Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Quote: Augustine on Faith and Understanding

"Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand."

- St. Augustine of Hippo

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Featured Podcast: William Lane Craig's Current Events Audio Blog

William Lane Craig's audio commentary on current events from his Defenders class. Various short commentary bits every week. The most recent, commentary on an article called: Why are atheists so boring?

Check it out here.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Logic Primer 5: Logical Fallacies

Today we will look at logical fallacies. A fallacy is simply an error in thinking. Certain errors are so common they have been classified and named. These are the sorts of fallacies we are dealing with here.

There are two primary categories of fallacies: formal and informal. Formal fallacies have to do with the logical structure of an argument. If the logical structure is incorrect, then the argument has committed a fallacy. Informal fallacies have to do with errors of thinking that happen apart from the structure of an argument. These could include such things as appeals to emotions, personal character attacks, and ambiguous language.

When it comes to informal logic, the tendency for the beginner is to gravitate immediately to the fallacies. Immediate benefit can be gained by understanding where thinking may have gone wrong. However, the student of logic is encouraged to be careful not to label every apparent fallacy they can find. This is not only in many cases impolite, it is not very productive. Recognizing fallacies is only the first step. But bringing proper thinking and clarity to an issue can be the real challange. Every case has its own particular elements, so more information is always helpful to determine the strengths and weaknesses of arguments.

Ideally, when a fallacy is recognized it can be corrected without a sort of "gotcha" attitude. The principle of charity and a gracious manner are essential in seeking common understanding, rather than simply becoming a fallacy-finder.

Because the fallacies cover such a broad range, they are beyond the scope of one post. In addition, many excellent resources can be found on the web for studying the fallacies. Although many good resources are found in print, good audio resources are few. That is why we have provided here an audio podcast adaptation of Stephen's Guide to Logical Fallacies, one of the well-known fallacy sites on the web. Permission has been granted by logician Stephen Downes. The purpose of the podcast is to introduce and summarize the fallacies and provide examples and solutions to the errors.

You can find the Apologetics 315's Logical Fallacies podcast on iTunes here. Or use the RSS feed found here. The Logical Fallacies 2nd Edition podcast can be found here.

Stephen's Guide to Logical Fallacies is found here, with a nice mirror-site with additional content added by Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland at the Illogic Primer here.

The Nizkor Project 42 Fallacies is here.

Audio by Michael Ramsden on Logic and Fallacies can be found here.

Helpful Books:
- Nonsense by Robert Gula
- Informal Logic by Douglas Walton


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Logic Primer 4: A Look at Language

In the study of logic, language plays a key role. Clarity in language is essential in order to communicate accurate meaning. The goal when looking at language is to determine the intent of the communication. Determining the intent or goal of your communication and understanding the intent of the one you are communicating with is the crucial first step in gaining clarity.

Language, according to Copi, can serve three functions. The first function is to communicate information. The second function is express emotions or feelings. The third function is to cause or to prevent action.1 All communication will fall into these categories. Is the speaker informing, expressing, or directing?

Exactly what are you trying to communicate? Choose words and language that is as precise and accurate as possible to convey that meaning. “If our aim is to communicate information, and if we wish to avoid being misunderstood, we should use language with the least possible emotive impact.”2

Defining words is the next critical part of clear communication. Many times communication gets muddled because the words and meanings are simply unclear, vague, ambiguous, or otherwise confusing. In response, a number of definitions can be used to bring clarity of meaning.

First, lexical definitions are used to define words that are already commonly known. This eliminates ambiguity in communication by simply citing the common definition of a word in use. Second, stipulative definitions act to assign a particular meaning to terms newly introduced to the dialogue. Again, this sort of definition eliminates ambiguity. It simply assigns (stipulates) a definition to a new term being used. A third method of clarifying language is the precising definition, which reduces vagueness by bringing a more specific meaning to a term. This sort of definition increases accuracy and exactness.

Other types of definitions can be presented, but for our purposes it will suffice to simply point out that defining terms is of utmost importance when seeking to communicate clearly and think logically. When language is clear and the terms are clearly understood, then the arguments can be evaluated.

Clarifying through questions is another crucial part of good communication. In a dialogue it is common that words and phrases are used that could be taken a number of different ways. If someone says that something was “interesting,” the meaning here could be difficult to discern. It falls short of adding much description. Does the person mean they didn’t like it? Do they mean they were captivated? This word is vague.

When vague words are used, clarifying questions such as, “How do you mean?” “What do you mean by that?” and “Could you explain?” add more depth and detail to the communication.
When someone uses words that can be taken in different ways, their words are ambiguous. If someone describes a concert as “bad,” do they mean “cool” or “not good?” Of course, in personal verbal communication the meaning can usually be easily discerned from the context, tone, and body language of the communicator. However, in written communication, such indicators are missing. One must depend on context alone to discern the meaning. That is why clarity is essential.

