Archive for the ‘Fallacy’ Category

The Christian Sabbath and an Example of the Lexical Fallacy – Acts 20:7

April 10, 2009

I was sad to see someone engaging in a classical lexical fallacy over at the PuritanBoard (link). I don’t know whether the moderators there will leave it up (they have been diligent in the past about eliminating misleading posts), so let me summarize the argument the person posting uses:

1) Acts 20:7 is translated in the KJV as saying that the disciples gathered on the “first day of the week.”

2) Actually, the Greek word used is “sabbath” not “first day of the week”.

3) Therefore, the disciples actually met on the Jewish sabbath, i.e. Saturday, which then spilled over into Sunday when the meeting went long.

End of the argument.

First of all, no lexical fallacy has zero basis, so what is the basis? The basis is the fact that Luke uses the word “σαββατων” (sabbaton) in the verse. Also, this word is frequently translated “sabbath” in the New Testament. These things are true, but the lexical fallacy is to stop there and say “aha, they met on the Jewish Sabbath, i.e. Saturday.”

Luke doesn’t just use the word “σαββατων” by itself he uses the expression “τη μια των σαββατων” (te mia ton sabbaton). What does this expression mean? It means “the first of the week.”

It’s the same expression used in John 20:19:

John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first [day] of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

It’s the equivalent expression we see early in the same chapter

John 20:1 The first [day] of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

in Mark 16:9

Mark 16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first [day] of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

and in 1 Corinthians 16:2

1 Corinthians 16:2 Upon the first [day] of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as [God] hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

But, you might say, that perhaps these are controversial texts. After all, maybe you want to believe that the word also means “Jewish Sabbath” in those passages too. Thankfully, God has provided a couple of more usages that show that this isn’t so:

Mark 16:1-2
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the [mother] of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first [day] of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

A form of the same word is used twice in those two verses: “σαββατου” in verse 1, when it says that the “sabbath was past” and “της μιας σαββατων” when it says that Mary Magdalene came “the first [day] of the week.” I’m not sure it how it could be much more clear that this is the day after the Jewish sabbath, i.e. Sunday, the first day of the week.

But, in case, someone still doubts that the term usually translated “sabbath” can also mean “week” check out Luke 18:12:

Luke 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

Does someone really think that the guy means that fasts twice on the sabbath day as opposed to fasting two times in one week? That would be rather like quitting smoking two times in one day, don’t you think? It’s a ridiculous interpretation, just as the argument that the “τη μια των σαββατων” is not the first day of the week is a ridiculous argument relying on a lexical fallacy.

Oh, and how do I confirm that? Well, I confirm it by noting that “των σαββατων” is conjugated as a plural genitive σαββατων, not a singular one σαββατου. This is just one of a myriad of examples that I could give of people employing the lexical fallacy, where they get themselves a copy of Strong’s concordance and figure that if the word usually means “x” it means “x” in this instance.

But, in these instances, Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, and the gospel accounts, we learn that the weekly (sabbath) meeting of the Christians was Sunday, the first day of the week, rather than Saturday, the Jewish sabbath.


Long on Fallacies – Short on Rebuttal

September 5, 2008

Mr. Bellisario (editor of Catholic Champion) has provided a response (link) to my earlier article (link) exposing the errors in his video (link).

Logical Fallacies

a) Ad Hominem

MB describes me as “the man who is afraid to use his real name.” This is about the only ad hominem that can be applied to an anonymous opponent. What makes this a clear ad hominem is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. There were also lots of personal attacks, accusations of dishonesty and the like. These, while unpleasant, are not so obviously ad hominem since hypothetically they could simply be an accurate description of the other side’s presentation.

b) Straw Man

MB takes the position that: “Whether or not the “container” is called a tabernacle or not is irrelevant in Dr. White’s video, since he tells us that there was no such existing container before the 12th century.”

Dr. White actually said (at 4:12 in his video here): “As the New Catholic Encyclopedia notes, such items as the tabernacle, pyx, ciborium, etc. begin to appear only at the same time as the use of the term “transubstantiation.” While the ancient church carried the host to the sick, the idea of reserving the host in a tabernacle for worship came about at this later time, as Schaff notes, ‘The elevation and adoration of the host were practiced in the Latin church as early as the 12th century.'”

