Monthly Archives: August 2012

Hurricane Isaac Is God’s Judgment?: The Logical Fallacy of Cause and Effect

Past logical fallacies covered:  Ad hominem | Appeal to Force | Appeal to Pity | Appeal to Popular | Appeal to Tradition

When Tropical Storm turned Hurricane Isaac came careening toward the Gulf and toward Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, many of the same statements from religious groups said what was said around Hurricane Katrina in 2005:  “New Orleans is an inherently wicked city.  God sent a devastating category five hurricane.  So God sent that due to their wickedness.”

This is the argumentation of cause and effect.  Someone on the other side of this argument reminded us of this thinking in 2005, and noted that (at the time) the tropical storm was headed for Tampa where the Republican National Convention was.  So he concluded that God must have it in for the Republicans. 

We can see how this rolls:

When the rooster crows, the sun rises.  Therefore, the rooster causes the sun to rise.

When the fuel light goes on in my car, I soon run out of gas.  Therefore, the fuel light causes my car to run out of gas. [Source]

An example we see in the Calvinism/Arminianism debate in Christian circles.  :

1. Either God is sovereign or man has free will.
2. God is sovereign.
Therefore, free will doesn’t exist.

No Calvinist of any reputable sort would ever say this, but this is the type of rhetoric thrown about.  We saw it in another circle:

The young man came to Christ because he prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer,’ therefore praying the sinner’s prayer is the only way someone can come to Christ.

That doesn’t necessarily follow, as I pray we can see, but we can see how easy it is to come to this conclusion and feel that having a man pray a prescribed prayer such as this is an undeniable formula in people coming to Christ (not just a tool, but the tool). 

We should be careful in submitting to such argumentation, or using such argumentation.  While God may be bringing judgment on New Orleans, we do not know for certain that this is the instrument God used for such a thing.  When the tornados went through Tuscaloosa, was this God’s instrument?  Maybe.  We do know that this is God getting our attention (something those of us who live near the Aurora theatre shootings know—for they didn’t turn to science or literature, but sought after the spiritual side of their lives). 

And besides, we all deserve that same judgment.  Sin is so pervasive in our hearts and in our various areas of our culture can always make a case for why something like this happens—because sin is universal. 

And what is sin?  Anything that does not glorify Jesus Christ in love and obedience.  And don’t all of us fall into that category?  Not all, even in religious circles believe this.  Here the words of Jesus:

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous,and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee comparing himself to the tax collector who felt justified because he was ‘better’ than this ‘sinner.’  He was faithful in keeping the rules, so the effect would be his justification.  No—he started his thinking wrongly.   We are justified by repenting from our sin and submitting to the Lordship of Christ. 

Beware of the arguments you make.  Are they substantial?  Do they follow?  Make we as followers of Christ, may we be prepared to make a defense for the reason for the hope that is in you (see 1 Peter 3:15).  May we reasonable in giving our reason for what we believe and why we believe it!

Categories: apologetics | Tags: , | 1 Comment

That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It: The Logical Fallacy of Appealing to Tradition

Past logical fallacies covered:  Ad hominem | Appeal to Force | Appeal to Pity | Appeal to Popular | Appeal to Tradition


“That’s the way we’ve always done it!”  This is the logical fallacy of the appeal to tradition (Latin:  argumentum ad antiquitatem).  In family, business, and even church circles, you see this phrase used ad nauseum when it comes to setting a direction or even considering changing course.  I have already posted some on this subject, stating that this is a lazy and unproductive way to lead an institution because it requires no thought.  I’ll go a step further: it’s lazy because it exclusively borrows the thinking of someone else without question—especially if it’s brought about the desired results

Both sides of the religion argument employ this:

A:  I believe in God.

B:  Why?

A:  People have believed in the existence of God for thousands of years.  A belief like that would last that long if it was wrong, right? [Source]

I know there are legitimate reasons to believe in the existence of God, mind you.  But this appeal to tradition is a flimsy argument when much better arguments could be made (this is for a later time).

In church circles, this can happen:

A:  Mom, why do we have a service on Sunday nights?

