The following article is from _The Skeptical Review_, vol. 4, no. 3 (Summer 1993). It may

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The following article is from _The Skeptical Review_, vol. 4, no. 3 (Summer 1993). It may be freely redistributed. Copies of the text of all articles published in _The Skeptical Review_ may be obtained by sending $1 and either one high-density diskette or two double-density diskettes to _The Skeptical Review_, P.O. Box 617, Canton, IL 61520-0617. Specify WordPerfect or WordStar format. (Free one-year subscriptions are available from the same address.) WILL THERE BE SPIDERS IN HEAVEN? Farrell Till The inerrancy doctrine is an inevitable consequence of belief in the divine inspiration of the scriptures. Inerrantists recognize that if the Bible was indeed verbally inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent, omnimoral deity, then by necessity it would have to be completely inerrant in every detail written in it. This is why we frequently hear fundamentalists say that the Bible is inerrant in matters of science, history, geography, chronology, etc. as well as matters of faith and practice. Their belief in verbal inspiration allows them no other conclusion but this. Past articles in The Skeptical Review have exposed many inconsistencies in the biblical narrative concerning matters of science, chronology, history, etc., and recently we have begun to focus on another facet relevant to Bible inerrancy--the element of logic. If the Bible was really inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent, omnimoral deity, then the logic used by its writers would have to be impeccable, for how could a person being guided by such a deity in everything he wrote, word for word, be capable of faulty logic? That biblical writers were not perfect in their use of logic is evident to anyone who is willing to examine the Bible with an open mind. Faulty logic is most evident in the New Testament, probably because of a need the writers felt to convince their readers that Jesus was the Messiah whom God had sent in fulfillment of Old Testament promises. With no logic on their side, their attempts at argumentation were necessarily faulty. The Apostle Paul, who seemed to fancy himself as a master of argumentation, made some horrendous mistakes in reasoning. His lack of ability in logic was very much in evidence in his famous defense of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. At one point in his narrative, Paul said, "If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body" (v:44). Paul's argument could be stated in the form of a modus ponens syllogism: MAJOR PREMISE: If there is a natural body, there is a spiritual body. MINOR PREMISE: There is a natural body. CONCLUSION: Therefore, there is a spiritual body. The major premise of this syllogism is a conditional or hypothetical sentence that contains two parts: an antecedent (the "if" statement) and the consequent (the conclusion derived from the antecedent). For a modus ponens syllogism to be sound, it must be demonstrably true that the antecedent undeniably necessitates the consequent, and this is where Paul's logic fails. There is absolutely nothing in the existence of a natural or physical body that would necessitate the existence of a spiritual body. I am aware of the deep-seated desire in humans for life after this one, but desires, wishes, and hopes prove nothing. To arrive at truth in this matter, we must lay aside dreams and aspirations and examine all the evidence under the microscope of cold logic. If this is done objectively, one will have to reject Paul's argument, because it is an obvious non sequitur. The existence of natural or physical bodies does not necessitate the existence of spiritual bodies. Dogs, cats, fleas, and spiders have physical bodies, so does this mean that they also have spiritual bodies? Will there be spiders in heaven? To accept Paul's argument, one would have to believe that there will be, because they too have "natural bodies." That doesn't leave us much to look forward to, does it? We spend our lives here tolerating mosquitoes, fleas, spiders, and cockroaches only to find out that we will also have to put up with them all through eternity. The same type of non sequitur (conclusion not justified by its premises) occurred in a Pauline argument intended to show that the fact of baptism proves the existence of a spiritual resurrection. After stating that in the act of baptism one is buried as Christ was buried in his death, Paul said, "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection" (Romans 6:5). In this statement, we see the "if this, then that" elements of a conditional or hypothetical sentence. In other words, Paul was arguing that if "this" (burial with Christ in baptism), then "that" (resurrection to a new life). No one denies that religious experiences can bring about significant changes in people's lives, but Paul's argument here is purely arbitrary. The ceremony of baptism, as Paul perceived it here, was symbolic of the death of one's old life and resurrection to a new life only because Paul arbitrarily declared it was so. Other religious sects of the time practiced baptism as nothing more than a ceremonial cleansing. They saw nothing at all in it to denote burial of "the old man" and resurrection of "the new man." Some religious sects (including the Israelites of the Old Testament) thought that there was advantage to worshiping their gods in "high places." Had the custom survived into New Testament times, I suppose some "inspired" writer could have argued that one's act of climbing a mountain to worship was a symbol or likeness of the ascension of Jesus into heaven. Paul's argument here is just another example of a Bible writer who was long on assumption and short on proof. If one is resurrected to a new life after baptism, then what do we say about the person whose religious fervor subsides after the emotionalism of the moment that led him to be baptized? In backsliding, does he "spiritually" find his "old man," which was crucified and buried with Christ, and reenter that body? There is simply no logic in Paul's argument. It is religious whim and caprice--and nothing more. In Romans 3:5-6, we find Paul at it again; only this time he is begging the question. In speaking of the righteousness of God, he asked, "Is God unjust who in-flicts wrath?" His answer was, "Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?" Begging the question occurs when an argument assumes crucial points that need to be proved. In this case, Paul was arguing that God cannot be unjust simply because he inflicts wrath on people, because God is going to judge the world and he could hardly judge the world justly if he himself is unjust. Paul offered no evidence at all to prove that God is indeed going to judge the world; he merely presented it as an assumption that he apparently expected his readers to accept. He undoubtedly did this for the obvious reason that there is no way that he or anyone else could prove that God is going to judge the world, so at a loss for logic to prove his point, all he could do was beg the question. Paul was no better at arguing from analogy. He showed this in an attempt to prove the abrogation of the law of Moses: Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another--to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (Rom. 7:1-6). Paul's apparent intention here was to compare the abrogation of the law of Moses and its replacement by a new covenant with the marriage relationship. His analogy concerned a widow who enters into a second marriage, but he had obvious difficulty keeping straight what corresponded to the wife and what represented the husband and even who or what had died. A wife was bound to her husband as long as he lived and, unless her husband had died, could not marry another without committing adultery. If, however, her husband died, she was free to contract a second marriage without incurring the stigma of adultery. Paul seemed able to get that much of it right, but when he tried to analogize the widow's situation with the relationship between the two covenants, he got confused and had the widow dying rather than the husband (law). In The Mythmaker: Paul and the invention of Christianity, Hyam Maccoby very effectively identified the points of confusion in the analogy: It seems that the correspondence intended is the following: the wife is the Church; the former husband is the Torah, and the new husband is Christ. Paul tells us that a wife is released by the death of her husband to marry a new husband; this should read, therefore, in the comparison, that the Church was freed, by the death of the Torah, to marry Christ. Instead, it is the wife-Church that dies ("you my friends, have died to the law by becoming identified with the body of Christ") and there is even some play with the idea that the new husband, Christ, has died. The only term in the comparison that is not mentioned as having died is the Torah; yet this is the only thing that would make the comparison valid (p. 69). "Dying to sin" was such a recurrent image in Paul's writings that in this passage he apparently lost sight of who was supposed to represent what in his analogy, so he wound up having his Christian audience "die" to sin rather than the law die to free Christians to marry another. Such a mistake would be no big deal in the writings of an ordinary man, but we have to wonder why Paul, writing under the verbal guidance of an omniscient, omnipotent deity, could have made a logical error like this. In Maccoby's commentary on Paul's analogy, he noted another flaw: On the other hand, there is also present in the passage an entirely different idea: that a person becomes free of legal obligations after his or her own death. This indeed seems to be the theme first announced: "that a person is subject to the law so long as he is alive, and no longer." The theme of the widow being free to marry after the death of her first husband is quite incompatible with this; yet Paul confuses the two themes throughout... (p. 69). My reaction to the muddled way that Paul tried to present his argument is the same as Maccoby's: "Confusion cannot be worse confounded than this" (Ibid). More than that, I have to wonder why a verbally inspired writer would not have a better sense of logical analogy than this. A frequent device of persuasion used by New Testament writers was the a fortiori argument, but they frequently bungled their attempts to use it. In this kind of argument, a conclusion of greater necessity is arrived at by comparing it to a generally accepted conclusion of less significance. "Drunk drivers deserve to have their licenses