During a recent email discussion I was accused of invoking "personal incredulity" in response to a particular interpretation of Scripture. Just in case I wasn't paying attention, my accuser provided a handy link to the definition:
Because you found something difficult to understand, or are unaware of how it works, you made out like it's probably not true.
Apart from providing me with a little chuckle, the site got me thinking about people and places in the Bible where the same fallacies are evidenced. It's reasonably difficult to separate oneself from a debate, especially of beliefs, and impartially weigh the evidence on either side of the argument, Bible in hand. Turns out that people in the New Testament weren't much better.
7 Logical Fallacies in the New Testament (Opens in a new window or tab)
It didn't take long to compile a list of the more obvious candidates in Scripture, and as these examples naturally gravitated toward the New Testament I kept the focus there. I'm not sure why this is the case; perhaps it's the large volume of dialogue, particularly in the gospels? Go social if you have suggestions.
As soon as I floated the idea amongst some friends I found that I wasn't the first to have looked into fallacies of argument in the Bible. Dave Burke over at milktomeat.org had already compiled a comprehensive list which he allowed me to merge with my own thoughts, and soon I had a lot of data to play with. Turning it into an infographic was just a case of spending some time in Inkscape.
I chose what I personally thought were the 7 most compelling fallacies to illustrate. There are more, but I'll leave them for you to discover yourself.
Finally then, why is this relevant to the Bible student? I believe there are three key reasons:
To demonstrate the veracity of the text. The stories we read describe real people, who react to perceived heresy in exactly the same unthinking, illogical manner that we can show in our own lives. The Bible documents behaviour consistent with our experience of mankind.
As a warning to ourselves. It's easy for Bible students to stereotype the Pharisees as stupid and arrogant, proudly asserting there's no way we'd respond to criticism of our beliefs in the same way that they did. We need to be humble as we approach Scripture; put aside our preconceptions, and listen to God's Words. We may, after all, be wrong.
For the benefit of others. I think it is useful for Bible Students to have an awareness of logical fallacies to help communicate their beliefs in a sound and rational way. This helps both the student, and anyone they speak to.