Logical Fallacies From a Biblical Perspective: Appeal to Authority

A logical fallacy is the use of faulty reasoning in the construction of an argument. It’s usually the rule, rather than the exception, that logical fallacies come into play in modern discourse. It’s far too common. Few people care to be internally consistent, form their statements properly, or in some cases use basic logic at all. It’s much better to copy the beliefs you think you’re supposed to have from the people you’ve been told are in the right, right?

No. That’s what today’s fallacy is about. I’ll be going through a bunch of these, but first on the agenda is the appeal to authority.

Appeal to Authority

It’s a very popular tactic to appeal to an authority figure (on the subject at hand, hopefully) when making a point. If the authority figure agrees with you, then it’s settled, right? After all, they must know better than us because they’re an expert on the matter. Maybe, but not necessarily.

When making an appeal, we argue that our position is the correct one. We claim it’s rooted in truth. But truth doesn’t care about authority. Truth stands alone, available for anyone of any status, any fame, any ability, any age, any gender, any location, any appearance, or any wealth to possess it. It cannot be held captive by any one person or group.

Truth in the Bible

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'”

John 8:31-32 (ESV)

God is the only one who has an unequivocal claim to truth.

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

John 17:17 (ESV)

In John 17, we read that God’s word is truth. It doesn’t say God’s word is “true.” It says God’s word is literally “truth” itself. We ought to read the Scriptures if we desire to align ourselves with truth.

“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

Psalm 25:5 (ESV)

God speaks the truth, but people in authority are just people. They’re fallible and imperfect. Sometimes they’re right, but other times they’re wrong. What makes them valuable, then? Well, that depends on the authority.

The Value of Authority

Some authority figures are experts, meaning we trust them because they’ve done the research or have the experience to back up their claims. Others are leaders, meaning they know how to effectively direct people to action. The former is more likely to offer valuable insight on a given topic than the latter, but many still trust leaders because they inspire us on an emotional level.

Either kind of authority figure may know better than us, but they won’t always. This is why experts meet together on a regular basis to exchange ideas and information. If they were already individually perfect, there would be no need for this. But even after doing the research and discussing it with other professionals, authority figures in the same field still disagree with one another on a regular basis.

The Problem

The problem with appealing to authority is that truth is not inherent in any authority apart from the divine. Not even the apostles claimed to be perfect.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

1 Corinthians 1:10-13 (ESV)

In 1 Corinthians, Paul rebukes the people for aligning themselves with specific authority figures and forming divisions among themselves. This passage is primarily about church unity, but there’s also a lesson to be learned about human authority. Paul asks, “Was Paul crucified for you?” No, of course not. Jesus was crucified for us. Rather than align ourselves with Paul, we should align ourselves with Jesus.

This fallacy betrays that the person using it probably doesn’t have an argument of their own. They either don’t have the truth or they don’t know how to express it. Pointing at someone else to do the job for them is irresponsible, ignorant, and risky. At best, the authority figure is correct and the person committing the fallacy is revealed to have taken a shortcut to truth with little to no idea why they believe what they believe. At worst, the authority figure is wrong and the person committing the fallacy is revealed to be incorrect, using confirmation bias to recklessly latch on to a claim they find attractive while forgoing an honest search for truth.

The Solution

What then should we do? If an authority figure claims something to be true, our goal should be to discover that truth for ourselves so we can understand it and make our own arguments based on it. Truth should be our appeal, not the person we hope possesses it.

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

Acts 17:11 (ESV)

Only by doing our due diligence will we be able to argue aright, with educated opinions of our own rather than appealing to someone else. By doing our own research, we learn so much more about the subject at hand. We’ll be better equipped to argue our position and we’ll be arguing from an informed perspective.

And guess what? If, after looking into something, you find yourself disagreeing with the opinion you previously had from an authority figure, so much the better! That’s called thinking for yourself and it’s a good thing. Don’t let your biases constrain you. Pursue truth relentlessly, holding God’s truth above all. In doing so, you’ll strengthen your worldview and ensure its foundations are solid.

That’s all for now. I’ll write about more logical fallacies in the future. Let me know which fallacy you want to see next by commenting below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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How to Find Lasting Positive Change

Last time, we talked about what it means to acknowledge who you truly are. Far from self-centered affirmation, this entails the voluntary dissection of your very soul, the opening up of yourself to God. He created us. We ought to have the courage to face him and admit our shortcomings. That doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult, of course.

Today, I want to talk about some steps we can take to move towards lasting change in our lives. Acknowledging your sin and your tendencies is one thing, but repenting and moving unto action is another entirely. Let’s begin.

