Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bad Christian Logic: Even the Smart Ones Do It

Albert Mohler may be one of the most intelligent humans on the planet. If Mohler weren't a Christian literalist, he might also be one of the best scientists or historians alive today. Sadly, his mind has been hijacked by the religion virus, which seems to have rendered him incapable of true logical thinking.

Mohler's most recent article is about Genesis, and asks whether Adam and Eve were literally the ancestors of all humans. He builds up a very powerful chain of logical arguments, based on history, philosophy and Biblical evidence: if Adam and Eve weren't real, then Christianity falls apart. Jesus' sacrifice would have been meaningless. Without Adam and Eve, there would be no original sin, and no need for anyone to accept Jesus as their savior.

To a scientist or historian, this is a beautiful chain of deductions, the sort of stuff that all scholars aspire to:
Adam and Eve --> The Fall --> God's curse --> original sin
  --> Jesus' sacrifice --> redemption --> Christianity
It's a very nice bit of scholarship so far. But ... then Mohler makes a terrible mistake.

A real scientist or historian would look for independent evidence for Adam and Eve to prove they existed, and then follow the chain of logic forward to prove the conclusion (that Christianity is true). But Mohler does the reverse! He claims that Christianity is true, and then follows the logic backwards to "prove" that the story of Adam and Eve is true.

It's an embarrassing intellectual error.

He also asserts that all true Christians must reach this same conclusion. Mohler claims that all Christians must believe as he does:
"Make no mistake: a false start to the story produces a false grasp of the Gospel."
Any real scientist, historian or philosopher would flunk his freshman classes if he made a mistake like this. Real intellectual progress requires that investigators have open minds. It's simply not allowed to start by declaring your thesis true and work backwards to "prove" other facts.

It's interesting that the only branch of scholarship that allows this sort of thinking is religious apologetics. Mohler would be laughed out of any other scholarly discipline. Christian apologetics puts the cart before the horse all the time. You can prove any crazy theory you like with this sort of logic, which is why real scientists and historians aren't allowed to do it.

Just think of all the fantastic scholarship these Christian apologists could do if their minds weren't crippled by their religion.

(Note: I've written about Mohler before. See Divorce: Why Christians Don't Care about YOU.)


  1. Like so many Christian apologists, Mohler assumes first that Christianity is correct and then constructs a logical framework to support his preconceived conclusion instead of, as you note, following the evidence to it's logical conclusion and seeing if it matches his hypothesis. Christians are unable to conceive of the possibility that their beliefs are not 100% true and accurate, making having any kind of logical, rational discussion about the truthfulness of their beliefs an utter waste of time.

  2. Adam and Eve --> The Fall --> God's curse --> original sin --> Jesus' sacrifice --> redemption --> Christianity

    He can't even apply modus tollens correctly.

    Let's say that the cascade goes
    If A and E then Fall . If Fall then Curse. etc. to Christianity. Naturally this would be impossible because there is no evidence of A and E's existence, and could not use Modus Ponens. So let's go with If Redemption then Christianity, not Christianity, therefore not Redemption and take this back all the way to not Adam and Eve.

    Much better.

  3. Sherlock Holmes, a fictional character, understands how to arrive at an accurate conclusion better than this man. Making up your mind and then finding supporting data to back your claims is no way to come to a conclusion.

  4. I'm glad you wrote about that article, Craig. I read it the other day and thought, "This guy is so close to making a good point." but he fell short.

    Also, it's frustrating that the BPNews articles rarely provide sources and don't allow comments.

  5. Baptist Press News probably doesn't allow comments because people like me would publish links to rebuttals. I was disappointed that I couldn't.

  6. To claim that Albert Mohler is a top theological mind reveals only limited reading of western intellectual history. The problem with many of these writings on both sides of the popular atheistic and theistic divide is their abysmal disregard for the history of western intellectual tradition, not to mention the history of science. It is not surprising therefore most of the scholarly world ignores the rantings of both. The western intellectual tradition has a much more robust and rigorous engagement of these ideas and our culture would be better served by reading the works of the great thinkers, both atheists and theists, than falling for the superficial rubbish that is spreading like a virus.

  7. So if Adam and Eve never existed, who were the first humans? I would love to hear a good Modus Ponens for the proof of the Big Bang theory or Punctuated Equilibrium, or Primordial Soup, or Interspecies Fossilication. How about the origin of natural, scientific, moral, or mathematical laws? It can't be done apart from recognizing the logic of a divine creator. I encourage you to also seek the historical evidences, accuracies, archiologoical and other evidentiary methods of proof that the cannon of scripture, its preservation and consistencies are supernaturally accurate.
    Romans 1:18-21 - For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse, For even though they knew God, the did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
    Romans 3:23-24 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
    God gives us all things, life and breath and everything good. Above all, he gave us Christ for the ultimate sacrificial atonement for us as none of us have honored him or given thanks. Repent and believe on Christ.

  8. Anon – I would love to hear a good Modus Ponens for the proof of God. And once you find it, substitute "Thor" or "Santa Claus" or "The Flying Spaghetti Monster" and see if it still works.

    Quoting the Bible to non-believers sort of silly, don't you think? It is no better than quoting the Book of Mormon, Qur'an or Vedas. They're all good literature with much wisdom, but they're just mythology and history written by men and women thousands of years ago. We've learned a lot since then.

    Since the rise of modern science, which only began in earnest four or five centuries ago, science has filled in huge gaps in human knowledge. The pace is only accelerating. Why do theists insist that a few remaining gaps in our knowledge prove that God exists? What possible argument can you make that proves science will never answer these questions completely?

