What is wrong with what’s below?*
1) “Last week Joe committed his life to Christ. He’s been a changed man ever since.”[i]
2) “All claims to truth are relative. There is no absolute truth.”[ii]
3) “If you had not been brought up in a Christian home, you would never have become a Christian.”[iii]
4) “Christians are like zombies. They don’t think for themselves. They just follow their leaders and believe everything they say.”[iv]
5) “Theologians just don’t get Science.”[v]
6) “You cannot be an Atheist unless you hate religion. This is why all atheists are militantly obsessed with destroying religion. They are all on a hate-crusade towards religious-minded people. ”[vi]
*= most info taken from James Sire’s book, Why Good Arguments Fail.
[i] False Cause: Post Hoc. The implication is that Joe’s faith changed his life. Although Christians take this at face value, those who are not and who do not know Joe are less convinced, and this statement may have little merit as a justification for Christian faith. Genuine life stories do make a difference (C.S. Lewis, Chuck Colson, Solzhenitsyn) but some statements can seem too simplistic, claim too much and can easily be countered by contrary experiences and illustrations.
[ii] Contrary Hypothesis: If the claim of the principle itself “all truth is relative” is true, then it would be false since it is a claim to absolute truth. It contains within itself an internal inconsistency since it is framed to undermine itself.
[iii] Hypothesis contrary to fact: A simple study of historical Christianity shows this to be untrue. Some of the most healthy and growing Christian movements are coming out of non-Christian societies. Take a look at the Global South. America, a “Christian” nation is where Christianity is in decline. I also have a friend who is now Christian but was raised as a Muslim. This is a situation where someone wants to hold against you what is uncontrollable as if that is the controlling factor of life.
[iv] False Analogy AND Dicto Simpliciter: This objection shows the objector has not met many genuine Christians. Some Christians are in fact anti-intellectual, but many are not. Scripture even tells us in I Thessalonians to “test everything, hold onto the good.” The best witness here is to show yourself as an exception to the objectors’ experience.
[v] Poisoning the Well, Ad Hominem: This is when the credibility of a speaker is challenged instead of actually making a cohesive argument against the speaker’s claims. It is an attempted short-cut which is clearly not true. Take for example, Dr. Pablo Polischuk, professor of Counseling and Psychology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is not only an ordained member of the Assemblies of God tradition, he has also taught psychology at Harvard’s Medical School. This theologian “gets science!” What if someone told you, “he is a carpenter, therefore he doesn’t understand how to drive a car.” You would realize that the claim is non-sensical, and is spoken with an attitude of unqualified prejudice. Clearly a non-sequitur.
[vi] Straw-Man Fallacy: This person has misrepresented the atheist in order to make them sound worse than they are. It is easier to refute a misrepresentation, so these statements are frequently made but are only shortcuts and do not speak to the heart of the issue. In reality, many atheists do not hate religion and are not required to. Although defining “Atheism” is a complex matter, this is not an excuse to create any definition you want. For some, atheism means they don’t believe in any gods (many will not even say that “there is no God,” only that they “don’t believe there are any”). Atheism, in its broadest definition has nothing to do with hate towards other people. Of course there are some atheists who not only reject the idea of theism but also put down others of different faith communities (Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens). However, someone can be an atheist and accept other religious people and even see the benefit religion has had in culture. Many atheists I know refuse to be associated with the hateful speech of these so called “new or radical” atheists. We must not assume all atheists are this radical.