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:19-20 (ESV)

This verse shows us what it really means to let conviction move us to be more like Christ. Repentance isn’t just saying we’re sorry. Jesus stands at the door. He knocks, asking us to let him into our life. We cannot reap the benefits of a proper relationship with Christ unless we open the door and let him in. But letting him in requires us to surrender ourselves to him—not just the most attractive parts, either. We’re talking about everything. But “everything” is a rather unimpressive word on its own. Let me paint you a picture.

Jesus Pays a Visit

Imagine for a moment that Jesus knocks on the front door. We think of ourselves as a pretty good Christian, so we have no problem letting him in, right? We undo the lock. We turn the handle, slowly swinging the door open. We greet our Lord and Savior. He asks if we would like him to step inside. Oh, of course! How silly of us. So we step aside and allow him access to our living room. It’s organized fairly well. There’s a couch on the far side and a welcome mat laid before the door with a coat rack and a place for shoes. The room is well-lit and inviting.

This is nice, we think to ourselves. Jesus in my house? What a privilege! Pleasantries are exchanged. We shuffle our feet and stare up at the ceiling, wondering what to say next. Then Jesus asks if he might take a look around the house. What? We weren’t expecting this, but that’s okay. We lead him into the office and show him our projects. We lead him upstairs to the guest room. We show him where the bathroom is. We might even comment on the kitchen as we pass through it. But then Jesus speaks up.

“What about your closet?” We stop, stunned for a moment. Why on earth would he want to look in there, we ask ourselves. We weren’t planning on letting him see every part of the house. This is most irregular. Jesus asks where the bedroom is. We stare at our feet for a moment, trying to think of an excuse. “Oh, still tidying up in there. Sorry about that!”

Jesus still wants to see it. He waits, standing patiently. We swallow the lump in our throat and force our legs to move us towards the bedroom. This isn’t fun anymore. We weren’t prepared for this! How rude of Jesus to insist on seeing the parts of our house we obviously don’t want anyone snooping around in. We open the door to the bedroom, revealing a bit of a mess. The bed isn’t made. Clothes hang over the side of the hamper. There’s a stray pair of underwear peeking out from beneath the bed. Jesus looks around the room. Then he asks again to see the closet.

The Inner Conflict

What would you say? Would you let him see what you have hiding in the far reaches of your mind? Would you allow him access to the sins you hold most dear, the grudges you’ve held onto for years, or the bad habits you still try to ignore? Maybe you’d say, “Enough! Get out.” Most people do.

One of the hardest things in the world is to let someone else see the most intimate parts of you. It’s why divorce is so common and friendships can be so fragile. It challenges your ego, forcing you to come to grips with your weakness as others see it openly. We hate dealing with our flaws and sins. We hide them away beneath layers of veneer—the Facebook posts, friendly smiles, and displays of virtue we hope distracts onlookers from the complicated mess underneath.

Yet this internal struggle is one we must face if we hope to pursue a life that honors Christ.

“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

Leviticus 20:26 (ESV)

Lest you think of this as the grumpy, domineering God of the Old Testament, here it is again in the New Testament. God does not change.

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

Christ confirms the Leviticus passage here in the Sermon on the Mount. Peter confirms it in his epistle.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”

1 Peter 1:14-16 (ESV)

There is no such thing as a “drifting” Christian, a man of God who does not seek his face. If you let yourself drift, you will invariably find yourself moving closer to sin. So what are some practical ways to start opening up your life to Christ and letting him sanctify you?

Confess

It starts with confessing. In a therapy session, clients might be asked to verbalize their desires and their realizations about themselves. This might seem unnecessary. After all, we already know how we feel. But there’s something powerful about using audible words to confess inner realities. So confess your sins to God out loud. Admit your faults. Don’t skip this part. Remember, you can’t start with changing yourself. You have to let Christ reign first.

“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 5:32 (ESV)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9 (ESV)

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)

Center Yourself in Truth

Next, center yourself in the truth. Don’t just jump into self-help books or temporary, emotional effort. You won’t get far. You have to keep your eye focused on what matters in order to get out of the wilderness. Part of this is reading God’s Word and dwelling on his truth. You have to saturate yourself with it if you expect to see its fruit in your life.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32 (ESV)

The truth is the answer to your problems. But what is truth?

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”

John 14:6 (ESV)

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

Ultimately, God is truth. Only by pursuing Christ will we find that truth. Dwell on God’s nature and become intimately familiar with Jesus and his teachings.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

John 17:17 (ESV)

Only when you become a real man of God—a student of theology, someone who’s “bananas for Jesus” as Keith Green said—will you become a man God uses to do great things.

