Disagreement on the merits…not the man

Sep 25, 2020 | Apologetics, Blog

Today’s is a fairly simple lesson in logic and careful thinking.

Doesn’t it frustrate the living daylights out of you when someone lambasts a person for what they believe instead of dealing carefully with their belief itself?

Now, to be sure…

There is a time and a place to call out people who are teaching false things.

Totally cool with that—in fact, it’s a biblical tact.

However, what does not work is any attempt to use your ill feelings towards someone as a logical reason not to believe their position.

For example, perhaps someone says, Steve is a creationist. Creationists always lie; therefore, Steve is a liar and you should not listen to him.

So, what is going on here?

In this example, it has been argued that I am a liar solely on the basis that I am a creationist. This is called an ad hominem attack.

That term simply means “against the man.”

Is it true that what I am saying is a lie, solely on the basis that I am a creationist?

Now, it may actually be true that I am a liar; but it’s not because I am a creationist.

If it is to be demonstrated that I am a liar, it will be demonstrated using arguments and evidence that I actually have lied.

This may sound elementary for those of you who have been involved in apologetics and specifically the origins debate for a while, but for those of you who are not familiar with this sort of thinking, you would be surprised to find out how often it takes place.

If you master this principle – that is, truly being able to discern when someone is attacking you instead of your position – you will be able to outmaneuver almost any interlocutor you encounter.

The fact is they are violating one of the most fundamental principles of logic.

OK, a word of warning though.

You need to be very careful not to fall into this trap for yourself.

What if someone is a theistic evolutionist? Is their opinion on, say biology as a whole, wrong, in virtue of the fact that they are a theistic evolutionist?


What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander… In other words, the same rules apply!

Commitment to being a sound thinker involves learning the fundamental rules of logic such as this.

If you’re interested in going deeper into this topic, I’d like to suggest a two-part podcast series I did on commonly violated rules of logic.

You can completely change the nature of the conversations you have if you learn to master these rules.

Check out the link to part 1 here: https://steveschramm.com/bad-argument-1/

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Hi, I’m Steve, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher with a heart for exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

I’m interested in the surprising connection between creation, theology, business, and storytelling. We explore those themes and more on this blog.

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