B:  Because that’s the way our church has always gone about things:  Sunday morning service, and a Sunday night service—and don’t forget about Sunday School.

The Pharisees were warned about traditions that were elevated too highly.

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them,“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and,‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

“Holding to the tradition of the elders”—that was the criteria rather than the pure, simple Word of God!  We hold to our traditions so closely at time that we treat them as if they came down from the mountain as God’s holy commands. 

Let’s be aware of this fallacy.  It can stifle an organization more quickly than one can imagine.

Categories: apologetics | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Western Welcome Week, a 316 Car, and the Importance of a Gospel Presence


This past Saturday was my favorite day since I’ve come to Colorado—and God has provided some wonderful days since I’ve become pastor at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church .  This past Saturday was the parade for Western Welcome Week here in Littleton.  Here’s the description from the website:

Western Welcome Week, Inc. is ded­i­cated to hon­oring the tra­di­tion of cel­e­brating greater Littleton. The goal is to nur­ture com­mu­nity spirit, bring together res­i­dents and busi­nesses, sup­port ser­vice clubs and non­profits by cre­ating an oppor­tu­nity for fundraising, and pro­vide fes­tiv­i­ties and enter­tain­ment for fam­i­lies, friends and neigh­bors. In plan­ning Western Welcome Week the board pledges to remain open to new ideas, respect past tra­di­tions and be aware of present day needs with a vision for tomorrow.

It also provides a venue for fundraisers for non-profit organizations and other businesses.  So there were booths everywhere!  Not to mention anywhere from 50,000-75,000 people!

We manned the 316 booth. As you can see from the picture to the right, you can see the edge of the 2012-08-18 11.11.15316 car, the booth, and the sign on the left saying, “Love Littleton: Caring Churches for Community.”  This was our booth.  With the help of area churches along with the Mile High Baptist Association and its Director of Missions Bob Ryan, we had hourly drawings for backpacks, lunchboxes, and the grand prize drawing, an iPod® shuffle.  We had dozens of people enter, and made some great contacts.

I’m not sure what anyone else did (if I wasn’t entering them in a drawing, I was doing something else with someone else), but I pointed them to the 316 car and asked them, “Do the numbers 316 ring a bell?”  If Tim Tebow was still the quarterback of the Broncos, that could have helped, but Broncos fans have long forgotten about him, football-wise.

Three answers were given in varying ratios:

  • One out of every 15 or so saying, “Oh, sure.  John 3:16”—then they would quote the verse. 
  • A number of others paused and thought about it.  So when I said, “Well, it’s a verse in the Bible…” they would say, “Oh, right!  I remember now.”  Takeaway: spiritual matters were most likely not first and foremost in their hearts and minds.
  • Many others had no clue, so it gave me the opportunity to share that verse with them:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Seed planted—and we pray that God gives the growth.

We gave them a 316 sticker, a tract, a NT if they wished, and a handout of all the churches that participated in the booth. 

Now, about the 316 car.  There’s an old saying, “Confession is good for the soul.”  Well, I’m about to do my soul some good.  Given that this was my first year here in Colorado, I supported and gave my opinion and thoughts when asked, in order to see what Colorado culture and church life is like.  When I heard about this 316 car, I confessed to you that I thought the whole idea was corny and gimmicky.  I questioned its effectiveness.  I’ve always been leery of anything that looks like a dog-and-pony show when it comes to Kingdom work. 

But I stood back and supported.  And encouraged.  And participated.  And kept an open mind.

I’m glad I did.

Having the pleasure of driving the car in the parade, I saw how much the kids loved it, how much the Christians enjoyed seeing the witness present (although the church people did wonder where the colon was between the 3 and the 16, but I digress), and how much it caused others to scratch their heads.  If you noticed the side of the car more closely, all of the Colorado Baptist ministries’ logos were present around the numbers, so they saw who was participating and knew (at least on the surface) who we were. 

The 316 car generated a lot of conversation and provided an incredible open door to the gospel.  It reminded me of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church:

2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak (Colossians 4:2-4, ESV).

