Think Again: The Danger of Preferential Reasoning

basketball on blackThere seems to be a tendency in human beings to draw the logical conclusion that each of us prefers to be true. So when it comes to evaluating arguments for reasonableness and explanatory power, preference tends to weigh heavily in our final assessment. Preference can even at times trump solid evidence that points to the truth of an alternative conclusion.

As conscientious students of logic, we should attempt to be objective in our reasoning, but sometimes personal preference can exert a strong influence in our thinking. Let’s look at an example from my world as a sports fan.

As a sports fan I eat, drink, and sleep in Lakerland. I have been a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan since 1969. I watch nearly every Lakers game on television, and I avidly read many articles and books about the franchise and its players. I even have a collection of Lakers championship hats. When I think about the Lakers, I think about them with both my head and my heart. I’m even told that I can be somewhat temperamental about purple and gold, the famous Lakers uniform colors.

So in light of my Lakers attachment, let’s ask a question:

Are there good reasons to believe that the Los Angeles Lakers will make the playoffs in the upcoming 2015–16 NBA season?

Well, as a dyed-in-the-wool Lakers fan my strong preference is that they will indeed make the playoffs. In fact, since the Lakers didn’t make the playoffs the last two seasons, and since last season was their worst win-loss record in the history of the franchise, you can say I’m virtually desperate that they make the playoffs this coming season.

However, there are some ominous but cogent reasons to think that the Lakers will again miss the playoffs. First, the Lakers have a lot of young and new (though talented) players who have not yet played together, so they lack chemistry. Second, the Lakers franchise star Kobe Bryant is coming off his third consecutive season-ending injury and is now 37 years old. Third, the Western Division of the NBA is filled with very good teams, thus making the playoff cut very hard to reach.

While my preference is to think (or hope) the Lakers will make a playoff run, the evidence against it is substantial. Therefore, I have to think with my head and not just with my heart.

Yet it needs to be understood that one’s preference in selecting an argument can be logical. How so? Beliefs can be based upon rational, nonrational, or irrational considerations (or even a combination thereof).

Rational considerations involve things like arguments, facts, evidence, reasons, explanations, inferences, and so forth. Irrational considerations arise when a person forms a belief that violates the necessary and irrefutable laws of logic or standard principles of reasoning. Nonrational considerations may include things like intuition, feelings, needs, preferences, fears, desires, etc. Thus, various factors influence a person’s beliefs about reality and truth—some of the factors are rational (consistent with reason), some irrational (in conflict with reason), and some nonrational (not based upon reason).

Of course, rational factors should be given priority. However, nonrational factors may be quite compatible with what is first determined to be rational. In other words, to focus upon religious beliefs, a person may prefer Christianity to be true (perhaps due to the attraction of a loving and forgiving God) over other belief systems. But there are still viable, cogent reasons for believing Christianity is in fact rationally true (for example, the resurrection of Jesus and his unique life).

So be careful about leading with your preferences when it comes to analyzing arguments. But also remember that some beliefs are not directly based upon reason but can still be consistent with reason.

See other installments in this series here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, and part 7.


  • My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains a number of episodes given to the topic of Christianity’s relationship to reason. It is archived at I recommend in particular that you listen to the episode entitled, “Athens or Jerusalem? Faith and Reason.”
  • Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. Most formal logic texts (even used ones) are very expensive, but RTB sells my book at a very reasonable price. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.

“The Martian”: The Ultimate Rescue Mission

MV5BMTcwMjI2NzM2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDkyNTI5NTE@._V1_SX214_AL_This Friday, the film adaptation of Andy Weir’s highly successful debut novel The Martian hits theaters. In anticipation of the film’s release, I met with editor Sandra Dimas to discuss how The Martian might help remind others of a different kind of rescue mission.

Sandra: In The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars by his crewmates after he is believed to be dead. It soon becomes clear that simply trying to survive on Mars is a constant struggle—yet life can thrive on Earth. As a Christian, what do you think that says about our home and our Creator?

Ken: I saw this interesting series on the Apollo astronauts. Almost all the astronauts looked back at Earth and compared it to our desolate, lifeless Moon. Numerous astronauts said that they had to come to the Moon to realize the gift of Earth. Atheists might wonder why there are so many places in the universe where life can’t survive. But I would ask, in light of all this inhospitality, why is Earth so hospitable to life? We kind of walk around Earth taking for granted that God has created this wonderful planet that has an adjacent Sun and Moon and stars. We take all of the benefits for granted, until we think about what life would be like on a planet that’s not friendly.

Yet we hear news stories about humans eventually colonizing Mars.

That’s right. In fact Stephen Hawking has said there’s going to be too many people on Earth and that we’ll have to travel to another planet. He is a brilliant scientist, but how could he say that humans could survive elsewhere knowing the incredible challenges that would pose? Earth is the goldilocks planet. Mars isn’t all that different from Earth in terms of size, but as The Martian shows us, it’s incredibly difficult for one person to try to survive on Mars, let alone a whole civilization.