Another variant of ambiguous use of words is equivocation. This happens when the communicator uses a particular word X with meaning Y, but then later uses word X with meaning Z. For instance, one could use the term evolution to mean “change over time,” but then later in discourse the meaning has shifted to “molecules to man.” When someone asks the question, “do you believe in evolution?” it is important to eliminate ambiguity and define the use of the word for the conversation in order to prevent equivocation and confusion.

Amphibole happens when a phrase is said (or written) that is ambiguous. For instance, the sentence, “I live by the river; drop in some time”3 is an amphibole because of ambiguity in grammatical construction. The clear communicator avoids ambiguity.

The rule of thumb as a listener is to ask clarifying questions whenever you are unsure of the meaning, if the communication is unclear, and when you need more information. If you are the communicator, seek as much clarity as possible so that your meaning is understood. Clear communication is essential to accurate understanding.

Here are some resources that will get you started:

Audio resources:
- Critical Thinking audio course

Helpful books:
- Asking the Right Questions by Browne & Keeley
- Informal Logic by Douglas Walton

Web Sites on this topic:
- Critical Thinking Web
- Critical thinking on wikipedia
- Critical Thinking on the Web

Tomorrow we will look at logical fallacies.

1 Geisler and Brooks, pp. 72-73.
2 Ibid., p. 96.
3 Robert J. Gula, Nonsense: A Handbook of Logical Fallacies (Mount Jackson, VA: Axios Press, 2002), p. 91.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Logic Primer 3: Thinking Logically

Logical thinking is a process. As long as the rules are not broken, the thought process will bring good conclusions. Now we will look at logical syllogisms.

The most basic logical structure is the syllogism. The syllogism is a deductive argument consisting of premises and a conclusion.1

It should be noted from the outset that for each of the following syllogisms presented, pages and pages could be (and have been) written with much more detail, explanation, and exceptions. What has been presented here is only a cursory glance at each one and should be treated as such. The reader is encouraged to delve into a more systematic textbook to explore fully.

A categorical syllogism is composed of two unconditional statements that lead deductively to an unconditional conclusion. An example of a categorical syllogism is as follows:
1. All cats are mammals.
2. Fuzzy is a cat.
3. Therefore, Fuzzy is a mammal.
The categorical syllogism has various forms and moods, which will not be detailed here, but the basic form simply entails two statements leading to a conclusion.

Hypothetical syllogisms take the form of a hypothetical statement. This syllogism has the word “IF” at its core. The hypothetical proposition uses the word if to make a conditional statement: if one state of affairs is true, then another state of affairs will follow. The first hypothetical syllogism is the Modus Ponens, structured like this:
If P, then Q.
Therefore, Q.
Modus ponens means “way of affirmation” in Latin because it affirms the antecedent of the first proposition. One form of the cosmological argument takes the form of modus ponens:
If a contingent being exists, then a necessary being must exist as its cause.
A contingent being exists.
Therefore, a necessary being must exist as its cause.2
The other hypothetical syllogism is called Modus Tollens, which means “the way of denial.” This form of syllogism denies the consequent (the “then Q” part of the first statement). It is structured like this:
If P, then Q.
Not Q.
Therefore, Not P.
Disjunctive Syllogisms are either/or sentences. One statement is made with two alternatives, of which only one can be true.3 The disjunctive syllogism looks like this:
Either P or Q.
Not Q.
Therefore, P.
The way the disjunctive syllogism works requires for one alternate to be denied for the other one to be true. It is a fallacy to affirm one alternate to eliminate the other, because it is possible for them both to be true. Geisler and Brooks offer an excellent example of this fallacy found in Bertrand Russell’s book Why I am not a Christian:
Life was caused either by evolution or by design.
Life was caused by evolution.
Therefore, it was not caused by design (so there is no reason to posit God).
Geisler and Brooks explain: “This approach commits the formal fallacy of affirming one alternate. Even if the minor premise were true, the conclusion would not follow. For it is possible that both are true; that is, that evolution is designed.”4

The conjunctive syllogisms take the form of “both…and” statements. Here is the form:
Both P and Q are true.
Therefore, P.
Therefore, Q.
The conjunctive syllogism is fairly straightforward. Both terms in the first statement are separated and can be affirmed individually.

