Illustrations: The Boiled Frog

“If you stick a frog in a boiling pan of water, he’ll try to jump out. But if you stick a frog in a pan of cold water and gradually heat it up, the frog will sit there until he boils to death.”

This charming bit of folks lore is used to show us that if we accept even a little wordiness into our lives that we’ll soon be boiled to death in a steaming pot of apathy. Whether or not that’s actually the case, there’s one small problem with the illustration…it’s completely bogus.


The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.

15 thoughts on “Illustrations: The Boiled Frog”

  1. In my 20+ years in IFB circles I’ve heard so many untrue sermon illustrations that I thought about creating a website (something like Well maybe not. But with the internet so many of these can be debunked in minutes.

    I heard this one on the power of the tongue:

    I heard this one once on Al Gore and Oliver North:

    And this is a heartening one, but very questionable considering the facts around Ira Sankey’s Civil War service:

    And this is an oldie but a goodie about problems in education:

  2. I have heard some very interesting illustrations used that were obviously bogus. I just sit and roll my eyes. Many are historically related and I knew them to be false.

    It is best to not use forwarded e-mails as your source for sermon illustrations.

  3. It is best to not use forwarded e-mails as your source for sermon illustrations.

    This should be framed and hung in every fundamentalist pastor’s office.

  4. Or be sure to verify the illustration you hear at the pastor’s conference before using the same one on your congregation the following Sunday!

  5. You should probably also make sure that, when preaching at a conference of any type, you don’t use an illustration with yourself as the central character without first checking to be sure that no other preacher who is present will be using the same story in the same way. That’s a recipe for grand awkward-ness.

  6. LOL! I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this illustration used!

    It’s way over-used anyway, but it’s even funnier that it’s not really accurate. I’m tempted to forward that snopes article to some people I know, but I don’t want them to get all mad at me because I disproved their pastor’s favorite illustration. 😛

  7. Virtually every historical illustration I’ve ever heard from a pulpit is demonstrably false. One of my favorites comes from my time at BJU, when an administrator–who shall remain unnamed–was describing conditions in St. Paul’s prison. He decided to wax poetic and talk about how most of the prisoners’ bodies “were eaten by rats. There were giant rats.”

    Unfortunately, Paul spent most of his time under house arrest and the only actual prisons he appears to have occupied he occupied for only one night (the earthquake incident) or, in the case of the Mamertine Prison in Rome, is just one cell hollowed out of the ground. One of my professors advised his class to just grin and bear the bad history–“Dr. [Doe], bless his heart, he means well, but every time he uses history, it’s wrong! It’s just wrong!”

    Anyway, this has been the case in ever church I’ve ever been in. It shouldn’t be frustrating to go to church–isn’t that kind of counterproductive?

  8. I heard Jeff Owens use this illustration as the very basis of one of his most famous sermons! If he would just stick to the Bible, he wouldn’t have to worry about preaching false stuff.

  9. Jeff Owens has never stuck tot he Bible, He slaps a verse on and preaches whatever the heck he wants to talk about: most of it nitwit nonsense.

  10. @Bassenco That sounds like typical, southern, small, rural, fundy church sermon prep to me.

  11. One of my favorites in recent years was a guest speaker at BJU chapel who went on at some length to tell a story that allegedly happened to him. I forget the exact point he was making but it was a story about how he and his friends came upon quicksand which he described as pretty much the kind of thing you would have seen in a jungle/adventure movie from the 50’s. (Getting stuck in the quicksand about up to the ankles and then being slowly sucked downward.) The long drawn out and gradual process was necessary to the point he was making and it went on to get all the more implausable and stupid.

    On a related note, I also hate illustrations where the speaker relates a verbal exchange that provides him with an implauable set-up line for a “clever” zinger. You could do a whole website of these too.

  12. Hey now THIS HAPPENED to my mom when she was a little girl.

    She found a frog and decided to fill the sink with water for it. She turned it on warm and started filling it up, but got sidetracked. When she came back, the water had heated the whole way up and was now slightly warmer than warm, and the frog did indeed boil to death.

    I still want to cry every time I hear that story….

  13. Yay for the random post generator!!! I’ve heard this illustration for many different things. (Hey now, this isn’t only a Fundy illustration; it was even in the movie Dante’s Peak!) I was actually a little disappointed when I found out it wasn’t true. 😆

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