Speaking of trying to survive on Mars, Mark must solve a slew of mechanical, mathematical, and engineering problems. Christians might say humanity’s ability to solve complex problems is a reflection of being made in God’s image. How might a naturalist explain such abilities?

In some way, Adam had to become the mechanic, the gardener, the zoologist, and so on. He had to tackle all of these challenges as they came. I think the Christian would say that God equipped him, and all of humanity, to face those challenges. When it comes to naturalism, evolution is the mechanism, but it’s unguided. Evolutionists will say the guiding mechanism is survivability, and that a person has to muster all of his reasoning, rationality, and intuition to survive in an environment that’s not hospitable to him.

Right. And that is very much the case for Mark. His survival is completely in his own hands.

In that sense, maybe there is an attraction toward atheism because of autonomy—“I get all of the responsibility of trying to survive but I also get all of the benefit.” Some people find that heroic. Philosopher and atheist Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that if God doesn’t exist, life is meaningless, but through your own strength of will you create meaning for yourself. I can understand how certain people would like that. I’m not one of them. If life had no meaning, I’d need some heavy doses of antidepressant medication. But some people think, “Well, if there’s no God then I take that role.”

One of the most powerful moments in The Martian is when Mark realizes the sacrifices that people made to try to save him—million-dollar missions abandoned, countless overtime hours worked, months spent traveling in space. Mark comes to the conclusion that every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. What are your thoughts on such a statement and how might it lead us to think about the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross?

That’s a very provocative way of framing it. Here you have people who are sacrificing their time, their money, and their effort to rescue this one individual. Jesus rescues us from a sinful state. When people are uneasy about eternal conscious punishment, which I think everyone is at some point, typically my response is, what did it cost God to save us? God gave his only begotten son to redeem lost humanity. That’s where we have a lot of good questions to ask our naturalist friends. In a world of “survival of the fittest,” why would other people be so sacrificial? Aren’t they going against the evolutionary grain to use all those resources for one guy? But Christians don’t think that way. They think that every human being is made in the image of God and is therefore valuable and worth rescuing. God set the example when he came to rescue us.

This line here really hit home: “The cost for my survival must have been hundreds of billions of dollars, all to save one dorky botanist. Why bother?” When we reflect on ourselves, we might say, oh I’m just one dorky editor, or I’m just one dorky writer. Yet Christ saw us as worthy of rescuing, and the cost of our rescue was Christ’s life.

That’s absolutely right. As I think about it theologically, it would be one thing to rescue somebody who’s great, somebody who’s valuable, somebody who has all of these wonderful qualities, but God rescued a bunch of people who are rebellious, who give him the finger, who want their own way, and yet, he comes to die for the ungodly.

How does altruism look from a naturalistic perspective?

Altruism I think is a very difficult thing to define in an atheistic view. They have to weigh how many resources to use on this one individual. I think an atheist has every right to say this guy’s on another planet, he got himself there; to heck with him, it’s not my problem.

Mark Watney reflects on sacrifice, particularly for someone who, if you count the cost, doesn’t deserve to be saved. Yet the author of The Martian is agnostic. I think it’s interesting that it wasn’t his motivation to convey the gospel and Christ’s sacrifice, but he so beautifully conveyed that. I hope he sees your interview and I hope that he sees how his words impacted people.

I wonder if the author is not aware that he may still be dealing with the effects of being made in the image of God and God has put those beliefs in him. From a Christian point of view, with my Christian anthropology, I might look at that and say, he’s actually conveying something deep within his heart and he may not fully be aware that he’s conveying it. Sometimes non-Christians can present the gospel in better ways than Christians.

Absolutely. There’s value in such works. I certainly found value in this one. Do you plan on seeing the film?

Yeah, you’ve intrigued me by it…


Adaptation: A Story of Brilliant Design

This is an article from guest writer Dr. Anjeanette Roberts.

126486493In storytelling, every tale is told within an overarching framework. Settings, events, characters are critical in storytelling and plot development. The best writers create tension, foreshadowing, plot twists, and characterizations that not only entertain, but also make sense within the world the writer has established. It’s how it all fits together and progresses towards a meaningful, if not surprising, ending that makes a great story. Bad stories, on the other hand, result when the story’s world violates its own principles, or when the protagonist defies his or her own nature.

Two Tales of the World

If we consider cosmic and life history as a story, then we could expect it to unfold and develop in ways that reflect its origin and purpose. Naturalistic explanations and assumptions will produce a story structured very differently, with very different characters and settings than one described by a biblical model, in which a powerful, intelligent, transcendent Being created the universe and life. Let’s ponder the tales these two tell.

