By Spencer D Gear
What would you say to someone who said the following?
Of the supreme God of the universe, ‘Superstition is not “complicated.” It’s the easy way out – it doesn’t require education, or deep thinking, just an unquestioning adherence to cultural traditions, and a clownishly arrogant willingness to explain the unknowable as if it were known’.
Is the Christian faith superstition? ‘That is my opinion, yes. It is a very elaborate belief system, with a complex theology and a long history, but ultimately never ranges out from under the umbrella of “superstition”’.
‘I think it’s clownishly arrogant for people to purport to explain the unknowable as if it were known, which is what religion does about things like life after death, eternity, etc’.
‘If we want to understand the mysteries of the universe, the last thing we should do is unthinkingly embrace the explanations recorded in primitive Iron Age texts.
Imagine if we did that in other areas of life (medicine, architecture, human rights). It’s 2015’.
‘An average student today knows more about the nature of the universe and of this world than the most learned sages of the Iron Age’..
‘Christianity relies upon Iron Age understandings of man’s origins and the nature of the world.
It would be preposterous for us to apply that same primitive thinking to other areas of modern life (medicine, architecture, human rights), though some religious people attempt to in some areas’.
‘Christianity comes out of that primitive era, and unlike other fields of endeavor, philosophy, social systems, science – remains largely mired in Iron Age thinking’.
‘I was just referring to the persona or characteristics of the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions – just as we ascribe certain characteristics or traits to the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology. The Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’.
There you have a sample of an anti-Christian antagonist who has chosen to grace himself on a Christian Forum. Why would an anti-Christian want to even join with a group of Christians to stir the pot with his hostility towards and ridicule of the Christian faith?
My posting on Christian forums over the years has taught me that they seem to do it for at least three reasons:
(1) They enjoy scoffing at the Christian faith to try to demonstrate their supposed superior knowledge,
(2) They love showing up Christians who don’t know their product as well as they should.
(3) For some, there is a considerable amount of arrogance displayed in trying to challenge Christians on what they believe. That’s what you’ll see in David’s responses if you care to follow that thread on the Internet.
A. Notice what he does
What do the above examples show us about David’s enmity towards Christians and Christianity? Let’s look at two examples:
1. Christianity is superstition
One of his examples was: ‘Superstition is not “complicated.” It’s the easy way out’. David’s starting point is that belief in the supreme God is ‘superstition’. So what is his concluding point? He was asked that by Cheryl, ‘Is it your opinion that the Christian faith is superstition?’
What do you think he would conclude? Here it is: ‘That is my opinion, yes. It is a very elaborate belief system, with a complex theology and a long history, but ultimately never ranges out from under the umbrella of “superstition”’.
What is he doing here? He could be trying at least two possible activities:
(1) He has done a lot of investigation and concluded that Christianity is ‘superstition’. Or,
(2) He assumes it is superstition and therefore concludes that it is superstition.
If he uses the second approach (which seems to be his demonstration in the first few posts), he is committing what is known as a question begging logical fallacy, which is also known as circular reasoning. It is circular because if one starts (belief in God is superstition) where one finishes (‘Superstition is not “complicated”’), one has gone nowhere except around in illogical circles. It has not dealt with the evidence about whether or not there is a supreme God.
This fallacy has been explained this way:
Begging the Question is a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true. This sort of “reasoning” typically has the following form.
a. Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).
b. Claim C (the conclusion) is true.
This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious [logically unsound] because simply assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) in the premises does not constitute evidence for that conclusion. Obviously, simply assuming a claim is true does not serve as evidence for that claim (Dr Michael C Labossiere, The Nizkor Project, Begging the Question).
So when David begins with a statement that belief in the supreme God is belief in superstition, he is not going to conclude differently unless he seriously addresses the evidence for the existence of the true God or no god. He has not demonstrated that in the Internet thread. He chooses not to engage with the evidence but to label it as ‘superstition’. This is a deceptive way to avoid getting into discussion about the evidence for God and Christianity. It’s a misleading way to avoid dealing with the evidence.
2. god is a major league tyrant and sadist
A second of his examples above was: ‘I was just referring to the persona or characteristics of the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions – just as we ascribe certain characteristics or traits to the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology. The Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’.