  9. Maybe a little off topic, but honestly I think that Christianity and it's variations (Islam etc,etc) are the logical conclucion to the entirety of religeous beliefs in our species. As most if not all past religeons have had gods with obvious motivations it has slowly become clear that this will no longer work due to scientific progression and logic and common sense. The eventual logical conclusion for all of this is what we have now, a single faceless super-being that encompasses all since it is one single existing creature with no mortal ambitions and no real image of existance, it is easy to believe in despite scientific evidence and, more importantly it is a very durable belief system, it can change and adapt to match scientific progression. But slowly even this is beginning to not be enough any more, science has gotten to the point of people knowing enough to know that religeon isn't true, and so slowly christianity is dieing out like all the others. Luckily I don't think that religeos belief has anywhere to go from here, there is no more durable religeos belief system and so I believe that this is the last religeon to die out, after this it will all be over and we will be free of religeon forever.

  10. Hi Craig,

    I've read your article, and the link to Mohler's article that you have provided.

    Where does Mohler state, or imply the claim that Christianity is true, therefore Adam and Eve existed? The article's purpose and intent does not seem to be wanting to prove that Adam and Eve existed, but rather pointing out that, if Adam and Eve as historical figures did not exist, then the understanding of soteriology which Mohler is trying to defend falls apart.

    Mohler here is not trying to prove, or imply, that Adam and Eve exist because Christianity is true. Mohler is addressing his comments at other Christians who take the view that Adam and Eve are not historical figures, and yet embrace a Christ-centered soteriology. He is pointing out the logical implications that result from doing away with the historicity of Adam and Eve, namely, that "incarnation is impossible for us to understand in biblical terms without the central affirmation that Christ came to redeem His people from sin".

    In short, Mohler is not guilty of what you have accused him of, because he never made the argument you claim he made in the first place.

  11. abelian – I thought it was pretty glaring. Mohler writes: "One of my recent articles, "False Start? The Controversy Over Adam and Eve Heats Up," made this point clearly. As I argued there, the denial of a historical Adam means not only the rejection of a clear biblical teaching but also the denial of the biblical doctrine of the Fall, leading to a very different way of telling the story of the Bible and the meaning of the Gospel.

    ... In the context of God's eternality, omniscience and sovereignty, it is undeniable that "the incarnation was part of God's plan from the beginning." But it is also true that the creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall of humanity into sin were also parts of God's plan from the beginning."

    Mohler comes from the assumption that the basic tenets of Christianity (sin, the fall, etc.) are true. Those things are axiomatic in his world. The point of his article was that given this axiom, you have to conclude that the story of Adam and Eve is literally true.

    1. @Craig, I believe Abelian's point is that Mohler builds his argument for the historicity of Adam & Eve from premises all Christians must accept. This is to say, he is specifically addressing a CHRISTIAN audience, an audience that is willing accept the premise that Christianity is true. He then uses this foundation to try proving it is impossible to be Christian while denying the historicity of Adam & Eve, forcing Christians to either accept his conclusion or admit they are not Christians.

      The flaw in your thinking, and others here, is that you assume Mohler is trying to prove ANYTHING to non-Christians. This is a mistake, as it appears he only wishes to assert that it is impossible to accept the premise that Christianity is true while denying the historicity of Adam & Eve, with the intent of forcing Christians to accept the historicity of Adam & Eve.

    2. Anon -- if you're right, it's still just as embarrassing. Once you accept one "fact" using faith alone, there's no point in using logic for any further "proofs." You could just as easily accept all of the points he tries to "prove" using that same faith. It's a useless exercise in pseudo-logic that at its core is an attempt to cast a false appearance of legitimacy on one particular (and probably false) version of history.

    3. Please logically deduce the big bang, atomic and molecular evolution, galaxy, star and planet formation, abiogenesis and "uphill" evolution. Please spell out your starting axioms for each proof. You know, those things you assume are true, without proof.
      "Once you accept one "fact" using faith alone, there's no point in using logic for any further "proofs.""
      By that admission of your own criteria you've just invalidated every logical argument ever constructed by anyone anywhere at any time. That would include whatever you believe in. Oh, sorry didn't mean to insult you..... whatever it is you have high certainty about.

  12. I think most are missing the sad to be intelligent and miss such a simple thought. You are starting with science to prove and Mohler simply maybe (assumedly) states his view starts with belief in God as the beginning and from there studies (backwards) if you must, to see all came from Him. To reject any part of the Bible for a Christian would be a ripple in the chain, as it states "do not add too or take away". One must accept the Bible as whole Truth if one is to fully believe.

    Anon. ~who said; "this is the last religion to die"........I believe very famous men throughout history have stated that same exact claim.........LOL

    The only reason you and others have questions that are unanswered and unexplained is because your beginning continues to baffle you. There is NO plausible answer science has given to the question "Where did we come from?"..............don't say there is when Dawkins himself has said he does not KNOW for sure.

    God says: HE has put eternity in the hearts of man......., He has written his law on the hearts of men.......
    YOUR conscience NO MATTER what you say WILL SCREAM for answers!! YOU will never escape the thoughts you have at night when all is quiet and your mind RUNS with these unanswered questions?

    Where did we come from?
    Why is there a moral conscious innate in all humans?
    What is the point of life?
    What happens when I die?
    Why are my answers still not answered?

    YOUR beginning is WRONG...........


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