In a naturalistic story line, as time unfolds the physical, mechanistic interactions observable in the universe, there can be no goal, no foreshadowed climax, and no moral or purpose in the end. The characters are mechanistic and the setting is devoid of intent and purpose. Any language that is employed to animate naturalistic processes or biological entities as characters of intent does not fit well with the naturalistic story structure and foundation. For example, to tell a naturalistic story where viruses “cleverly evade” a host’s defense system or genes evolve and persist because they are “selfish” and “desire survival” is extremely poor naturalistic storytelling. As is the following: “Almost all aspects of life are engineered at the molecular level” [emphasis added].1 The language is inconsistent with naturalistic mechanisms because it does not reflect unguided mutations and natural selection. Instead, it endues the characters with imaginary powers.

A naturalistic story without characters of intent and action would captivate no one. Not only would it bore us to tears; it would be a hard sale because it’s an account foreign to our daily experiences.

Our lives and understanding of reality differ drastically from a story fitting a strictly naturalistic framework. Our world contains characters of intent, animation, contemplation, abstract reasoning, and self-awareness. We are not mere mechanistic processes that advance through accruing mutations over time. We are intricately complex, dynamic, creative, willful characters reflecting a dynamic and brilliant Creator. The design and engineering replete within biological organisms, as well as the extreme diversity of species extant and extinct, and the incredible fine-tuning required to sustain highly complex and technologically advanced life is astounding! Such observations led eminent scientist Francis Crick to exhort his colleagues to “constantly keep in mind” that the apparent design in nature is not design but the byproduct of naturalistic evolution.2

In stark contrast, eminent thinkers like the apostle Paul articulate the design in nature quite differently:

They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:19–20, NLT)

In reality our world is bursting with characters that ask questions, form hypotheses, reasonably test them, and build stories with plots and purpose and meaning. We deeply desire meaningful and purpose-filled lives. We will and actualize specific actions. We develop complex, abstract theories and derive mathematical models to understand and mirror creation’s designs. How unfitting to naturalism’s story!

I say all of this primarily to point out the difference in basic story structure between naturalism and creationism, and to encourage people to consider how faithfully data interpretation and conclusions fit into competing stories’ structures. Data interpretations and conclusions depend on which tale one is trying to tell and will fit one’s preferred story to varying degrees of satisfaction. When considering our collective experience and observations of the world, I believe a greater degree of fittingness is found in the progressive creationist story drawn from Scripture and scientific observations.

Let’s consider the specific case of molecular adaptation. Naturalists often herald molecular adaptation as a hallmark of evolution. But is this truly the case?

Adapting to the Story Line

Adaptation addresses how organisms change, survive, thrive, and develop—or else fail to do so —over time. In its scientific context it primarily reflects molecular changes at the genomic level that result in increased fitness to the organism. Adaptation certainly occurs within every organism that has the ability to survive or thrive. Organisms that cannot adapt will not survive. Species will be driven to extinction in the absence of adaptation. Adaptation could certainly occur within both the naturalistic and the biblical story lines but which one is the best fit?

Adaptation is a quality of living, not inanimate, objects. Therefore, adaptation cannot drive biogenesis (life from non-life) in any story line, naturalistic or biblical. Furthermore, molecular adaptation is not a process of intent. It is not an outcome implemented by an organism’s will to adapt or survive. Adaptation is really a descriptive term reflecting molecular changes that result in increased fitness under specific conditions. In a naturalistic story it actually describes the relatively unlikely mutation events that result in increased fitness. Unlikely, because most mutations will result in a loss of function, rather than an increase in function or fitness.

Nevertheless, adaptation—an incredibly unlikely series of accruing fitness mutations in an unguided mechanistic scenario—is evident everywhere we look! Single-cell and complex organisms adapt continually.

Within a biblical story line, a powerful, omniscient, and intelligent Being who originated life in it’s diversity would reasonably endow it with a variety of adaptive mechanisms in order to survive and thrive under eons of moderate and extreme environmental stresses and challenges. Molecular adaptation, within a biblical, common-design narrative, may be understood as a remarkable process of modification within complex, systematic architectures. It is completely consistent and even predicted within a story of brilliant design.

Molecular adaptation is either an unlikely event that somehow blindly drives evolution toward new remarkable heights for no intended outcome, or it is a mechanism of great foresight and creative engineering intended to increase survival and thriving of highly diverse organisms in the face of extreme challenges. Molecular adaptation fits both stories, but it fits as well or better in a biblical story of creation.


  1. Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (New York: Basic Books, 1988).
  2. Ibid.


By Anjeanette Roberts, PhD

Dr. Anjeanette (AJ) Roberts received her PhD in cell and molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996, and currently serves as a Visiting Fellow with the Rivendell Institute at Yale University in New Haven, CT.

Apologetics Strategies: The Myth of a Bulletproof Argument

Imagine if there was one argument for the truth of Christianity so convincing that everyone who heard it immediately embraced the gospel. Imagine evidence so persuasive that all you had to do was share it with your unsaved friend, and she’d instantly leave her unbelief behind. Imagine a proof that could overcome all obstacles to Christian faith.