Much prayer went into our presence at Western Welcome Week.  Many participated—not just Bob Ryan, but Jay Moyers (a member at ARBC) dig yeoman’s work in heading up the organization aspect, others participated as parade marshalls and booth workers.  I loved seeing that, too.

But it was the open door that God provided through the instrument of that 316 car.  Anytime you can use something as a way to share what Christ has accomplished on the cross and through the empty tomb is a blessed thing indeed. 

Because in Denver, which is 96% unchurched, where there is a strong non-religious, Muslim, and Mormon presence, we need for churches to get filled up inside the four walls with the Word, then be unleashed outside the four walls to dispense the Word and to pray for the culture around us in darkness and lostness. 

The 316 car helped provide that opportunity!  Isn’t God good in how he provides for us and what he teaches us?

I posted this as a Facebook status today.  I’ll close with it:

My desire is that ARBC be known as a kingdom outpost, serving as a missions hub from Centennial to the corners of the earth. My desire is that we have a culture here interested in sending capacity more than seating capacity. My desire is the gospel get out glocally (globally and locally) as we pray, give, go and send forth in Kingdom work. While I am happy we are growing, I pray that we are going, Great Commission-wise!


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The Theology of Applause: The Logical Fallacy of the Appeal to the Popular

2012-08-18 11.11.15

At the booth we set up at Western Welcome Week, we had a rather lengthy discussion about a backpack we were giving away, backpack in the shape and design of various types of animals.  All day, we had referred to this backpack as a ‘monkey.’  No issues there!

In the afternoon, one of our soon-to-be college students noticed this, and made the observation, “Um, that’s not a monkey, that’s a giraffe.”  She noted the spots, and this brought her to her conclusion.

How do we settle this earth-shaking matter?  This young lady’s dad had a great idea.  He would take it vox populi—to the voice of the people. 

So as he stood out in front of our booth dancing to the ‘sanctified jazz’ playing at the booth (that is, Christian music to a jazz style), telling people about the giveaway, he would ask them what they thought: “Monkey or giraffe?”  The overwhelming majority said that this backpack was a monkey. 

Case closed, right?  The dad was Perry Mason and his daughter was Hamilton Burger, right?

Not so fast, for this is a logical fallacy that is quite prevalent in our culture—the appeal to the popular.  “If the majority says something is so, it must be so.” 

  • This happens in Washington when politicians consult pollsters before they consult the Constitution.   So when a poll came out back in 2011 that the majority supported same-sex marriage (53%—and no, I don’t remember the poll, just the reaction), suddenly politicians on both sides of the aisle changed their tune and those favoring that agenda were emboldened.
  • This happens in churches, when leaders and the people have a business meeting vote rather than simply consult Scripture. 
  • This happens in families when, looking at a broken lamp in the living room, take an unscheduled and spontaneous vote and agree that little Johnny did it because, well, that’s just how little Johnny is. 

But now my children are going back to school.  They will face temptations in the classroom such as:  “The earth is millions of years old and came into being spontaneously, without any intelligent designer or Creator at all.  We believe this because the majority of scientists believe this, so it must be true.”  The fallacy of the popular at play in the classroom and in our young minds.  See it for what it is.

Then they go to the playground or to the mall, and they are tempted with something there from their friends:  “After all, everyone else is doing it.  Why shouldn’t you?”  The theology of applause, where we want the majority to approve.  The fallacy of the appeal to the popular!

We live in a society where truth is subjective—up to the individual.  But it’s not.  Jesus prayed to his Father in the hearing of his disciples, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17; see also Psalm 19).  There is a Creator who made us and wired us and loved us—and He is truth and made truth known in His Word.  That is our anchor in the midst of these fallacies.  And Christ is the truth, by which he measure all other truth (Colossians 2:6-15).  We must appeal to truth rather than to fallen, fickle men.

Are there other examples you have?  What are ways you may have fallen prey to this logical fallacy? 





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Do You Have the Right Fuel? Part II: Contending or Pretending?