Note his emphases:
- ‘the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions’;
- ‘just as … the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology’;
- ‘Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’.
Again, he is using a question begging logical fallacy because he commences with god, ‘the imaginary tyrant’, moves to the parallel with the Greek gods and Greek mythology’ and ends with god labelled as ‘a major league tyrant and sadist’. He has provided not one piece of evidence to support his claims except using the throw-away line, ‘based on biblical descriptions’. He gives not one example in that post of any description from the Bible.
However, Cheryl picked him up on this:
‘Quoting Dawkins’ claim about God and agreeing with it does not prove that his (or your) description of God of the OT is accurate. Please give us examples from the Bible (chapter and verse) on how each of these words apply (sic) to the character of God and we can discuss those passages in context to the entire Biblical narrative. Otherwise, Dawkins’ (or any other atheist’s) opinion about the Biblical God carries no weight in this discussion, at least with me’.
However, David used another technique in these examples to avoid dealing with the evidence. He engaged in ridicule of the faith: ‘Imaginary tyrant’ who is in parallel with ‘the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology’. AND, the ‘Christian god is a major league tyrant and sadist’. He is scoffing at the Christian’s God. He is engaging in ridicule. He has committed the appeal to ridicule fallacy, which is also called the appeal to mockery or horse laugh. Here is one explanation:
The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an “argument.” This line of “reasoning” has the following form:
1. X, which is some form of ridicule is presented (typically directed at the claim).
2. Therefore claim C is false.
This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because mocking a claim does not show that it is false. This is especially clear in the following example: “1+1=2! That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!” (Dr Michael C Labossiere, The Nizkor Project, Appeal to Ridicule).
Keep a watch out for the use of logical fallacies to derail an argument. It happens online, in personal conversation, and can be used by public speakers and those in the mass media. An excellent overview, with examples, of some of the major fallacies used to promote illogical answers is in The Nizkor Project: Fallacies. I urge you to review them and be able to identify them. I recommend that you learn to recognise these fallacies by name.
B. The illogic of logical fallacies
As I respond to some of David’s replies, you will note that I try to identify his use of logical fallacies. What is a logical fallacy?
‘A fallacy is, very generally, an error in reasoning. This differs from a factual error, which is simply being wrong about the facts. To be more specific, a fallacy is an “argument” in which the premises given for the conclusion do not provide the needed degree of support’ (Labossiere 1995).
Why should we even be concerned about people using logical fallacies in conversation or when they write? What is your response when a person doesn’t deal with the issues you are raising? They may give you the flick pass of avoidance, change the topic, reach a conclusion that is unrelated to the flow of the conversation, and may abuse you. Does that cause you to want to engage in discussion with them? Is it possible to have a rational conversation with people who do this? Politicians who face the media are experts at not answering the question asked and only giving the party line for that topic. What kind of fallacy is that?
When someone uses such a fallacy, it is almost impossible to have a logical conversation with the one who is committing a logical error. He or she is being illogical in the discussion. When discussions become irrational – because of false logic – there is no way to get back on track until the matter is addressed.
C. Tactics that fail
Let’s check on David again to see what he is up to. How does he attempt to derail a thread by other tactics?
1. Unthinking, primitive Iron Age religion
David wrote: ‘If we want to understand the mysteries of the universe, the last thing we should do is unthinkingly embrace the explanations recorded in primitive Iron Age texts. Imagine if we did that in other areas of life (medicine, architecture, human rights). It’s 2015’. I replied: ‘That’s a question begging (circular reasoning) fallacy, David!’
How would you expect him to reply? ‘How so, Spencer? My response was:
You started with this premise:
‘Stand to reason? No. If we want to understand the mysteries of the universe, the last thing we should do is unthinkingly embrace the explanations recorded in primitive Iron Age texts.
Imagine if we did that in other areas of life (medicine, architecture, human rights). It’s 2015.
You start with ‘recorded in primitive Iron Age texts’ and then conclude, ‘Imagine if we did that in other areas of life’. That’s circular reasoning, a question begging logical fallacy. When you conclude with your premise that’s the essence of this kind of fallacy and you committed it. We cannot have a rational conversation when you do this. It’s a fallacious understanding.