Thus, MB’s comment is not true and provides a straw man. In fact, Dr. White’s comment about “carried the host to the sick” was a nod to the fact that casings of the consecrated elements predate the development of transubstantiation. If MB wishes to make claims that Dr. White is wrong (recall that his claim was:

Now lets also call out James White on his video regarding the liturgy and Transubstantiation in which I posted responses to a few months back? I flat out called him on his erroneous conclusions he formed from his “12 century” arguments on the tabernacle, the host elevation etc. He loves to attack Catholics and mock them on his blog and his radio show, yet he cannot defend his own foolish arguments. Where is he and his arrogant response on this? We are waiting. In fact even some of his fans have expressed a perplexed attitude towards his refusal to acknowledge my video posts. We all know why don’t we? When you can’t defend your erroneous arguments, then you do not answer.


And he claimed this as well:

In the 3 part video I demonstrated where his historical arguments against the Eucharist, Transubstantiation, the elevation of the host and the tabernacle were completely false. I have yet to see him address these.


Now, MB claims:

TF tries to twist both of the author’s writings that I posted to substantiate Dr. White’s asinine claims that no such container existed before the 12 century, because quite simply Dr. White does not have the guts to defend his false position. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter what the container was called before the 12th century. The fact of the matter is that the consecrated wine and bread, “The body and Blood of Christ” were stored in these ancient containers in the Churches by at least the 4th century.

In fact, MB is simply wrong. Dr. White was not arguing that the consecrated bread and wine were not stored before the 12th century, but instead was addressing the innovation of the “tabernacle” casing – a casing designed so that the people of the church could adore the consecrated bread and wine through a window – a window that was illuminated by a candle or lamp.

MB further claims:

Tf has once again proven that he just can’t rationalize a logical argument. He instead persists with his sophistry that makes no sense whatsoever in regards to Dr. White’s argument. Dr. White attempted to say that there was no such container in any of the Churches before the 12 century, which is complete idiocy. He did this in order to justify rejecting belief in transubstantiation before the 12th century.

Again, however, MB has simply mischaracterized Dr. White’s argument. It is related to the transubstantiation issue, but not in the way that MB seems to imagine. MB seems to imagine that the argument is that before the 12th century the bread and wine was simply tossed in the gutter. That’s not the argument. As noted above, the argument is that the tabernacle developed to permit worship, in the form of adoration, to be offered to the consecrated elements, while those elements were locked up in storage.

C) Non Sequitur, Red Herring, and Straw Man

MB continues with a logical fallacy hat trick:

As both authors I posted contend, at least by the 4th century there were containers called by various names that housed the consecrated elements. Therefore this makes Dr. White’s claims inaccurate since even though the container was called several names, which I also spoke about in my video, it served the same purpose. Its purpose was to house the consecrated elements, which once again proves the Church believed that Christ was truly present after the consecration in the early Church.

This is a non sequitur, because “holy water” was also stored in fonts at some point in Catholicism’s history, and yet it does not follow that because this consecrated water is housed, that it is because Christ is “truly present” in it.

This is a red herring, because the issue of the true (or “real”) presence of Christ in the consecrated elements is not the issue: transubstantiation is. It’s not really clear from Mr. Bellisario’s comments whether he appreciates the genus/species relationship between real presence (a genus) and transubstantiation (a species).

This is a straw man because it seeks to prove the undisputed fact that there were containers earlier than the tabernacles. Dr. White’s own comment about the elements being distributed to the sick is a reference to the fact that there were earlier containers.

Nothing that TF posted on this to “vindicate” White. Please read the full article and not just one part posted by this guy who refuses to believe anything of the true Gospel. For instance Turretin Fan completely ignores this part of the writing which he uses to defend Dr. White.