revoked," one might argue, "so how much more should those who drive while stoned silly by drugs have theirs revoked?" Anyone so arguing would be using the a fortiori approach to persuasion, and it was a common device used by New Testament writers. In Hebrews 10:28-29, it was used by the unknown writer of this epistle: "Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" In other words, the writer was arguing that if disrespect for the law of Moses brought death, then surely open disrespect for the covenant of Christ will merit even harsher punishment.that the writer reached, however, violated a basic principle of a fortiori argumentation, which is that the conclusion (the how-much-more element) cannot validly exceed the premise it depends on. In my drunk-driving illustration, for example, the punishment demanded for driving while "stoned silly" on drugs was the same as for drunk driving--the revocation of one's license. The argument did not attempt to prove that if one's punishment for drunk driving was the revocation of his license, then the penalty for driving under the influence of drugs should be a prison sentence or the death penalty; it merely argued that if driver's licenses are revoked for drunk driving, then the same penalty should be imposed for the greater offense of driving while "stoned silly" on drugs. The Hebrew writer's application of the argument, however, deviated from the standard a fortiori pattern and concluded that a much harsher punishment should be given to those who trample underfoot the son of God than to those who just disobeyed the law of Moses. In 9:13-14, the Hebrew writer made the same reasoning error: "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" The cleansing of the conscience or spirit would be greater than the cleansing of the flesh, so once again the writer used a fortiori logic to obtain a conclusion that went beyond the premise it was derived from. The Apostle Paul also made frequent attempts at a fortiori argumentation, but, like the Hebrew writer, often misapplied it. In The Mythmaker (p. 65), Hyam Maccoby analyzed Paul's use of the form in his epistle to the Romans and identified several statements with conclusions that exceeded the premises they were derived from. Two of them were these: For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (5:10). For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one (5:17). Just a cursory examination of both passages will show that Paul tried to derive a fortiori conclusions that far exceeded the premises he was arguing from, so apparently he was no more skilled at this type of reasoning than was the Hebrew writer. Some will no doubt say that the reasoning in the above examples of a fortiori argumentation is sound, even though it may have technically deviated from the traditional form of the argument. Does it not make sense to think, one might say, that if the blood of bulls and goats cleansed the flesh, the blood of Christ would be much more efficacious in the cleansing of the soul? To so argue, however, is to venture into pure speculation. As Maccoby said of Paul's a fortiori arguments whose conclusions exceeded their premises, "Such an argument has no precision about it, for how do we know how much to add to the data given in the premise in order to arrive at the conclusion" (p. 66)? Besides that problem, we have every reason to wonder why a writer verbally inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity would not know how to use logic that was as firmly established in Jewish legalism as was a fortiori argumentation. Another problem in many of the a fortiori syllogisms in the New Testament is the flagrant resort to begging the question that characterized so many of their premises. In Hebrews 9:13-14, for example, the writer's argument was if the blood of bulls and goats cleansed the flesh, then surely the blood of Christ will be even more efficacious in cleansing the soul. Yes, if... IF, IF, IF! But what proof did the writer give that the blood of bulls and goats could purify flesh? He gave none. He simply expected his reader to assume that the statement was true. He begged the question. Likewise, Paul in Romans 5:10 begged the question in the premise of his argument: "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." What was his proof that the death of Jesus reconciled us to God? He gave none. He merely stated it as a fact to be assumed without proof and proceeded to draw his conclusion, i.e., the life of Jesus will be much more efficacious in saving us. Thus, many of the a fortiori arguments in the New Testament were doubly flawed. They didn't just reach conclusions that far exceeded the premises they were derived from, but the premises themselves were often no more than mere assumptions. Such examples of reasoning as these are flawed through and through. They constitute formidable proof that the Bible is just another fallible book written by very fallible men. No omniscient, omnipotent deity had anything to do with writing it. To say otherwise is to insult the omniscience of the deity who is presumed to be the source of the inspiration. Jim Lippard Lippard@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU Dept. of Philosophy Lippard@ARIZVMS.BITNET University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721


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