April 13, 2024

Because He Said It, It Must Be True

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Yesterday we explored the concept of the Appeal To Authority fallacy: The idea that just because something could happen doesn’t mean that it will or did.  We stated that the logical conclusions drawn about Molecules to Man Evolution rests on this fallacy, because it requires millions of years for things to happen that haven’t been observed, but works itself backwards from the present:  It states that since we are here, this is how it must have happened, it just must have taken millions of years.  Hence they work out the probability of it happening, and then state that because we are here it did.

Argument From Authority

Near the end of that discussion we talked about the Argument from Authority fallacy, which Wikipedia defines as follows:

Appeal to authority is a fallacy of defective induction, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative. The most general structure of this argument is:

Source A says that p is true.
Source A is authoritative.
Therefore, p is true.

Appeals to Authority are often used in a court of law when the Judge is not an expert on a given issue.

Why It Fails

The Argument From Authority rests on the credibility of that authority—does the person listening trust that person.  Since no human authority is infallible, simply that a person says something is true does not make it true.

The argument may be true or false, but it cannot be proven true simply because it claims to be true.

How This Applies to Christianity

Two examples from the Wikipedia page highlight how the Appeal To Authority applies to Christianity:

  • Referring to the philosophical beliefs of Jesus, Muhammad, or any other religious figure: “If (religious figure) said it was so, it is so.” Such an appeal may be based upon the belief that the speaker in question is holy and, by extension, inerrant. Alternately, the figure may be considered to be an expert on the given subject: “Buddha was a great moral teacher and he said that euthanasia is wrong, so it must be wrong.”
  • Referring to a sacred text: “If (the text) said it was so, it is so.” Like in the previous example, such an appeal may be based upon the belief that the sacred text in question is inerrant. This argument may also present a false dilemma situation, where the text can be interpreted in multiple dissimilar ways.

Why are these a problem?  Because most Christians will say “Since Jesus said this, it is true” or “The Bible said this, therefore it’s true.”  The person making these arguments is saying something about their belief in Jesus and the Bible—that they are both inerrant and without fault.

This is why it’s important to understand those that are in apologetics, and those that talk about Creation.

How the Appeal to Authority Works

You see, this is the cornerstone of the application of the Bible.  If the Bible is inerrant and true, then it is always true and can be relied upon.  Much of Scripture treats it this way.  However, if portions of the Bible are unreliable or untrue, then it casts doubt on the work as a whole.  Certainly, it may be good for some things, but each portion would then be left up to individual interpretation, and it would be no more than a human work.

If, for example, there were as many contradictions as the skeptics would like you to believe are there, then the Bible could not be trusted in any of its sections.  It would not be deemed a good historical work, and would not be worth following—like Paul said, if Jesus is not risen, our faith is in vain.

This is why Christians are fighting over Creation and Evolution as vehemently as they are.  It’s why there are some Christians trying to fit Evolution into the Bible.  It’s also the reason that many are picking and choosing what to teach on.

It all goes back to the Appeal to Authority—what Authority does the Bible have?

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