Proof/Persuasion Distinction

“…studying apologetics is important to distinguish proof from persuasion. It is important to distinguish proof from persuasion. Well, it’s not just in apologetics, frankly; but in apologetics it becomes very important that you not be confused between these two different notions—proof and persuasion. An argument need not 29 be accepted by everyone for it to be conclusive. An argument need not be accepted by everyone for it to be conclusive. Another way of putting this is a sound argument is not weakened as an argument…a sound argument is not weakened as an argument by the errors, or fallacies, or stubbornness of someone who is not assenting to the argument. If I offer as an argument to somebody: All sailors are drunkards. Popeye is a sailor. Therefore, Popeye is a drunkard. On the assumption that my premises are true and the logic is acceptable here, the fact that a person may have the irrational desire to defend sailors against that kind of accusation, and therefore will not assent to my argument, has nothing to do with my argument. And there’s more to it than argument here. But as you’re assessing an argument, as you’re assessing a proof, the response to it is a completely different matter. On the other side—I mean, I’ve talked about people that have good arguments who, through fallacies, or mistakes in their own thinking, or stubbornness don’t want to assent to them. On the other side, there are people who are convinced of conclusions for very bad reasons. There are some people who believe things with no argument at all, as a matter of fact. They may be fully persuaded of something, and yet they don’t even have an argument for it. I only bring these things out to help clarify there’s a difference between proof and persuasion.”

(Bahnsen, Answering Frame’s Critique of Van Til)

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