Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! First off, I ask your prayers for my grandmother. She’s not doing well. My wife and I will be away from Wednesday to Sunday night definitely for Thanksgiving, but if I’m seemingly absent earlier, you can know that the worst has happened.
We’ve been talking about becoming a thinking Christian and using logic to do such. Tonight, I’d like for you to keep an important principle in mind when evaluating a syllogism. Do not be confused by the truth. This sounds odd coming from an apologist, but when evaluating a syllogism, we are not evaluating right off if it is true or false. We are evaluating if it is valid or invalid.
Consider the following syllogism:
Lassie is a turtle.
All turtles have wings.
Lassie has wings.
There is no truth to this. Lassie is a dog and turtles do not have wings, but the syllogism itself is entirely valid. It has three terms. It follows the proper rules of distribution. A way to check is to replace terms with ones you know would be true without changing the form.
Lassie is a dog.
All dogs have four legs.
Lassie has four legs.
The form is exactly the same and that’s what we’re interested in is the form. All you want to know at this stage of thinking is if the form is valid or not. You don’t care if the conclusion is true. After all, there wouldn’t be much of a system if it was simply “Any argument is valid as long as the conclusion is true.”
For instance, as an apologist, I definitely defend the proposition that God exists. However, it does not mean that I am forced to defend every argument for God’s existence. It might be controversial, but I do not support the ontological argument. Now I definitely agree with Saint Anselm’s conclusion. That does not mean that I have to support an argument that I do not think works. If someone thinks it works, then they’re free to defend it. If you don’t think the five ways of Aquinas work, I disagree, but I won’t obligate you to defend them.
So what if the conclusion is one you don’t think is true? Then you can either examine the form or question one of the premises. There are no other choices. Of course, if Christianity is true, there is no logical argument that can be brought against it that truly succeeds. You can always find something questionable about one of the premises and that is exactly what you will need to do in order to be a good thinker.
This is the technique I use as well. When attacking an argument, I find it more important to look at the underlying presuppositions to the argument rather than the argument itself. In fact, that is where the argument is won, in the premises. When looking at the argument, do not be fooled by truth. Examine the argument as a whole.