“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

James 1:25 (ESV)

Go Forth Unto Action

This leads us to action that is supported by faith, deeds that are backed by love, and a changed life as the result of a changed heart. Don’t put the cart before the horse. This kind of thing can’t be manufactured. It has to be genuine, overflowing out of the new creation God has made you into.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:45 (ESV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (ESV)

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

Romans 6:13 (ESV)

Persevere

But that’s not the end. The true test is consistency and perseverance. This is perhaps the least glamorous part of the process. Everyone loves stories of people who turned their life around, saved relationships, or overcame addictions. But nobody gets excited about the prospect of a long life of honest living in obedience to God, showing his love to strangers, coworkers, and family. We want the adventure and the drama without the commitment.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

If you feel like giving up, like putting a stop to this uncomfortable process of exposing your heart for replacement and sacrificing your whole being to God’s purposes, just remember Christ. Center yourself back to the truth. This last passage convicts me regularly that I have it far too comfortable in America to be complaining. I need to persevere, keeping my sights set firmly on Christ.

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Hebrews 12:3-4 (ESV)

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Entertaining Demons

Most people say they’re “fighting their demons” by overcoming weakness, addiction, or trauma. Recently, I’ve been fighting my demons in another way—by silencing the inner voices that I love to hear the most.

That Little Voice

If you mention an inner voice, most people immediately think of their conscience. This voice bugs you to stop before doing something wrong or encourages you towards something you ought to do. But I’m not talking about your conscience today. I’m talking about what some people might associate with self-esteem or ego.

This other voice is the one telling you that your significant other isn’t worthy of you, that you should be annoyed at your lazy roommate, or that you deserve more respect from your coworkers. In short, this voice is concerned with your pride and has an incredible talent for torturing you without your awareness.

The Inner War

Let me give you an example. This last week, I gave a presentation. I had been working on it for a while and I wanted it to go well. It did. Once it was over, I heard a soft voice in the back of my head.

Wouldn’t it be great if people congratulated you? That’s not too much to ask, is it? They should praise you. You deserve recognition for your hard work. Invite it. Bask in it.

At first, it sounds reasonable enough. I did work for this. Maybe I do deserve something for it. I can take a compliment, right? That’d be nice. Our culture loves this mentality. It’s easily disguised as confidence or healthy self-esteem. In reality, it’s usually nothing more than conceit.

“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Proverbs 26:12 (ESV)

“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Proverbs 16:5, 18 (ESV)

I hope you can see now what I mean. I’m not disparaging confidence, assertiveness, or a healthy mental attitude. Those are all great qualities to have. I’m simply trying to unmask the sinful pride we so often hide behind other labels.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

Romans 12:3 (ESV)

In my example, my inner voice is tempting me towards pride. It mixes truth in there to encourage me to justify it as something neutral or positive. The truth is that I gave a successful presentation, that I am valued, and that I’m using the gifts my Savior gave me. The lie is that I got to where I am independent of God, that I deserve praise, and that I need man’s approval to be satisfied in my work.

I like to think of that tempting voice as a demon of selfishness I have to constantly fight off or an enemy I have to guard against. But the thing is, it’s not a demon or a fiend. It’s me.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

James 1:14-15 (ESV)

This is the true culprit. It’s my selfish nature, my sinful flesh, the “old man.” But it doesn’t feel like it’s me. It just feels like a comforting resentment, a gentle push towards quick satisfaction, a quenching of my thirst for self-gratification. It feels good. And that’s the hardest part.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Romans 7:15, 18-20 (ESV)

We have to challenge this voice. We cannot let it go unrestrained. It will lead us away to death by continuously pulling us down into sin. So how do we fight it? What can save us from ourselves?

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9 (ESV)

Only by confessing and offering ourselves to God can we escape our enslavement to sin. We cannot live without a master. We must serve something. We are incapable of apathy, unable to rid ourselves of a desire to worship. So we must find something worthy of our worship, a substitute to our worship of self.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Romans 6:12-14 (ESV)

I’ve taken to using a unique strategy in being mindful about combating my inner voice. When I hear it tempting me, I yell at it… in my head, of course. “Shut up!” “No!” It’s a way I can interrupt my autopilot thoughts and refocus my attention in the moment. I question what I’m telling myself rather than accept it automatically. It helps. Obviously, there’s more to it than that. I have to offer myself to God and confess my sin if I want to keep it from gaining a foothold. Daily commitment to scripture reading and prayer, along with a church community willing to keep me accountable, is essential.

I love the way the King James Version puts these verses:

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Ephesians 4:22-24 (KJV)

That’s the key to this process of fighting off our inner voice of selfishness. We must put off the old man and renew our spirits, allowing the new man to take control and lead us towards holiness. Only with God’s help can we become people who truly serve him and are satisfied in him alone.

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1 (ESV)

So stop listening. Stop letting your inner voice lead you down paths of logic towards the gallows. Stop bargaining with yourself to see how much sin you can get away with before it catches up to you. Refuse to let it bind you. Run towards freedom. Freedom from our inner demons doesn’t come through acceptance of sin, blind positivity, or being self-sufficient. It comes through Christ.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

Let me know your thoughts about battling inner demons in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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