SPF 094: Can Popular Opinion Change the Truth?

What is true isn’t always popular and what is popular isn’t always true. A little twist on a famous Albert Einstein quote as we walk through argumentum ad populum, a fallacy that what is popular determines what is true. I’ll walk through two current examples and even one Biblical one, plus three ways to avoid the slippery slope of popular polls.

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Can Popular Opinion Change the Truth?

What is true is not always popular and what is popular is not always true.

So can what is popular ever become Truth? If enough people agree, can that change truth?

The world would say yes.

But that is a informal  fallacy called agrumentum ad populum  - which is an argument to the people.

Basically it means, that 80,000 people can’t be wrong.

You determine truth by taking a poll and on the basis of the majority you determine the truth.

Two examples from our culture:

  1. Evolution - Evolution can fall under agrumentum ad populum - all my science teachers from Kindergarten to college taught me it was true. Bill Nye and his 2.6 million instagram followers think evolution is true - so it must be true - that many people cannot be wrong.

  2. Abortion - Abortion falls under agrumentum ad populum. RC Spoul talks about this in his sermon - that lady justice is blindfolded as to not let justice be influenced by the popular opinion. But once in a while lady justice peeks. How else could explain the Supreme Court ruling to deny the most basic human right which is life.

These two examples remind us that the World despises truth. 

RC Sproul said "Nothing is more irritating and intolerable to the status quo of the world and the world's wisdom, world's power, than the Word of God. by nature we despise it; we reject it, and by nature we vote against it.”

There is no North Star on the world’s compass to point to Truth. The needle is constantly moving around the dial and pointing to the popular opinion of the age.

Argumentum ad populum can be a slippery slope for Christians too.

Galatians

  • The Galatians were quickly deserting Christ and turning to a different Gospel because of the fear of men.

  • Even Peter was called out by Paul who was living in the freedoms of Christ and eating and fellowshipping with the Gentile believers, however when the circumcision party came into the picture, Peter was out. He drew back from the Gentiles and the rest of the believing Jews followed his example and also acted hypocritically along with Peter.

So what keeps a Christian from following fear of the influential people, or the popular opinion? 

  1. Remember The Gospel is from God, not from man.

  2. Remember When we speak and teach the truth, we do not seek the approval from man

  3. Remember to yield to God and the Scriptures and not to seemingly influential people.

"Let us boldly despise the whole world" - John Calvin "Not that we should hate people in the world, the ministers of the Gospel, those entrusted to preach the word, must learn to shut their eyes." - RC Sproul

Sometimes we are tempted to peek. We must learn to shut our eyes to the world. Because to God be the glory and may the Truth be exalted that people might be saved.

Resources

Amazon Links are affiliate links - meaning I get a very small referral credit from Amazon for recommend products, at no cost to you - that goes to supporting the podcast.

Renewing Your Mind - RC Sproul sermon on Galatians: https://renewingyourmind.org/2018/08/26/love-lines-men-pleasing-

Wikipedia article about evolution taught in schools: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_and_evolution_in_public_education_in_the_United_States

Knowing Scripture
By R. C. Sproul