Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.
– G.K. Chesterton
We often encounter examples of bad thinking and erroneous arguments in the news media, social media, talk radio, and in private conversations. The common thread is that they tend to rely on emotional punch instead of sound reason. Over the next few posts I will be writing about common examples of bad thinking, also known as informal fallacies.
Let’s start with an appeal to force. An appeal to force is exactly what it sounds like: it is an attempt to persuade by force or threat of force. It is a popular tactic among schoolyard bullies, drill instructors, and governments.
The problem is that forcing someone to adopt an opinion does cannot change the truth. It also does not guarantee a true change of heart or mind.
A Man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.
– Benjamin Franklin
In the past, Christians sometimes tried to impose their religion on non-Christians. A few Christians even gave unbelievers the ultimatum to convert or die. In parts of Europe differing factions of Christians even fought one another over doctrinal differences, and religious and political power. However, this had no impact on whether Christianity was true or not .
It should be noted that this never became normative Christian practice and was often done in spite of the protest of the Church. In fact, it ran counter to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Rather than spreading the Christian faith by the sword, they argued persuasively for their convictions.
Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.
– Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:11
Even if I forced people at gunpoint to repent and believe the gospel, it would not make Christianity true (or false). If Christians banded together, took over the government, and outlawed all non-Christian beliefs it would not change the nature of reality. It would not be logical and it would even run counter to classical Christian teaching.
In the next post, I will write about the appeal to pity fallacy.
Ecclesiastes 7:19 ESV
Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.