Logical Fallacies

This is a great poster which can be found at yourlogicalfallacyis.com. Most people do not know what a logical fallacy is, but it is simple an error in logic. Or to say it another way, it is a false argument. I will refrain from a lesson on logic here, but the reason I am putting this on the blog is because it is intimately connected to reading and writing well. Understanding where someone’s reasoning is false will help you read and understand what others have written better. It will help you engage with other people’s reasoning in a more effective and meaningful way as well. Simply put, if the reasoning used to arrive at a conclusion is fallacious (or false) then you must throw away the argument and start again. It does not mean that what you believe is not true, however it does mean you don’t have any reason to believe its true until you find a proper argument. I think they over simplify some, but a quick wikipedia search will give you enough information. Also, on the website linked at the top you can click on each one for a deeper walk through and example of each. Here is a quick overview of the major logical fallacies used, enjoy.

vr4fd6f3c4(Click on it if you want it bigger)

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God’s Wrath, Love, and a common Christian Cliché

It is often easy to have the misconception that understanding the doctrine of the love of God is simple. It is easy! God just loves everybody all the time! However, reality is just the opposite. God’s love is a difficult doctrine. It is made difficult for the simple reason that God is a God of justice, and we are sinners. D.A. Carson in his book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, opens this up in many, many ways. Too many to number, in fact, and I will only include one extended section here. I suggest this book to anyone wanting to understand God’s love in a deeper, and more balanced way. It will challenge you greatly. Here D.A. Carson takes on many misunderstandings and attempts to show the interplay between the Wrath and Love of God.

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(Picture I took for a photography class project)

  1. The Love of God and the Wrath of God

Here I shall venture three reflections.

1) The Bible speaks of the wrath of God in high-intensity language. “The LORD Almighty is mustering an army for war….Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty….See, the day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it” (Isa. 13:4,6,9). “Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will withdraw my favor; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword….And when I have spent my wrath upon them, they will know that I the LORD have spoken in my zeal. I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations around you, in the sight of all who pass by….When I shoot at you with my deadly and destructive arrows of famine, I will shoot to destroy you….Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I the LORD have spoken” (Ezek. 5:11-17). Such passages could be multiplied a hundredfold. Make all the allowance you like fro the nature of language in the apocalyptic genre, but Revelation 14 includes some of the most violent expressions of God’s wrath found in all literature.

Wrath, like love, includes emotion as a necessary component. Here again, if impassibility is defined in terms of the complete absence of all “passions,” not only will you fly in the face of the biblical evidence, but you tumble into fresh errors that touch the very holiness of God. The reason is that in itself, wrath, unlike love, is not one of the intrinsic perfections of God. Rather, it is a function of God’s holiness against sin. Where there is no sin, there is no wrath—but there will always be love in God. Where God in his holiness confronts his image-bearers in their rebellion, there must be wrath, or God is not the jealous God he claims to be, and his holiness is impugned. The price of diluting God’s wrath is diminishing God’s holiness.

This point is so important I must tease it out a little further. It is hard to read the pages of Scripture without perceiving that the wrath of God, however much it is a function of God’s holiness against sin, nevertheless has a powerful affective element in it. Thus to distance God too greatly from wrath on the ground of a misconceived form of impassibility soon casts shadows back onto his holiness.

Alternatively, this so-called wrath, depersonalized and de-emotionalized, is redefined as an anthropopathism that is actually talking about the impartial and inevitable impersonal effects of sin in a person or culture. That was the route of C.H. Dodd in the 1930s. The entailment, then as now, is that the significance of the cross changes. If God is not really angry, it is difficult to see why any place should be preserved for propitiation. But to this I shall return.

