Monday, October 21, 2013

Strange Fire Two: No True Scotsman

Logical Fallacies Poster
Via Logical Fallacies comes this definition of a logical fallacy:
No True Scotsman: No matter how compelling the evidence is, one simply shifts the goalposts so that it wouldn't apply to a supposedly 'true' example.
Example: Angus declares that Scotsmen do not put sugar on their porridge, to which Lachlan points out that he is a Scotsman and puts sugar on his porridge. Furious, like a true Scot, Angus yells that no true Scotsman sugars his porridge.

Many continuationists have expressed dismay at how MacArthur lumped them in with the worst extremes of charismania during the recent Strange Fire conference. Tim Challies blogged a summation of MacArthur's last conference address, given in rebuttal/challenge to his "friends" who are continuationists, and I couldn't help but think of the No True Scotsman fallacy. No matter how many times thoughtful, theologically-astute continuationists said that they do not embrace the lunatic fringe of charismania, MacArthur pulled a No True Scotsman on them.Cessationist = charismatic gifts have ceased to exist.

Continuationist = charismatic gifts have continued to exist.

Dismissing MacArthur because of Scotsman, however, would ultimately be glib and intellectually lazy. There are actually quite a number of logical fallacies that MacArthur utilizes in his eight-point address. Let's look at what the fallacies are, and then compare them to MacArthur's appeal.

Strawman: Misrepresenting someone’s argument to make it easier to attack.
By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone's argument, it's much easier to present your own position as being reasonable.
False Cause: Presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.
Many people confuse correlation for causation.
False Dichotomy: Where two alternative states are presented as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist.
Also known as the false dilemma, this insidious tactic has the appearance of forming a logical argument, but under closer scrutiny it becomes evident that there are more possibilities than the either/or choice that is presented.
Slippery Slope: Asserting that if we allow A to happen, then Z will consequently happen too, therefore A should not happen.
The problem with this reasoning is that it avoids engaging with the issue at hand, and instead shifts attention to baseless extreme hypotheticals.
Composition: Assuming that what’s true about one part of something has to be applied to all parts of it.
Often when something is true for the part it does also apply to the whole, but because this isn’t always the case it can’t be presumed to be true. We must show evidence for why a consistency will exist.
Loaded Question: Asking a question that has an assumption built into it so that it can’t be answered without appearing guilty.
Loaded question fallacies are particularly effective at derailing rational debates because of their inflammatory nature.
(Source: Logical Fallacies)

With these definitions in mind, let's look at MacArthur's eight-point appeal to continuationists to stop being continuationists and join the war against charismatics:

MacArthur's StatementLogical Fallacy
1. Continuationists give legitimacy to the contemporary charismatic movement. When theologically conservative men give credibility to this movement the whole movement gains credibility.False Cause & Slippery Slope
2. Continuationists degrade the miraculous nature of true gifts given by God to the 1st Century Church. God gave special revelatory gifts, signs and miracles to validate His revelation. Hebrews 2:3 expounds on this. This text becomes meaningless if these gifts are given to everyone today.False Dichotomy
3. Continuationists severely limit how people can be responsive to charismatic confusion. MacArthur has heard from friends some of the most bizarre stories that should assuredly be denounced. However, [they] cannot speak against these stories because they have bought into continuationism.Strawman, Composition & False Dichotomy
4. Continuationists who insist that God gives special revelation today gives way to people being led by confusion and error. ...  These new forms of special revelation such as words of prophecy are theological train wrecks. When you go beyond the Word of God you cannot contain the error.False Cause, Slippery Slope, Strawman & Composition
5. Continuationists tacitly deny the reformed tenet of Sola Scriptura. People who would not normally deny the closing of the canon, Scripture’s authority or sufficiency, do so by defaulting towards a belief in extra-revelation. This extra-revelation is widely abused by people in power.Slippery Slope, Composition
6. Continuationists open the door to speaking in tongues which is the mindless ecstasy of the charismatic expression. [It's] not a language but is gibberish.Strawman
7. Continuationists assert the gift of healing and in turn affirm the fraudulent ministry of healers. Who would want to do that? These people are the lowest of the low. They prey on the ill, destitute, and poorest people and tell them lies in order to get rich. Who would want to do anything to aid and abet them?False Cause, Loaded Question & Strawman
8. Continuationists distract from the Holy Spirit’s true ministry by enticing people to buy into a false ministry. What deficiency are they compensating for? Are not the Holy Spirit’s many works of regeneration, conviction, filling, sealing and more sufficient? You entice people to counterfeits...
(Source: Tim Challies)
Slippery Slope & Loaded Question

So what can we conclude from this over-abundant use of logical fallacies (and that's not even considering the theological problems behind MacArthur's assumptions)?
  • That John MacArthur doesn't have a clue what he's talking about?
  • That MacArthur's concerns and critique of charismatics are therefore invalidated?
  • That continuationists receive a "get out of jail free" card on the issues that Strange Fire (imperfectly) raised?

Stay tuned for part Three.

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