of being a true ultimate standard, because it’s the only one that is not arbitrary. Non-Christian and unbiblical “circles of reasoning are ultimately self-defeating. They do not pass their own test.” Because the Bible is the only ultimate standard that remains standing at this point, Lisle defends it from antagonists, explains the place of faith as being “required for reasoning,” giving many examples, such as that “we must first believe that there are laws of logic before we can argue for them logically,” and discusses uniformity, uniformitarianism, and miracles in light of understanding the ultimate standard that all people must have.

Chapter 10, called “Apologetics in the Bible,” is the final formal chapter in Lisle’s book. There remains a conclusion and several appendices to follow, but here, the author discusses the proper ways to defend the Bible. He mentions the “evidence first” approach, which does not “rationally resolve worldview disputes.” Evidence is not our ultimate standard. Lisle also notes the “Bible first” approach, which is necessary, because the Bible is our ultimate standard. He discusses the Bible’s standard for reasoning and notes that despite the overwhelming evidence for the truth and authority of Scripture, evidence does not always convince people. Lisle gives the example of Lazarus and the rich man from Jesus in the Bible, where the rich man dies and just wants to issue a warning from hell for his friends on earth. But Jesus says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

Lisle answers potential counters to his claims here, and then discusses the apologetic styles of Jesus and Paul (and on a lesser scale, Peter) in order to say that they used the “Bible first” approach. In other words, Jesus and Paul both had the Bible as their ultimate standard; they didn't begin their arguments with the evidence. Lisle ends the chapter by analyzing Paul’s success, noting especially, “(1) Some people mocked, (2) others wanted to hear more, and (3) some joined him and believed.” Because the Holy Spirit must convince people of truth, we should expect similar results from our conversations. Lisle concludes, “Ultimately, ‘success’ in apologetics really should not be measured by whether the critic comes to receive Christ. God has not called us to convert people into Christians; this is beyond our power. He has called us to give a defense of the faith. Whether a person ultimately receives Christ is between that person and God. But God will often use us as part of the process; we are to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book Review (5): The Ultimate Proof of Creation

Chapter 7 is called “Logical Fallacies – Part 1,” and it is the first of 2 chapters on the topic. Readers may think this portion of the book to be a recap of a course often taken the first year of college, “Introduction to Logic.” But it’s a valuable refresher for those readers, and it’s an even more important lesson for people unfamiliar with the framework of logical argumentation. Lisle defines terms such as proposition, conclusion, argument, and premise and discusses various kinds of logic (formal and informal, as well as inductive and deductive arguments). Lisle introduces and illustrates the practicality of several informal logical fallacies, such as ambiguity (equivocation and reification), presumption (hasty generalization, sweeping generalization, bifurcation, begging the question, question-begging epithet, complex question, the “no true Scotsman fallacy,” special pleading, false analogy, false cause, and slippery slope), and relevance (genetic fallacy, ad hominem, faulty appeal to pity, appeal to mob, appeal to authority, appeal to one, appeal to many/majority, appeal to ignorance, appeal to fear, irrelevant thesis, and straw man). While I’d love to go into more detail on these, Lisle does a better job than I could, so just read the book!

Chapter 8, the conclusion to chapter 7, is called “Logical Fallacies – Part 2,” and Lisle discusses the topic of formal logic in basic, yet fairly complete detail. He first covers formal deductive logic, defining syllogism, categorical logic, and propositional logic. Sticking to the topic of propositional logic, the author first mentions refutation of such arguments by logical analogy, and then he covers types of propositional arguments, including disjunctive syllogisms and mixed hypothetical syllogisms (modus ponens, or affirming the antecedent, and modus tollens, or denying the consequent). A disjunctive syllogism would have two premises (either “p” or “q”, and “not p”) and a conclusion (therefore “q”), where both premises are absolute. The first type of mixed hypothetical syllogism (modus ponens, affirming the antecedent) would also have two premises (if “p” then “q”, and “p”) and a conclusion (therefore “q”), but the difference is that the first premise is hypothetical ("if" instead of "either", making for a mixed argument. Likewise the second type of mixed hypothetical syllogism (modus tollens, denying the consequent) is similar, but where the first type affirms the front half of the first premise with the second premise (“p”), the second type denies the back half of the first premise with the second premise (“not q”). The logic would flow with two premises (if “p” then “q”, and “not q”) and a necessary conclusion (therefore, not “p”).

After covering the basic types of formal logic, Lisle discusses two ways that formal logical arguments such as modus ponens and modus tollens are misused and deemed invalid – affirming the consequent and denying the antecedent. In the first, the premises could be valid (if “p” then “q”, and “q”), but the conclusion (therefore “p”) may not logically follow. Lisle’s example relates to the weather. “If it is snowing, then it must be cold outside. It is cold outside. Therefore, it must be snowing.” Hopefully, you can see the error. In the second, the premises could be valid (if “p” then “q”, and “not p”), but the conclusion (therefore “not q”) may not logically follow. Again Lisle’s illustration says, “If it is snowing, then it must be cold outside. It is not snowing. Therefore, it is not cold outside.” Again, hopefully you can see the error.

Lisle wraps up chapter 8 by mentioning valid, formally logical arguments that are unsound, based on faulty premises, and enthymemes, which are valid arguments with unstated propositions that must be reformulated or clarified to make the arguments fit into a formal logic formula. Most conversational arguments probably come in the form of enthymemes. After a brief reminder of the importance of consistency in logical argumentation, Lisle concludes by saying, “The ability to recognize and expose fallacies and false premises is a crucial but often overlooked part of Christian apologetics.” Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

DC 401 - Week 3 - Divorce

We had some excellent discussion on liberty and legalism and this morning and now turn our attention to the topic of divorce. Needless to say, the fact - and it is a sad fact - that as many professing Christians get divorced as non-Christians has damaged the reputation of Christianity in our nation. We'll talk about that next week, but until then, here's how the workload might be broken down:

Monday - Read 1 Samuel 16-31 and comment
Tuesday - Read Psalms 52, 54, 56-57, and 59, and comment
Wednesday -
Read the article by David Instone-Brewer, "What God Has Joined," memorize Matthew 19:5-6 - "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate." - and review previous memory verses, such as Galatians 5:1,13, Philippians 2:3, and Ephesians 5:25.
Thursday - Answer questions 1a-c (3 questions), and do the word study on divorce in question 2 (In other words, write your own lesson on divorce).
Friday - Answer questions 3a-g, 4a-b, and 5 (10 questions), and review memory verses.