3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.  (Jude 3-4, ESV)


When exercising, it’s not simply about the type of exercise you get, but also about your diet. Running, cycling, and weightlifting websites provide a list of good and bad foods and drinks for whatever you are trying to accomplish. For runners, they speak of times when, due to their diet and lack of reloading with the proper nutrition, will hit the wall—even if they are in physically good shape. That’s no fun at all!

And it’s not just before the run. You can have a great workout, burn some serious calories—then go and eat some chicken fingers or an entire large pizza with the works because, as I used to think, I’ve burned enough calories to allow for some room. But in reality, you’re putting some pretty bad fuel in you if you want to have another workout anytime soon. You’ll feel a sluggishness and not want to contend anymore.

What is the fuel for believers? Before we answer that question, look at why Jude sought to write. He addresses them as “beloved.” Not only beloved by God the Father, as mentioned last week as we looked at the beginning, but beloved by Him. Christians are beloved by God, and that bond brings them to love one another in Christ. This is our connection!

He expressed an eagerness to “write to you about our common salvation.” All Christians have a position in Christ and fuels their passion for Christ. Remember the common salvation, and the position therein: called by the Spirit of God, beloved by the Father, kept for Christ! This is the position common to all who are saved. I sense that Jude wanted to elaborate more on that, but issues arose.

What were the issues? Jude is a pastor. He is not after controversy. There are so many today who love controversy—they love to nitpick. In fact, many bloggers realize that the more controversial they are, the more traffic will come to their website. It’s easy to be a busybody, to gossip.

He is concerned about their fuel. What is driving them? What is their diet? While some people focus on the peripherals and leave the main thing alone or assumed, Jude is telling them to have the right fuel to help them focus on the main thing—and the peripherals will take care of themselves. Subtle shifts lead to gospel drifts, so let’s understand the gospel and the main thing to keep from drifting.

1. The faith is the fuel (v. 3)

Jude now is telling them to ‘contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). What does this mean? When we use the word ‘faith,’ we tend to mean a personal, subjective belief: “I have faith in Jesus Christ.” But that’s not what Jude refers to here. He says, ‘the faith.’ There is that article ‘the’ in front of that word. ‘The faith’ refers to the sum total of Christian doctrine and teaching. He is reminding them to keep to that which Christ’s apostle taught.

But in order to contend for it, we must work to know it. We must have a decided desire to learn it. Do we have that desire? For too many of us, what happens is we come to Christ, believe our souls are sealed and are heaven-bound, then we cruise. We are not called to cruise, but to contend. We have the right trainer, but the faith is the fuel.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (ol’ alma mater!), wrote an incredible article on Theological Triage. In triage, you go into a hospital and the personnel there understand the discipline of triage—“a process that allows trained personnel to make a quick evaluation of relative medical urgency.” For us in the church, we need to know that which is priority, that which is of theological urgency.[1]

With this, we note that the doctrines of the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture. These are of the first-order. (The second and third order are for another discussion—or you can come to our next 101 class!) Matt Slick of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministries has identified three beliefs that Christian cults have that make them not-Christian.

1. They deny the deity of Christ.

2. They deny the resurrection of Christ.

3. They believe you are saved not solely by God’s grace, but by your works or by cooperating with his work.

You may say, “I just love Jesus—why should I worry about all that doctrinal business?” Because God sent His beloved Son for a reason and purpose—and revealed to His church in His Word who He is and what He has done. If God has revealed something about His beloved, it’s important and it’s for a purpose.

So we contend! For the glory of God, for the good of our souls, and for the good of His bride. We must contend for it—without being contentious. In 1 Peter 3:15, the Apostle Peter reminds us:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

We fearlessly and boldly live our lives, ready to make a defense for the Christ and the faith—but we do this with gentleness and respect. When I was a student at a secular university, the first couple of weeks I was a school, I noticed this man dressed in “Jesus clothes” walking around with a big marquee sign, “God laughs at the wicked every day,” and “Repent, you sinner, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” As a naïve guy, I walked up to him and talked to him about this and how good it was for him to do this for the faith. He responded, “If you would use your imagination, you could do this, too!” in a very condescending tone. Later that week, I found this same man talking to others as well. He led with, basically, you all are a bunch of sex-driven potheads—so of course you won’t listen to me. It was clear he didn’t know them, and they let him know that this is not something that Jesus would have said—and it became, well, contentious.

Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth with love. It’s been said truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.

2. The saints have a perpetual tank from which to fill up—the Holy Spirit (v. 3).

It is here I would like to look at one particular prepositional phrase to which this faith was delivered by God. To whom was it delivered? “To the saints.” What is a saint?

I remember when I was young, sitting in the backseat with my mom and dad in the front seat. I remember hearing a phrase used on a show in a particular context, and the situation seemed to fit with something my dad did. So I said, “Dad, you’re a real saint!” Dad said, “Son, please don’t call me that.” I don’t remember if this was pre- or post-conversion, but I do understand the context now. Some people believe a saint is simply a good person.

In Roman Catholic dogma, a saint is one who is recognized by their holiness. “The story of his or her life is told, perhaps in a book. People pray to the person, asking intercession for some favor and their prayers may be answered.” Then a bishop of their diocese sets up a board to investigate that person’s life, faith, and holiness. If miracles are attributed, a medical expert must confirm. If passed, the bishop may petition Rome for the process of beatification. An examination of life, faith, holiness, spirituality, and even miracles are sought—although if one has died as a martyr, then no miracle need be attested. If this process is finished, the final step is canonization. Once canonized, that person is declared by Rome to be a saint.[2]

This sounds like a significant process. Saints, in Roman Catholic dogma, not only escape hell but also escape purgatory—for there are no sins to purge. But, with all respect, is this biblical? The Scriptures use the term Christians and the term saints as synonymous (along with other names like disciples, followers of Christ, etc.). When Paul writes the churches, he usually refers to them as the saints. This does not apply to a hierarchy of elite Christians, but to all who are in Christ.

The word saint (hagios) means to be ‘holy or set apart.’ It’s the same root where we get the word ‘sanctify.’ To what are saints set apart? For God’s use and purpose! So ‘the faith’ is not simply for everyone—this faith is for ‘the set-apart-for-God’ ones. The church! The elect! The people of God!

How does this happen? How are we made ‘holy’ and set apart? Look with me at Ephesians 1:13-14:

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Holy Spirit is given to us as a seal, as a promise, guaranteeing our inheritance. This is another way of see how no one can ever pluck us out of Christ’s hand… God has sent His Spirit to seal us!

3. Beware of those who would water down the fuel (v. 4).

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ’ (v. 4).

Given what Jude just spoke on in verse three (“contend for the faith”), contenders contend against an opponent. Here we see the “certain people.” What do we know about these certain people.

For one, they crept in unnoticed. Crept in where? Crept in the flock, the assembly, the church! The majority of false teachers come from inside the church. Unnoticed! It takes us back to Genesis 4, when God warned Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

The apostle Peter, a man who clearly understood how Satan and temptation were crouching at the door, told the leaders of the church,

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experience by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Part of contending is being gospel-alert! Being gospel-alert among the members, and gospel-alert among those who come into the church wishing to be members! The trend now is to have folks come into the church with no questioning about their beliefs, their testimony, their view of Christ and the church. So many churches are struggling and are glad when anyone wants to join. But unless we are careful, we may be opening the door for a wolf to creep in to the flock of God.

What else do we know about these folks? “Long ago were designated for this condemnation.

John Calvin in his commentary rightly wrote:

But the metaphor is taken from this circumstance, because the eternal counsel of God, by which the faithful are ordained until salvation, is called a book; and when the faithful heard that these were given up to eternal death, it behoved them to take heed lest they should involve themselves in the same destruction. [3]

It looked new, it looked fresh, it sounded good. But these who creep in are “designated for this condemnation.”

They pervert the grace of our God into sensuality. Back in November 2001, I received a call that I never, ever want to hear again. It was the administrative assistant to the pastor who called from a church where I served for three wonderful years. She called to tell me that the pastor there of 13 years had a moral failure with another member of our church. He got on cruise control, relying on his many communication and administrative gifts to get him through. He had just written a book about staying safe online. But he had lost his sight of God.