Almost sounds like magic, right?

And yet, these musings reflect how many Christians think apologetics ought to work. Reasons to Believe (RTB) frequently receives letters from readers asking questions like, “How can I change the naturalist’s mindset?” and “What can I do to get my brother to believe when he isn’t convinced by the scientific evidence for God?”

These idealists are looking for an argument so compelling that it can almost overcome freewill itself. And in most cases, Christians want this bulletproof argument to be very easy to learn and articulate—about as effortless as learning a nursery rhyme.

The reality is, however, there is no foolproof way to help someone overcome all their intellectual obstacles and bring them to faith in Jesus. Why? Belief involves a complex network of factors. Here are four thoughts to consider.

1. There is a difference between sound arguments and persuasion.

Taking a course on critical thinking skills can help Christians understand the differences between sound arguments and fallacious ways of thinking. Being aware of these differences sharpens our ability to evaluate the quality of the arguments that we share with unbelievers.

However, articulating sound arguments should not be confused with persuasion, which is another thing entirely. Many attorneys know that it’s quite possible to present an elegant, tightly reasoned argument based on well-established evidence but still fail to persuade a jury. When you’re engaging in apologetics with an unbeliever, what you find persuasive might not be enough to convince that jury of one.

2. Conversion is seldom a straight line from unbelief to belief.

Coming to faith often involves multiple layers of movement in a person’s life. Occasionally, it happens quickly. For example, a street preacher approaches someone, shares the gospel, and the person is so overcome with conviction that they give their life to Jesus right on the spot.

Most of the time, however, conversion is a slow process of investigating claims as God orchestrates situations to bring about a change in a person’s thinking. It’s slow because conversion essentially involves changing one’s entire worldview. A person might need to rethink their view of the existence of God, life after death, the source of morality, and the reliability of the Bible.

3. Evangelism often involves a long-term investment.

Hugh Ross has astutely noted that it usually takes about six to seven years for a research scientist to come to faith in Christ. As mentioned above, worldview systems involve a complex web of interconnected beliefs, so it’s rare that people overturn all of those belief systems in quick fashion. They often need time and space to undergo a process of evaluation, and they need people who are willing to go through that process with them. This is why evangelism is rarely a one-shot conversation.

With this in mind, you want to be careful not to burn all of your relationship bridges in one conversation, especially if it’s with a family member, roommate, or coworker. It’s generally a good idea to have multiple conversations over time and patiently stay the course instead of trying to force the person into a decision. If the person feels heard and loved, they are more likely to revisit difficult conversations about faith. But if the person feels intimidated, pressured, or shamed, the door to future conversations will probably be closed. I have found that it’s often better to stop a little short in a conversation, take some time to pray and even ask the Holy Spirit for an opportunity to re-approach.

4. Faith is a work of the Holy Spirit.

There is a common misconception that apologetics is about arguing people into the kingdom of God. This explains why so many Christians are searching for easy-to-explain bulletproof arguments, but it is a gross misunderstanding of how apologetics works.

Apologetics is merely one tool in a Christian’s evangelism tool belt. In the book of Acts, early evangelists utilized a variety of tools, including praying for healing (Acts 3, 5:12–16, 19:11–12), casting out evil spirits (Acts 8:4–8, 19:12), preaching the gospel (Acts 2:14–39, 3), reasoning from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2, 18:4, 18:19, 19:8), and reasoning from philosophy (Acts 17:17).

The modern concept of apologetics most closely resembles the apostle Paul’s message at the Areopagus (Acts 17:22–31). In this passage, we see how Paul presents argumentation to the philosophers of his day by building an intellectual bridge from the familiar (Greek philosophy) to the unfamiliar (a Jewish Messiah as the Savior of the world).

At the close of Paul’s sermon, we notice three responses: yes, no, and “I’d like to hear more” (Acts 17:32–34). Every Athenian gathered there heard the same sermon, so what causes such differing responses? Ultimately, it is the movement of the Holy Spirit that changes hearts. That’s not to say that we should just defer to sloppy arguments. Rather, it’s a call to be very clear about our job description. Our job is to present sound arguments. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to persuade people and change hearts.

Not every unbeliever needs a high level of evidence in order to consider Christianity. Some people simply need to know that Jesus can heal their wounds. Other people need to know that their sins aren’t too big for Jesus to handle. But there are those who need a more evidence-based approach to faith. Just like the Christians in the book of Acts, we must discern which tool in our evangelism tool belt should be used at any given moment. And whatever method we use, we need to also give the Holy Spirit room to do his job!

Looking for an easy-to-explain bulletproof argument is like looking for Bigfoot; the search would be in vain because they’re mythical. A one-size-fits-all solution could never address the variety and complexity of belief systems that people bring into a conversation about faith. Being an evangelist is the calling of every Christian. Let’s make smart investments of our time and develop a robust evangelism tool belt instead of looking for shortcuts.

