In a previous post we introduced the basics of logic. Here we see how logic is used in apologetics encounters.
When we apply the science of arguments to apologetics, it is clear that the arguments used against Christianity are often stated informally. The informal statement “I don’t believe in God because I can’t see him” can be written into a formal syllogism such as:
P1: I must see something to believe in it.
P2: I don’t see God.
Conclusion: Therefore, I don’t believe in God.
Notice that Premise 1 (P1) is not stated explicitly in the informal statement, but it is implied. This is where questions are so important in conversations about the gospel. I would not know the reason for someone’s rejection of God unless I asked. Once someone tells me they don’t believe in God because they feel they must see something to believe it, I am able to construct the syllogism above. I can now see his argument clearly and can address it.
In this case the informal statement, “I don’t believe in God because I can’t see him” is an incomplete syllogism. When a syllogism is incomplete, it is called an enthymeme. The challenge of identifying logical problems in an argument is the difficulty of taking the enthymeme as it is stated and filling in the missing terms, so the complete syllogism is clear. This takes time and practice, but eventually you will begin to be able to identify the unstated assumptions of a conversation partner (or yourself!).
In fact, a number of additional premises could be inferred from such a statement, depending on the context of the conversation. For example:
P1: It is not rational to believe in something that cannot be scientifically proven.
P2: I am a rational person.
Conclusion 1: I will not believe in something that cannot be scientifically proven.
P4: There is no way to scientifically prove God.
Conclusion 2: I will not believe in God.
When you begin to see more detail in the unbeliever’s argument, you can break it down and deal with the component parts.
First, we can challenge the unbeliever regarding P1: “Why do you believe that it is not rational to believe in something that cannot be scientifically proven? What about things that all rational people believe in such as the laws of logic and human memory? Where do you get your definition of rationality? What about the limitations of science, such as arriving at wrong conclusions or its inability to explain some things that happen in the natural world?”
Second, we can applaud the unbeliever in her desire to be rational (P2). We can point out that Christianity is deeply concerned about being rational and basing its beliefs on historical events.
Third, as a result of the problems with P1, we can show her that Conclusion 1 she already believes things that cannot be scientifically proven.
Fourth, P4 is not a problem, since we have already established that we can know certain things without proving them scientifically.
Fifth, now that we have challenged the premises that make up this argument, we can challenge the unbeliever to reconsider her rejection of God.
You can perhaps already see how important and powerful logic is in apologetics. Logic is how we see through the objections and challenges to the Christian faith. It is also how we dismantle the arguments of unbelievers and show them the logic of rationality of the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Jesus is the ultimate logic in the universe as John tells us when he describes Jesus as “the Word” in John 1:1-4, 14. The Greek word for “Word” is logos, from which we get the word logic. The Greeks believed that the Logoswas the ultimate rationality in the universe that unified and upheld all that existed. John makes a radical statement when he says that the Logosis both God and became man. That is why it is important for Christians to think and argue logically, because when we do, we reflect the wisdom of Christ.
In the next post we will examine types of arguments in order to help us reason more clearly and with validity in our Christian apologetic.