People who hear the Truth do not convert for a number of reasons. Our Lord enumerates the variety of these reasons with the Parable of the Sower. Then there are the fake reasons — the fallacies that we offer up to hide our reasons for not converting. I’m collecting some of these that I find particularly instructive.

The fallacy of questions as reasons: What about this? What do you do with that? It’s not as if, when the ‘questions’ are answered, you’d say, “I see now that the Faith is rational, and that you’re not afraid of questions” and then you’d convert. Instead, you’ll just come up with new questions that pose as reasons for not converting, and pretend that we are unable or unwilling to deal with them. Further evidence that these are actually avoidance questions, is the assumption that if you personally haven’t seen the answers, haven’t in your own mind been able to reconcile certain ideas, that no one else has; it’s the pride that deceives you into an attitude of self-sufficiency – in which case, the Church and Death and Salvation don’t really exist for you, anyway. Your fallacy begs the question – it precludes from the outset the very things you must accept to convert: the infirmity of the mind in Death, the necessity of actual transformation in Salvation, and the historical reality of those who are moving from the one thing to the other.

The fallacy of hypocrisy: The Church is full of hypocrites. The Christians I’ve known or believed in are hypocrites. Perhaps the greatest deception possible is to see the sins of one’s brother and be blind to one’s own sins (we do not see them all), and the fact that they are far worse (we do not judge them prudently, or we would not judge others). Or perhaps we acknowledge these in theory, but do not really act accordingly. If the Church is full of hypocrites, you’ve come to the right place. If the Christians you’ve known or believed in are hypocrites, perhaps they are for your salvation and you are for theirs. No one else, though, can accept responsibility for you choosing to think and live honestly; you can’t put it off on someone else or on bad examples; you’re accountable for your own thought processes and choices. The hypocrisy charge is smokescreen. You wanted something pure, but you did not want it enough to be pure. If the failure of others can cause you to turn away from the Faith, then you were either planning not to fail at all, or to ignore the effect on others, when you do. You have failed; you have turned away because of the impurity of others when you were likewise impure; you are the hypocrite. And if this were a real reason for avoidance, you’d come join those who desire to become something more than hypocrites. The difference between them and you is that you are still in your sins, but they are repenting; they are the honest ones.

2 thoughts on “Fallacies”

  1. “Your fallacy begs the question – it precludes from the outset the very things you must accept to convert: the infirmity of the mind in Death, the necessity of actual transformation in Salvation, and the historical reality of those who are moving from the one thing to the other.”

    Very interesting. Can you give me an outline of how you would go about communicating this in a real conversation?

  2. I’d rather not. For one thing, this *is* how I conduct real conversations. If the person doesn’t have the basic tools of logic, getting those comes first. After that, we can talk about some other topic. That’s the classical way, after all.

    The mistake is thinking one must coddle people by answering their questions, ‘concerns’, or objections in whatever condition they’re in. I find that to be a Protestant-American approach, but not an essentially Christian one.

    When dealing with relativists who can’t even distinguish subject from object, solipsists who don’t even know if anything else is real, and nihilists who don’t believe anything has meaning, there are deeper issues of epistemology to resolve before anything else. If there’s no truth, or truth has no value, or truth isn’t distinct from my whims, then we don’t go down other paths, because it just cheapens the truth, misleads with the truth, and indeed, adds confusion to their confusion.

    If they’re not capable of distinguishing a fact from an opinion, an ad hominem from an argument, we either work on that, or we leave the conversation aside. This is one reason I cut a lot of conversations short. After all, would you debate the concept of meaning with someone who didn’t have an elementary education? They’d have to first grasp that a proposition is independent of a personality, etc.

    I don’t dumb it down.

    And the other thing is that, I’m neither a religious philosopher, nor a prophet. Whenever anyone asks me to elaborate, I really prefer not to. The implication is that I am offering something new that is not contained within our faith or tradition, or else that I am a luminary of that tradition. When I speak at all, it is a kind of personal confession, but if I take my own thoughts so seriously that I must expound upon them, soon I’m engaged in religious propaganda, a kind of religious version of politics, and then I’m both deceiving myself and anyone who listens to me. It is all I can do to repel those who continually invite me to the table of Protestantism where, presumably, through hashing out our own personal inclinations, apart from the fullness of the one true, right, correct, real, and holy tradition, we will somehow formulate our religious formulae, our “perspectives” – we will build our religion out of propositions as surely as heathens do out of wood and clay and fire. I will only stand my ground with them, and refuse to engage in apostasy. But to elaborate on orthodoxy, beyond what is needed for my soul, is like having enough bread, but walking out on a tightrope across a chasm in search of a crumb, because perhaps there’s more. The Faith is rich and has all the answers to the questions that have answers. It will provide all anyone needs. I am not needed. I’m just driftwood, meandering toward the fire, and praying for enough water to keep some cinder of me from utter destruction. The fathers will help you; they are all around us, after all.

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