False Dichotomy or How To Win An Argument


I watched the first portion of this video yesterday in which Mark Driscoll explains to an inquiring Doug Wilson about the presence of supernatural activity. I got about 10 minutes into the video until I couldn’t listen to Driscoll anymore. Not because Driscoll is so bad to listen to, he’s actually quite engaging. But because Driscoll made his argument look so good incomparison with anything else on offer.

Driscoll traps himself in what is known as a “False Dichotomy” or, in this case, more definitely “Morton’s Fork”. In this type of logical (illogical) reasoning, you paint two extremes of the positions held (in this situation, crazy fanatical charismatics, or crazy fanatical fundies) and show yourself to be the reasonable, rational middle ground that has balanced the two extremes. This is a common fallacy that many preachers I have listened to commit.

It’s not that Driscoll is necessarily wrong, it’s just that he has not exegetically proved his point. He has not represented the substance of the argument posited by cessationist in a fair manner, nor has he showed their purported fallacious reasoning. Most poignantly, Driscoll does not engage the substance and so does not present the facts of his position, but merely his position in relation to the “false” positions.

What this does, in the ears of the audience, is sets you up as the reasonable one who has considered “all” sides and have found the rational way out through the missile-launching mess. This is great for the arguer (Driscoll), but it still fails to engage the substance of the argument – in this case, the biblical text.

So when you listen to someone start of an argument this way, immediately ask them to show the oppositions arguments (not emotionalism attached to the arguments), the errors in their arguments, followed by what their logic is, then the reasons why their logic is the correct view. If you don’t do this, you may end up thinking 1) you lost the argument, 2) your opponent is correct, and unfortunately 3) you subsume an erroneous belief based on false logical argumentation.

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