What disturbed me was the conversation I had with the member, with whom we had had a great ministry fellowship and friendship. When I asked her what happened and how it reconciled with her faith. She responded, “God says, ‘Once saved, always saved’—so he has to forgive me, right?” This mindset perverts the grace of God.

I just ordered a book entitled “The Most Misused Verses in the Bible” (can you say an awesome sermon series?). While I haven’t memorized the entire table of contents, I do know that one is from 2 Corinthians 3:18: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” These, and what the woman mentioned earlier, are often used as a way to leverage God’s grace in order to live however they want.

But freedom in Christ and liberty in Christ is not freedom to do what we want—it’s freedom to obey God as we wish to do as Christians. To miss this is, again, to pervert the grace of God into pleasure. If we are ones who live in our flesh because of this misunderstanding of the grace of God, thinking he has given us a blank check to live however we want, we need to repent of this.

You see, friends, subtle shifts lead to gospel drifts. It doesn’t take much to shift away from the gospel. Take for instance when you sit at a piano and you play a major triad (C-E-G, for instance). The middle note is key (pardon the pun). As is, it’s a major key, which gives a sense of happiness and contentedness. Move the middle note just one-half step down, and you have a minor key—often seen as a sad chord. Move the lower note up or down, different feel. Same with the upper note.

Hear the words of Spurgeon:

I have tried, and I am trying, to preach a wide gospel. I do not like to have a net with such big meshes that the fish get through. I think I may catch you all if the Lord wills. If the vilest are not shut out, then you are not shut out, friends. And if you believe in Christ with all your heart, you shall be saved! But oh, what if you should say, “I care not for forgiveness. I do not want pardon, I will not seek it! I will not have it – I love my sins – I love myself”? O sinner, then, by that deathbed of yours where you shall see your dreadful sins in another light, by that resurrection of yours where you shall see eternity to be no trifle, by that doom of yours, by the last dread thunders, by the awful sentence, “Depart, you cursed,” of the Judge, I beseech you, do me but this one favour! Acknowledge that you had an invitation tonight and that it was affectionately pressed upon you. I have told you, in God’s name, that your sin is not a trifle with God – that it is not a matter to be laughed at or to be whistled over. I have told you that the greatness of your sin need not shut you out. What is needed is that the Spirit of God should teach you these things in your heart. But do remember, if your ears refuse these truths of God, and if you reject them, we are a sweet savour unto Christ as well in them that perish as in them that are saved! But woe unto you – woe unto you, who, with the Gospel ringing in your ears, go down to Hell! “Verily, verily, I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment, than for you!” May God save you, for Jesus’ sake! Amen!

[1]R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Theological Triage

[2]Making saints, Ask a Catholic.

[3] John Calvin, Jude, Commentaries, Vol. xxii, p. 432.


Go to the to listen to the audio sermon. 

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The Story of LEGO®

Most everyone at some point in their lives played with LEGOs, the building blocks of infinite creativity. Here is a clever animated biography of their history. It’s worth the watch.

(HT:  Challies)

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My Dog Ate My Homework: The Logical Fallacy of the Appeal to Pity

Ad hominem | Appeal to Force | Appeal to Pity

Our third logical fallacy is that of the appeal to pity (Latin:  argumentum ad misericordiam), where you appeal to one’s emotions in order to progress your argument.  If you are from a Roman Catholic background, or have a classical choral background, you may recognize from the Latin the Et misericordia, from the Magnificat, the Latin rendition of Mary’s prayer in Luke 1:46-55, appealing and giving praise to God’s mercy extended from generation to generation.  (You can listen to a version of John Rutter’s Et misericordia for an idea.)

Matt Slick gives these two examples:

  1. Example:  You owe me big time because I really stuck my neck out for you.
  2. Example:  Oh come on, I’ve been sick.  That’s why I missed the deadline.

Another great example I saw was this:  “”You must accept that 1+1=46, after all I’m dying…”  While it is a shame that one is dying, does this affect the truth of the first claim?  No!