The Dilemma form of syllogism takes two hypothetical syllogisms and weds them with a disjunction. Here is what the dilemma looks like:
(If P, then Q) and (If R, then S).
P or R.
Therefore, Q or S.
The mathematician Pascal presented a dilemma with this syllogism:
If God exists, I have everything to gain by believing in him.
And if God does not exist, I have nothing to lose by believing in him.
Either God does exist or he does not exist.
Therefore, I have everything to gain or nothing to lose by believing in God.5
The final syllogism presented here is the Sorites. This comes from a Greek word meaning “heap.” The premises are stacked together in a heap to come to a final conclusion. An example:
All A are B...............or...............If A then B
All B are C...............or...............If B then C
All C are D...............or...............If C then D
Therefore, all A are D......or.....Therefore, if A then D.
That is a basic look at basic logical syllogisms.

Here are some resources that will get you started:

Audio resource:
- Critical Thinking Audio Course

Helpful book:
- Introduction to Logic by Harry Gensler

Some web Sites on logic:
- Philosophy Pages logic index
- Atheism Analyzed looks at atheism from a logical perspective.

Tomorrow we will take a look at language.

1 Geisler & Brooks, p. 194.
2 Ibid., p. 61.
3 In a weak disjunction both may be true.
4 Ibid., p. 66.
5 Ibid., p. 69.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Logic Primer 2: The Building Blocks of Logic

Now we will discuss some of the basic building blocks in the study of logic. In general, everything else is built upon these essentials.

The first building block is the proposition. A proposition is something that may be asserted or denied. Propositions can be true or false; hence, they have a truth-value. In other words, a proposition is a true or false statement that says something about reality. Other statements, such as commands, questions, or exclamations are not true or false – they are not propositions.

An argument is “any group of propositions of which one is claimed to follow from the others, which are regarded as providing support or grounds for the truth of that one.”1 When you have a number of propositions that lead to a conclusion, you have an argument. The conclusion of an argument is the statement that follows from the supporting propositions, which are called premises. To reiterate: an argument is composed of premises that lead to a conclusion. A conclusion without premises is not an argument; it is merely an opinion.

The building blocks of arguments can often be recognized by telltale words. The words that point to the conclusion can be called conclusion-indicators:

“Therefore, hence, thus, so, accordingly, in consequence, consequently, as a result, it follows that, we may infer, which shows that…” These are all words or phrases that often point to the conclusion of an argument.

The telltale words for premises can be called premise-indicators:
“Since, because, for, as, follows from, as shown by, as indicated by, the reason is that…” These are some of the words that can point to premises.2

One point should be noted when seeking to identify arguments. There is a difference between an argument and an explanation. As Copi explains:
Many passages, both written and spoken, that appear to be arguments are in fact not arguments but explanations. The occurrence of certain premise- or conclusion-indicators such as “because,” “for,” and “therefore” cannot settle the matter, since those words may be used in both explanations and arguments. What we need to know the intention of the author of the passage.3
So the careful thinker must discern the difference between explanations and arguments by looking closely at context and intention.

Arguments come in two kinds—they are either deductive or inductive. These are important terms to differentiate. When an argument is deductive, it means that the conclusion follows from the premises necessarily and conclusively. When a deductive argument is valid, it means that if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. An inductive argument, on the other hand, is not a conclusive argument. When an argument is inductive, it simply means that that the conclusion may be true to a certain degree of probability. Copi clarifies:
A deductive argument is one whose conclusion is claimed to follow from its premises with absolute necessity, this necessity not being a matter of degree and not depending in any way on whatever else may be the case. In sharp contrast, an inductive argument is one whose conclusion is claimed to follow from its premises only with probability, this probability being a matter of degree and dependent upon what else may be the case.4
One way to look at this is as follows: in a deductive argument, no amount of additional information can change the conclusion of the argument. In an inductive argument, the conclusion may change when new information is discovered. Deductive arguments are certain, whereas inductive arguments are probable to some degree.

When an argument is structured correctly, it is called a valid argument. When an argument is not correctly structured, it is called invalid. An argument cannot be true or false, only valid or invalid. Truth or falsity only applies to statements or propositions. The conclusion of an argument can be true or false (because the conclusion is a statement), but the argument is only either valid or invalid.

Finally, when an argument is valid, and all of its premises are true, it is called a sound argument. This is the kind of argument the good thinker is looking for.

Here are some resources that will get you started:

Audio resource:
- Logic MP3 Resources.

Helpful books:
- A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston
- Logic by Gordon Clark

Some web links:
- Introduction to Logic from ODU
- Propositional Logic from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- online Logic Primer

Tomorrow we will look at thinking logically.

1 Copi & Cohen, p. 6.
2 Ibid., pp. 21,22. These are a brief adapted summary of some of Copi & Cohen’s conclusion and premiss-indicators.
3 Ibid., p. 35.
4 Ibid., p. 45.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Logic Primer 1: What Is Logic?