2. Least educated children know more than Christians
David was up to his circular reasoning tricks, plus another one:
‘Evolution was not recorded in Iron Age texts. Science does not rely upon the superstitions of ancient primitives, but religion often embraces them.
“Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion” (Christopher Hitchens)’.
My response was:
Here you are promoting another question begging logical fallacy.
Christopher Hitchens also uses this fallacy but also uses a fallacy of ridicule with his use of language such as,
- ‘bawling and fearful infancy’;
- ‘babyish attempt’;
- ‘infantile needs’;
- ‘least educated of my children knows more … than any of the founders of religion’.
Both David and Hitchens have used logical fallacies that inhibit reasonable conversation. David’s response to me was:
I see. Unless we redefine language in a smokescreen of tangled and tortured academic rhetoric, to the point of meaninglessness, “reasonable conversation” is not possible.
I reject that notion. I’m sure that brand of mental gymnastics will go over well — and is even necessary — in defending a dissertation about the historicity of miracles in mythology, but in this casual setting, you might consider simply attempting to mount a plainly-worded counter-argument. If that’s possible.
He’s scoffing at me and my replies (I’m only a couple of weeks away from defending my PhD dissertation and have mentioned it on the forum). He’s engaging again in the fallacy of ridicule. He’s not dealing with the issues I raise but ridiculing my views. Logical discussion cannot be pursued when a person does this and he needs to be challenged with the naming of his fallacies and showing how false illogic cannot be pursued to maintain a reasonable conversation.
3. Clownish arrogance
David is up to it again!
I think it’s clownishly arrogant for people to purport to explain the unknowable as if it were known, which is what religion does about things like life after death, eternity, etc.
I believe that mankind has some answers, and some partial answers, and that many things remain a complete mystery due to the infantile state of our science, and our still-feeble understanding of human psychology.
How would you reply? This was my retort:
Your ‘clownishly arrogant’ accusation (appeal to ridicule) and your other statements in this post indicate that your answers are restricted by your commitment to naturalism which you say includes ‘the infantile state of our science’.
When you start with naturalism, that also includes ‘our still-feeble understanding of human psychology’ (your language), you will not include that which will open up mysteries of the naturalistic unknowable, life after death, eternity, etc.
It will not allow you to consider how you can experience eternal life now and in the life to come. That needs you to be open to revelation from God through Scripture. That includes the testing of Scripture by the tests you apply to any literature to determine its reliability.
More implications flow from your belief about God than from any other subject. If you would reject your commitment to naturalism and be open to God’s revelation, you would find a remarkably new world that,
(1) Shows from where you and the whole human race came;
(2) That will lead you to understand who you are and why you are here on earth.
(3) It will tell you the rights and wrongs of values. How you should live morally will come from this openness to God and his revelation.
(4) And have a guess what? This will tell you where you are going. There is life after death because God has revealed it as so.
When you give up your naturalistic worldview (which does NOT require rejection of science), you will find that the revelation of the nature of the world through Scripture, fits like a hand in glove with reality.
If there is no God and He has not revealed his plans for you, me and the universe, there is no ultimate reason for living. I find no meaning and purpose in life; there is no right or wrong in life except my shaky opinion. Then it doesn’t matter how you or I live. We can eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
However, I urge you to consider the implications of your naturalistic worldview. It doesn’t prepare you for the Final Judgment (read about it in Matthew 25:31-46).
I know you won’t like what I’ve said here, but your commitment to the restrictive world of naturalism, leaves a big hunk of your world blank.
Thank you for considering these matters.
D. A worldview of a difference
A thoughtful person wrote:
‘I consider this discussion an example of contrasting worldviews – in this case, Naturalism vs Theism’. If we can’t agree on whether we live in an open system where there is a spiritual element or a closed system where there is no spiritual dimension, there will be no agreement.
Here is a chart of 5 worldviews which may help anyone reading this thread:
This one hit the mark and I replied:
Thank you for a thoughtful post.
