Volume 16 Issue 6
“An argumentum ad populum (Latin: ‘appeal to the people’), in logic, is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges that ‘If many believe so, it is so.’ In ethics this argument is stated, ‘if many find it acceptable, it is acceptable.’”
Many churches today admittedly seek to adjust their preaching, moral positions, and church culture to “appeal to the people.” One supposes that such modern pastors feel that if enough people believe that something is right then it must be right. However, history has taught us that whole civilizations can be deceived by false concepts, and the fact that the people all agree to a false ideology does not transform it into truth. The fact that nearly a billion people believe that Allah is God and Mohammad is his prophet does not make it true.
Some claim that the church is dying and ineffective because it is anti-intellectual, non-scientific, non-relativist, and unable or unwilling to apply high Christian thought to contemporary life. They believe that Christianity is in desperate need of an elite group of high-level Christian thinkers to get the church on the road to modern thinking. Regular people, they reason, have little knowledge of scholarly Christian thought and will remain trapped in bleak mindlessness unless certain gifted people can bring deeper knowledge to the masses. Therefore their agenda is to produce new consensus, and to reach fresh understanding, to look at the old texts with enlightened perspective, to revisit some of the rejected dogmas of past Christian mystics, and to take a deeper and more intellectual look at the semasiology or meaning behind the words and texts. Perhaps their greatest hope is to discover secret mysteries, hidden keys, and codes that would ultimately destroy Christianity entirely. Of course, the only thing that would keep any human from the true knowledge of Christian ideas and principles would be a failure to read the Bible.
Walk into any secular bookstore today and you will see at least one piece of evidence that suggests a new Christian consensus is being sought. Various books attacking Christian traditions are boldly presented in bright and scholarly-looking volumes. I have recently visited bookstores in the Dakotas, Indiana, New York, Baltimore, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Washington D.C., Ohio, Texas, and California. In all of these stores not only are anti-Christian books available, but they are prominently displayed, stacked high, and creatively lighted. This is not done by accident, in fact shelf location and floor position is highly contested matter in all of retail.
It appears that the current anti-Christian strategy is to put it all on the table, to foster new debate, to deconstruct thinking, and to destabilize confidence in traditional Christianity. The method is to ask endless questions, to insult common logic and reason with meaningless philosophy and false science, to find out where people stand and exploit their weakness, to challenge their simple logic or education, and to mock their unwillingness to embrace the various offbeat doctrine-corrupting Bible translations. Unless challenged, this group of indoctrinators will create an intoxicating cocktail of a more relative, more modern, more intellectual, less offensive, more so-called balanced form of Christianity blended with philosophy, Freudian psychiatry, science, and worldly wisdom that will be a drink of death. Voilà — argumentum ad populum. It must be true because people accept it as true. Welcome to the Frankenstein-type laboratory of the new secular religion.
Frighteningly, this is not all outside the Apostolic Faith. Argumentum ad populum is an intoxicating position for anyone. Pastors surrounded by people they love and with the desire to be loved in return may entertain the “what does it matter, anyway?” question. It’s been an universal temptation. Certainly the Old Testament prophets contended with the will of the people.
“The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” Jeremiah 5:31
One Lord. One Name. Jesus is God. The Apostles Doctrine. Holy living. None of these words preached or spoken to the world are popular. In fact the world rejects them as another attempt to mandate absolute truth. There is no popular consensus toward Christianity. But does this fact change the truth? The apostles did not seek popular consensus.
“For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:12
I contend that we purpose to preach Christ and him crucified (I Corinthians 2:2). We best love people by preaching to them this Revelation. The idea of debating one issue after the other, breaking down confidence in the infallible Word of God, and forming a so-called new consensus should be accompanied with great fear. Instead we must preach the Word. Isaiah 58:4-6 explores the tragic misguided spirituality that imposes the “fast for strife and debate” only to be confronted with God’s question, “Is it such a fast that I have chosen?” Argumentum ad populum is not a good idea and should not be use as a tool for change.