Further, to retreat to the distinction between the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity in this case would be disastrous. That tactic argues that God as he is in himself (the immanent Trinity) is immune from wrath while God as he inereacts with rebels (the economic Trinity) displays his wrath. But because God’s wrath is a function of his holiness, this leaves us in the dubious position of ascribing to God as he is in himself less concern for maintaining his holiness than God as he interacts with the created and fallen order. Conceptually this is a substantial distance from the pictures of God in Scripture; analytically it is slightly bizarre.

2) How, then, should the love of God and the wrath of God be understood to relate to each other? One evangelical cliché has it that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. There is a small element of truth in these words: God has nothing but hate for the sin, but it would be wrong to conclude that God has nothing but hate for the sinner. A difference must be maintained between God’s view of sin and his view of the sinner. Nevertheless the cliché (God hates the sin but loves the sinner) is false on the face of it and should be abandoned. Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms alone, we are told that God hates the sinner, his wrath is on the liar, and so forth. In the Bible, the wrath of God rests both on the sin (Rom. 1:18ff.) and on the sinner (John 3:36).

Our problem, in part, is that in human experience wrath and love normally abide in mutually exclusive compartments. Love drives wrath out, or wrath drives love out. We come closest to bringing them together, perhaps, in our responses to a wayward act by one of our children, but normally we do not think that a wrathful person is loving.

But this is not the way it is with God. God’s wrath is not an implacable, blind rage. However emotional it may be, it is an entirely reasonable and willed response to offenses against his holiness. But his love, as we saw in the last chapter, wells up amidst his perfections and is not generated by the loveliness of the loved. Thus there is nothing intrinsically impossible about wrath and love being directed toward the same individual or people at the same time. God in his perfections must be wrathful against his rebel image-bearers, for they have offended him; God in his perfections must be loving toward his rebel image-bearers, for he is that kind of God.

3) Two other misconceptions circulate widely even in circles of confessional Christianity.

The first is that in the Old Testament God’s wrath is more strikingly transparent than his love, while in the New Testament, though doubtless a residue of wrath remains, a gentleness takes over and softens the darker period: God’s love is now richer than his wrath. After all, Jesus taught his disciples to love their enemies and turn the other cheek.

Nothing could be further from the truth than this reading of the relationship between the Testaments. One suspects that the reason why this formula has any credibility at all is that the manifestation of God’s wrath in the Old Testament is primarily in temporal categories—famine, plague, siege, war, slaughter. In our present focus on the here and now, these images have a greater impact on us than what the New Testament says, with its focus on wrath in the afterlife. Jesus, after all, is the one who in the New Testament speaks most frequently and most colorfully about hell—this Jesus of the other cheek. The apostolic writings, climaxing in Revelation 14, offer little support for the view that a kinder, gentler God surfaces in the New Testament at this stage in redemptive history.

The reality is that the Old Testament displays the grace and love of God in experience and types, and these realities become all the clearer in the new covenant writings. Similarly, the Old Testament displays the righteous wrath of God in experience and types, and these realities become all the clearer in the new covenant writings. In other words, both God’s love and God’s wrath are ratcheted up in the move from the old covenant to the new, from the Old Testament to the New. These themes barrel along through redemptive history, unresolved, until they come to a resounding climax—in the cross.

Do you wish to see God’s love? Look at the cross. Do you wish to see God’s wrath? Look at the cross.

Hymn writers have sometimes captured this best. In Wales Christians sing a nineteenth-century hymn by William Rees:

Here is love, cast as the ocean,

Lovingkindness as the flood,

When the Prince of life, our ransom,

Shed for us His precious blood.

Who His love will not remember?

Who can cease to sing His praise?

He can never be forgotten

Through heaven’s eternal days.

 

On the Mount of Crucifixion

Fountains opened deep and wide;

Through the floodgates of God’s mercy

Flowed a vast and gracious tide.

Grace and love, like mighty rivers,

Poured incessant from above,

And heaven’s peace and perfect justice

Kissed a guilty world in love.