D) Straw Man Burnt Again

MB continues by quoting from the article he previously identified, in which it states: “Whatever may be true of the early centuries, it is certain that from the fourth century onward the practice of reserving the Holy Eucharist in churches became general. The form or shape of the receptacles in which it was enclosed, the location of these receptacles, and the names given to them, differed in the various epochs and in the various countries.” These would be great arguments if someone wanted to argue that the “Holy Eucharist” had never been reserved in receptacles in churches. That, however, was not Dr. White’s argument.

In addition to Logical Fallacies, there was some of what can only be described as unpleasantness in the post. Take this example:

So as you can see, TF and White’s weak argument here is once again refuted. This guy just cannot get his head around a real argument, and constantly uses faulty logic in his writings. I have no use to converse with this man any further. Someone who will go to any lengths to defend someone without any regard for the full text given on the subject is not a rational man and I have no use to converse with any further. You can read his latest excuse for an argument on his blog (Thoughts of Francis Turretin). I know, this is not a prudent way to admonish someone right? Well I am sick and tired of these people spitting on the face of Christ and calling themselves Christian. I find it also completely reprehensible that this Turretin will not use his real name and he hides behind someone else’s name rather than his own, for obvious fear that everyone will see what an ass he really is. I am truly trying to be charitable here folks. I had to rewrite this twice to tone it down a bit. But when you see this slippery, slimy, split tongued method of twisting words, contexts of arguments, etc, to try and vindicate someone who made obvious false claims, I just can’t sit still for it.

It’s not all that different from what he previously wrote:

I am really to the point now of disassociating with these guys. I will finish my debate with TF. But after that I no longer have any use for someone who will not face reality.


And not so different from the comments he provides immediately after suggesting that Pius XII’s words against schismatics are relevant to the situation:

We saw the dishonesty of Turretin fan and his side-clown Gene Bridges when they both tried to tell us that the Catholic church endorsed the “withdrawal” method. Then we saw them both lie to everyone who has read the posts on the internet regarding the posts they put forth regarding the subject. He and Bridges were proven wrong over and over and yet they refused to admit it. You can go back and read the whole argument on the subject of contraception in which I put there own words to the test. Then they both denied the meanings of the words Bridges wrote earlier in a post which I presented as evidence. This guy will go to any lengths to vindicate his and Dr. White’s heresy, and frankly it makes me sick.

(Here’s a side challenge to MB: try to find a quotation from me stating that the Catholic church (by which one presume MB means the church of Rome and those in communion with her) endorsed the “withdrawal” method. I don’t think his claim is grounded in fact, but I’m willing to be corrected if he can bring forward his quotation.)

But leaving aside that side-challenge, the theme we see from MB’s post is a lot of logical fallacies followed by his indication that he really doesn’t like yours truly. But his dislike is not limited to yours truly:

Now on to Dr. White. He loves to mock Catholics on his website. His latest attack has been mounted against Patrick Madrid. You can visit White’s blog at his AOMIN page to witness this latest barrage of attacks. He recently called out Steve Ray to a debate as if he was some kind of unbeatable gunslinger in an old west movie. This guy truly thinks he is God’s gift to “Christian” apologetics. Yet when I have proven that the premise of White’s video was completely off base, he sends his minion Turretin (the one who can’t even use his real name), to defend his bad argument. A quality bunch of guys you have there White. You endorse a guy who is afraid to use his real name. That says a lot about this group of White’s doesn’t it? Need I say more? It is real easy to shoot your mouth off online when you hide behind a false image isn’t it?

Granted, there is a little something about me in there too, but it is clear that MB does not have a high opinion of Dr. White.


Dr. White’s claim regarding the fact that tabernacles developed after the introduction of the term “transubstantiation” is vindicated. Despite Mr. Bellisario’s evident wish that Dr. White had claimed something different, the truth for all to see is that Dr. White claimed (at 4:12 in his video here): “As the New Catholic Encyclopedia notes, such items as the tabernacle, pyx, ciborium, etc. begin to appear only at the same time as the use of the term “transubstantiation.” While the ancient church carried the host to the sick, the idea of reserving the host in a tabernacle for worship came about at this later time, as Schaff notes, ‘The elevation and adoration of the host were practiced in the Latin church as early as the 12th century.'”

