“The horsies are sad!” declared little girl I was playing with. “Why are the horsies sad?” I asked, a little confused about this sudden turn of events in our chipper game with miniature horse and cowboy figures. “Because, I’m sad” she answered, speaking for the cowgirl figure. “But, why are you sad?” My cowboy figure asked. “Because the horsies are sad with me!” She explained. Hmmm . . . I don’t think that whole explanation really helped explain how my cowboy’s sudden social dilemma came to be. My little friend’s reasoning wasn’t very helpful for my character because she started out in the same place she ended up -essentially, the horses were sad because they were sad and I had no idea why!
It’s common, and sometimes quit entertaining, for young children to use questionable reasoning like my adorable two-year-old friend did in this story. However, many highly educated and/or influential people today are actually making the same mistakes in reasoning – logical fallacies – when trying to defend their positions on controversial issues. Knowing how to recognize some of the most common logical fallacies can be very useful for discerning what is true and reliable. However, it is important not only to recognize the logical fallacies others around us are making, but also the fallacies we tend to make when defending our arguments. As Christians, it is important that we prove all things and hold fast to that which is good (see 1 Thessalonians 5:21) so that our behavior can be blameless before unbelievers.
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” ~ Ephesians 4:14-15
One common fallacy that is very easy to miss when it is used to support a conclusion we agree with is the “Straw Man” fallacy. A person is invoking the “Straw Man” when he or she misrepresents the opposing argument and refutes that misrepresentation rather than what his or her opponent actually presented. A good example of this that many Christians encounter is when an unbeliever says something like, “the Bible can’t be trusted because it’s full of contradictions”. When asked for a verse as an example of a supposed contradiction, it often becomes clear that the verse was taken out of context or misinterpreted in some way. Understanding logic is an essential tool for defending our faith and formulating Biblically sound convictions. We will explore more of these fallacies next week, and see how they are especially applicable in origins debates.
References: The Ultimate Proof of Creation(2009) and Discerning Truth (2010) by Dr. Jason Lisle. Master Books. Green Forest, Arkansas. USA.
Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2014. Used with permission.