Listening and Logical Fallacies
Last week I wrote about self-defeating statements, such as there is no truth, or all truth is relative. I also mentioned the three questions concerning how to have a non-confrontational conversation; “What do you mean by that” “How did you arrive at that conclusion” and “Have you ever considered”? All three coming from Greg Koukl’s book Tactics.
The importance of the 2 subjects is surrounded by our ability to become good listeners. My desire is to help you understand apologetics is not about arguing but about sharing truth and the best practices, so to say, how to do that.
Today a final step called logical fallacies!
I promise many, if any, of you will remember the terms concerning self-defeating statements or logical fallacies. Yet, as with last week there are an abundance of resources online for both topics. Google is our friend…
Alright, on to the good stuff.
Like self-defeating statements, if you become a good listener, logical fallacies can end conversations in a nice loving way. Not because it is being rude or anything, simply most do not realize they are committing these fallacies just as they do not realize they make self-defeating statements.
As I have written previously, a majority of the time, especially when it comes to religion, Christianity specifically, people are only repeating what they have heard. If we are listening we will, or you will, be able to identify the problem, be it self-defeating statements or a logical fallacy, and use it to point out the error of their claim.
A logical fallacy is an error in reasoning or a false assumption that might sound impressive but proves absolutely nothing. Or, as Dr. Ken Samples states, an error or defect in an argument.
Here is my goal, instead of spending so much time debating, listen, ask questions, and like I said, point out the error. It is so much easier, and I am attempting to give you three vital tools in doing so!
On to the fallacies, and like I said, none of this is anything new. However, if like most subjects, the audience I am attempting to reach have never heard of the subject. Prayerfully, this will give you confidence to share the gospel and defend the truth of Christianity.
The following are ten popular logical fallacies:
1. Ad Hominem – attacking the person instead of the argument.
Straight forward, calling names, phrases, or other comments directed at the person
2. Straw Man – attacking a position the person does not hold.
Such as, Christians are prejudice, especially against women. How could a woman ever be a Christian?
3. Appeal to Emotion – manipulating the other persons emotions to win an argument. Especially when there are no facts to support the argument.
Someone does something for you and you state they owe you for doing it.
4. Appeal to popular/bandwagon – something is fact because a lot of people agree.
Everyone loves the Flames, they must be a good team!
5. False Dichotomy/dilemma/black and white/either or – claim of only 2 choices when there are more.
Either you love me, or you hate me
6. Slippery slope – starting with a small insignificant claim and leading to extreme outcomes.
People seem to use this by going to WebMD, a sore throat leads to a rare disease only found in remote jungles. Teenagers as well, can’t go to an event leads to alone and jobless living in parent’s basement until 30.
7. Circular argument – Assuming a topic is true that you are trying to argue is true.
Easy way to remember, the Bible is true because it states it is true
8. Red Herring – introducing a topic not being discussed or related to original topic.
Popular in suspense novels or movies. The Da Vinci code, we suspect the bishop the entire movie, and learn he is innocent. Kids use this a lot, or mine do, bedtime, but I am hungry, close your eyes, I may starve by morning…
9. Appeal to authority – conclusion based on viewpoint of authority instead of a rational argument.
Stating evolution is not true because you know a scientist that says so. Not being able to defend your position so claiming a supposed authority agrees.
10. Appeal to ignorance - a person mistakenly believes something to be true that is not, because he or she does not know enough about the subject, or has not been given enough evidence, to know otherwise.
Possibly most common claim, no one can prove that God exists; therefore, God does not exist.
As with self-defeating statements logical fallacies can be confusing. I promise I don’t catch all of these, and most people do not either. But, practice is key. We must become good listeners and practice what I have shared.
The entire point is my feeble attempt to help us have conversations. These conversations can lead to sharing the gospel. It takes some work. It takes time.
And now you know the excuse you give, for not sharing the gospel or defending the truth of Christianity, is probably not valid…
John Mays is the Regional Director for the states of WV and PA. He is also the Chapter Director at Marshall University. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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