This post was originally featured in October of 2010
We believe that Calvinism is a hindrance to evangelism…we also believe the Spurgeon and Edwards were the instruments great revivals.
We believe that praying written prayers is vain repetition…we also believe that praying the exact same words over breakfast every morning is a necessary and meaningful experience.
We believe that since canon of Scripture is closed, the Holy Spirit no longer gives direct revelation to people…we also believe that the Holy Spirit gives traffic directions and investment advice.
We believe that the Scriptures are the sole authority for our faith and practice…we also believe that Christian standards of dress and music somehow were all discovered centuries after the Scriptures were finished and include things not addressed therein.
We believe that every man has soul liberty and that every believer is a priest…we also believe that the pastor has complete authority to override that liberty any time he sees fit.
We believe that liberals have purposely corrupted our public school systems and lowered our education standards for their own political ends….we also believe that these semi-illiterate students are perfectly capable of understanding a four-hundred year old translation of the Scriptures.
We believe that the reason our church isn’t growing quickly is that the world is getting worse and worse as the end times approach and men’s hearts wax cold…we also believe that our soul winning program has broken records every year for the last 20 years.
We believe that good will always overcome evil…we believe that evil will always overcome good.
Time for an SFL lesson in logic!
Of all the logical fallacies that plague fundamentalist reasoning, perhaps none is so common as the syllogistic fallacy of the false premise. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, consider this common argument against “worldly music”:
Major Premise: God hates worldliness
Minor Premise: All music with a beat is worldly
Conclusion: God hates music with a beat.
This seems like an airtight case until you realize that the middle statement in this construction is demonstrably impossible to prove from Scripture. I mean it’s not even one of those things that’s rationally debatable like Calvinism or Infant Baptism or whether those chicks in Genesis got freaky with the angelic host. Moral judgments on music beats is just not there. At all.
And don’t get hung up on the fact that this example uses music; almost every standard of behavior that is deemed “worldly” or “sensuous” or “immodest” or “Communist” uses the same basic false minor premise. But whatever it is, fundamentalists basically just assume that the middle statement is bound to be true because they’ve heard it repeated loudly and often enough that they’ve lost the capability to be truly critical of it. The sun rises in the east. Gravity makes stuff heavy. And music with a beat is of the devil. It’s as certain as death and tithing.
Given that you’ll never be able to convince a fundamentalist that their minor premise is anything less than gospel truth, arguing about it is almost pointless. If (as in the original example) you ask a fundy to prove that music with a beat is worldly, they’ll triumphantly produce reams of verses that contain the word “worldly” (but never actually demonstrate that they relate to a specific style of music) and claim the authority of Scripture. They may also produce secondary proof such as sermon notes from a popular fundy music pastor, quotes from some ancient rock star, and a few pseudo-scientific audio studies performed by unnamed Uzbekistan scientists in 1958. Or perhaps that a garage band band named “Unnamed Uzbekistan Scientists” in 1993? Either way, it doesn’t end there…
If random verses and other supporting “evidence” is not enough to prove their point the fundamentalist will then simply resort ad hominem, saying that if you don’t agree with them it shows a hardened neck, a stiff and uncircumcised heart, and an understanding that is darkened by rebellion and blinded by your participation in the Harry Cullen Role Playing Internet Blog Chat Forums. They may also decide to suddenly insult your sister. Even if you don’t have one.
It is a frightening thing to watch a person create a god in their own image who embodies their own personal opinions and preferences and then defend that god with a passion that only the One True God deserves.
It is never enough to use only one logical fallacy when forming a fundmamentalist argument. The building blocks of nonsense must be gently bludgeoned into place one atop the other to form a wall of illogic that stops thought and runs one into danger of exhausting their Latin vocabulary. Consider these beautiful bits of logic…
The Post Hoc Ad Absurdem Non Sequitur: “Prayer being taken out of schools led to the founding of the Emergent Church which will eventually lead to everyone being unsaved, drunk, and buying foreign cars.”
Or perhaps the Ad Hominem Circulus in Probando “Emergent Church types are nothing but a bunch of unsaved drunks becuase nobody who drinks that much could possibly be saved.”
My personal favorite is the Plurium Interrogationum Ad Verecundiam “Are you still an unsaved drunk Emergent Church member even though that’s clearly unbiblical?”
Line upon line. Precept upon precept. Fallacy upon fallacy.
For all their love of contention, a good number of fundamentalists rank as some of the most inept arguers in the world. This debating deficiency stems mainly from their inability to either care what their opponent really believes or actually address it with integrity. Why bother listening to someone who is certainly wrong? Just wait for them to take a breath and blast them with “the truth.”
In order for an honest dialog to take place, each side must be willing to at the very least admit that his understanding of his opponent’s position may have been mistaken. Here are the common stages in the Arguing with Fundies process…
Yes, the facts gathered third-hand via scrawled notes taken from an evangelist’s sermon illustration back in 1987 may be slightly less than accurate. Never fear, if you repeat something long enough and loud enough then it starts to sound true. Full speed ahead and into the fray! Just. Keep. Repeating. Yourself.
Keep talking and don’t ever stop talking as you just allow a stream of words to flow out of your mouth in such a never ending cacophany of sound that the person listening finally gives up and decides that anything else — up to and including watching daytime television — would be a better use of their time than listening to one more sentence, one more word, one more syllable of this never-ending tirade on whatever long-since forgotten and probably less than useful point is being made. If I’ve got more words than you it means I’m winning, right? Right?
If mere strong assertions are not enough to win the argument, the fall back position is inevitably to question the motives of your opponent. Does that non-fundamentalist dare imply that the fundy’s music standards are not really based on Scripture? THAT’S ONLY BECAUSE HE WANTS TO DANCE TO THAT GODLESS ROCK MUSIC! The key here is to assume certain facts are true about any non-fundamentalist without bothering to ask.
Some fundamentalists may just end the conversation with a blast of accusation and then march away. But for the older and more experienced fundy there is one more approach: tell them “we only hate you because we love you.” Indeed, the fundy only fights with others because he cares. He prays for them. He sheds big slobbery tears for them. He’d like to give them a big old hug — if they would just repent and admit that fundamentalists are right, that is. Fundamentalists only love the sinner for what he could become, never what he is.
I would add that I’ve had a few rare thoughtful discussions with fundamentalists who were not obviously spending the entire time I was talking thinking of their next retort instead of actually listening. It’s an exceptional thing.