Logic studies the methods that we use to analyze information and draw valid conclusions. As Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks put it, “Logic really means putting your thoughts in order.”1 They offer their formal definition: “Logic is the study of right reason or valid inferences and the attending fallacies, formal and informal.”2 Their simplified definition: “Logic is a way to think so that we can come to correct conclusions by understanding implications and the mistakes people often make in thinking.”3

According to Irving M. Copi and Carl Cohen in their Introduction to Logic, “Logic is the study of the methods and principles used to distinguish correct reasoning from incorrect reasoning.”4 Christian philosopher Gordon Clark puts it succinctly: “logic is the science of necessary inference.”5

We can see from these definitions that logic consists of ordering our thoughts so that we can reason correctly. Geisler and Brooks would add: “The next best thing besides godliness for a Christian is logic”6

The study of logic incorporates a number of elements. At the most basic level, logic examines propositions, arguments, premises, and conclusions. The focus is the use of right thinking to come to correct conclusions. Logic incorporates the study of proper thinking as well as mistakes in thinking (fallacies). Through processes of deduction and induction, inferences are made with the aim of coming to correct conclusions.

In addition, logic also deals with our use of language. The logical thinker is very concerned about precision and clarity in communication. He is concerned with the proper structure of arguments and the correct flow of thought. The student of logic seeks to be careful, methodical, and systematic.

Logic is built upon four undeniable laws:
1. The law of non-contradiction (A is not non-A)
2. The law of identity (A is A)
3. The law of excluded middle (either A or non-A)
4. The law of rational inference

These undeniable laws are foundational to all reason and thinking. One cannot object to the laws of logic without using them in his objection. Where did they foundational laws come from? Geisler and Brooks offer a Christian perspective: “From the standpoint of reality, we understand that God is the basis of all logic. As the ultimate reality, all truth is ultimately found in him.”7

In the next section, we will deal with the building blocks of logic. Terms will be defined and the basic foundation will be laid for further study.

Here are some resources that will get you started:
Audio resources:
- Princeton Review's LSAT Logic in Every Day Life podcast
- Reasons to Believe's Straight Thinking Podcast
- Greg Bahnsen's Critical Thinking course (logic) - uses Copi's textbook. Good only if you are using the book, but audio quality is poor.)
Helpful books:
- Copi and Cohen's Introduction to Logic - recommended for the serious student.
- Being Logical by D.Q. McInerny - recommended as the first read.
- Come Let Us Reason by Norman Geisler & Ronald Brooks
Some Web Links:
- Wikipedia on Logic
- Ken Samples article: Keep your thinking on track.
- Take a logic test here.

Tomorrow we look at the Building Blocks of Logic.

1 Norman Geisler & Ronald Brooks, Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990), p. 11.
2 Ibid., p. 12.
3 Ibid.,p. 13.
4 Irving M. Copi & Carl Cohen, Introduction to Logic, 11th Edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2002), p. 3.
5 Gordon Clark, Logic (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1985), p. 1.
6 Geisler & Brooks, p. 7.
7 Ibid., p. 17.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Quote: Francis Schaeffer on Purpose

"Man, made in the image of God, has a purpose - to be in relationship to God, who is there. Man forgets his purpose and thus he forgets who he is and what life means."

- Francis Schaeffer

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Basic Logic Primer

During the coming week we will be featuring a series of 5 posts on the topic of logic. The purpose of this series of posts is to introduce the reader to the basics of logic. This is by no means a complete survey of the subject of logic, but is intended to serve as a very basic primer. This series of posts will consist of the following:

1. What is Logic?
2. The Building Blocks of Logic
3. Logical Thinking
4. A Look at Language
5. Logical Fallacies
6. Logical Fallacies 2

For those unfamiliar with logic, this may whet your appetite for more. Resources will be provided after each post that point out other helpful materials, audio, and books. Friday we will feature our podcast covering over 50 logical fallacies. For those already familiar with logic, you will notice how much has been left out of this primer. Again, the goal would be to offer the beginner a basic introduction to some of the concepts.

Input that can refer the reader to other helpful logic resources is welcome and appreciated. If you have suggestions for great logic resources, please send an email with your recommendations here.

This page will be edited to serve as an index in the future.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Book Review: Informal Logic by Douglas Walton

Informal Logic: A Pragmatic Approach (2nd Edition) by Douglas Walton is a logic book that offers the student an understanding of practical logic in dialogue and a deeper grasp of the common logical fallacies.