This post is part of a larger series on apologetics strategies for the Average Joe. See other installments in this series here: part 1, part 2.


By Krista Bontrager

Krista Bontrager is the dean of online learning at Reasons to Believe. She is a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching the Bible to all ages. She has an MA in theology and another in Bible exposition from Talbot School of Theology.

My Attachment to St. Augustine

A number of Christians have found my attachment to St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430) peculiar. Some probably think St. Augustine belongs exclusively to the Roman Catholic Church, and perhaps they mistakenly assume that no Protestant can genuinely appreciate a Catholic saint. But what these Christians fail to realize is that Augustine is as historically and theologically important to Protestants as he is to Catholics (agreeing with Westminster Seminary theologian Carl Trueman’s assessment). In other words, Augustine is a universal Christian voice within Western Christendom. Reformed theologians John Owen and Benjamin Warfield shared a respectful attachment to St. Augustine. Interestingly, Augustine is not especially well liked or appreciated in Eastern Christendom among the Eastern Orthodox. For example, Eastern Christendom views him as far too pessimistic concerning original sin.

Others probably think that since Augustine was not an inspired biblical author like Paul, John, or Peter, then studying his life and writings reveals a failure to appreciate the uniqueness of Scripture or its final authority. Yet a significant part of my respect for Augustine lies in his deep dedication to the truth and authority of Scripture. The second half of Augustine’s extraordinary life is spent seeking to understand, explain, and defend Scripture and the great doctrinal truths of historic Christianity.

I’m attracted to St. Augustine for many reasons. First, as a Christian philosopher I think a person needs to hitch their wagon to a broad philosophical-theological tradition within Christendom (to agree with contemporary Christian philosopher David Naugle). For Christians, philosophy can either serve theology as a handmaid or become a challenge to it. In navigating the topics of faith and reason, a person needs a reliable guide. In my opinion, Augustine’s approach to faith and reason (theology and philosophy) is superior to all other philosophers and theologians (though many agree with him). In my view, Protestants Martin Luther and John Calvin are excessively suspicious of philosophy, and Catholic St. Thomas Aquinas isn’t as personal or as biblically oriented on certain topics as the esteemed Bishop of Hippo. Though let me be clear that I respect all of these great Christian thinkers.

Second, outside of Scripture, I think Augustine’s Confessions is one of the greatest Christian books ever written. It is both a literary and Christian classic. When I read Confessions I think Augustine is writing about me. As a broken, flawed, hypocritical, but forgiven sinner I appreciate Augustine’s example of being a great sinner who, by God’s extraordinary grace, subsequently became a great saint. Augustine’s life gives me hope in my earnest attempt and struggle to lead a godly life.

Third, I greatly appreciate Augustine’s work as a philosopher, theologian, and apologist. He powerfully and insightfully addresses many of historic Christianity’s critical truths: faith and reason, the Trinity, grace, the problem of evil, and creation ex nihilo.

I was also primed to like Augustine because two of my apologetics mentors in the faith, Walter Martin and Ronald Nash, were fond of the North African church father.

Of course, I don’t agree with all of Augustine’s views and opinions (he wrote more than five million words); but you can be in the broad Augustinian tradition even if you occasionally disagree with Augustine himself. Nevertheless, I find in him an orthodox and faithful Christian pilgrim who serves as a helpful theological and philosophical guide for me in trying to live out the Christian world-and-life view.


The Ethics of Dropping the Atomic Bomb

Coauthored with Michael Samples, presently a student at Riverside City College.

In a world full of hatred, death, destruction, deception, and double dealing, the United States at the end of World War II was almost universally regarded as the disinterested champion of justice, freedom, and democracy.1

This quote from distinguished World War II historian Stephen E. Ambrose conveys a powerful message about the use of moral and military might by the United States of America during the Second World War. At the time, America was seen as an exceptional nation that liberated millions of people and yet, unlike the Soviet Union, didn’t seek to take advantage of the vanquished nations. In fact, America spent billions of dollars to help rebuild both Western Europe and Japan.

August marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; however, some people still question whether these strikes against the Japanese were indeed morally justified. And yet upon reflection, sound military and moral reasoning does justify President Harry Truman’s decision to use atomic weapons against both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This monumental decision was effected in order to save potentially millions of human lives and put an end to the greatest catastrophe in human history. Leading scholar John Keegan described the Second World War as “the largest single event in human history, fought across six of the world’s seven continents and all its oceans. It killed fifty million human beings, left hundreds of millions of others wounded in mind or body and materially devastated much of the heartland of civilisation.”2 (Other sources estimate the number of people killed in World War II ranges from 60 million to 70 million.)

