Wednesday with Watson: Interpreting Scripture

Richard Watson (1781-1833) was an Arminian theologican and author living in Britain. Here is an excerpt from his Theological Institutes on interpreting the Scriptures (chapter 11). The original text appears in italics but I added the bulleted formatting.

The second use of reason respects the interpretation of the [Scriptures]; and here the same rules are to be applied Continue reading

Do we need enduring faith?

While Paul was in prison in Rome he wrote a letter to the church at Colossae. In the letter he is urging the church to reject false philosophies and points to why we need Jesus. In verses 1:21-23 he presents us with a conditional statement that could be written out as follows:

if you really continue in the faith and do not shift from the gospel (enduring faith)
then you are reconciled by Jesus’ death and will be presented holy and blameless before him

The Martyrdom of Paul

The Martyrdom of Paul

In a conditional statement, like the one here, the if-clause is known as the protasis and the then-clause is called the apodosis. The apodosis can often be expressed as a statement that can stand independent of the protasis. Read Colossians 1:21-22 as if it had a period at the end of verse 22 and you see that this is a complete thought. It can stand on its own. However, the occurrence of an if-clause, like the one we have in 1:23, attaches a condition to this otherwise independent statement.

Continue reading

Where the clothes are the person must also be (answer)

This post contains the answer to the question posed in the post where the clothes are the person must also be.

I encourage you to try and solve the questions posed in the prior post before reading the answer.

Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell. – Holmes

Holmes Statue at Baker Street

Lestrade has established a valid argument. The argument in a more structured form could be stated as follows:

hypothesis If the clothes were found by the river then the body must be in the river
observation The clothes were found by the river
conclusion Therefore the body must be in the river

Lestrade also thought it was a sound (or at least a highly probable argument)  based on his actions. He has found the clothes by the river. Based on this evidence (or observation), Lestrade started dragging the Serpentine River looking for a body because of his working assumption that his hypothesis (see table) was true.

However, Holmes frustrates the detective by pointing out (though the argument is valid and the conclusion is probable) there is a faulty  assumption Lestrade is making.

Holmes argument could be stated in a more structured form as follows:

premise A person is always found near their clothes
premise their clothes (or most of them) are in their closet
conclusion Therefore the person is in the closet

Lestrade assumes that the clothes being found by the river would be an indicator that the body would also be found nearby.  While not committing any formal fallacy, Lestrade is close to committing the fallacy of the converse accident by forming his hypothesis as a general rule that will be true in all circumstances, rather than one of several possibilities. His generalization, even if based on his actual experiences as a detective, will turn out to be incorrect.

If the hypothesis Lestrade accepted was correct, then he would have a more probable chance of success in finding the missing bride by looking in her closet.

This is a good illustration reminding all of us that a valid argument can turn out to be false. While it can be argued that it is probable that the body was in the river, the clothes could also have been placed by the river for a variety of reasons that do not include the body being in the river as the rest of the story shows to be the case.