My vote for the best book of the 20th Century will probably be Thomas Sewell’s The Vision of the Anointed since among many other poignant perceptions is the excellent explanation of Begging the Question as a basis for argument. For those unfamiliar with the long-ago taught principles of argumentation, Begging the Question starts with a statement assumed to be truth that is not necessarily a truth, nor does the writer make any attempt to verify his statement as truth. He merely makes the statement, assumes it to be truth, and proceeds to build the rest of his arguments on that statement. Sewell’s book is written as an excellent summary of this erroneous practice by the liberal social consensus of our country. His premise is that they make a statement, assume it to be true because they thought it up, said it, or both, and then proceed to make every other “truth” dependent upon that first premise. This “vision” as he calls it, has so pervaded the social left that they cannot see their own error in beginning with a false assumption. Example: “Americans disapprove of the war.” This generalization assumes that all Americans have given their disapproval. Did they ask me, or even a majority of Americans? No. Therefore, that premise is invalid and any argument to end the war based on that statement has no validity (and is invalid for other reasons of argumentation). The average Gallup Poll (survey) questions fewer than 1000 of the nearly 500 million Americans. 1
Teaching requires that we establish truth as verifiable, researchable, and valid conclusions as reproducible. Today’s Christian is without excuse in my estimation. Research and study avenues abound in our age and we have the tools for verifiable argument. Yet our literature and speech is so glutted with fallacious reasoning and arguments built on assumed premises that it is no wonder the lost world questions us. One does not have to be a scholar to see through or understand a false premise, Begging the Question, or other weak arguments. These were commonly taught (I refer to the Harvard Principles of Argumentation and Persuasion as one of the most common texts until about 1980) in most schools. Let us study to show ourselves approved so that we are not put to shame.
Remember: Truth is verifiable under any scrutiny. If you really have the truth, any research, study, or questioning will only prove you right. If, however, the research or scrutiny calls your “truth” into question, you should bend over backwards to get to the truth. How else will a lost world accept our spiritual truth unless we have proven ourselves good stewards of the truth in all arguments?
1Wiley, John, “Where America Stands,” Online Edition, The Gallup Organization, 1997.