The justification for such a tragic event rests with the reasonable assessment that at least hundreds of thousands more American soldiers would be killed and wounded if the Japanese mainland was invaded. The estimated death and casualty toll for the Japanese (including both soldiers and civilians) could reasonably have reached into the millions. So while the atomic bombings on the Japanese cities were horrific, the decision to bomb instead of invade likely saved millions of lives. Furthermore, ensuring Japan’s swift surrender to the United States has proved to be very beneficial to the Japanese people. America rebuilt Japan and that assistance led to Japan’s becoming a world economic power. Today, Japan competes with the Western world in terms of gross national product.

Nearing the end of the war, the United States dictated a peace plan to Japan that clearly defined the terms of their acceptable surrender. This plan was known as the Potsdam Declaration. However, Japanese leaders were reluctant to accept the terms of surrender because they were concerned about the real possibility that their emperor would be held morally accountable for the war and charged with war crimes. The Potsdam Declaration also stated that if Japan rejected the terms of surrender, the Japanese would face the imminent and complete destruction of their entire nation. The subsequent atomic bombings proved strategically successful. After suffering the loss of approximately 200,000 people, the Empire of Japan officially surrendered to the United States shortly after in September 1945.

Did America Have Another Viable Option?

If America had decided to forgo the atomic option, then the only other choice would have been to proceed with launching a full-scale invasion of the Japanese mainland. However, the amount of bloodshed that would have likely resulted from such an operation was staggering and, therefore, made such an option unviable. According to the Air Force Association, when President Truman consulted with US Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall on the possible casualties of a full-scale invasion, American casualty estimates ranged as high as 500,000. General Marshall also estimated that enemy casualties would be considerably higher based upon other campaigns against the Japanese. Moreover, the number of Japanese civilian casualties would have undoubtedly been high as well.

In making the decision, the leadership of the United States also weighed the tenacity of the Japanese fighting force. The horrific and gruesome fighting in the Pacific Theatre had shown the Japanese to be a formidable enemy. The Japanese military had already proven their ferocity in combat as well as their penchant for barbarism when it came to innocent civilians in places like China and the Philippines.

The Japanese militarists believed that it was dishonorable to surrender. Thus, they would literally fight to the very last man. These were the principles of a code of honor known as Bushidō (the Way of the Warrior). While Adolf Hitler’s special SS troops did share these brutal characteristics, the Japanese soldiers took fighting to a level that the average German soldier did not. Not only would Japanese soldiers take their own life before surrendering, but also they would attempt to take as many American lives as they could down with them.

Kamikaze (spirit wind) attacks were also a common type of terror attack in which Japanese airplane pilots would crash their planes into American aircraft carriers to inflict maximum fear and damage. Other tactics utilized by the Japanese military included running into a group of soldiers with the pin of a grenade pulled, and hiding in trees and bushes awaiting the enemy with a bayonet. Japan’s soldiers ignored the rules of warfare laid down in the Geneva and Hague Conventions. The difficult terrain and geography of the mainland also made for awful fighting conditions and worked to the advantage of the Japanese. The Japanese soldiers used guerilla warfare and were already accustomed to the wet, muddy jungles of the Pacific Islands.

Desperate to end the war and save untold American lives, President Truman’s most viable option was to consider making use of the two newly available atomic bombs that were the technologically advanced military products of the Manhattan Project. Two strategically placed bombings in the major industrial and military locations within Japan were considered sufficient to end the war quickly. Some people raise the issue that America should have warned the Japanese by allowing them to view the detonation of an atomic bomb and witness the potential destructive power of these new incredible weapons. But the American military only had two active atomic bombs ready for deployment. President Truman couldn’t afford to waste one of these vital weapons, and, as it turned out, it was only after the second bombing that Japan finally decided to surrender to the United States.

Therefore, America’s use of atomic weapons against the Empire of Japan to end the Second World War was a tragic necessity for all the reasons mentioned above.


  1. Stephen E. Ambrose, American Heritage New History of World War II (New York: Viking, 1997), 601.
  2. John Keegan, The Second World War (New York: Penguin, 1989), 5.

Think Again: Christianity’s Relationship to Reason

Are Christians well known for their careful thinking, or does faith do damage to reason? While skeptics sometimes question whether historic Christianity comports with a vigorous logical outlook on life and the world, the truth of the matter is that many advancements in the area of logic have come from the work of Christian scholars.