            That brings us to the second common misconception. This one pictures God as implacably opposed to us and full of wrath, but somehow mollified by Jesus, who loves us. Once again, if we maintain the right frame, there is some wonderful truth here. The Epistle to the Hebrews certainly lends some support to this way of thinking, especially in its portrayal of Jesus as the high priest who continuously makes intercession to God for us. All of this is modeled on the cultus established at Sinai—or, more precisely, the cultus established at Sinai is meant to be, according to Hebrews, the shadow of the ultimate reality. Again, in 1 John 2:2 Jesus is the Advocate who speaks to the Father in our defense.

But there are other strands of New Testament theology that must be brought to bear. It was God who loved the world so much that he gave his Son (John 3:16). Here it is not that God is reluctant while his Son wins him over; rather, it is God himself who sends his Son. Thus (to return to Hebrews), even if our great high priest intercedes for us and pleads his own blood on our behalf, we must never think of this as an independent action that the Father somehow did not know about reluctantly approved, eventually won over by the independently originating sacrifice of his Son. Rather, Father and Son are one in this project of redemption. The Son himself comes into the world by the express command of the Father.

Thus, when we use the language of propitiation, we are not to think that the Son, full of love, offered himself and thereby placated (i.e., rendered propitious) the Father, full of wrath. The picture is more complex. It is that the Father, full of righteous wrath against us, nevertheless loved us so much that he sent his Son. Perfectly mirroring his Father’s words and deeds, the Son stood over against us in wrath—it is not for the nothing that the Scriptures portray sinners wanting to hide from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb—yet, obedient to his Father’s commission, offered himself on the cross. He did this out of love both for his Father, whom he obeys, and for us, whom he redeems. Thus God is necessarily both the subject and object of propitiation. He provides the propitiating sacrifice (he is the subject), and he himself is propitiated (he is the object). That is the glory of the cross.

All this is implicit in the great atonement passage of Romans 3:21-26. After devoting two and a half chapters to showing how the entire race is cursed and rightly under the wrath of God because of its sin (1:18-320), the apostle Paul expounds how Christ’s death was God’s wise plan “to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). God presented Jesus as a propitiation in his blood, received through faith (Rom. 3:25).

Pages 66-73

Carson, D.A. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. Wheaton: Crossway. 2000. Print.

Sufficiency of Scripture

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Here is an excerpt from Truth Matters, a collection of John MacArthur’s landmark chapters. Here he is working through Psalm 19:7-4 to show what God says about His Word. I think that one of the greatest attacks continually is on the sufficiency of scripture. Most Christians might say that God’s word is important, but is it “sufficient?” Is it all that we need for “life and Godliness” as Peter says in his the third verse of his second Epistle? Do you look toward your inward experiences to get closer to God, or some sort of “small still voice” like many others claim you need to do? Are you chasing signs and wonders to verify God’s word or love for you? How many other things do we run to that take the place of God’s word? How much time do you spend in it trying to understand it? Many other questions I could ask but read carefully because this is a great portion. I may include the rest of the chapter later but this part really stuck out to me.

“Scripture is Perfect, Restoring the Soul

In the first statement (v. 7), he says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul.” The Hebrew word translated “law” is torah, which emphasizes the didactic nature of Scripture. Here David uses it to refer to Scripture as the sum of what God has revealed for our instruction, whether it be creed (what we believe), character (what we are), or conduct (what we do).

“Perfect” is the translation of a common Hebrew word meaning “whole,” “complete,” or “sufficient.” It conveys the idea of something that is comprehensive, so as to cover all aspects of an issue. Commentator Albert Barnes wrote,

The meaning [of “perfect”] is that [Scripture] lacks nothing [for] its completeness; nothing in order that it might be what it should be. It is complete as a revelation of Divine truth; it is complete as a rule of conduct… It is absolutely true; it is adapted with consummate wisdom to the [needs] of man; it is an unerring guide of conduct. There is nothing there which would lead men into error or sin; there is nothing essential for man to know which may not be found there.

