It is often asserted by the New Atheists that there is no evidence for the existence of a god, much less the god of Christianity. One reason for this is that the presuppositions derived from their metaphysics (subconsciously) do not allow them to consider the possibility of anything non-material. This leads them to hold to an epistemology, or method for discovering truth, which rules out a priori1 any evidence that is not mathematically quantifiable or subject to empirical observation. In short, they rig the game in their favor. Perhaps another, less obvious, reason for this mistaken idea is that the New Atheists are only looking at the New (contemporary) Christians. While I certainly think it worthwhile to study the many outstanding works of modern philosophers and theologians, it would be a great misfortune for any student to ignore the great thinkers of the last few millenia. The history of Christian thought is so rich and full that to focus on the present would be to only see a small tip of the intellectual iceberg.
After my last pretty heavy-hitting post, this one should be a bit easier to follow.  Identifying a fallacy requires some subtlety, but can become second-nature after some practice.  That being said, one of the real pitfalls of catching fallacies is that one can obsess over them, seeming to find them everywhere.  This is often due to misusing the new-found "power," identifying fallacies that aren't there in the first place.  Today we find ourselves surrounded by sloppy skeptics of just about every subject, determined to slap "fallacy" on the side of any argument.  Because of this, some care is required.

There are both formal and informal fallacies.  A formal fallacy is an argument that is invalid. Interestingly, this says nothing of the premises or the conclusion of the argument; it is only the structure of the argument that is at fault.  An argument may be fundamentally flawed and yet the conclusion be correct.  Formal fallacies are not limited to deductive arguments.  Inductive arguments that misapply the principles of probability, statistics, or causality are also considered formal fallacies.  An informal fallacy, on the other hand, is an argument that can suffer from any number of shortcomings that render the argument unpersuasive; the error in the argument is not a flaw in the logic but in something else, such as the plausibility of the premise(s).  In other words, an informal fallacy is found in the argument's contents, rather than in the form of the argument.

Let's look at some examples of formal and informal fallacies.

In preparation for a series of posts on Thomas Aquinas and his Five Ways of knowing God, we thought it would be helpful to write something explaining what metaphysics is.  Though this post may seem somewhat dry and abstract, it is a critical first step toward the understanding of much more interesting subjects to come.  We encourage the reader to take a deep breath, watch this ridiculously awesome video of Darth Vader playing the bagpipes while riding a unicycle, and then dive in!

What is Metaphysics?

As with most of philosophy, many contemporary laypeople (and professionals of other fields) are confused about what metaphysics actually is. It is not uncommon to hear someone define metaphysics along the lines of "the study of those things which are unprovable, unrealistic or generally abstract in nature." This sort of "definition" seems to have been crafted for the explicit purpose of dismissing those things which cannot be empirically verified. Though admittedly hard to define, the term metaphysics actually means something more along the lines of "the study of the fundamental nature of reality," and is concerned with questions such as "What things actually exist?" and "What are those things like?" How one answers these questions will largely affect the way one thinks about virtually everything.

We thought it would be good to do a brief primer on logic before moving forward with any other posts. This will be a series consisting of two posts, the first dealing with some of the basics of argument and propositional logic, and the second with informal fallacies. Obviously, these two posts will hardly even scratch the surface of the field of logic, but it is nonetheless an important foundation to have for any reasoned debate. In this age of internet trolls and drive-by commenting, these two posts alone will take the reader well past the average person’s understanding of logic.

Let's play a game. I'm going to throw out three names, and you tell me what they have in common:

John Calvin
Thomas Hobbes
If you've stumbled upon this blog, welcome. It is run by two friends who met in their undergraduate days and – rather strangely – found out that they grew up within minutes of each other, several hundred miles away from their alma mater. We have been interested in defending the Christian faith for some time, as well as hearing out the objections to that faith. Both of us are engineers by training, and a keen interest in science originally led us to seek an intellectual defense of our beliefs. We gradually came to realize that the battleground between Christianity and its opponents lay in the realm of philosophy, a much maligned and thoroughly misunderstood branch of study. Perhaps you will see through our posts how we came to recognize philosophy's ultimacy as a foundation for all belief systems and world views. This is not to say that we have lost interest in science and its interaction with Christianity; on the contrary, we recognize that there are still many interesting and contentious issues here worth considering. Similarly, in working through the Christian faith itself, there are many facets of theology worth exploring. It should be evident through our writing that these fields are inter-related, and cannot possibly be studied in isolation from one another.