Yes, this is a worldview issue of naturalism vs theism in this case between David and me.
However, there is another dimension: Each worldview needs to be checked against the evidence. Or, to put it another way: How does a worldview compare with the comprehensive reality available to us?
I consider that a major difference between David and me is that I want to examine the evidence available to me to reach a decision on whether that worldview matches reality.
I’ve checked out naturalism, theism, pantheism, panentheism, atheism and agnosticism and I’ve found that the most comprehensive understanding of reality is Christian theism. I have an open approach to considering evidence. I don’t exclude any of these -isms, but I compare their content with the evidence.
The Christian worldview answers prominent issues relating to:
1. The origin of the universe with its design;
2. Why there is evil in the world and how to deal with it.
3. Purpose for life;
4. Hope in life that prepares one for death.
I have not found acceptable answers to these 4 questions in the other -isms. The Scriptures confirm two areas for obtaining information about our world and human life: (1) Creation – the created universe (see Romans 1:16-32; Psalm 19:1-6), and (2) Scripture (see 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
E. Rational worldview – give up logical fallacies
David now decided to attack my exposing his logical fallacies with this post:
You will never be able to handle the Rational worldview until you give up your logical fallacies of (1) superstition dressed as history, and (2) sophistry.
It matters not at all to me whether you choose to participate in a rational examination of religious beliefs. But it’s unreasonable for you to assume or expect that rational people will redefine the language to accommodate your personal beliefs.
My rejoinder was:
Those are not logical fallacies that you mentioned. They are your presuppositions that you are imposing on me.
We cannot have a rational discussion when you continue to use logical fallacies such as the one you use regularly here – the fallacy of ridicule.
You have this added issue: ‘The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 2:14).
You will continue to ridicule Christians because you will not accept these things until Jesus changes you through repentance and faith in Jesus. I will continue to pray that the Lord will draw you to consider a holistic worldview that includes the dynamics of spiritual reality.
In case you have forgotten, David, the ‘Fallacy – Appeal to Ridicule’ (Michael C. Labossiere 1995, in The Nizkor Project), which you use regularly against me, other Christians, Christianity, and Christian beliefs, means:
Also Known as: Appeal to Mockery, The Horse Laugh.
Description of Appeal to Ridicule
The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an “argument.” This line of “reasoning” has the following form:
1. X, which is some form of ridicule is presented (typically directed at the claim).
2. Therefore claim C is false.
This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because mocking a claim does not show that it is false. This is especially clear in the following example: “1+1=2! That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!”
You use this fallacy of ridicule throughout your responses to me with statements such as,
- ‘superstition dressed as history’;
- ‘Your view of life strikes me as desperately sad, and wasted if it requires a crutch as unimaginative as that offered by organized religion’;
- ‘To manufacture an artificial “purpose” oriented toward a fantasy life’;
- ‘subservient to the imagined demands of some “loving” (but frankly, ugly) tyrant’;
- ‘The childish belief that we need religion in order to have morality, to know right from wrong, is deeply flawed and erroneous’;
- ‘You talk about the afterlife as if it were a known fact, because, God revealed it to us”;
- ‘The bible is the word of God, because God has revealed to us that it is. Where did he reveal it to us? In the bible. ‘
- ‘It’s lazy to reject all of science – a work in progress — in lieu of a magical story’ [This is not only part of David’s fallacy of ridicule but it is a false allegation. Not once have I stated that I ‘reject all of science’. I have said to the contrary that I accept the scientific enterprise. Go read my posts with accuracy.]
- ‘If one needs the bible for morality, they have bigger problems than knowing right from wrong. ‘
- ‘Your list above would only be remarkable if Christianity didn’t provide answers to all of them’;
- ‘What good would a manmade religion be if….’, and
- ‘Once emancipated from the crippling entanglements of Iron Age religions, humans are genuinely free to explore the answers to those 4 issues in a rational, more honest, more fulfilling way’
This is fallacious reasoning for the reasons given above and you do it constantly against me. When will you wake up to what you are doing? I don’t fall for fallacious reasoning.
When you make a statement like, ‘What good would a manmade religion be if….’, you are displaying your presupposition as your conclusion. Thus you are using a Begging the Question Fallacy.
I hope that you will get to the point of giving up your use of logical fallacies against Christians and deal with the evidence for their beliefs.
F. You have not called my bluff
At one point I decided to leave the conversation because of David’s constant use of logical fallacies. Reasonable discussion, dealing with the evidence of Christianity, is impossible with someone who refuses to acknowledge what he does with fallacious reasoning. So I came back with this response:
Let’s get something clear. You have NOT called my bluff. I’ve called you for your regular use of logical fallacies against me. But you won’t admit to what you are doing.
For there to be ‘a reciprocal exchange’, there has to be an acknowledgement by both of us when we use illogical reasoning. Logical fallacies, which you use, are false reasoning. You won’t admit what you do when you are called on the specifics.
I base my calling you for fallacious reasoning on the evidence you present. If you can agree to not use logical fallacies against others and me, we can have reasonable conversations. Up to this point, you have not admitted to this and your regular logical fallacies committed in your responses to me continue.
Will you agree to quit doing that so that we can discuss the evidence rationally? This especially includes quitting your ad hominem fallacies and fallacies of ridicule against the Christian faith and me. Can we agree to not use logical fallacies and call each other on them when we use them?
It seems to me that you are in such a habit of putting down the Christian faith by your use of logical fallacies that they come from you naturally without your giving too much thought to what you do. I could be wrong. Are you doing this, knowing what you are doing, to denigrate the faith of believers?
This is part of David’s response. He will not admit to what he does with his use of logical fallacies. He blames me. Take a read:
It’s absurd for you to predicate all “logical discussion” here on me pre-emptively “admitting” your charges. I don’t admit to your all-inclusive list of fallacies because it is a wholly-subjective and self-serving means for you to discount the very essence of my arguments without addressing them.
In other words, your litany of fallacies is not a reasonable critique. It is a rhetorical smokescreen to mask your unwillingness to engage on issues you presume to already know the truth about….
He doesn’t like being challenged with his use of fallacies and accuses me of not giving ‘a reasonable critique’. I’ve been very reasonable with him. I know of many people who would have verbally assaulted him for what he is doing to me. However, it does affirm that it’s impossible to have a rational conversation with him.
‘[Logical] Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim’ (20WL Purdue University, Logical Fallacies).
Here you have resorted again to the Fallacy of Appeal to Ridicule against me.
You also did it in your statement to Noelle,
‘No. I was just referring to the persona or characteristics of the imaginary tyrant based on biblical descriptions – just as we ascribe certain characteristics or traits to the Greek gods, based on Greek mythology.’
You don’t seem to be aware of how you shipwreck discussion with others and me by your use of logical fallacies.
G. Straw man argument
Luke was not an eyewitness, and if he spoke to eyewitnesses, we have no way of knowing. In fact, we don’t even really know who Luke himself was. The identity of the author of that gospel, and when it was written, remain conjecture.
An effectively anonymous second-hand (at best) account of supernatural events is not “evidence” that satisfies legitimate historical scholarship, and so cannot be considered a refutation of anything.
Here you are responding with a straw man argument. Nowhere did I state that Luke was an eyewitness. That’s your invention – your straw man. This is what I did say:
Luke refutes your view:
‘Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught’ (Luke 1:1-4 NIV).
Luke has eyewitness accounts available to him. He had carefully investigated the issues and wrote an orderly account. So your view that they ‘are unsubstantiated’ is refuted by Luke’s evidence.
You state: ‘If he spoke to eyewitnesses, we have no way of knowing.’ Again, this is a false assumption. We have the same way of knowing as we do with any other person from history. There are distinct methods of historical investigation by which we check historical reliability:
(1) The transmission of the MSS;
(2) External evidence, and
(3) Internal evidence.
There are criteria that historians use to determine historical veracity. When these are applied to Luke’s Gospel, they stack up well.
