You’ve done it. Admit it. I’ve done it and I admit it. You get into a discourse about some hot button issue (usually online for some reason or another) and then you really start standing strong on your point.
And then, then it happens. The argument/discussion/rant becomes weird. It takes a turn. And this is when fallacies are used.
A fallacy is a false logical argument. One of the things about fallacies is that they seem so true. And man of the best fallacies have a bit of truth in them.
I remember back in college taking Logic and studying logical discourse and the use of fallacies. And then late, in my Advanced Rhetoric course, looking once again at the use of logical arguments and also the use of fallacies. And then later in Seminary for my Apologetics course, we learned even more about fallacies.
They’re great! I love them. I even use them sometimes for fun (yeah, I’m messed up).
When I was working as a mall cop, I heard logical fallacies all the time for reasons why someone was caught shoplifting, or got into a fight, etc. The cops just called it bull…er…bullocks. They saw right through it.
When I hear people discussing/arguing/ranting on about some hot button issue, I look and listen for the logical fallacies they use. Here are just some of them:
(warning rant about to come)
Ad hominem abusive–you attack the person you’re arguing with or the person being defend instead of the actual logic and content of the argument/discourse itself. (People do this with politicians and Fox News/MSNBC/CNN all the time)
Post hoc ergo propter hoc–creating a false cause and effect such as “This rock keeps away tigers.” “It does not.” “Yes it does. Do you see any tigers around right now while I’m holding this rock?”
False dilemma–an either or forced issue “You can have only pie or cake.”
Card staking–selectively using facts (and who doesn’t do that?)
False analogy–making misleading comparisons (one that was used recently for gay marriage is “Not liking gay marriage is like getting mad at someone for eating a donut while you’re on a diet.”….not making a stance on gay marriage, just the logical fallacy.)
Ad homeniem tu quoque–not acting like everyone else is therefore you’re incorrect instead of actually listening to the logical discourse set forth. (“If all your friends jumped off a cliff would you?”…me: “Not again.”)
And then there’s y favorite:
Argumentum ex silentio–an argument of silence based on the fact that there is no data on a particular subject at hand to disprove an argument therefore the person making the argument is correct.
Why is it my favorite fallacy? Because it’s used so often in referring to Jesus.
This is how it goes down: Two or more people are having a logical discussion about a hot button issue (usually online for some reason or another) and then this hot button issue begins to lead towards one person’s view on it being the Biblically correct view (no, seriously, it happens and there are times where, yes, the Bible actually says something about today’s hot button issues). The other side of the logical discourse then uses argumentum ex silentio with “Well, Jesus never said anything about ____________.” Oh, snap. They have it in the bag, right? Jesus never said anything about it so therefore you Biblically based logical argument is not valid. Check and mate…not so fast.
There are a few things about this argument that are fallacious (don’t giggle, it just means that they are using a fallacy).
1) The earliest written record of the teachings of Jesus (as most scholars agree on) is that of the Gospel of Mark written around 60 AD, roughly 30 years after Jesus’ death. What we have written down is given to us by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).
2) John writes in his gospel that Jesus said and did many things that weren’t written down but were just as important. The purpose of the gospels isn’t to quote Jesus (or in this case, state what he doesn’t say) but that
“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 21:31
Jesus’ words are for you to have eternal life and live each day in comfort and knowledge of Jesus, not to back up an argument over a hot button issue.
3) When someone says “Well, Jesus never said anything about __________” they are then discounting the authority of the rest of scripture (okay, you might say that this is over generalization/false generalization, but bear with me).
a)Paul writes that all scripture is God-breathed and useful (2 Timothy 3:16-17). And the majority of scholars agree that Paul’s letters were written before the gospels were. Therefore singling out what is said in the Bible (or in this case not said) as a reason to refute someone’s point doesn’t give Scripture it’s due nor respect because all of Scripture is God-breathed, including what Paul and others wrote (New and Old Testament).
b) There are many people who quote the Old Testament for reasons for or against their particular point of view. And then someone says “Well, if you follow the Old Testament, you have to follow all of it, you can’t just pick and choose.” Well, here’s the thing: Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-20). So in Jesus, the things written in the Old Testament are still valid but have a new spin on them in Jesus.
c) There are things in the Bible that are hard to understand. The Apostle Peter even says that about Paul. Peter says that Paul is hard to understand at times but what he says is truth (2 Peter 3:15-16).
d) All of the Bible is important and on the same level as itself. You can’t raise one piece of scripture over another (or even what is not said over what is clearly said).
4) Just because something isn’t explicitly stated (such as “don’t run red lights” or “don’t punch people in the face who use the argumentum ex silentio fallacy”) doesn’t mean that it still can’t be found and understood in the Bible. Scripture interprets Scripture. There are many things we can glean and understand from the Bible that isn’t explicit (such as a “thou shalt not”) but implicit as you read through the whole of the Bible.
So, please, watch your logical fallacies when discussing hot button issues. We can get really emotionally charged about things. We really can. But don’t drag in what Jesus didn’t say. He didn’t say a lot about a lot of things. But just because he didn’t say it doesn’t mean that someone else somewhere else in the Bible said it, which still has the same level of inspiration as what might not have been said.
(okay, rant over)