This post was written to address a number of logical fallacies that, when stacked together, somehow justified the authors’ choice to target ONE particular sin. I disagree with this decision, and I’ve decided to address it publicly in this article. I hope that if you read it, you will read all of it. I look forward to your comments.
For anyone who has been spiritually abused by the church, first of all, I’m sorry about that. In this blog post, I will affirm what the Bible says about various sins. These affirmations are not condemnation, because I know that:
We ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
~ AND ~
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
A Critique: Chapter 7 of The Coming Apostasy
As I have agonized over this book review—and I really have agonized over it—I decided to do something I’ve never done before: offer two reviews for the same book. To read my full review of The Coming Apostasy (sans Chapter 7) click here. The review on this page covers only Chapter 7. If you take a look at the graphic I created for this blog post, you will see that I have this section folded back on itself. There’s a reason, but I’ll get to that later.
In Chapter 7, “The Watershed Moment for the Church,” Mark Hitchcock and Jeff Kinley present their thesis that “homosexual behavior is a watershed for apostasy,” and the legalism of gay marriage in the United States in 2015 was a “watershed moment for the church” and our culture…in a bad way.
What has been even worse than the US Supreme Court decision, if that’s possible, is the response of many professing Christians, even Christian leaders, to this issue.” (pg. 116).
It’s clear to me that the authors spent a lot of time in prayer over the subject matter in this key chapter of their book hoping to make their point with respect to those who have homosexual attraction as opposed to those actively involved in the homosexual lifestyle. In many places, I can sense a compassionate heart struggling with how to reconcile the letter of the law with the spirit of the law.
Our choice today on this issue is not between lazily condoning sinful behavior or lashing out in anger and condemnation. “There’s another way. It’s possible to show love and also to speak of transformative truth. It just isn’t easy.” (page 135)
My decision to write a critique of Chapter 7 was not made because I disagree with their comments about the sinfulness of an active homosexual lifestyle. I don’t. My problem with this chapter is their choice to paint homosexuality as the “watershed of apostasy” to the neglect of a host of other sins which are also clearly and frequently mentioned in the Bible and prevalent in the church today. To pin the decline of morality and rise of apostasy on homosexuality is an egregious mistake.
To pin the decline of morality and rise of apostasy on homosexuality is an egregious mistake. Click To Tweet
Choosing to highlight this one sin as worse than all the others is based on a number of logical fallacies which I detail below. According to Purdue OWL:
Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim.”
7 Logical Fallacies in Chapter 7
I have identified logical fallacies (you might find more) in Chapter 7 of The Coming Apostasy, and I discuss each one below.
Logical Fallacy #1: Texas Sharp Shooter (Cherry Picking)
Only select evidence is presented in order to persuade the audience to accept a position, and evidence that would go against the position is withheld. The stronger the withheld evidence, the more fallacious the argument.*
One of Hitchcock’s and Kinley’s main contentions is that homosexuality is a worse sin than others because it is “contrary to nature” and breached a “divinely appointed” barrier (pg. 120). By categorizing it as “unnatural” (which is a term used in Scripture to describe it), they put homosexuality in a class of sin all its own. They argue it is punished more harshly than other sins in the Bible (pp. 120-121). As evidence, they refer to the homosexual activity of the men in Sodom (cf. Gen. 19) prior to its destruction. The problem with this is that they completely omit Ezekiel’s words which disprove their thesis:
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” (Ezk. 16:49-50)
Sodom was not destroyed solely because of sexual sin: It was destroyed because of the abomination AND the sins of pride, gluttony, laziness, and neglect of the needy. Footnoted references from Leviticus reveal homosexuality as one of many prohibitions punishable by death. They catalogue a variety of sexual sins AND others including “cursing” one’s father or mother, having an affair with the neighbor lady, and having sex during menstruation. Homosexuality was neither isolated nor dealt a punishment different from other sexual sins.
Logical Fallacy #2: Slippery Slope
Asserting that if we allow A to happen, then Z will consequently happen too; therefore, A should not happen.*
The authors argue that since home was “the first human institution” created by God, redefining marriage consequently means that “nothing is off limits” and “everything is up for grabs” (pg. 122). Not only is it impossible to validate their predictions, it is equally impossible to separate the consequences of redefining marriage from the consequences of legalizing divorce which, by the way, also violates the creation of that exact same institution. The decision to focus on homosexuality is wrong.
Reason #3: Ad Hominem Abusive
Attacking your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument.*
Kinley and Hitchcock are frustrated with those whom they refer to as “professing” Christians—especially famous authors and speakers like Tony Campolo, Rachel Held Evans, and Jen Hatmaker who, in their opinion, have “decided to fit in rather than stand out” in society. (BTW, referring to someone as a “professing” Christian is a slam in fundamentalist circles.) They contend that this “moral freefall” is only possible because of unbiblical compromises and improper interpretation of clear passages. Since these celebrities have come out in “support homosexual relationships in the name of love and acceptance” (pg. 117), their position as redeemed children of God is cast into doubt and their influence is demonized.