I was teaching a Bible class a few years ago, giving a Memory Verse Quiz.  I noticed in the back that a young lady was looking at her paper, then leaning back a bit to look at something in her purse.  She was looking so intently that she did not see me come up and catch her copying that verse from her iPhone.  I immediately sent her to the office for the rest of the class.  When I came into the office to have a talk with her and the principal, she said, “I needed to get a good grade in Bible, so it wouldn’t affect me getting into a good college.”  If she had begged us not to put it against her because of that rationale, this would be a classic appeal to pity. 

Again, the commonality is that we base the veracity of the argument on something other than the truth of the argument itself. 

Is there ever a good appeal to pity?  Here’s another example from another site:

Professor: “You missed the midterm, Bill.”
Bill: “I know. I think you should let me take the makeup.”
Professor: “Why?”
Bill: “I was hit by a truck on the way to the midterm. Since I had to go to the emergency room with a broken leg, I think I am entitled to a makeup.”
Professor: “I’m sorry about the leg, Bill. Of course you can make it up.”

This appeal to pity was legitimate in light of the evidence given. 

Let’s let truth be our guide and be wise in regards to other appeals!

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The Logical Fallacy of the Appeal to Force: Agree with Me, or Something Unfortunate Will Happen to You

Yesterday, I pulled out a blog post from the archives about the logical fallacy of ad hominem which attacks the person making the argument rather than engaging the argument itself.  We see this happening all the time, whether it’s from non-believers engaging believers, believers engaging non-believers, or within the church community itself.

Let’s take some time to look at some others over the next few days (weeks?).  Today, let’s look at the fallacy of the appeal to force (Latin:  argumentum ad baculum—literally, appeal to the stick), which is saying that if you do not accept my conclusion or proposition, something unfortunate will happen to you.  The syllogism is as follows:

If x accepts P as true, then Q.

Q is a punishment on x.

Therefore, P is not true.

Some examples:

  • We have seen this in the Muslim countries recently when it comes to Christians or other religions: “If you do not convert, we will kill you.” 
  • We see it at school with the bully: “Do what I say, or you’ll get beaten up.” 
  • We see it in the workplace with the employee saying, “I don’t think we should be using company funds like this.”  The employer responds, “If you say anything, you’ll be terminated.”

The above are consequences that are fallacious, but there are consequences that are not so.

  • If you break the speed limit, you are subject to a citation.  You do not want a citation, therefore, do not break the speed limit.
  • If you turn in an assignment late, you will be marked down.  You want good grades.  Therefore, turn in your assignment on time.

When doing a Google search on this subject, you will come across other search terms such as conforming or bullying.  With these, we see that everyone will be subject to the appeal to force at some point or another, even from the religious community and its leaders.” 

Recently, a woman asked me about a sermon I preached on the Lord’s Supper back on July 29.  Her question specifically dealt with the passage in 1 Corinthians 11:29-30:

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

So in the context of our fallacy under discussion, we see this:

  • If you partake of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, you will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord—which may be the reason why some are sick, and others have died.
  • You do not want to have that punishment.
  • So examine yourself to make sure you’re not guilty of unworthily partaking. 

Is Paul appealing to force?  I would submit that he is in a non-fallacious way (should you accept the biblical worldview).  In a significant way, it’s much like the citation given with the speeding ticket or turning in an assignment that’s late.  The authorities have set an ethical standard that is beneficial to the community in the other regards (speed limits, assignment deadlines) and the same is being done by the Authority of our Creator. 

The apostle Paul says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2, ESV).

We all will conform to something.  We do so because of the benefit we see in that to which we are conforming.  We also do so because we believe of some harm or non-help that will happen if we do not conform.  Here, we see we will either be conformed to some system in this world—or we will be rescued through the transforming work of Christ who renews our minds and gives us the ability to discern God’s will in the midst of this world’s varying systems. 

Tomorrow, we will look at the appeal to pity.  Until then, God’s blessings on you in Christ.

For a basic run-down of the various fallacies, go to Matt Slick’s site called CARM, which has been of enormous help to me over the years. 

