One of the most important skills to master, particularly if you intend to share your faith with others, is how to form a logical argument. Though it might seem complicated, an argument in logic is really a very simple thing. To have an argument you must make a claim (called the conclusion) and provide support (called premises) for believing the claim to be true or correct. To have a good argument (sound or cogent) your premises must be (1) true; (2) relevant to your central claim; and (3) adequate to sufficiently support the conclusion.
When I give a talk or write an article that includes a logical argument, I consciously ask myself five questions. These questions serve as my “checklist” to ensure that I’m on the proper logical track. I refer to these questions as the “five Cs of logical persuasion.”
1. Clear: Is the claim that I’m defending sufficiently clear?
The claim or conclusion of my argument is what I am trying to prove or justify and, therefore, what I want people to accept. Thus, I try to be crystal clear in setting forth the important central claim.
2. Concise: Is my argument adequately concise?
Long-winded arguments often lose both focus and force. Therefore, I prefer to keep my arguments as succinct and crisp as possible. Stating an argument in its simplest form is often quite powerful.
3. Cogent: Is my argument well conceived and well evidenced—and, therefore, logically cogent?
Good arguments exhibit careful thought and logical structure. Proper support for the conclusion should be sufficient and logically relevant. A cogent argument reflects well-ordered thinking.
4. Consider: Have I considered the possible counter evidence?
Some evidence could serve to weaken or falsify an argument. Careful thinkers give consideration to their argument’s potential weaknesses. Anticipation of possible criticisms of an argument shows intellectual forethought and reflection.
5. Compelling: Have I used skillful language and powerful metaphors that can serve to compel the will of my listeners?
Persuasion often involves more than mere logical argument. Captivating rhetoric and imaginative stories can also serve to help induce the human will to conviction. It is important, however, that one’s rhetoric and narrative needs to remain consistent with the logical principles discussed above.
A great benefit of studying logic is that it serves to order a person’s thinking. Order helps protect a person from crooked or fallacious thinking. Asking the five C’s of persuasion helps ensure that valued order.
Logic is also a tool that can help people discover truth. And since truth is a sacred thing, logic is a valuable tool indeed.