I want to call on Mr. Bellisario to keep in mind the warnings of his own church’s catechism, which reminds the reader:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
– of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

– of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them. (footnotes omitted)

I would respectfully submit that Mr. Bellisario should be more careful to avoid rash and calumnious words, and better to consider arguments before responding to them.

When your Protestant opponent begins his argument by appealing to a standard reference work like the “New Catholic Encyclopedia,” it is probably the part of wisdom not to assume that it is just the New Catholic Encyclopedia that says what he says. In this case, the historical fact that the creation of tabernacles for worship of the consecrated bread and wine arose followed the introduction of the concept of transubstantiation (not the concept of the real presence, but the concept of transubstantiation) cannot reasonably be denied any longer. I call on Mr. Bellisario to do what is right: acknowledge his mistake and apologize for his unkind and unjustified words.

Mr. Bellisario is brave enough to put a name (I assume it is his real name) to his work. Perhaps he will also be brave enough to admit that he made a mistake in interpreting Dr. White’s words and argument in the video in question. To encourage him in that regard, as soon as he rectifies the matter by removing his video and posts that falsely assert error where there is none, I will likewise remove this post and its predecessor since it is not my purpose here to embarrass Mr. Bellisario, but simply to see the truth vindicated.


Where’s the Catholic Church?

July 30, 2008

Richard (aka “Mary’s Son”) provides us with an example of two logical fallacies in one (source):

Richard writes: “You can say Roman all you want to try to confuse the term Catholic; but go out on any street in the world and ask for directions to the nearest Catholic church: you’re not going to end up in a Presbyterian church or any other church but in the only Catholic church there is; that which is in communion with the bishop of Rome.”

1) The argument from ignorance. Paraphrased as: “Since most people don’t know the difference between the term “catholic” and “Catholic,” it must mean there is no difference!” The fact that most people are ignorant of the difference is a negative judgment on their education: it is not a way to establish the matter logically.

2) The argument from the masses. Paraphrased as: “If practically everyone thinks it is so, they must be right.” The fact that most people think something is so doesn’t make it true. Democracy is not the way we establish truth.

The refutation to this silliness is simple: Ask the man on the street for an “Orthodox” church, and he won’t point you to a church in communion with Rome! Oh no. He’ll point you to a church more or less loosely affiliated with Constantinople. It must mean (by analogous reasoning to that of Richard) that Rome, while “catholic” nevertheless has fallen into heresy! This is obviously unacceptable to most of those who would have the same church affiliation as Richard.

In fact, despite many bad arguments from “Orthodox” folks, I think I’ve never heard such an obviously bad one. It’s too bad that there are at least some few people who think that the argument is a good one as applied to Catholicism.

Of course, Richard’s underlying accusation, i.e. that people use “Roman” to try to “confuse the term Catholic,” is a misplaced accusation. No one (that I’ve ever heard of) uses that term to try to confuse, but rather to try to avoid ambiguity, since there is a real and important difference between the church of Rome, which calls herself the “Catholic Church” and the universal (“catholic”) church of Christ (all those people who believe on Him for salvation as he is offered in the Gospel).

Finally, it’s not an horribly original argument. It’s loosely based on similar arguments either presented by or attributed to church fathers. It’s important to remember that not every argument made by the church fathers was a good argument. But when one engages in taking an argument about nomenclature, ripping it out of its context, and plopping into a new context a thousand years later, one should be unsurprised that it flops around like a fish out of water — and just as quickly expires.

To answer the subject question, the catholic church is the body of all believers. It is not at an address: it is throughout the whole world. Its faith is preserved in all those churches where the Gospel is preached and believed. Thus, through metonymy, a “catholic church” (i.e. a congregation that fits the label “catholic”) is a place where the faith of the catholic church is taught. By that definition, one would not look to the churches in communion with Rome, but in Evangelical churches.

Thus, if you get the subject question, I hope you’ll consider answering: “Are you looking for a place where the Gospel is proclaimed?” And then directing them to such a place, or explaining why that ought to be their objective.


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