God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

Double-Edged Sword of Authorities

We all like to cite and appeal to people who are well trained in the discipline that we are talking about. We also tend to denigrate arguments or claims of someone who is not trained in the area being discussed. The fact that someone has mastered a subject means that they are an extremely valuable resource that should not be dismissed, while someone who has not studied as in-depth, by necessity of the situation, does not have as much knowledge. It seems only logical to prefer the word of the person with the greater knowledge to the person with lesser knowledge.

All arguments consist of premises and conclusions. A proper authority is preferred when supporting the truth of a premise, but that does not mean that their logic is valid. If the logic is not valid, then the conclusion does not follow. Because of this, appealing to a proper authority does not guarantee that the conclusion follows. So, even though appealing to an authority is helpful, it is not sufficient. It is in this case that someone with lesser knowledge, but good reasoning may have an advantage, but not necessarily. More knowledge could still be used to demonstrate that the conclusion is over-stated.

Appealing to "proper" authorities when making an argument requires more than just someone who can support the truth of the premises. There should also be an appeal to someone who can support the logic of the argument. Interestingly, most of us support our premises with citations, but we rarely support our logic by citing proper authorities on reasoning.

But just as citing an authority to support a premise does not necessitate the truth of the premise, neither does citing an authority to support our logic make the conclusion necessarily follow. This brings up the reason that we all need to make sure that we understand proper reasoning. We have to be able to accurately assess arguments and determine if the conclusions actually do follow. A great introductory resource that I recommend is Norman Geisler's Come, Let Us Reason. Its not too long and is easy for the beginner. All apologists should be familiar with this resource as it may be one that they can recommend to help people understand and evaluate the logic of the arguments presented to them. .

Many great resources regarding proper reasoning and logic can be found at Apologetics 315.

More posts regarding appeals to authorities:
Do You Rely Upon Authorities?
Peer-Reviewed Only, Please

Book Review: The Grand Weaver

Book Review: "The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives" by Christian philosopher and apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias


Zacharias introduces The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives (Paperback, Kindle, Audio CD) by preparing an analogy. He takes the reader on a descriptive journey to a place in India where saris are made. These large masterpieces are woven thread-by-thread, line-by-line in a pain-staking process. These can take weeks and even months to complete. The entire time, the weaver has a single design in his mind that he wishes to create. Every weave that he does, though individually they may seem insignificant, contribute to the whole. Over time, the design takes shape and becomes more evident. As the title of the book indicates, Zacharias wishes to use the weaving of a magnificent sari to illustrate God's design and purposes for what He has chosen to and allows to take place in our lives.

Chapter 1: Your DNA Matters

In the first chapter, Zacharias focuses on the physical attributes that God has chosen for each person. He explains how our DNA allows for each person to be physically unique. He explains that even certain outcomes that we believe to be crippling (physically or mentally) are not flaws in the design, but are set for a reason- all part of God's design for the individual's life. As an example he points to a young man who is a weaver yet seems to have mental challenges. Not everyone's purpose is the same, so God is not going to give every person the same tools. We shouldn't complain about what God has given us, but use what He has given us.

Questions That Are Off-Limits- Part 2

Last week we looked at questions that atheists tend to shy away from for whatever reason, and we looked at questions that are truly off-limits to those in an atheistic world. Today, we will see if Christianity has any such questions. 

What is Off Limits In The Church?

One of the great advantages of Christianity over atheism is that the questions that are off limits in atheism are central to Christianity- God exists and He does have a purpose for all the pain and suffering that we experience. But does Christianity have its own questions that it says are off limits that may cause the worldview to implode?

The Culture of "Questions Not Allowed"

Around the age of 12 or 13, I discovered that my asking questions was quite annoying to many people. Generally, people didn't mind my asking a couple basic questions here and there. But when I started asking a lot of questions, or my questions began to point out a real issue between two of their claims, their demeanor changed. I noticed this especially in church. People didn't mind my asking some basic questions about Christianity, but when I started getting into deeper theology, they ran. Some rebuked the questioning. This gave me a very sour feeling around many fellow Christians as if asking tough questions about what we believed was off limits. This was one of the reasons that I drifted away from the Church. My thoughts were these: if Christianity is true, why are Christians so afraid of being challenged? Christianity was for the intellectually weak and emotionally driven.

Questions That Are Off-Limits- Part 1

I have always been a curious person. I love to ask questions. What things work, how they work, and why they work. Math and the sciences had a great appeal to me in school. I always interacted with the teacher or professor. I was always trying to make connections among different pieces of knowledge that I was being taught. As I got older, if someone told me something, I liked to know how they obtained that knowledge and how it related to other knowledge I already had.

This continues even today. As a result, I've never been one to not challenge someone who I suspected was giving me wrong information. But I don't challenge just for the sake of challenging. I challenge in order to find the correct connections among facts. I challenge so that I may discover the truth.

You Don't Know Jack, But Its Okay

I Don't Know Jack!
Something that I've learned as I learn more is just how little I really do know when compared to the vast body of knowledge available at my fingertips. Today we have access to so much knowledge that it would be impossible to consume it all. More knowledge is constantly being discovered, so I'd be fighting a losing battle if I tried to consume it all. When we look at the numerous disciplines that one may earn a degree in at the local university and all the research required to master the material, it is overwhelming. And when we realize that people in every one of these fields are gathering more, we realize that the knowledge base is growing not additionally but exponentially.

I have mixed feelings when I reflect on all the knowledge that I don't possess when compared to what I do have. There is a certain level of humility that is experienced that is so great that even that word doesn't do the feeling justice. If I were to ever claim that I understand a subject, its indistinguishably guaranteed that someone else understands it better. And since there are so many disciplines of knowledge, it is important for me to understand that even though I may think I'm a master of my field, I am an ignoramus when it comes to practically every other field of knowledge. Due to this reality of my lack of knowledge, my pride must stay in check, lest I be made the fool in discussion or debate.