• Mike

Fun with Logical Fallacies!

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

I have a confession to make. I originally wanted to title this post, Identifying Logical Fallacies within Evangelistic Encounters. But then I thought to myself – no one is going to click on a post with that title! Logical fallacies? What are those? Evangelism? No thank you.


So I am confessing that I have resorted to click-bait. I thought maybe if I use the word “fun”, people might actually give this post a shot. There I said it. Confession is good for the soul.


Seriously though, as we seek to verbally engage people with the gospel, there will be objections – especially in today’s culture. The main goal of BringingTRUTH.com is to equip and encourage the Christian to participate in the Great Commission with confidence. I’m not an expert in anything; rather I’m just a regular guy who wants to make a positive contribution in that pursuit.


In my own experience over the years, I have come to realize the important role that logic plays in all of this. The God of the Bible is a God of logic. Logic is an extension of who He is. He is a rational being, and so as His creatures, we too should be rational. Contrary to what some might say, we have a moral obligation to be rational. We don’t check our brains at the door of faith and enter through it with nothing more than our own subjective feelings and ungrounded conjecture.


Some would say that faith stands in opposition to reason, and I would strongly disagree with that perspective. We have very good reasons to believe what we believe – that’s because faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. We must not forget that we worship God will all our heart, soul, and strength, but Scripture also includes in that list – the mind. We must use our minds to present what we believe in a coherent manner – to think God’s thoughts after Him – and to persuade others regarding the truth of the Christian worldview.


To set the table, allow me to define three terms. I want to use very basic, usable definitions that we all can grasp. Therefore, I will seek to present these in the simplest manner possible.


Apologetics: Defending the faith


Logic: The study of correct and incorrect reasoning


Logical Fallacy: An error in reasoning


We are to make disciples through the proclamation of the gospel. When objections come our way (and they will come), we are to make a defense using clear, biblical (and therefore logical) thinking. And do all of this without committing logical fallacies that would ultimately undermine our message.


Logic, and engaging in the discipline of apologetics, are both important in the context of evangelism; however I must stress this point. It is impossible for me, or anyone else, to argue someone into the kingdom of God. We can’t argue someone in; however God can use persuasive arguments in drawing people to Christ. Our job as Christians is to proclaim the message and leave the conversion up to God. How He does that is up to Him, He knows that person infinitely more than we do. We simply want to be His faithful ambassadors.


For the balance of this post, I will present some of the most common logical fallacies. These errors in thinking occur in all sorts of contexts, not just within evangelistic encounters. Therefore, I hope these will help you in many ways, whether you’re speaking about worldviews, politics, or just having a friendly discussion with your friend as you seek to persuade him/her of your view.


Disclaimer: Yes, I am focusing here on the fallacies that are committed by unbelievers, but Christians are not immune to these as well. We need to evaluate our own reasoning, be quick to admit and repent when we fall short, and (maybe most importantly) be gracious to those who commit fallacies against us.


It’s good to remember this vital point: Christians are gracious! It deeply saddens me when we forget that in the midst of a good passionate debate. We are GRACE people! We must not forget that truth as we enter into these potentially volatile discussions. That will serve us well and honor the God for whom we represent.

Common Logical Fallacies


Ad Hominem

When someone attacks the person instead of the argument.


Example in everyday life:

“Bob only has a GED, there’s no way he could be right on this issue.”


Example in evangelism:

“Bill says he’s a Christian, but he’s such a hypocrite. There’s no way Christianity is true.”


Begging the Question (aka Circular Reasoning)

When a person assumes what they are attempting to prove.


Example in everyday life:

The iPhone is the best phone on the market because no one makes a better phone than Apple.”


Example in evangelism:

“Evolution is true because it is a scientific fact.”


Note: People may want to turn this one around and use it against the Christian. For example, “You say that the Bible is true because the Bible says that it’s true.” That’s begging the question, or circular reasoning.


How do we respond to this?


Astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle has helped me sort through this difficulty. Allow me to summarize what he said in one of his lectures.


His position is (and I happen to agree) that begging the question is unusual because it is actually valid. The conclusion does follow. It follows because it is simply a restatement of the premise.


In fact, there are cases of circular reasoning that are actually legitimate. How so you ask? You will need to read my last post entitled Why Don’t They Believe? Look for the heading 'Circular Reasoning'.


So why then am I listing this as a logical fallacy? I think the answer lies in the fact that begging the question is arbitrary. Even though it may be arbitrary, it can still be valid. More could be said on this but we would actually get into some deep philosophical waters, and I’m not a very good swimmer. So I will just leave it there for now.


Bifurcation (aka The False Dilemma)

When someone presents only two options, when in fact there are other alternatives.


Example in everyday life:

“Answer the question: yes or no!”


Example in evangelism:

“I can’t become a Christian because I am a rational thinker.”


Category Error

Attributing a property to something that couldn't possibly have that property.