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ARCHIVE: The Logical Fallacy of Ad Hominem—Attacking the Person Rather than Engaging the Argument

(Originally posted on October 25, 2010.)

I am teaching apologetics to juniors at Blue Grass Baptist School.  It’s been good to see these students interact with various aspects of differing philosophies and worldviews—and all the while understanding Christianity all the better.

We spent a couple weeks discussing various logical fallacies.  A fallacy is incorrect reasoning in argumentation resulting in a misconception.  In other words, you try to make your point in a way that does not directly deal with the argument itself, but brings in other factors not related to the issue at hand.

The first logical fallacy and most common is that which is called “Ad hominem” which is Latin for ‘to the man.’  In this method of argumentation, one attacks the individual making the argument, rather than the argument itself.

For example, one could say, “You have no college degrees—so what you are saying could not possibly be true.”  In church world, one could say, “They didn’t get a seminary degree, so they are not able to preach truth from the pulpit.”  This logic does not follow.  College degrees are not the way one understands truth.

One example I found on the Internet is classic:

Bill: “I believe that abortion is morally wrong.”

Dave: “Of course you would say that, you’re a priest.”

Bill: “What about the arguments I gave to support my position?”

Dave: “Those don’t count. Like I said, you’re a priest, so you have to say that abortion is wrong. Further, you are just a lackey to the Pope, so I can’t believe what you say.”

See the problem here?  Dave goes to the person, and disregards actually issues Bill brings up.  Christians do the same thing toward non-believers.

Mike: “I believe in natural selection and macro-evolution.”

Ron:  “That figures—you teach biology at university.”

Mike: “Will you listen to my arguments?”

Ron:  “Why would I?  You’ve been brainwashed by those pagan scientists and institutions.”

Even Christians are guilty of the infighting:

Jim:  “I believe there is only one true version of the Bible.”

Ben:  “Of course you would—you’re just one of those ‘hardshell Baptists.’

Jim:  “Would you consider listening to my position?”

Ben:  “Why would I?  You all are just so narrow-minded.  I’ll pass.”

Samuel Coleridge once said:  “The first defense of weak minds is to recriminate.”

Questions to Ponder:

    1. Have there been times when you’ve been on the giving or receiving end of an ad hominen argument?
    2. What steps can you take to avoid this when engaging with someone with a differing belief or worldview?
    3. How does ad hominem violate the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 28:18-20)?

I look forward to your comments.

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The Back Nine: Links to Help Your Gospel Grip (8.11.2012)

Olympic Observations:  Dave Kraft of Mars Hill Church in Seattle (and the author of my favorite leadership book Leaders Who Last) provides all of us some Olympic observations that make them great and can make us better leaders. 

Some Advice for Youth Ministers:  Dave Hinckley gives some non-conventional wisdom in regards to youth ministers.  Sometimes that which is most simple can be most difficult, in my opinion.

Making the Most of Your Morning:  Desiring God has a post on how to make the most of your morning.  (HT: Challies)

Seven Reasons Why I Believe in the Church!  Perry Noble lists off in his typically concise manner why he loves and believes in the church.

Thomas Nelson Ceases Publication of David Barton’s Error-Ridden Book on Jefferson’ Faith:  David Barton, the head of WallBuilders, has spent the better part of 30 years contending that the Founding Fathers were “orthodox, evangelical Christians.”  But this latest book has many (both liberal and conservative) scholars wondering about his past research.  (It should be noted, this is the first book he has published with a mainstream publishing company.  Up until this point, WallBuilders has published all of his books and videos.)

Why Leaders Can’t Afford to Be Easily Offended:  Speaking of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael Hyatt (the head of TNP) gives some much-needed advice!

How does a pastor’s wife battle loneliness? Brian Croft, pastor and author, shares an oft-ignored issue in ministry.

Rejoice! We Serve a Precise God!  Good insight from Aaron Armstrong at Blogging Theologically.

Why Are Preachers So Exhausted After Preaching? I wrote this on a Monday morning after an incredible service at my church (Arapahoe Road Baptist Church).  One of my friends added one thing:  “Too many ministers are out of shape.”  Any other thoughts?

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