It appears to me that one of the first things a faithful theologian needs to do is to straighten out the confusion brought about by the world’s separation of faith and reason. This relationship is so vital to a biblically fastened worldview that to neglect it will involve the believer in a host of conflicting beliefs and practices. For it is just here that the negligent Christian theologue will be attacked.1 To the average man in the street, “faith” is that “I really hope so” attitude that many people employ when their circumstances get tough. It is that blind trust that things will turn out all right in the end. Faith thus defined is the opposite of reason. “Reason” deals with the cold hard facts, so it goes, and is what we have to use in the “real world”—in business, in science, in education.
One Christian writer has put the matter in the form of a question: “Is it rational for us to believe in God? Is it rational for us to place our confidence in Him and his revelation to man? Can a person believe in God without performing a sacrifice of his intellect?”2
The term ad hominem is much misunderstood these days. In popular usage, it’s a personal attack leveled against someone you disagree with. Many never use the term without appending the word attack. “It’s nothing but an ad hominem attack,” they complain, as though an ad hominem is a nasty species of attack that automatically disproves every claim the user ever made. (And is it just me or does just about everybody employ “ad homnem attacks” even though they insist nobody else should?)
My aim here is to clarify a few things about the much misunderstood ad hominem.
First, the ad hominem is an argument, a bit of reasoning employed to support or counter a claim. Specifically, ad hominem looks to some trait an individual possesses (usually a flaw) to show that a claim is false (or, less commonly, that a claim is true). Ad hominem means “to the man,” and as a form of argument it is not inherently invalid or improper—or even impolite.
Asking someone what logic is in a conversation will no doubt draw blank stares of confusion and bewilderment. To many people logic is the stuff mathematicians and philosophers discuss and has no relevance for the man on the street. But this could not be further from the truth. Logic pervades our everyday lives through our thought processes and accompanying speech. And contrary to a secular and naturalistic understanding, logic does not exist independently on its own but is rather rooted in the nature and character of God.
They say that any publicity is good publicity, but that may not be true. Pillsbury Baptist Bible College has recently received some rather unwelcome attention. First, a prominent pastor in Indiana has publicly narrated a pejorative but largely fictitious account of his expulsion from Pillsbury during the 1970s. Then a blogger from back East published a negative report complaining that the campus coffee shop wasn’t open at night and he was bored while visiting the college. He named another Bible college, then asked, “If Pillsbury and ________ are the same price, why would anyone ever go to Pillsbury?”
That question is worth answering, not because Pillsbury is necessarily better than every other college, but because it has its own strengths and character. The truth is that Pillsbury should appeal to some students. Not every collegian will want to go there, but prospective students from fundamental churches should at least consider it.
Why go to Pillsbury?
First, because Pillsbury is a small-town school. It has the benefits of a city without having the crime and congestion. Pillsbury doesn’t need to keep a coffee shop open at all hours, because Owatonna has lots of places that sell coffee. You can get a cup any time you want! Owatonna also has a Wal-mart, a Target, a Mills Fleet Farm (the “men’s mall”), and a Cabella’s. There is an outlet mall nearby, and there is plenty of industry in and near the town.
My wife knows when I want to eat. When she says, “I bet you want something to eat,” I don’t wonder if she has some weird link to my hypothalamus. She has reasoned. She bases this on many things that she knows about me. Among those things: 1) When I don’t eat for a while, I get hungry; 2) I hate bananas.
Premise 1: He wants to eat something when he doesn’t eat for several hours.
Premise 2: He hasn’t eaten for several hours.
Conclusion: He wants to eat something.
Premise 1: He does not like to eat things that have bananas.
Premise 2: This item has bananas.
Conclusion: He will not want to eat this item.
What, then, would my wife say if I have not eaten for 10 hours and there is only banana cake? If I am hungry enough, perhaps I will eat even the dreaded banana. Would that mean that the second principle and syllogism are false? No, they are still true, but in a relative sense. I don’t like bananas—generally. In fact, both conditions (“time since eating” and “amount of banana”) may be true to a greater or lesser extent.These conditions vary independently. They each may vary alone, together, or in opposite ways. I might have eaten minutes ago or days ago, regardless of whether the item I am offered is banana-free or 5 percent or 50 percent banana.
Neither of these principles is presented with the other as an exception. For instance, the second argument did not read: