TIP of the day (logic): Logos as research tool for apologetics in the form of dialogue logic

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, Feb 27 2016 2:54 AM

Doing apologetics

  1. Pay attention when you are reading. For example, I have been reading Buddhist-Christian Dialogue as Theological Exchange: An Orthodox Contribution to Comparative Theology by Ernest M. Valea. He makes several comments about Lynn de Silva, a Methodist minister, which led me to want to learn more about Rev. de Silva. This led to me to the following statement in Wikipedia: “Contrary to popular belief, de Silva shows that modern Christian scholarship does not support the notion of a soul as an immortal entity separate from the body.” This is something that I did not know and do not know if it is true. But it does have interesting consequences in apologetics with Buddhists.
  2. Apply what you are reading. By coincidence I was reading Aude Popek’s “Logical Dialogues from Middle Ages” in Logic of Knowledge: Theory and Applications (Volume II of Dialogues and Games of Logic) edited by Cristina Bares, Gomez, Sebastien Magnier, and Francisco J. Salguero. This is about mediaeval disputations. The important point is that one person takes a position in favor or a proposition, the other against it. They precede step wise, supporting or undermining the main point by logical inferences or new propositions that are accepted, denied or in doubt. Those that are granted may be relevant or irrelevant. One wins when one’s opponent contradicts themselves or concedes. Takeaways:
    1. To show you understand an issue you need to be able argue either side.
    2. To be sure you are reasoning clearly you need to move one proposition at a time … and explain the reasoning behind making that particular “move”.
    3. If you lose on a side you believe, you must review each of the moves to find your misstep or unconsidered options.
    4. There is a reason why Tibetan Buddhist monks, Jewish study partners, and Mediaeval scholars were trained in some form of formal disputation. (See The Course in Buddhist Reasoning and Debate: An Asian Approach to Analytical Thinking Drawn from Indian and Tibetan Sources by Daniel Perdue; Or Disputatio 5: Medieval Forms of Argument: Disputation and Debate by Georgiana Donain)
  3. When I run a search for “Soul NEAR permanence” in my Logos/Verbum collection to get a collection of possible starting points. I quickly see that “immortality of the soul” is a more common phrasing so I revise my search to “"immortality of the soul" OR (permanence NEAR soul)”. I have selected a couple of potential starting points:
    1. Pro the popular belief: from Boyce, James Petigru. Abstract of Systematic Theology. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010. “(2.) The Scriptures, however, teach plainly the continued existence of all men after death”… and following
    2. Pro the position of Lynn de Silva from Beet, Joseph Agar. The Immortality of the Soul: A Protest. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1901. “The earliest Christian writers reproduce the thought, and in large measure the language, of the New Testament, and say nothing about, or reject, the immortality of the soul. Clement of Rome, in his Epistle To the Corinthians, ch. 35, speaks of “life in immortality” as a gift of God to the righteous.  . . . and following.
  4. So I pick a starting point and start a chart:

 

Pro de Silva

Con de Silva

 

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10:28) shows that the New Testament authors did not believe the soul is immortal.

Reject

1

Accept as one inference from verse

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10:28) shows that only God is capable of killing both the body and the soul.

2

If God can kill the soul, it is not immortal.

Reject

3

 

The meaning of “immortal” in this context is that for created beings, immortality has a beginning in God’s act of creation and is contingent on the pleasure of God’s will for continued existence.

4

 Note the arrows showing the flow of moves left to right, down, right to left, down, left to right ... were lost in copying the table into the forum software.

  • In the Con de Silva position accepts the first proposition, then they have conceded the position immediately. Therefore, a move of reject or in doubt is the expected response. I choose reject then run a Passage Guide on Matthew 10:28 to see what various commentaries say about the verse – some emphasize that the passage is making a distinction between the body made of dust and the spirit made of spiritual matters; other emphasize that only God is capable of killing both body and soul. I select the latter as the stronger argument.
  • The Pro de Silva position has little option other than to accept the proposition as at least one truth inferred by the text. The next move is one that should not be accepted but should force an exchange clarifying what is meant by “immortal”.
  • The Con de Silva position rejects the proposition. I then run a search on “contingent NEAR immortal” to make the point that in context Immortality is contingent on God in contrast to true non-contingent immortality which can be ascribed to God alone.  See “Immortality” in Cairns, Alan. Dictionary of Theological Terms. Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002.

 

The advantage of this dialogic approach to apologetics, is that by moving in single steps misunderstandings and objection are addressed rather than being lost in a stream of propositions and emotional appeals. One usually put a limit on how long the dialogue will continue. At some point it is best to admit that the starting point of the dialogue failed on one of two grounds:

  • It contained too many presuppositions that were not shared
  • It was not an effective place to start the dialogue because it did not focus the dialogue sufficiently

You should never be caught out by an argument you’ve never run into before even if you hit a point where you need to request a break to do some research. Fortunately, this is a sign of honest dialogue not weakness. While your opponent may call you out for errors in reasoning, the method admits all forms of reasoning rather than calling for formal logic (or in many debates high rhetoric with little logic). You can dialogue with yourself to evaluate competing interpretations; you can dialogue with a text whose argument you question. You can dialogue with a little less formalism than shown above with inquirers into the faith, ecumenical groups, inter-faith groups … And, yes, although it is not part of the standard presentation of dialogue / game logic, I always add one more position to accept, reject, in doubt – explain to handle those situations where you realize you don’t really understand what was meant by a statement.

If Logos contained argument mapping tools, I would preserve the dialogue in Logos … with the ability to search and reuse. As it is, I used Logos as my huge box of research notes … in the form of searchable resources representing a variety of positions.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 27 2016 3:57 AM

MJ. Smith:
If Logos contained argument mapping tools

Theoretically what could this look like in Logos? Can you point to an example of this on the web?

Using adventure and community to challenge young people to continually say "yes" to God

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Susan W. Murphy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 27 2016 6:59 AM

Thanks for the tip.  It's very interesting and will help me in understanding how to do this.

Also, something that helped me to understand the Buddhists was I went to Nepal on a mission trip two years ago.  It was really an eye opener on understanding the Buddhists, getting out and working among them, and also visiting their temple.  Also, understanding how difficult it is made for a person to leave the Buddhists persuasion.  They're really ostracized when they do this and treated very harshly.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 27 2016 2:41 PM

Bruce Dunning:
Can you point to an example of this on the web?

A description of the why of it from a Princeton Critical Thinking class.

Online software including maps on a variety of topics and of very mixed quality.

Multiple links from Austhink - Australia being the country in which much of the practical student oriented argument mapping was created and tested. It's roots in the legal system are older and broader The European and American work in the area is much more technically oriented (i.e. more formal logic).

Edit: a newer Austhink (renamed) link: http://www.reasoninglab.com/steps/

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Feb 27 2016 3:58 PM

Thanks for taking time to explain things a bit more MJ.

Using adventure and community to challenge young people to continually say "yes" to God

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