Questioning Salvation as Ad Hominem

Ad Hominem, for those who don’t know, is Latin for “to the man” or “to the person,” and is a logical fallacy.

1. Person A makes claim X.

2. Person B makes attack on Person A (i.e. his education, character, social status, affiliations, past conduct, etc.).

3. Therefore, X is false.

Of course nothing about X is proven false by appeal to the character of Person A, but it distracts the person following the argument, and leads them to believe that X is invalid because the person’s credibility is undermined.  For simple-minded individuals, who lack a critical understanding/discernment, this works rather effectively; as with all fallacies it appears legitimate, but is actually nothing more than manipulation.

For a Christian, it seems obvious that the practice should be avoided, for it really is nothing more than a form of deception—if done knowingly (which is not always so; but I assume that those who claim such superior intellect over others would know what they are doing).  However, the tactic seems popular in the endeavor to gain Twitter and Facebook followers, especially when the arguments made against my position, cause, ministry, etc. are being heeded by those opposed to me…because they might actually have weight.

How to stop it?  Well, question their faith, of course!  Nothing will shut down the opposition quicker than making sure “true believers” (i.e. those who agree with my position) have nothing to do with the foolish arguments of the “world” (i.e. anything that calls into question my position).

I think at least four things should be considered:

1)  Not everyone may agree with your position.  Hyper-Calvinism is typically the poster child of this type of wrong thinking about what makes a Christian a Christian.  Adhering to all points of the Calvinist position, down to the jot and tittle of Limited Atonement, does not make one a Christian any more than having a full-orbed understanding of the Trinity, economically or ontologically.  Theological perfection as a gospel prerequisite is a pretty steep hill on top of which to put the offer of Christ’s forgiveness.  Not everyone’s understanding, practice, or even “Christian walk” are developed equally at all times; and your understanding is not the basis of whether they truly follow Christ (a Christian in China probably has a better understanding of suffering for the Gospel than your understanding of Christian liberty).  See Mark 9:38-41; Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 10:27-30; 2 Corinthians 3:18

2) You might actually be wrong.  Think of it…you?…wrong?… whoa.  Far be it from anyone to think that your far-superior intellect, reasoning abilities, powers of deduction, or witty internet rejoinders might actually be incorrect.  Rather than trying to undermine the claims of opposition by questioning their credentials, slandering them, are weaponizing their every mistake, it might be wise to consider at what points they could be right, or…at least…how you could better yourself in that area.  Humility, I know, it’s a dying virtue in Christianity; we don’t want to appear weak, or foolish to the world, so we cloak our insecurity in a facade of mental superiority.  See Proverbs 12:1; Jeremiah 5:3; Matthew 5:5; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Philippians 2:3-4

3) There is a time to ignore opposition, and a time to deal with it.  Let’s say those disagreeing are wrong, and it is biblically evident.  Maybe you’ve dealt with the same person a thousand times, and at this point it is right to plead for them to repent, believe the gospel, and then ignore them (Proverbs 26:4).  But if your first line of attack to any legitimate criticism of your position is to mock, distract, slander, libel, accuse, or cast doubt on someone’s salvation, then you betray your childish insecurities, and make your position stand on the foundations of division (a satanic foundation) rather than the firm Foundation of biblical truth.  Everyone loves the part of the verse that says, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks…,” if only they took the latter part of the verse as seriously as the first, to do so “with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:15-16).  So perhaps the person is wrong; perhaps, instead of ostracizing them (and creating further division), you could correct them yourself, and help a weaker brother/sister to better understand the scriptures.  See Proverbs 26:5; Romans 16:7; Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 3:16; Titus 3:10

4) You’re not the Holy Spirit.  I don’t want this to sound like you can’t have a decent idea of who is a Christian and who is not.  There are of course indicators, that the Lord himself told us about, that one is not a believer, is a false prophet, or is of the devil.  However, the internet—an often faceless, nameless, contextualess, impersonal medium—does not seem like a great place to try and “discern the spirits.”  Obvious indicators might have led you to believe that a person is not a believer; but it is imprudent to cast spiritual doubt on every dissenter (especially ones you don’t know personally) for the purpose of undermining their argument, propping up your base, and turning your followers into followers of you rather than the Truth (the modus operandi of the cults).  You do not un-convert people any more than you convert them.  And when you take it upon yourself to un-convert them without addressing their concerns you start to display the indicators that you seem to find so often in others.

 

SDG,

Jon

I am young in years,
    and you are aged;
therefore I was timid and afraid
    to declare my opinion to you.
I said, ‘Let days speak,
    and many years teach wisdom.’
But it is the spirit in man,
    the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.
It is not the old who are wise,
    nor the aged who understand what is right.
Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me;
    let me also declare my opinion.'”

-Job 32:6-10

 

Note: not all ad hominem arguments are fallacious.  In relation to the topic of this blog post, it may be that a person acts inconsistent to his claims, in which case his argument would be undermined by the contradiction in what he claims and what he practices (this is purposefully vague, because I don’t want to write a blog post to a blog post.  The best case is an atheist who claims no absolutes while telling you how evil God is; his argument is undermined by his contradiction in practice vs. belief).  However, it becomes fallacious the minute an argument against a position is attacked by appealing to the character of the one making the argument.  Rather than “to the argument” the defender appeals straight “to the man” and make sure that no one can trust that individual’s arguments based on his position, education, character, or background.

 

 

Advertisements

~ by TSL on July 9, 2014.

 
%d bloggers like this: