Historians & the Word-Concept Fallacy


History-And-Fallacies-Trueman.jpgThere is another version of this fallacy, however, which denies that somebody can have a particular concept if they lack a particular word or phrase. A good example can be found in relation to the fourth century discussions of Trinitarian doctrine. Popular author Dan Brown, in his inexplicably popular The Da Vinci Code, makes it sound as if the deity of Christ was an invention of the church in the fourth century and that the vote at Nicea was a close call. In fact, we know that the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of Christ’s divinity (one might debate as to how representative the gathering was, or to what extent the emperor’s menacing presence may have influenced the delegates, but one cannot debate the margin of victory). Thus, Brown is guilty of basic factual error; but he is also guilty of confusing the existence and acceptance of a specific creedal statement with the existence and acceptance of a concept. For instance, much work has been done by scholars such as Richard Bauckham on the evidence for the fact that the New Testament writers themselves believed that God was one, that Jesus was God, and that there was a distinction between Father and Son. That this concept was not formulated using the technical Greek vocabulary which was developed and refined during the fourth century in order to give it clear expression is undeniable; but that does not allow one to conclude that the basic concepts which the Nicene Creed was to articulate were not present prior to the coming of the creedal terminology.

[Carl R.Trueman, Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History, (Wheaton, IL, USA: Crossway, 2010), 156.]


American Gospel, by Jon Meacham


American Gospel, by Jon Meacham

This is far from the first book to explore the history and mythology behind the relationship of Christianity to American culture and government. To apply a meteorological metaphor: the topic acts like a stationary front hovering just off our coast, but occasionally coming ashore visiting political gusts, cultural storms, and rare incidents of violent behavior upon our land. So much has been written that one hardly knows where to begin.  Continue reading

The Watergate Scandal: A Selective Timeline

This Sunday, June 17, 2012, will be the 40th anniversary of the bungled break-in of the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC. The ensuing cover-up, prosecutions, and more than two-year-long scandal resulted in the first (and so far only) resignation of an American president.

I put together the following video and uploaded it to both my YouTube and Vimeo accounts. The Vimeo account has the advantage of being ad-free (the YouTube ad inconveniently appears right over my captions, unless you manually close it). And if you go directly to the video on Vimeo, you can watch it in full-screen high definition.

Sixty years ago today

The first year in which Major League Baseball offered its Rookie of the Year Award was 1947 (at that time there was only one award for both the National and American Leagues). Coincidentally, it was in that same year, on April 15, Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first African American Major League Baseball player. He went on to hit .297, lead the National League in stolen bases, and win the Rookie of the Year Award. Branch Rickey‘s gamble had paid off.