Example in everyday life:

“What color is logic and how much does it weigh?”


Example in evangelism:

“I can’t detect God with any of my five senses, therefore God doesn’t exist.”


Complex Question

A question contains an unproved assumption.


Example in everyday life:

“Do you still beat your wife?”


Example in evangelism:

“Why do Christians hate homosexuals so much?”


Equivocation

When someone changes the meaning of a word in the middle of an argument.


Example in everyday life:

“The sign said, ‘Fine for Parking Here’, since it was fine, I parked there."


Example in evangelism:

“Evolution is true because we see evolution happening all the time.”


Genetic

Rejecting a claim because of where it originated.


Example in everyday life:

“That story in the National Enquirer can’t be true.”


Example in evangelism:

“You’re only a Christian because you were raised in a Christian home.” (Also the Ad Hominem fallacy)


Irrelevant Thesis

An attempt to prove a conclusion that isn’t the issue at hand.


Example in everyday life:

Reporter: “Why are you the only one who survived this plane crash?”

Man: “Because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here to answer your question.”


Example in evangelism:

Christian: “How do you account for morality, given your worldview?”

Atheist: “I know morality exists, because I happen to be a very moral person.”


No True Scotsman

Protecting an argument by defining a term in a biased manner.


Note: I’m sure curious minds want to know, what’s the origin of the No True Scotsman fallacy?

Here it is: Person A says that no Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge. Person B attempts to counter that claim by saying that a man named Angus is a Scotsman and he puts sugar on his porridge. But then person A responds, “Ah, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”


Example in everyday life:

Person A: “Members of our club are upstanding members of society.”

Person B: “Then why are so many of them in jail?”

Person A: “Those people aren’t true members of our club.”

Person B: “What makes someone a true member?”

Person A: “True members don’t go to jail.”


Example in evangelism:

Person A: “There aren’t any scholars who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.”

Person B: “James White is a scholar and he believes in the inerrancy of the Bible.”

Person A: “Yeah, but no real scholar believes that.”


Non-Sequitur

A conclusion that does not logically follow.


Example in everyday life:

“It rained this afternoon, because I washed my car this morning.”


Example in evangelism:

“There is so much evil and suffering in our world, therefore God doesn’t exist.”


Poisoning the Well

Presenting negative information about a person before he/she speaks, as to discredit them.


Example in everyday life:

“Bob is a pompous windbag; now let's hear what he has to say.”


Example in evangelism:

“Don’t listen to him; he’s one of those street evangelists.”


Red Herring

Introducing an irrelevant point into an argument.


Example in everyday life:

“Eating a dozen donuts a day can’t be bad for me…they taste so good!”


Example in evangelism:

“I won’t become a follower of Jesus because some Christians stand outside abortion clinics.”


Reification

Attributing a concrete characteristic to something that is abstract.


Example in everyday life:

“The fossil record speaks for itself.”


Example in evangelism:

“Christians say that God created the world, but science says it came about through natural processes.”


Note: The Bible uses reification quite often. (Rocks crying out, trees clapping their hands, etc.) This is acceptable in certain forms of literature, like poetry for example. However, when reification is present in logic, it is a fallacy.


Special Pleading

To apply a double standard.


Example in everyday life:

“You can’t tell people what to do!”


Example in evangelism:

“Yes, lying is a sin, but I only tell white lies.”


Straw Man

Misrepresenting someone’s position, and then attacking that misrepresentation.


Example in everyday life:

“I don’t like football because it’s a violent game without any strategy.”


Example in evangelism:

“I won’t become a Christian because I need evidence to believe, and the Bible teaches that people need to take a blind leap of faith into the dark.”


Various Appeals


Appeal to the Majority / Popularity

Accepting a position simply because the majority (or a large population of people) hold to it.


Example in everyday life:

“Everybody thinks this way, therefore it must be right.”


Example in evangelism:

“Millions of Muslims can’t all be wrong.”


Appeal to Ridicule

Making fun of a claim in an attempt to discredit it.


Example in evangelism:

“God speaking the universe into existence is the dumbest thing I've ever heard.”


Example in evangelism:

“A talking snake? Really…?”


Appeal to Tradition

Getting a person to accept something simply because it has been done or believed in for a long time.


Example in everyday life:

“We’re doing the right thing because this is what we’ve always done.”


Example in evangelism:

“I believe what I believe because that’s the way I was raised.”


Conclusion


As you seek to share your faith, I hope you have found this post helpful so you can better identify logical fallacies (in both your own argumentation as well as others). Or at the very minimum, I hope you had fun with logical fallacies! :-)

Please remember…this isn’t about being right or winning the argument. This is about removing every obstacle that stands in the way of someone coming to Christ to have their sins forgiven.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:4,5


If we simply go around correcting people every time they use a logical fallacy (and that’s all we do), we have totally missed the point here. We must point out the errors, be quick to admit our own, but always be looking to present the gospel because it’s the gospel that is the power of God for salvation.

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