Craig Blomberg has articulated these and tested them in his publication, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Blomberg 1987). His conclusion was:
‘The gospels may be accepted as trustworthy accounts of what Jesus did and said. One cannot hope to prove the accuracy of every detail on purely historical grounds alone; there is simply not enough data available for that. But as investigation proceeds, the evidence becomes sufficient for one to declare that what can be checked is accurate, so that it is entirely proper to believe that what cannot be checked is probably accurate as well. Other conclusions, widespread though they are, seem not to stem from even-handed historical analysis but from religious or philosophical prejudice’ (Blomberg 12987:241).
It seems to me that Blomberg has hit the mark with assessment of your views. They ‘seem not to stem from even-handed historical analysis but from religious or philosophical prejudice’. You start out as a skeptic of the truth and reliability of the Gospels and that is where you conclude. It’s a question begging fallacy.
You claim: ‘In fact, we don’t even really know who Luke himself was. The identity of the author of that gospel, and when it was written, remain conjecture.’
That is partly true. The Gospel originally was anonymous but from the latter half of the 2nd century and onwards it has been identified with Luke, the ‘beloved physician’ (Col 4:14) and the Apostle Paul’s companion.
As for the date of writing, there are indicators. I Howard Marshall who has devoted extensive study to the Greek text (see his Greek Text commentary on Luke, Eerdmans1978) stated that Luke’s writing the Book of Acts before AD 70 (the fall of Jerusalem) indicate that ‘on the whole a date not far off AD 70 appears to satisfy all requirements’ for Luke (Marshall 1978:35).
Other historians have indicated that Luke is a first-class historian. Here is some of the evidence summarised:
How reliable was Luke as an historian in his Luke-Acts documents? Others have gone before us who have assessed this.
See, ‘Luke the historian in the light of research‘ (Dr A T Robertson).
Here is a summary of some of the challenges to ‘Luke the Historian‘ (Stringer 2015) and the results:
Luke’s accuracy in historical and geographical matters is so thoroughly established that to deny it would be pure folly. This fact has not always been recognized.
In the mid-nineteenth century, a scholar named Eduard Zeller launched a severe attack on the historical accuracy of Acts. Among those who accepted his flawed conclusions was an eminent Scottish archaeologist named Sir William Ramsay. In fact, Ramsay led an archaeological expedition with the intention of proving that Acts was the error-filled product of a 2nd-century writer. It turned out, however, that Ramsay proved the opposite of what he had set out to prove. His years of research compelled him to describe Luke as “among the historians of the first rank” (St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, p. 4). In 1897 he published his conclusions in the famous volume just referenced, in which he defended the proposition “that Acts was written by a great historian” (p. 14).
Today, Luke is widely accepted as a remarkably accurate historian. The distinguished Roman historian A.N. Sherwin-White states: “For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming…any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted” (Roman Law and Roman Society in the New Testament, p. 189). Colin Hemer’s comparison of Luke with the well-known historian Josephus is telling: “The work of Luke is marked by carefulness but that of Josephus by carelessness” (The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, p. 219).
Luke wrote of events that occurred over a geographical area ranging from Jerusalem to Rome, including such vastly diverse regions as Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy. His history spans a period of about 30 years in which the political and territorial situations were always changing. Boundary lines and political offices were in a constant state of flux. And Luke did not write in generalities; he did not omit technical details so as to avoid mistakes. Yet, his detailed references have proved to be accurate. Rackham observes that such accuracy as is found in the book of Acts would have been impossible for one writing 50 years later (The Acts of the Apostles, p. xliii).
Critics have challenged Luke’s accuracy, but archaeological discoveries have overturned the challenges. One such instance was the charge that Luke erred in the term he used to designate the ruler of Cyprus in Acts 13:7. The term Luke used (translated “deputy” in the KJV) means proconsul. For many years critics argued that Luke should have used the term procurator because, they explained, Cyprus was an “imperial” province, and imperial provinces were ruled by procurators. Archaeology, however, has proved Luke to be right and his critics wrong. Cyprus was indeed an imperial province, and therefore governed by a procurator, when it first came under Roman jurisdiction. However, what Luke’s critics did not know was that in 22 B.C., Cyprus was made a “senatorial” province, and senatorial provinces were ruled by proconsuls. In fact, archaeologists have found coins and inscriptions on Cyprus using the term proconsul as the title of its rulers. According to Luke, the proconsul ruling Cyprus when Paul visited the island was named Sergius Paulus—an interesting point in view of the fact that an inscription discovered on the north coast of Cyprus included the words, “in the proconsulship of Paulus.”
