Summary: Let's learn to apply logic to our sermons
I hope to teach how to preach logical sermons.
How do we recognize deception? How do we avoid self-deception? How often have we heard fellow Christians say things that seem rather half-baked and irrational? How often have people in the scientific or educational community ridiculed Christians for their inconsistent arguments or vice versa? This sermon topic introduces the idea of teaching right reasoning, common sense, in order to minimize logical fallacies in the church.
I can hear some of you now. "I don't want to become a trial lawyer, nor do I want to look at something from a worldly source. I'm only interested in godly issues." Good for you. However, remember that we must explain these godly issues to people who understand how the world thinks. In an increasingly well-educated world, we don't want to appear to be from the planet Irrelevant. Also, logical thinking is not pagan worldliness. It contains universal principles which are discoverable by converted as well as unconverted people. Let's use the good things of the world to spread the greatest news of all.
This chapter teaches some basic introductory principles regarding logic. It helps the preacher to use right techniques of argument and uses examples of some urban legends in the Christian community to show how good or bad arguments produce good or bad teachings.
Many sermons by otherwise moral and upright preachers are a mix of good and bad forms of argument. Good arguments contain the three elements of being (1) consistent, (2) sound and (3) complete. To be truly consistent none of the theories in our preaching or indeed our theology can conflict. To be completely sound our logic may not allow us to infer something false. To be complete, our preaching needs to all pertinent proofs for any position must be given. Not all of our beliefs, doctrines and teachings will achieve this level of consistency, soundness and completeness, but that ought to be our goal. Our theology at 40 ought to be more mature than our theology at 20. That may involve some changes, anything from minor to revolutionary changes, depending on what kind of Bible college we went to in the first place and how far off-center we were.
It could be said that there are 4 main kinds of argument: inductive, deductive, inferences and analogies. These are further divided into endless lists and varieties of argument. Let's look at a very brief list of areas of good and bad logical construction in the Christian world. These are placed in roughly alphabetical order, and are just a sample of some of the issues to be considered in preparing sermons that are logical: -
Ad Hoc (Improvised, Impromptu)
Ad hoc means that I make up a reason for believing something on the fly. There is no time for research of a logical argument, so I invent something. This is the kind of argument that we often hear fellow Christians use when we are put on the spot and need to give an answer for our beliefs. For example, "Why do you so many Christians raise their hands these days?" Ad hoc answer, "Oh because the high priests in ancient Israel had blood on their hands when they were anointed to office and they raised them up. This pictures the blood of Jesus, and I'm raising my hands symbolically picturing the blood of Jesus on my hands." The problem with this ad hoc argument is that it is based entirely upon fiction. Better to have simply said either I don't know, or that the Bible gives examples of the raising of hands in worship.
Solution: Show that the answer was given off the cuff, without adequate forethought or research.
Post Hoc (False Cause)
C followed B, therefore B caused C. For example, in Acts 2:4 we read that people were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues. Some Christians believe this is a cause-effect relationship, that speaking in tongues is always an outward evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. However, it does not say that the one caused the other; merely that one followed the other. It does not say that the one follows the other every single time merely that it occurred this time. In fact if we research the words "Spirit filled" or "filled with the Spirit" throughout the Bible we find that vastly different details are given (Exodus 35:31; Luke 1:15; Luke 1:41-42; Luke 1:67-68; Luke 4:1; Acts 4:31; Acts 6:3-5; Acts 7:55; Acts 9:17-20; Acts 11:24; Acts 13:9-10; Acts 13:52; Ephesians 5:18-20).
Rather than B causing C, it may also be the case that both are the results of A, something different again. For example, "Low church attendance is being caused by our preacher's depression." In fact the low attendance and the preacher's depression may be caused by some other problem in the church.