Common Fallacious Arguments in Christian Conversation
Purpose of Collection
My first videos were posted on YouTube in June of 2007. Prior to that, I hosted guidetojesus.com since early in 2004. I have enjoyed teaching and learning with the Christian community in forums and on YouTube, on hubpages, in the street, and in many other venues.
During this time, a simple truth emerged: The badly managed responses of most people defy logic. It seems most people are not willing to trade back in their "bowl of soup" for some Biblical truth. The errors people make in their thought processes and in their conversational skills fall into a rather small set.
This article will list these so that I can refer people here to read what I would otherwise be forced to retype over and over and over. Instead, I will refer people here with a note to "See #1" or "See 3 and 5."
Feel free to use this list as well. I'm calling these the "Modesto rules". I hail from Modesto, and modesto is Spanish for "modest", or "humble". These rules are for polite conversation and theological debate. The goal is always to correct and encourage, not to debase.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. (Pro 9:9).
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. (Pro 27:17)
#1: You Don't Study the Scriptures
This is actually the most common problem, as I see it. Rebuttals, statements, beliefs and creeds that directly contradict plain, simple statements from God and Jesus in scripture indicate a weakness in Bible knowledge.
Jesus challenged many who attempted to stumble him with questions. Often, he pointed out a scripture, and asked them if they had never read it:
"Have you not even read this Scripture: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone." (Mark 12:10)
"But Jesus answering them said, "Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him" (Luke 6:3)
""But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,..." (Mat 22:31)
It is common that those challenging another believer really have limited or nonexistent direct knowledge of scripture. Instead, their mind is filled with teachings they have heard from other men, pastors, wives, and (it's true!) Hollywood.
#2 Confusion based on difference of terms
I have seen this confusion on many YouTube threads. It also plagues facebook.
Two Christians begin a hot debate arguing about the meaning of some scripture. Each keeps repeating his position on the topic. The other responds by repeating her position. They go back and forth in this way. The confusion, as has happened too often, exists in the terms being used.
Arguing in the gray fog of confusion over terms is too common. Some denominations aggressively preach against certain beliefs held by other denominations. So, a word like "trinity" or "rapture" can activate the programming (technically, the word is correct in this usage) of such persons by using the key word. For this reason, it is easier, but much longer, to just refer directly to the scriptures involved. Everyone agrees that the Bible is legitimate for doctrine, and much agreement can be produced by going directly to the scripture.
#3 The Straw Man
The straw man is a term directly out of Philosophy of Logic 101. A person commits a fallacious argument when they create an argument their opposition has not at all stated, and then proceed to destroy this second psuedo-argument. The second argument, the straw man argument, is then soundly destroyed, disproven, and ridiculed. Refutations of this type are often joined with posturing of superiority and a sense of having conquered the original position in the act of shredding the straw man.
In truth, the original argument is not at all touched. For example, an article against Christian Rock motivated these comments:
"So if a person comes to the Lord through a rock concert where he is ministered to and receives the word of GOD, he is actually serving SATAN?"
"Give me a break brother. Half of what you have said here is pure nonsense. The self-righteous of their day took the same stance against "Amazing Grace" (put to a bar tune) and other "radical", "worldly" music that now fill the Baptist Hymnal and are regarded by all to be inspired by the Holy Spirit."
The second poster developed his attack on me based upon straw men he gave me. He credited me with believing in the pre-trib rapture and being like "Calvanists" who forced Hawaiians not to dance.
If you find this situation, it is easiest to restate your position in a very clear way.
#4 Personal Attack
If you don't like the message, shoot the messenger. This is another fallacy straight out of Philosophy of Logic 101. In logic, this is known as the ad hominem fallacy.
This kind of response ignores the information presented and responds by insulting an author of offending words. It does not matter how the author intended the offending words. It only matters that the words offended the respondent. People insult weight, facial features, receding hair lines, make up, clothing, and even things they make up about the author.
None of it changes the position of the author. Personal attacks do not refute anything. In fact, resorting to a personal attack only reveals something about the person doing the attacking (ie, he/she does not have a better basis of refutation.)