In Patrick Hurley’s popular college textbook, A Concise Introduction to Logic, he lists ten eminent logicians who have made significant contributions to the field of logic. Interestingly enough, six of the ten famous logicians were either Christians or closely associated with theism:

  1. Peter Abelard (1079–1142)
  2. William of Ockham (1285–1347)
  3. Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716)
  4. George Boole (1815–1864)
  5. John Venn (1834–1923)
  6. Kurt Gödel (1906–1978)

So, just what is Christianity’s relationship to reason? Well, even though there are far too many individual believers who seem to have an anti-intellectual faith, the Christian worldview overall proposes that faith involves knowledge and is itself compatible with reason. Here’s the assessment of Christian philosopher Ronald Nash on the topic: “Even though most people who reject Christianity treat it as a refuge for enemies of reason, the truth is that there may be no worldview in the history of the human race that has a higher regard for the laws of logic.”1

While some Christians remain unaware that the Bible has a high view of reason, here are some of the intellectual virtues that Scripture mandates: checking sources, reflection, discernment, honesty, and testing (Acts 17:11; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 14:29; Colossians 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). Scripture also indicates that because God made human beings in his divine image, human cognitive faculties and sensory organs function reliably to engage in the rational enterprise. Historic Christianity therefore values logic as a good gift of God.

So the next time a skeptic insists that Christianity doesn’t have a high view of logic, inform them that the Bible promotes and values critical thinking and that there have been many eminent logicians who were believers. And stay tuned for more articles on logic as we attempt to think again!

See other installments in this series here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6.


  • My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains a number of episodes given to the topic of Christianity’s relationship to reason. It is archived at org. I recommend in particular that you listen to the three-part series entitled, “Intellectual Code of Conduct” (part 1, part 2, and part 3).
  • Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. Most formal logic texts (even used ones) are very expensive, but RTB sells my book at a very reasonable price. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.


  1. Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 74.



Think Again: Logic vs. Passion

Do you know that it’s possible to engage in a vigorous argument without your face turning red, your jugular vein popping out, or raising your voice? Lots of people think of arguments solely in terms of verbal fights, but there is another kind.

businessman fight in boxing ringThe kind of argument of which I speak is, of course, a logical argument (instead of a heated disagreement). A logical argument consists of making a claim (also called the conclusion or central point), and then seeking to provide support or premises for that claim. If you only make a claim and provide no support (in terms of evidence, facts, and reasons), then you have a mere opinion, not an argument. And if you supply evidence but fail to marshal a claim, then you just have a lot of information. In other words, a logical argument is a supported opinion.

It is easy to feel passionate about the central point of your argument—especially when the person you are conversing with feels equally passionate about a different or opposite point. But strong emotions, while a normal part of being human, can indeed color one’s logical analysis. Though it may not be easy to engage in a dispassionate analysis of one’s deeply held conclusion, it is important to try.

As noted above, emotion is a natural and important element of being human, and emotion is often involved in the truly positive experiences of our everyday lives. However, emotion can be so strong that it can limit our ability to examine ideas and issues analytically. So don’t stop appreciating genuine emotion, but try to keep your emotions in check during logical exchanges so that they don’t become a negative factor in the reasoning process.

Another thing to watch out for in logical debates is caring too much about winning the argument. Discovering truth is more important than your ego. Unfortunately, some of us cerebral types like to constantly keep score of our logical victories. But it would be better to take a hit to one’s ego and lose the debate if the result was that you were corrected and discovered truth. Truth always trumps the fragile needs of our pride.Next time you engage in a formal argument, see if you can present your argument in the most winsome way possible. And stay tuned for more articles on logic as we attempt to think again!

See other installments in this series here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.


  • My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains a number of episodes given to the topic of logical and critical thinking. It is archived at I especially recommend that you listen to “Need for Dispassionate Analysis.”
  • Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. Most formal logic texts (even used ones) are very expensive, but RTB sells my book at a very reasonable price. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.

Think Again: Logic’s Golden Question

What’s the point?

That is the essential question to ask when critically examining arguments. In logic, the point is always what the argument’s conclusion indicates. Thus, the conclusion is also called the central point of the argument. It is what the arguer is attempting to prove and encourage others to accept. The sooner you identify the point of the argument, the better off you are in your critical thinking task.

Since knowing the point is absolutely essential in thinking through an argument, losing sight of the point is logically disastrous. In fact, one of the biggest obstacles to careful thinking is distraction. Anything logically irrelevant to the central point of the argument provides no support for that conclusion. The problem of irrelevance is that it tends to throw the reader or listener off track, and thus the point is hidden or lost.

There is a group of informal fallacies (errors or mistakes in reasoning) called fallacies of relevance. Fallacies of relevance include such common errors in reasoning as red herring, straw man, and ad hominem. All three of these errors involve diversion and cause a huge logical problem. Here’s how these three informal fallacies of relevance unfold:

  1. Red herring: This fallacy misleads the reader or listener by appealing to secondary or extraneous issues (i.e., changing the subject).
  2. Straw man: This fallacy involves misrepresenting the argument of another, usually by making the argument seem more extreme (distortion).
  3. Ad hominem: This fallacy is committed when a person ignores the opponent’s argument and instead attacks their character, which is irrelevant to the argument.

All three of these fallacies are quite common and can be detected and corrected by diligently pursuing the genuine point of the argument.