Walton’s book takes the angle what is called logical pragmatics. Logical semantics has to do with propositions that make up an argument. Logical pragmatics has to do with the use of these propositions to carry out a goal in a context of dialogue. As the author puts it, “logical pragmatics is a practical discipline, and applied art.” The idea here is not the focus so much on the formal aspects of logic, but logic in dialogue, discussion, and dispute.

The author places good emphasis on developing the student’s discernment of context in dialogue, as the goals and venue of the interaction play a crucial role in the ways arguments should be treated and evaluated. Walton points out: “In practical logic – often called informal logic – each particular argument must be studied on its own merits.” This means that additional attention must be given to personal dynamics and the nuances of language and its intended use.

One point that stands out in this book is that the logical fallacies are not treated simplistically: “The logical fallacies are more complex and deserving of much fuller analyses than the traditional textbook treatments have suggested.” Walton says that the old approach was to simply assign a label to the fallacy and immediately declare it fallacious. However, he suggests that each argument must be evaluated not merely in relation to the form of the argument, but also in relation to the dialogue in which it is embedded.

Walton refers to the principle of charity in dialogue. When arguments or meanings are not clearly communicated, charity should be involved in order to given the other person the benefit of the doubt until clarity can be achieved. The idea here is not jumping to conclusions too soon.

This theme of careful discernment is emphasized throughout the book’s very thorough chapters. The informal fallacies are treated in depth, with so many of their possible nuances.

Many times what looks like a fallacy is not necessarily the case. For most of the fallacies, Walton demonstrates instances where one could be quick to cry foul; however, he shows again that context, intent, and other information can tip the scales. In regard to appeals to authority, for instance: “Appeals to authority are not intrinsically fallacious, even if they can be erroneous in some cases, when misinterpreted, taken too seriously, or taken uncritically.”

Walton also describes that a number of factors must come into play for certain arguments to become fallacious. In the case of the ad hominem: “Not only does there have to be a personal attack made by one party against another, but the personal attack has to be put forward by the first party in such a way that it is meant to refute some argument previously put forward by the second party.” The reader will come away from this book being careful not to be too quick to shout “fallacy” without looking at both sides of the argument carefully.

In sum, Informal Logic is a very useful book. It brings much needed clarity and sharpness to the practical use of logical thinking in dialogue. It emphasizes careful thinking, discernment, and charity. This text can be highly recommended as a deeper treatment of the informal fallacies and a good bridge between the subjects of formal logic and critical thinking.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Whatever Happened to Apologetics MP3 Audio

Craig Parton, American director of the International Academy of Apologetics, presents a talk on the topic: Whatever Happened to Apologetics? A good introductory lecture on apologetics. More Craig Parton resources can be found at

Full MP3 Audio here.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

That's Just Your Interpretation MP3 Interview with Paul Copan

Philosopher Paul Copan discusses some of the issues in his book That's Just Your Interpretation. (book here) Original audio interview on Faith and Family.

Full MP3 Audio here.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Trusting the New Testament MP3 Audio by Dr. Bill Cook

Professor of New Testament interpretation Bill Cook presents a lecture on the topic: Trusting the New Testament. This talk takes a look at the Gospels and compares the historical accounts, writing styles, intent of the authors, and literary devices used throughout. Found here, where you can find more NT reliability audio.

Full MP3 Audio here.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Review: Logic by Gordon Clark

Logic by Gordon Clark is a short (135 pages) introductory text on logic. Clark, a Calvinist theologian and philosopher, writes a more philosophical introduction to logic, many times from his distinct Christian perspective. He writes in a style that is almost conversational, from teacher to student.

Clark structures the content with preliminary introductions, followed by informal fallacies, discussion of definitions, and then on to formal logic. His section on formal logic begins with immediate inference, working through diagrams, rules, and various forms of arguments. The author offers many observations along the way, many philosophical, some scriptural. Standard symbols are employed, moving quickly to equations and on to truth tables.

Clark defines logic as the science of necessary inference. But he does not stop there. His philosophical views and interpretation of the first chapter of John’s Gospel culminate in an interesting, if not controversial, final chapter: God and Logic. “God is a rational being,” writes Clark, “the architecture of whose mind is logic.”1 Clark argues that John chapter one can be translated “in the beginning was the Logic…”

Much of the content is introduced with terms quickly defined before using them abundantly. For an introductory logic text, the ascent is a bit too steep. Ideas could be developed with more clarity and more thoroughly. This book seems more at home as supplemental reading in a history of Calvinist thinkers.

Although Logic by Gordon Clark may hold some interest for those interested in his thought and philosophy, this is not a helpful text for a beginning logic student. A much better logic text written for a Christian audience is Geisler and Brooks’ Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking.