Scripture is comprehensive, embodying all that is necessary to one’s spiritual life. David’s implied contrast is with the imperfect, insufficient, flawed reasoning of men.

God’s perfect law, David said, affects people by “restoring the soul” (v.7). The Hebrew word translated “restoring” can mean “converting,” “reviving,” or “refreshing,” but my favorite synonym is “transforming.” The word “soul” (in Hebrew, nephesh) refers to one’s person, self, or heart. It is translated all those ways (and many more) in the Old Testament. The essence of it is the inner person, the whole person, the real you. To paraphrase David’s words, Scripture is so powerful and comprehensive that it can convert or transform the entire person, changing someone into precisely the person God wants him to be. God’s Word is sufficient to restore through salvation even the most broken life—a fact to which David himself gave abundant testimony.

Scripture is Trustworthy, Imparting Wisdom

David, further expanding the sweep of scriptural sufficiency, writes in Psalm 19:7, “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” “Testimony” speaks of Scripture as a divine witness. Scripture is God’s sure testimony to who He is and what He requires us. “Sure” means His testimony is unwavering, immovable, unmistakable, reliable, and worthy to be trusted. It provides a foundation on which to build our lives and eternal destinies.

In 2 Peter 1:16-18 Peter reflects back to his time on the Mount of Transfiguration with all the supernatural events of that marvelous occasion (the majestic glory of Christ, the voice from heaven, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah). But despite all he had experienced, he says in verse 19, “We have more sure—the prophetic word” (literal translation).

In that statement Peter affirmed that the testimony of God’s written Word is a surer and more convincing confirmation of Go’ds truth than what we had personally seen and heard at the transfiguration of Christ. Unlike many today who cite spurious mystical experiences, Peter had a verifiable real-life encounter with Christ in His full glory on the mount. And in contrast with those today who advocate miracles as the necessary proof of God’s power and presence, Peter looked to Scripture as a higher and more trustworthy authority than even such a dramatic experience. Commentator Samuel Cox has written,

Peter knew a sounder basis for faith than that of signs and wonders. He had seen our Lord Jesus Christ receive honor and glory from God the Father in the holy mount; he had been dazzled and carried out of himself by visions and voices from heaven. But, nevertheless, even when his memory and heart are throbbing with recollections of that sublime scene, he says, “we have something surer still in the prophetic word.” …It was not the miracles of Christ by which he came to know Jesus, but the word of Christ as interpreted by the spirit of Christ.

Scripture is the product of God’s Spirit moving upon its human authors to produce His Word in written form (2 Peter 1:20-21). As such, it supersedes even apostolic experiences with Jesus Himself. Perhaps that is why Jesus prevented the disciples on the Emmaus Road from recognizing Him as He “explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures: (Luke 24:27). He wanted their faith and preaching to be based on Scripture, not merely on their own personal experience—no matter how moving or memorable that experience might be. If that was true of the apostles, how much more should believers today seek to know God’s Word rather than seeking supernatural or ecstatic experiences. Experience can be counterfeited easily, but not Scripture. It is once-for-all delivered!

God’s sure Word makes the simple wise (v. 7). The Hebrew word translated “simple” comes from an expression meaning “an open door.” It evokes the image of a naïve person who doesn’t know when to shut his mind to false or impure teaching. He is undiscerning, ignorant, and gullible. But God’s Word makes him wise. “Wise” speaks not of one who merely knows some fact, but of one who is skilled in the art of godly living. He submits to Scripture and knows how to apply it to his circumstances. The Word of God thus takes a simple mind with no discernment and makes it skilled in all the issues of life. This, too, is in contrast to the wisdom of men, which in realty is foolishness (1 Cor. 1:20).” (pg. 3-5)

MacArthur, John. Truth Matters: Landmark Chapters from the Teaching Ministry of John MacArthur. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. 2004. Print.