Remember to get into the habit of asking that critical question: what’s the point? This short question is golden in logic. Ask the question and keep on asking it as you evaluate the logical claims that you and others make. Don’t ever lose sight of the point or your ability to evaluate the argument is lost. So arm yourself with this powerful question, and stay tuned for more articles on logic as we attempt to think again!

See other installments in this series here: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.


  • My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains many episodes about the topic of logical relevance. It is archived at I particularly recommend that you listen to “Logic 101H: Straw Man and Red Herring.”
  • Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. In fact, there is an entire chapter addressing various logical fallacies, including red herring, straw man, and ad hominem. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.

Apologetics Strategies: How to Talk to the Experts, Part 2

man on plane_iStock_000053959068_MediumIn part one of this series, we imagined a scenario where you find yourself on an airplane conversing with a quantum physicist. You want to dialogue about science-faith questions, but the discussion could go several different ways—or even shut down quickly depending on the level of expertise you bring to the table. I asked you to consider your audience, how you relate to that person, and how that relationship can impact your discussion. Do you have the knowledge to keep up with a conversation about quantum mechanics? Are you better equipped in a different field, like philosophy or theology? Or are you an Average Joe, fueled by a love of the truth and, perhaps, an interest in apologetics?

If you’re not a scientist, does that mean that engaging with people with greater levels of expertise is off limits? Not necessarily—however, such discussions do need to be handled carefully. Here are a few practical ideas to help you keep the conversation going with someone who has more technical knowledge.

1. Defer to the Expert

If you find yourself in a conversation with an expert, assume that the other person really does know their field. Unless you’ve had graduate training in science, it’s unwise to act like you know more about science than the scientist. So defer to his or her expertise. This will show them respect.

I’ve found that this principle is also helpful when talking to people who belong to different religions. If a family member belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), assume (at least for the sake of conversation) that they know more about LDS theology than you. Even if you’ve read books by Christians about LDS theology, chances are it’s been reinterpreted through the lens of historic Christianity, which may not be an accurate reflection of how people think inside the religion itself. It shows humility and respect when you give people the grace to be the expert in their own belief system.

2. Ask Questions

As an introvert, I have often experienced great difficulty making new friends. My mother advised me, when meeting new people, to ask questions about the other person’s life and interests to get to know them better. After all, people love talking about themselves. I have found this strategy to be very useful when engaging others in faith-related conversations, especially if they have more expertise than I do in a particular academic discipline, like science.

If you find yourself chatting with a scientist, ask thoughtful questions about his or her research interests. It’s usually easy to keep the conversation going by giving verbal invitations, such as, “That’s interesting. Tell me more,” and “What got you interested in that question?” This kind of engagement often moves the conversation from the academic to the personal realm.

When appropriate, I also find that it can be helpful to ask the scientist whether they are “religious” or if they’ve had a “personal faith journey.” This kind of language leaves the issue open to interpretation, but it is an effective way to begin to dig into their worldview a bit more. If that seems to go well, I’m not beyond inviting them to share with me about their hang-ups and even their animosity about Christianity, Christians, and organized religion in general. I’ve also been in a few situations where I apologized on behalf of the Christian in their life who abused them. Taking this step often opens new doors of care and concern.

The goal in any conversation is to land it in a graceful way. This is especially true when having conversations with family members and coworkers, where the relationships will have a long-term engagement. Your genuine curiosity shows your care for that person and builds a connection with them. It’s important to leave things in such a way that doesn’t shame the other person or create animosity.

The more willing we are to listen to a person’s difficulties, the more willing they are to give us some room later (often several conversations down the road) to share with them about our own journey to faith in Jesus.

3. Recommend Resources

When you’re a non-expert talking to an expert, don’t fall prey to pressure to have all the answers. If you’re outmatched academically, remain calm. You can always invite the expert to explore resources from qualified peers. If you are talking to a scientist, send them over to or recommend one of our books to them. Reasons to Believe’s (RTB) team of scholars and editors work hard to put together resources that can be given away to nonbelievers to investigate on their own or to facilitate further discussion.

Consider carrying a stack of business cards with you with the RTB web address on it to give away to the experts you encounter. If appropriate, you can follow up by gifting them with an RTB book or DVD.

If you really want to step out in faith and go on a Holy Spirit adventure, ask Him before you leave for your next trip to guide you in selecting an RTB book to take with you in your carry-on bag on the plane. Don’t be surprised if God divinely appoints someone who needs that very book to sit in the seat right next to you!

I hope these ideas will spark your imagination for how you can creatively share about the God harmoniously revealed in both Scripture and nature with those you encounter in your daily life.


Dr. Jeff Zweerink outlines his apologetics strategy in RTB Live! vol. 16: 4 C’s of Science Apologetics (DVD). This is one of my favorite RTB messages.


By Krista Bontrager

Krista Bontrager is the dean of online learning at Reasons to Believe. She is a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching the Bible to all ages. She has an MA in theology and another in Bible exposition from Talbot School of Theology.