1 Gordon Clark, Logic (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1985), p. 131.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Quote: G.K. Chesterton on Rights

"To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it."

- G. K. Chesterton

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Book Review: Nonsense: A Handbook of Logical Fallacies by Robert Gula

Nonsense: A Handbook of Logical Fallacies by Robert Gula is a wonderful book which is both loaded with high quality content and easy to read. Falling into the categories of logic, critical thinking, and communication, this book is very useful to cutting to the core of the issue at hand and finding truth.

This is a book about logical (informal) fallacies. The idea is that by learning the common errors of thinking, one is in a better position to identify them and avoid the same errors. The author would point out that no one is immune to nonsense; we all make errors in thinking. The task here is to learn to avoid the pitfalls. Gula shows us the areas that arguments can go wrong:
When an argument is unsuccessful, it has probably gone wrong in one of the following areas: 1) The evidence has not been thorough; contradictory evidence has been overlooked or ignored; 2) The evidence has not been accurate; false or unsubstantiated or misleading statements have been claimed as fact; 3) The conclusion has not clearly and uncontrovertibly come form the evidence; the relationship between evidence and conclusion has not been a firm one.1
The most common categories of informal fallacies are those of irrelevance, confusion, and oversimplification. The author spends time focusing on each one of these categories, splitting them into smaller subcategories as he goes along. Within this book he lists some 170 fallacies (not an official list), with many falling into multiple categories.

What makes this book fun to read is that for every fallacy described the reader can instantly recognize the fallacy from personal experience (TV advertising, sales pitches, politics, etc.) One may find this book extremely helpful in sifting through the chaff of TV advertising and a large amount of popular sales tactics. At the same time, the reader may cringe when confronted with the fact that he too has often been guilty of the very fallacy. Perhaps most importantly, one’s own thinking is being corrected.

Some of the subcategories that Gula offers are the following: emotional language, propaganda, suggestion, irrelevance, diversion, ambiguity, incorrect inference, oversimplification, evasion, and a handful more. The writing is clear, simple, and very informative. The majority of the book deals with the fallacies, while later chapters focus on arguments, syllogisms and semantics.

Chapter 14, “More on Arguments,” is a notable chapter. Gula presents a number of helpful questions to ask yourself when getting into an argument: “…when you find yourself in an argument, the first question you should ask yourself is ‘Why am I arguing?’ and you should try to ascertain the motivation of your opponent.”2 He offers a number of reasons why people argue, and a list of many more questions to ask yourself about how you want the argument to end. The point is to determine not only why your opponent is arguing, but what your own motivations are; is it really the topic of the argument that you care about? Gula provides an excellent outline of questions you should address in order to clarify just what the argument is about and where the point of the disagreement actually lies.

The author’s goal is clearly to cut through the bad thinking, emotional and imprecise language, and to get to the point of the discussion. “To argue effectively requires skill, patience, delicacy, tact, diplomacy, sensitivity; it asks us to put aside our personalities and to address the issues; it requires us to be methodical, objective, analytic, and, above all, clear.”3

Although this is a book dealing with arguments, the author’s spirit and motivation is clearly not argumentative. Nonsense: A Handbook of Logical Fallacies is highly recommended for its readability, practicality, and high quality content.

1. Robert J. Gula, Nonsense: A Handbook of Logical Fallacies (Mount Jackson, VA: Axios Press, 2002), p. 32.
2. Ibid., p. 122.
3. Ibid., p. 128.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Truth About Angels and Demons

Dan Brown has released his latest book-to-movie: Angels and Demons. Today's featured web site is The Truth About Angels And, which seeks to present a balanced assessment of Dan Brown’s narratives, the historical data, and the philosophy set forth in his best-selling novels and movies.

Check it out here.
Also, Dr. Peter Lillback on Issues, Etc. talking about the movie MP3 Audio.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

God, Evil and Suffering MP3 Audio by Bruce Little

Philosopher Bruce Little speaks on the topic: God and the existence of evil and suffering. Bruce Little's theodicy book is here.

Session 1 - Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Session 2 - Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

[HT: Reason to Stand]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How Can a Good God Allow Suffering and Evil? MP3 Audio by William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig presents a talk on the challenge of evil and suffering entitled: How Can a Good God Allow Suffering and Evil? This talk is followed by about an hour of Q&A. The text outline of this talk can be found here, and the original audio can be found here.

Full MP3 Audio here.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Old Earth Young Earth Debate MP3 Audio

Dr. Hugh Ross and Dr. Walter Kaiser (representing old Earth creationists) debate Mr. Ken Ham and Dr. Jason Lisle (representing young Earth creationists) and present their views about whether the creation days were 24-hours long or long periods of time, what is the age of the universe and the earth, the relationship of the Bible and science, and more.