Fallacy #4: False Cause
Presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.*
Why the authors purposefully picked homosexuality as the “watershed issue related to apostasy” is beyond me—even though they take nearly four pages to explain their decision. I read every word of their justification and intellectually comprehend the argument. To suggest that the legalization of homosexual marriage in the United States in 2015 is bringing us closer to the Tribulation and the Second Coming is a moot point. The fact is, every day that passes brings us closer to the End—that’s just the passing of time. But to imply that “homosexuality was only the beginning” (pg. 134) and that “what is happening today is no coincidence…this might be the beginning of the end” (pg. 135) is a bit much. Correlation does not equal causation.
Fallacy # 5: Stacking the Deck
Any evidence that supports an opposing argument is simply rejected, omitted, or ignored*
The authors quote and reference a number of verses that specifically condemn homosexual relations; however, they skim over (or completely ignore) other sins which are also clearly prohibited. They omit almost all references to those passages in order to paint the picture that homosexuality is the worst sin and imply that it is addressed more often and more clearly than anything else. This is simply not true.
Fallacy #6: Hasty Generalization
Bases an inference on too small a sample, or on an unrepresentative sample. Often, a single example or instance is used as the basis for a broader generalization.*
The authors argue that “the stunning pace with which homosexual behavior has gained approval can only be explained in supernatural terms. Something beyond human forces is energizing this issue and galvanizing the marginalization and mocking of those who disagree” (pg. 118) I am pretty sure that the gay community would disagree with the assertion that the “approval” of their “behavior” has been accepted at a “stunning pace,” unless one means “stunningly tortoiselike.” Their striving for acceptance in society has persisted for centuries. Less than 12% of countries in the world have legalized homosexuality.* So, to make this “stunning pace” claim based solely on what is happening in a small part of the world (primarily the United States) is incredibly myopic.
Fallacy #7: Appeal to Tradition
Using historical preferences of the people (tradition)…as evidence that the historical preference is correct.*
The authors make their argument that the homosexual lifestyle should be rejected because it’s been that way since the inception of the church.
For two thousand years the church of Jesus Christ has believed that homosexual behavior is sinful…Belief that homosexual activity is wrong was almost universally accepted even two or three decades ago among Christians and non-Christians alike” (page 123).
The authors accuse “progressives” of cowering to culture—changing their positions on the issue (1) out of fear of being labeled homophobic, and (2)—they actually say this—”to appear more loving and tolerant than believers who hold to the millenia-long interpretation of God’s Word” (page 124). Why would any Christian want to appear more loving and tolerant than another brother or sister in the Lord? Could it be that many of those who hold to tradition are hateful and intolerant? Their conclusion that “it’s possible to show love and also speak of transformative truth” is sadly lost in the shuffle.
The bottom line is that the goal of Chapter 7 is to insinuate homosexuality (as if it were some new issue) as the catalyst for the great apostasy which immediately precedes the end of the world as we know it. They argue:
Homosexuality was only the beginning—the opening volley. Having lost God, man has now lost himself. Where is it all headed?…Satan is spearheading a global onslaught against God and man to pave the way for the final apostasy predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3. We are living on its leading edge. This may be the beginning of the end. Christ’s coming may be very soon!” (page 134)
If I were to follow the pattern set forth by the authors in this chapter, I could make a case that any of the following popular and prevalent sins was the true “watershed of apostasy” in the church: divorce, remarriage after divorce, gluttony, lust, neglect of the needy, gossip, slander, drunkenness, etc. Many of these have been tolerated—even welcomed—in the church ever since her inception. The apostle Paul was already writing against these moral issues prior to the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70! Can you imagine what would have happened if the authors had chosen any one of those other sins as the catalyst to the end times?
As King Solomon wisely observed,
“There is nothing new under the sun.”
I think it’s high time we Christians take a good look in the mirror and face the fact that we live in a fallen world. We have all sinned (Rom. 3:23). And our sins are forgivable. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness, your patience, and your forgiveness.
On page 123, the authors pose this question:
How do we hold fast to Scripture and love all people, all the while being hated and demonized for simply believing the Bible?”
I think that’s what many of us are trying to do: We are holding fast to Scripture—all of it, not just certain verses pulled out of context and over-emphasized to prove a point. But instead of being hated and demonized by society, we are being condemned and labeled by fellow Believers (“No True Scotsman” Fallacy). Many of the comments in this chapter undermine the love of Christ we have shown to our gay friends and could potentially turn them away from the One who has loved them from the moment they were conceived. It’s so unnecessary! Consider this:
The only folks Jesus continually singled out for condemnation were religious leaders! (see Mt. 23). Click To Tweet
Jesus not only taught us to love others—especially the shunned—He modeled it. He showed us how to reach out and touch the untouchable; to set the captives free; to bind up the brokenhearted; to stand up for the truth. I think somewhere along the way, we forgot that it’s NOT our job to change people. It’s our job to share the hope we have in Christ and speak the truth in love. It’s really up to the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins and initiate change in our lives.
I won’t drag this out any longer: Despite some excellent sentences sprinkled throughout the chapter, the overall emphasis of this section is wrong and riddled with logical fallacies. In my opinion, this book can and should be read without Chapter 7.
* Less than 12% of countries have legalized homosexual activity. Calculations based on the following:
- Current number of countries in the world: 195
Source: http://www.worldometers.info/geography/how-many-countries-are-there-in-the-world/. Accessed March 1, 2017.
- Current number of countries in the world which have legalized gay marriage: 23
Source: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/06/26/gay-marriage-around-the-world-2013/. Accessed March 1, 2017.
Definitions of fallacies were gleaned from the following websites:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
3 thoughts on “7 Logical Fallacies in Chapter 7 of “The Coming Apostasy””
I have not read the book; I have only read parts of chapters online, including Chapter 7, so I really don’t have a full right to even comment probably, but here are my thoughts.
So, Reason #3: Ad Hominem Abusive…I don’t really see how calling out Tony Campolo, Rachel Held Evans, etc. qualifies as a slam. I am not really familiar with these people, but it appears the authors have fairly represented these people’s respective decisions to embrace and welcome with full acceptance Christian gay couples into the church. To me, this is, as the authors state, the decision to fit in rather than stand out (up.)
Fallacy #7: Appeal to Tradition…The authors state: “For two thousand years the church of Jesus Christ has believed that homosexual behavior is sinful…Belief that homosexual activity is wrong was almost universally accepted even two or three decades ago among Christians and non-Christians alike” (page 123).
Your response to this is: “The authors accuse “progressives” of cowering to culture—changing their positions on the issue (1) out of fear of being labeled homophobic, and (2)—they actually say this—”to appear more loving and tolerant than believers who hold to the millenia (sic)-long interpretation of God’s Word” (page 124). Why would any Christian want to appear more loving and tolerant than another brother or sister in the Lord? Could it be that many of those who hold to tradition are hateful and intolerant? Their conclusion that “it’s possible to show love and also speak of transformative truth” is sadly lost in the shuffle.
I don’t think it’s that they want to appear more loving and tolerant than their fellow believers, rather it’s the world’s opinion they are worrying about how they appear. Call it tradition if you like, but adhering to Scripture and refusing to call sin good opens me to being declared hateful and intolerant.
My perspective is such that it requires a dedication to not only my Lord, but the directive to love my neighbor as myself.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
I don’t call my sins good, why would I lie to my neighbor and tell them theirs are?
Fallacy #6: Hasty Generalization…I think, if I am understanding everything you have said correctly, is probably the one that bothers you the most. I understand where you are coming from in terms of things like “Less than 12% of countries in the world have legalized homosexuality,” but I don’t really think that is ultimately a statistic that matters.
Both China and the U.S., the 1st and 3rd largest countries in the world population-wise respectively have legalized and legitimized homosexuality in the past twenty years. The United States has arguably the most influence in the world- certainly the Western world, but without a doubt disproportionate to its population. I would imagine China has much the same degree of influence in the Asian world. China doesn’t really have Christianity, and the way things are going, the U.S. isn’t exactly a hotbed of faith anymore. I think the authors are fair in their assessment that acceptance has led to approval which has led to applause.
Fallacy # 5: Stacking the Deck…Lastly, I believe the authors are certainly correct in pointing out that while all sin in sin, the consequences of the different sins are not the same. Their analogy, which I don’t believe you have addressed, was that all crimes are crimes, too, but that doesn’t mean that they are equal in their consequences. Surely kiting a check isn’t equal to murder in the consequential fallout. The same could be said of homosexuality. The consequences of this sin in the world far outweigh eating too many Cheetos. The family and the destruction thereof is Satan’s favorite way, and homosexuality, not gluttony, is a far better method. Though I would add pornography and fornication are other ways in, I still don’t believe they are elevated quite as high simply because these are sins that are still largely done in secret; you don’t have people going around marching and bragging about their infidelity or porn addictions.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. I didn’t mean for it to be quite so long, but I guess that’s what I had to say. I’m not really in disagreement with you per se…more I see both the authors and your perspective I guess.
Thank you for your thoughtful response, Elizabeth. While I don’t have time to address every one of these right now, I do see one point I’d like to clarify. The “slam” was referring to Tony Campolo, Rachel Held Evans, and Jen Hatmaker as “professing” Christians. It’s a politically correct way of calling their Christianity into doubt in the mind of Fundamentalists. If they were “real” Christians, they would not be labeled “professing.” In other words, “THEY say they are Christians, but we are not so sure.” I’ll try to get back on sometime within the next few days to respond to the other comments.