Wednesday, May 11, 2011


In the book Black Swan by Nassim Taleb, he quotes Locke on the definition of a madman as "someone reasoning correctly from erroneous premises."

This is a helpful definition for many reasons. Our standard madman "one who continues to do the same things while expecting different results" is certainly a cousin of the madman arguing well from false premises.

The latter madman continues to do this over and over, expecting his hearers to agree with him, even while he produces no new arguments and fails to realize that he, himself, is arguing in such a way that he can never be right,no matter how sound his argument.

This is why being ground in presuppositional apologetics is so vital. We often find ourselves listening to men of the world, men of science, presenting valid and beautifully crafted arguments that fail to convince us of their truth. And what is worse, many Christians then fall to the temptation to participate in these arguments, applying the false premises, in an attempt to convince the opponent.

But a man who is only willing to apply true premises is the only one that come up with the consistently correct answers. Incidentally, this is why deductive reasoning is always superior to inductive reasoning.

So, where do we start? Where are our infallible first principles, first premises? Of course, they are in the only place were we can find ultimate and infallible authority, God's Word, the Holy Bible.

There is a third madman and he is our Christian brother, "one who argues using the premises of his opponent in an attempt to convince him that he is wrong."

The Christian brother who simply borrows the unbeliever's premises for a moment to show him how quickly they devolve into absurdity is not mad. He is wise. But the Christian brother who has adopted the premises of unbelief should just as soon hit himself in the head with a hammer as assume he can convince an unbeliever of truth by using the tools of unbelief.

But how can we start with the Bible if we have to prove the Bible is true in order to convince men to believe it? That is just the point. He has first principles, too, and he makes no attempt to prove them, spontaneous creation, evolution, survival of the fittest, the good of mankind. And when you push him to prove them, he has no place to turn.

But we simply admit that our first principles are God's specific revelation to us. We start there without embarrasment or apology and we move towards man's response to God. We are willing to appeal to our authority and they are unwilling to appeal to their authority.

Let us not be like these madmen, appealing to good arguments with false premises but standing on the Word of God, let us learn to argue faithfully from true premises.

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