Full MP3 Audio here.

Podcasted free from the John Ankerberg Show.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Quote: Frederic Kenyon on the New Testament Documents

"The interval then between the date of original composition and the earliest extant evidence become so small to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scripture have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established."

- Sir Frederic Kenyon, quoted by F.F. Bruce in The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Book Review: Being Logical by D.Q. McInerny

Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking by D. Q. McInerny is an excellent choice for an introduction to logic. There are a number of reasons why this makes a great first text. First, it is written plainly. The student is introduced to logical ideas without being bogged down by jargon or cumbersome technical language. Second, the ideas flow smoothly and naturally from the basic to the complex. The ascent is steady and gradual and it just makes sense; it doesn’t “drop” the reader when introducing new concepts. Third, its small size (160 pages) is just right for an introductory text. It is a very manageable, light, and readable text.

McInerny organizes the book into five parts: 1) Preparing the Mind for Logic; 2) The Basic Principles of Logic; 3) Argument: The Language of Logic; 4) The Sources of Illogical Thinking; and 5) The Principal Forms of Illogical Thinking. Each part has a number of mini-chapters dealing with its particular elements. This makes the initial reading feel “bite-sized,” and the subsequence scans and reviews quick and helpful.

The content is straightforward: the standard foundations of logic. At the risk of overemphasis, however, the presentation and flow of the content really makes this outstanding. Part four introduces an element of critical thinking, and perhaps introspection, as it deals with the sources of illogical thinking. The author’s list includes skepticism, evasive agnosticism, cynicism, naïve optimism, narrow-mindedness, and emotion. Part five is a standard treatment of logical fallacies, beginning with formal fallacies, then on to informal fallacies.

Although small and simple, Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking is this reviewer’s first recommendation for an introduction to logic.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Lectures on Francis Schaeffer MP3 Audio by Kim Riddlebarger

The notable apologist Francis Schaeffer has had a great impact upon 20th Century apologetics. His books continue to be a great influence. Now learn more about the life and thought of Schaeffer in this series of lectures by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger (originally found here).

Part 1 - The Life and Significance of Francis Schaeffer - MP3
Part 2 - Sources of His Thought (Old Princeton) - MP3
Part 3 - Sources of His Thought (Van Til) - MP3

Part 4 - Apologetic Methodology (Epistemology) - MP3

Part 5 - Taking the Roof Off
 - MP3
Part 6 - A Critical Evaluation - MP3


Thursday, May 07, 2009

John Warwick Montgomery MP3 Audio

Christian apologist John Warwick Montgomery has a number of good audio resources available, found here and here.

Testing the Truth Claims of Christianity
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

• The New Atheists - MP3
• Responding to Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" - MP3
• Answering the Objections of Unbelievers - Part 1 | Part 2
• Defending the Christian Faith in an Age of Relativism - MP3

Also added to the Ultimate Apologetics MP3 Audio Page.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Apologist Profiles by Truthbomb

The Truthbomb Apologetics blog has been featuring an ongoing series of apologist profiles from such Christian apologists as William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Ravi Zacharias, Paul Copan, Gary Habermas, Norman Geisler, Ron Rhodes, and Greg Koukl. Each profile provides articles, media, and links to other resources by each apologist.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Kenneth Samples Apologetics MP3 Audio

Kenneth Samples is an apologist with Reasons to Believe. He is author of numerous books, including: World of Difference, A: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test and Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions. The lectures below were found here.

Here are a number of audio resources on MP3:

A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Test
Part 1 - A Worldview Model For Christian Theism
Part 2 - Christian Theism’s Logical Consistency
Part 3 - Christian Theism’s Explanatory Power and Cumulative Support
Part 4 - Christian Theism’s Correspondence and Verification
Part 5 - Christian Theism’s Practicality and Existential Livability

Lectures on A Christian World View
Part 1 - What in the World Is a World View?
Part 2 - Naturalism: A Secular Worldview Challenge
Part 3 - Postmodernism: A Skeptical Worldview Perspective
Part 4 - Pantheistic Monism -- An Eastern Mystic Point of View

Series on St. Augustine
Part 1 - St. Augustine's Spiritual Quest (Intro missing)
Part 2 - Apologetic Factors in Augustine's Conversion
Part 3 - Augustine as Bishop and Theologian
Part 4 - Augustine: Philosopher and Saint

Islam and Christianity
Part 1 - Islam, Growth, Influence and Divsersity
Part 2 - Islam: Five Core Beliefs
Part 3 - Islam: The Five Pillars and Jihad
Part 4 - Islam's Revelatory Achilles Heel
Part 5 - Islam: Unknowable and Unfathomable
Part 6 - Why Can't Islam and Christianity Both Be True