A similar example is found in Luke’s account of events in Thessalonica. The word Luke used in Acts 17:6 for “rulers” is a specific title: politarchs. This word is not used as an official title anywhere else in Greek literature. Consequently Luke was charged with using the wrong title to refer to these city officials. However, once again, Luke has been proved right and his critics wrong. Archaeologists have found a number of inscriptions that unquestionably prove that the term politarch was an official title of certain city officials in ancient Macedonia. One of these inscriptions was found on the ancient arch that spanned the famous highway leading into Thessalonica. On this arch there is a listing of seven names of magistrates who wore the title politarch.
Luke’s historical accuracy has held up under the most intense and zealous scrutiny. All attempts to discredit this inspired author have themselves been thoroughly discredited’.
David is out of step with the research on Luke and his credibility as a historian. His philosophical and anti-Christian scepticism are coming through. I’m going with the evidence and not with his presuppositions.
This interaction with David has taught me some valuable lessons:
- Watch for the logical fallacies that opponents use to try to disrupt logical discussion. This means that …
- You need to know these fallacies and call them by name.
- There is a significant need among Christians in a declining Christian culture to know their product – the Scriptures and Christianity. I urge you to call upon your church to establish courses in apologetics to address issues that you are likely to find at work, university or in the market place. As a good starter, try Norman Geisler & Frank Turek, Is Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (2004). Apologetics courses deal with some of the major issues antagonistic to the faith. These include: (a) What is truth? (b) How do I know there is a God? (c) Why is there so much evil in the world and why doesn’t God stop it? (d) Is the Bible credible and reliable? (e) Why was it needed for a good man, Jesus, to die for sins? Why couldn’t God do that without the shedding of innocent blood?
- Please remember that it is only Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, who changes people from the inside out. Jesus saves! Human beings cannot save themselves and they need a proclamation of the Gospel in person or in a group. There is an urgent need to engage in proclamation of the Gospel.
For further discussions on logical fallacies, see also:
Logical fallacies hijack discussions (Spencer D Gear)
One writer’s illogical outburst (Spencer D Gear)
Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity (Spencer D Gear)
Christians and their use of logical fallacies (Spencer D Gear)
I have concluded that David fits into this category. He’s an ornery [stubborn], resistant, agnostic sceptic who responds like this:
Blomberg, C 1987. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.
Geisler, N L & Turek, F 2004. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.
Labossiere, M C 1995. Fallacies. The Nizkor Project (online). Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ (Accessed 8 June 2015).
Marshall, I H 1978. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text (The New International Greek Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Stringer, J 2015. ‘Luke the Historian,’ in Answering Religious Error, April 3, Available at: http://www.answeringreligiouserror.com/inspiration/luke-the-historian/ (Accessed 20 June 2015).
 Christian Fellowship Forum, Public Affairs, ‘Superstition Vs. Eyewitness/Faith/Historical Document’, David Woodbury#1, June 1. Available at: http://christianfellowshipforum.com/ (Accessed 29 June 2015).
 Ibid., Woodbury#3.
 Ibid., Woodbury#11.
 Ibid., Woodbury#21.
 Ibid., Woodbury#29.
 Ibid., Woodbury#35.
 Ibid., Woodbury#37.
 Ibid., Woodbury#73.
 Ibid., Cheryl#2.
 Ibid., Woodbury #3.
 Ibid., Cheryl#75.
 Ibid., ozspen#22.
 Ibid., Woodbury#24.
 Ibid., ozspen#31.
 Ibid., Woodbury #32.
 Ibid., Woodbury#36.
 Ibid., ozspen#42.
 Ibid., Cheryl#34.
 Ibid., ozspen#45.
 Ibid., Woodbury#47.
 Ibid., ozspen#51.
 Ibid., ozspen#52.
 Ibid., ozspen#69.
 Ibid., Woodbury#71.
 Ibid., ozspen#74
 Ibid., Woodbury in ozspen#98.
 Ibid., ozspen#99.
Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.