I have written previously on the subjects of “self-defeating statements” and “logical fallacies” Well, not exactly, I have mentioned writing on the two subjects. And you thought the day would never come… never say never!

There is probably something wrong with what I just wrote, and it probably has to do with what I am going to write about today. Think about it, never say never…

I know some of this is going to be confusing. So, we will stick with self-defeating statements today and cover logical fallacies next week!

I have spoken or written many times on the church not talking to anyone about Jesus, the truth or the gospel. I have also tried to help in providing three questions, “what do you mean by that.” “how did you arrive at that conclusion,” and “have you ever considered,” to provide a simple, non-confrontational way, to have that conversation.

Today, I want to help you understand the importance of listening. Especially if someone is talking about Christianity. By listening, you can use what I am going to give you, along with the previously mentioned questions, in defending the truth of Christianity with confidence!

All of what I am giving you today has been written and talked about many times by many people. Prayerfully, if you haven’t heard or read it elsewhere, you will take the time and read what I am sharing. The two main sources for everything I am sharing come from the books I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek, along with Tactics by Greg Koukl. I highly recommend both!

So, what is a self-defeating statement?

A self-defeating (or self-refuting) statement is one that fails to meet its own standard. In other words, it is a statement that cannot live up to its own criteria. Imagine if I were to say,

“I cannot speak a word in English.”

You should obviously see a problem here. I told you in English that I cannot speak a word in English. This statement is self-refuting. It does not meet its own standard or criteria. It self-destructs. The important thing to remember with self-defeating statements is they are false. There is no way for them to be true. This is because they violate a very fundamental law of logic, the law of non-contradiction. This law states that A and non-A cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. Sorry I told you this may be confusing, bear with me.

For example, it is not possible for God to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense. This would violate the law of non-contradiction.

How do you identify self-defeating statements? Listen to what people are saying! Seriously, so many discussions could end immediately because the person has said something that self-defeats. I have had people tell me they believe in “once saved, always saved” and in the same breath they have “backslidden.” Much of the time those making claims do not realize their claim self-defeats.  Here in lies why listening is so important.

Listen and apply the claim to itself.  There is a lot more on this subject in the books I mentioned earlier.

Let me give you some of the most common and again self-defeating statements I hear:

1. There is no truth.

If there is no truth this statement itself cannot be true. Therefore, truth exists. You cannot deny truth without affirming it. You might respond, "Is that true?" or "How can it be true that there is no truth?"

2. You can't know truth.

If you can't know truth, then you would never know that "you can't know truth." This person is claiming to know the truth that we can't know truth. Just state, "Then how do you know that?"

3. No one has the truth.

This person is claiming to have the truth that no one has the truth. If no one has the truth, then the statement "no one has the truth" is false! Say, "Then how do you know that is true?"

4. All truth is relative, or everything is relative.

If all truth is relative, then this statement itself would be relative and not objectively true. In other words, the person is claiming that it is objectively true that all truth is relative. You could respond, "Is that a relative truth?"

5. It's true for you but not for me.

This statement is self-refuting because it claims that truth is relative to the individual and yet at the same time implies it is objectively true that something can be "true for you but not for me." You say, "Is that just true for you, or is it true for everybody?" Frank Turek likes to use the example of going to the bank. Ask for 100,000.00 and the teller tells you your account does not have that amount available. Look at the person and say, “that may be true for you but not for me.” Something cannot be true for one person and not the other!

6. There are no absolutes.

This statement is an absolute statement that claims there are no absolutes. Again, "Are you absolutely sure about that?"

7. Only science can give us truth.

This one drives me crazy! If only science can give us truth we could never know that "only science can give us truth" because this is not something science can tell you! “How do measure that statement by science”?

8. You shouldn't judge or the dreaded judge not!

The most well-known verse in the Bible. The person who says this is making a judgment, that it is wrong to judge! Ask, "If it is wrong to judge, then why are you judging?"

9. You shouldn't force your morality on people.

This person is forcing their moral point of view that it is wrong to force a moral point of view. "Then don't force your moral view that it is wrong to force morality."

10. It is arrogant to claim to have the truth.

The claim being to have the truth that "it is arrogant to claim to have the truth." Therefore, he is the arrogant one! Finally, just turn the claim around, "That is awfully arrogant of you!"

As I have said a couple of times, this can be confusing. I suggest, for a better understanding, consider reading the two previously mentioned books. It takes time and practice. However, if you learn to listen, and use the three questions, I promise your confidence will soar to the point of talking to everyone about any subject. Practice with your family or listen to the news on television. This advice is just one way apologetics strengthen the follower!


John Mays is the Regional Director for WV and PA. He is also the Chapter Director at Marshall University. Contact him at johnmays@ratiochristi.org