Jesus and the Other Religious Faces in the Crowd
Part 1 - Part 1
Part 2 - Gautama (Buddha)
Part 3 - Krishna & Mahavira
Part 4 - Confucius & Lao-Tzu
Part 5 - Muhammad
Part 6 - Zoroaster, Nanak & Baha'ullah

Also added to the Ultimate Apologetics MP3 Audio page.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Book Review: Come Let Us Reason by Norman Geisler

Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking by Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks is a useful introduction to logic written with the Christian in mind. This sets the text apart in the area of the examples used and some of the commentary involved throughout each chapter. This does not change the content of the logic being taught, but it does add another dimension to the book. We are exhorted, “The next best thing besides godliness for a Christian is logic.”1

In the chapter entitled The Whats and Whys of Logic, the authors tackle many of the objections to studying logic, as well as pointing out the Christian’s responsibility to engage in logical thinking. The authors move through the foundational material quickly. They don’t offer much reinforcement beyond their initial explanations, so the potential reader can be advised to understand it the first time. In some of the earlier chapters it seems as if the authors are coaching the reader along, “see, that wasn’t that hard now was it?” Thankfully, this treatment ends about half way through. Each chapter is followed by a good number of exercises, many with examples drawn from either a Biblical or apologetical context.

Formal and informal fallacies are addressed early on, and the examples are really excellent. Chapter 7, Uncovering Logic in Literature shows the student a practical method of analyzing arguments as they appear in common print (e.g., newspapers, books, etc.). This entails looking for the conclusion, reconstructing the sentences, looking for the middle term, and so on. Geisler and Brooks move on to induction and present a very helpful section on probability. The final chapters deal with the scientific method, its uses, and fallacies of the scientific method. An appendix with truth tables is included, followed by a helpful glossary.

Come Let Us Reason should not be the only book one reads on logic, as there are some areas where the authors are not as clear as they could have been. Without other supplementary texts, the reader may not grasp some aspects fully. However, as a whole, Geisler and Brooks have contributed a helpful introductory text to logic from a Christian perspective.

1 Norman Geisler & Ronald Brooks, Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990), p. 7.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday Quote: A.N. Wilson on Belief

"My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known - not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die."

- A. N. Wilson

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Book Review: Introduction to Logic by Irving Copi & Carl Cohen

Introduction to Logic (11th Edition) by Irving M. Copi and Carl Cohen is a standard textbook that gives a broad and fairly thorough introduction and overview of logic. The book is designed with the student in mind with numerous exercises in each section and a companion website at

The content of the book is laid out in three parts. Part one, Logic and Language, covers the basic logical concepts, the use of language, definitions, and fallacies. Part two, Deduction, covers categorical propositions, categorical syllogisms, arguments in ordinary language, symbolic logic, the method of deduction, and quantification theory. Part three, Induction, covers analogy and probably inference, causal connections, science and hypothesis, and probability. While organized and systematic, some sections may become extremely slow going, such as symbolic logic.

A main strength of Copi and Cohen’s text is its thorough coverage of a wide scope of material. The majority of the content is addressed at a good depth, again, with plenty of time-consuming exercises. On the other hand, although the writing is precise and careful, it may not be easy to grasp for a first text in logic. A simpler, plain-language text could be recommended as a basic primer, such as Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking by D.Q. McInerny. This may pave the way for the reader to have a bigger picture of the subject of logic/critical thinking and so more readily take on the depth and jargon of Copi and Cohen’s exacting and unapologetically technical textbook.

Many books on logic can be quite interesting and entertaining. This reviewer found Copi and Cohen to be occasionally interesting but unentertaining. Said plainly, this is a logic textbook. The content is often dry and cumbersome in spots. However, the serious logic student will find working through Copi and Cohen’s Introduction to Logic very rewarding.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Featured Podcast: Albert Mohler Program

Albert Mohler is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and his radio show is a daily cultural commentary from a Christian perspective, covering a wide variety of current topics. His blog can be found here. Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Here are a number of episodes from the show:
Coming Out of the Closet - Atheist Style - [MP3]
Must One Believe in the Resurrection to be a Christian? - [MP3]
Charles Darwin and the Modern Mind - [MP3]
Preaching As One Having Authority - [MP3]
Not Even Close? - Is America Becoming a Post-Christian Culture? - [MP3]
Developing a Christian Response to Islam - [MP3]
Marvelous Suicide and Beneficial Abortion - Worldviews Matter - [MP3]

A list of current broadcasts can be found here.


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