The Genetic Fallacy
- When you claim that something is "merely" or "nothing but" its genesis; demeaning something based on its humble beginnings
- I love to point this fallacy out because skeptics use it all the time. Here is how it goes..."You are a Christian because your parents taught that to you as a child. If you grew up in India you would be a Hindu." The implied "therefore" is that Christianity is not true because they could point to "how you came to believe". How do we answer this? By saying "So what?". Who cares if you can show how I came to believe in something; does that make it not true? I came to understand math by a teacher in grade school. Just because you can point that out does that show math is false?
- I once debated a man on whether a woman could preach. I pointed out 1st Timothy 2:12-15. Once we went round-and-round theologically and he realized he had no ground to stand on he asked me, "What college did you go to?" I asked why it mattered but finally acquiesced and told him I went to Roanoke Bible College. To which he said, "OHHHHHH that's why you believe that." I pointed out two things; (1) I believed women shouldn't preach according to Biblical command before I went to school there...and...(2) Even if RBC taught that to me it doesn't make it false. He was guilty of the genetic fallacy
- Biblical example....When Philip found Nathanel and reported to him that they had found the Messiah Nathanel replied in John 1:46, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" When Jesus came to his hometown and was teaching the people weren't buying it for they said, "Is this not the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55). Jesus' humble beginnings do not matter in this case. I understand the Messiah needed to be from Bethlehem according to prophecies but who cares where he grew up or who his parents were (yes I know he needed to be of Judah, in David's line)? In these two situations the people were trying to discredit Jesus based on his humble beginnings not because they thought his birthplace & parents were contrary to prophecy.
- When you suppose that in a given situation there are only two alternatives
- For example; Are you going to send you kid to private or public schools? (What about homeschool?). Do you have faith or do you believe in reason? But someone can have a reasonable faith. The opposite of faith isn't reason but sight (2nd Cor 5:7). You can either be a Christian or a Scientist. Science doesn't contradict the Bible therefore a person could be both.
- Caution--Not all dichotomies are false. For example; I either exist or don't exist, there is no middle ground. A woman is either pregnant or not pregnant, she can't be both and she can't be neither.
- Biblical Examples....This is more of a cultural Christianity example but it will suffice. It irritates me when someone says, "I just want to love people, I'm not trying to divide over doctrine." This is a snobby false dichotomy. The Bible says we are to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). We don't have to, nor should we, choose between truth and love. As Christians we are commanded not to fall into this false dichotomy; we must preach truth lovingly & practice love which is part of the truth.
Do you see these two fallacies in the Bible anywhere else?