Posts Tagged ‘fallacies’

One of the many popular anti-Trinitarian arguments against the personhood of the Holy Spirit has to do with the Greek word pneuma, translated “Spirit” or “spirit” depending on context. (A similar argument is used with regards to the Hebrew word ruach, but we’ll focus here on the New Testament.) Anti-Trinitarians often appeal to the etymology, or word origin, for pneuma, pointing out that it originates from a Greek verb meaning “to blow,” which doesn’t sound like a promising derivation for the name of a person. Or in a related argument, they will argue that the “root,” “basic,” or “literal” meaning of the word pneuma is “breath” or “wind,” and from there conclude that the Holy Spirit is merely an impersonal force that issues from God.

Both the argument from etymology and the argument from a word’s supposedly “basic” meaning are exegetically fallacious forms of reasoning. Biblical scholars have been warning against these “word-study” fallacies for years,[1] but most Bible readers, whether anti-Trinitarian or Trinitarian, have not gotten the memo, so the former keep using the arguments and the latter keep being flummoxed by them. As has often been pointed out, the English word nice derives etymologically from the Latin word nescio, which meant “ignorant,” but this tells us nothing about the meaning of the word nice! Read the rest of this entry »

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Was Jesus Married? The Historical Evidence

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Biblical studies, Christology

In light of the so-called Jesus Wife Papyrus, it is worth revisiting the question of what historical evidence actually shows regarding the question of Jesus’ marital status. There are two questions here: Was Jesus married? More specifically, was he married to Mary Magdalene? Some people think so, but I will argue that this idea should be abandoned.

First, let’s assign the burden of proof. The burden of proof is on those who make the assertion that Jesus was married. Since the Bible doesn’t say he was married, and most Christians historically have thought he was not married, those who come along and assert that he was married have the responsibility to provide evidence for their claim. The burden of proof is not on me to prove beyond any possible doubt or loophole of reasoning that Jesus wasn’t married, or that he didn’t sire twelve children, or that he didn’t live in England between the ages of 13 and 29. The burden of proof is on those who make such assertions.

That having been said, a reasonably strong case can be made against the claim that Jesus was married. We will look at the most significant argument that have been made in support of Jesus being married and then present the arguments against this claim. Read the rest of this entry »

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In a forthcoming Newsweek cover article already online, Lisa Miller, religion editor for Newsweek, offers “the religious case for gay marriage.” Not content to argue that the Bible doesn’t condemn same-sex marriage, Miller tries to turn the tables and present a case for gay marriage from biblical principles: “Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side.”

It is probably too much to hope that Miller’s article will end, at least for a while, the incessant chirping of those who advocate same-sex marriage that the Bible ought to be left out of the discussion. If it is legitimate for advocates to cite the Bible to support their position, surely it is legitimate for opponents to do the same thing.

A thorough, point-by-point rebuttal to Miller’s article is beyond the scope of this post. I will content myself with documenting some of the common fallacies in biblical interpretation and theological argumentation that crop up constantly in the debate over same-sex unions and that the article exemplifies. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fallacies of Same-Sex Marriage Polemics

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in ethics, philosophy

In an essay on BeliefNet entitled “How I Went from There to Here: Same Sex Marriage Blogalogue,” Tony Jones explains why as a Christian (of an “emergent” point of view) he has come to defend publicly the rights of gay people to get married. There are several legitimate approaches from which one might critique Jones’s piece (biblical, theological, political, etc.), but I will focus in this post on the logical fallacies of his arguments. I am putting the focus on logic here because it turns out that these fallacies are extremely common in polemics defending same-sex relations in general and same-sex marriage in particular. I am also starting with a logical critique because, frankly, I am tired of defenders of same-sex marriage claiming that their opponents have no response other than to quote the same Bible verses over and over.

Early in his essay, Jones manages to commit three logical fallacies in one sentence (one of which is repeated twice in the following sentence). Read the rest of this entry »

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Twenty Ways to Answer Someone If You Have No Case

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in apologetics

Finding someone’s argument too tough to handle? Over your head in a matter of biblical exegesis, scientific evidence, or logical validity? Don’t despair. Now you can always respond to those smart-alecks and put them in their place. These are field-tested methods for diverting attention from the lack of substance in your argument. Never be stuck again for a snappy comeback!

1. The Amateur-Status Violation: If your opponent is not a professional scholar in the relevant field, dismiss everything he says on the subject as the opinion of an amateur. (Your opinion as an amateur, of course, is exempt from this criticism.) On the other hand, if he is a professional scholar in the field, dismiss what he says on the grounds that he is in the field for the money, or that he is the product of a corrupt academic establishment, or both. Note that this strategy is viable in all situations. Read the rest of this entry »

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