Composition Fallacy: Theological Debate and Christian Blogging

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Lots of theological debate and assertion takes place in the Christian blogosphere. Lots! In fact, I wonder if 80% of Christian blogs would exist if the debating stopped. I can see an end to Christian blogging debates – that day the sun stops rising. So we’ll be here a while.

Christian debating is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be. We just have to get better at it. By better, I mean more Christ-like. Part of being more Christ-like is found in how we accuse one another which Scripture speaks to in more than one place, in more than one way.

A lesson from logic fallacies may also serve Christian blogging well. The one I have in mind is the fallacy of Composition. The Nizkor Project offers helpful insight into this fallacy.

The fallacy of Composition is committed when a conclusion is drawn about a whole based on the features of its constituents when, in fact, no justification provided for the inference. There are actually two types of this fallacy, both of which are known by the same name (because of the high degree of similarity).

The first type of fallacy of Composition arises when a person reasons from the characteristics of individual members of a class or group to a conclusion regarding the characteristics of the entire class or group (taken as a whole). More formally, the “reasoning” would look something like this.

  1. Individual F things have characteristics A, B, C, etc.
  2. Therefore, the (whole) class of F things has characteristics A, B, C, etc.

This line of reasoning is fallacious because the mere fact that individuals have certain characteristics does not, in itself, guarantee that the class (taken as a whole) has those characteristics.

The above definition of the first type of Composition fallacy will suffice. This fallacy is committed all the time in the Southern Baptist blogosphere usually among folks fighting over Calvinism.

For example:

  1. Some individual Southern Baptist Calvinists do A, B, C, etc.
  2. Therefore, all Southern Baptist Calvinists must do A, B, C, etc. (so they all must be dealt with).

This doesn’t just happen on Southern Baptist blogs. Some of the popular categories today are: Calvinism, Reformed, Arminian, non-Calvinist/non-Arminian, Complementarian, Egalitarian, Charismatic, Cessationist, Missional, and Fundamentalist.

There may be times when it is proper to address whole classes, but often one or two influential people within a class are singled out and criticism toward them is applied to all in the same class.

I think we can do better.

Here I blog….

Mark

 

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tagged as , , in apologetics,Christianity,theology

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 mcjennn December 31, 2013 at 10:29 am

You are so right. I see this so often when it comes to Calvinists vs. Arminians/Non-Calvinists. There are a few very vocal ones on each side-and as a result some will demonize all who hold similar beliefs to the point of even calling them “unregenerate”. It can get very hateful at times, the antithesis of how Christians should be behaving in any situation. What a terrible witness to the lost.

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