Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More bad apologetics

Dear Doctor Miller,

I have to confess I was surprised to see that a Ph.D in Rhetoric would begin a serious article with tone-trolling and the No True Scotsman logical fallacy, but being currently engaged in re-writing the beginning of my next novel, I know that beginnings are hard. So let's just skip past the awkward, boring introduction and get right to the explosions and car-chases.

Unfortunately.... there isn't any there there. First you present a spirited defense of common sense, which is much appreciated. But then you move on to presenting examples of Jesus being logical. I don't quite follow. You've just argued that ordinary logic is common to everyday life; thus, nobody will be surprised that Jesus was capable of logic. Mohammed was certainly capable of logic as well, which the Koran no doubt amply testifies to.

Your goal is not to demonstrate that the character Jesus acted logically in some cases, or that the Bible represents historical truth in some cases. No one doubts that.

Your goal is to demonstrate that the central thesis of Christianity is logical. Really, nothing else matters. Show us logically compelling evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, and we simply won't care about Jonah and the whale.

Nor do we care that Jesus gave the Pharisees a rhetorical smack-down, particularly when you state that Jesus' winning argument was the threat of violence ("IF we say John's baptism was not from God, THEN the people will harm us"). Seriously? That's what you're going with? Jesus was a logician because the Pharisees were afraid of a mob?

I can see how a rhetorician might find that an impressive maneuver, but the rest of us, who are interested in truth rather than winning public debates with the implied threat of mob violence, are not amused.

What we care about is whether or not Jesus was God, defeated Death, purified us from Original Sin, and represents the one and only way to get to Heaven. Some of the more cynical among us also question whether Jesus existed at all, the morality of punishing the child for the sins of the father, and even the coherence of the idea of Heaven. These are the issues you need to be engaging. Not Jesus' back-alley gang fights.

Merely demonstrating that Jesus was logical and rational in many cases does not demonstrate that he was logical and rational in all cases. At best a history of correctness wins you a hearing; a man that has been proven right before will be listened to, even when he presents an unlikely proposition. But all of his past logical successes are irrelevant to the argument he is making today. His current argument will be considered on its own merits, and if he is a logician, he will expect - nay, demand! - no less.

It is, after all, a fundamental principle of logic. If Jesus were the superb logician you assert him to be, his only possible response to your argument would be: "Dude... start over. This is going nowhere."

( Edit: A link to the original might be helpful: Is Christianity Logical?)

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