The emperor has no clothes. You all know the story. When people have an influential belief, there are reasons why it is influential, right?Â Of course, orÂ it would notÂ be influential. But the “what” of these reasons is always a case of hit or miss apologetics where considerationÂ of their view is eitherÂ asked for based upon the evidence, or demanded by a passionate appeal. Those whoÂ use the latter toÂ argue their caseÂ have little recourse other than emotions.
To those of you whoÂ are influential teachers and have a platform of communication, if you have doubt about what you are saying, I have some advice to be followed in this order. 1) Speak louder!Â 2) And if that does notÂ work, speak deeper. 3) And if that still does not work,Â doÂ all thisÂ with an British accent! The problem with this methodology is that eventually you will be shown to have no clothes. In other words, your arguments (or lack thereof) will be revealed to be naked and unworthy of consideration.
In truth, the real advice should always be to speak with intellectual honesty. If your position is not strong, present it as such. If you have not studied the options, don’t speak on the issue with authority. If the evidence goes against your persuasion, you must follow the evidence, not your presuppositions – no matter how noble they may be. If you don’t, your only argumentative recourse is the dishonorable three-step method that I described above.
I was reading an atheist web-site the other day and noticed a “top ten list for why Christianity is wrong.” I like to read these. Sometimes you will encounter some arguments that are more difficult than we would like to admit, but for the most part you find misrepresentations and question-begging arguments that do more to increase the veracity of the Christian faith than they do to take away from it. Below is an illustration of a question begging argument. It is one of the ten.
Christianity Cannot be the Religion that Jesus Preached: The story of Christianity is the story of the beliefs that Jesus professed developing into the religion that professes Jesus. In other words; dogma. It is pure folly to believe that Simon Peter, Thomas, Mary Magdalene et.al followed Jesus because, when he died, they would be able to absolve their sins by believing in him. This later theological construction was created by believers who were searching for a meaning to the seemingly pointless execution of their leader and teacher. Those who originally followed Jesus did so because of his lifeâ€”because he was an exemplary teacher who radically reinterpreted the Law in favor of inclusion rather than exclusion. Those who now follow Jesus do so because of his death. They turn a manâ€™s poignant teachingsâ€”his lifeâ€™s workâ€”into a secondary and near meaningless preface to the panacea of his death. We primarily have Paul and John the evangelist (two people who did not know Jesus in his life) to thank for this inexcusable dumbing-down of Jesusâ€™ life. With Paul and Johnâ€™s help, what Christianity would become is embodied in the Nicene Creed. Take a look at it. Dogmatic fiat has expurgated everything the man stood for.
I am not going to take the time to refute this accretions simply because it has no substance to refute. I use it as an illustration of a question begging argument. For those of you not familiar with this argumentative fallacy, it is relatively simple. It is an argument that assumes its proposition in order to argue for the proposition.
Here is the essence of the argument above:
Proposition: Christianity cannot be the religion that Jesus preached
Reason 1: It is folly to believe that Christianity is preserved by the disciples
Reason 2: People made up the stories of Christianity in order to find meaning in Jesus’ death
Conclusion: Christianity cannot be the religion Jesus preached and is therefore wrong
Reason 1 and 2 assume the proposition to be true and therefore “beg the question.” There is a reason why this is a fallacy – it does not put forward any real argument. It is based upon the assumption and presuppositions of the adherent. Here is another example:
Proposition: God does not exist
Reason 1: People make up religion because they have to make sense out of the world
Reason 2: Without religion, God is not needed
Conclusion: People made up the idea of God
Again, you should quickly be able to spot the fallacy here. Reason 1 assumes the proposition, but does not argue for it. This argument has no real substance and therefore demands no assent.
In conclusion, my advice to those out there who desire to put forward such arguments is this: 1) Speak louder!Â 2) And if that does notÂ work, speak deeper. 3) And if that still does not work,Â do it with an English accent.