In my last post I used the phrase “Straw Man argument.” I wanted to explain what the term meant and give a few examples of it in apologetic discussions. The term Straw Man fallacy can also be used interchangeability.
Straw Man Argument – Straw man arguments involve misrepresenting the view-point of someone else to make it easier to knock down. This can be done by defining a term incorrectly, not presenting all the facts or view points that might be controversial, it can even been from out-right purposeful lying.
Apologist Chris Sherrod uses the example of a statement often made by Darwinian Evolutionists. “You creations don’t accept the fact that evolution can be observed.” Here the mistake is referring to the type of evolution that is described. Macro Evolution vs. Micro Evolution. Christians do see and support micro evolution, it is also called adaption. What has never been observed is macro evolution where living organisms change species.
Just this afternoon I went to hear a man, who called himself an atheist, speak on the subject of America not being a Christian nation at it’s foundation. During the question section of his time he began to talk about the Biblical view of slavery and how Christians have changed their view of slavery over time. He made several comments hinting that God approved of slavery or that enslaving other slaves from other nations was commanded by God. He told the group that there were verses in the Bible where God instructed them that it was okay to have slaves and even referenced the apostle Paul saying that Paul instructed the Slaves to obey their masters. I saw the straw man argument that was being build up before my eyes. At the proper time I spoke up and called the argument for what it was. I told the man that he was misrepresenting the Biblical idea of slavery and that no where did God command the Hebrews to take slaves and make them their own. When he said I was wrong, I asked him to produce the verse, and he could not. I shared a few differences between Old Testament Slavery and the typical African slavery that many people think about today. I didn’t want to take up his time with the students, so I quickly wrapped it up and we agreed to talk over email in the future.
I didn’t have to mention that Biblical slavery was voluntary by the person so that they could work off a debt owed that they could not pay. These slaves were treated as well as the friends and family in the home. They were given rights just as a free person was. After 7 years the slave had to be set free, no matter if the debt was paid off. One last thought that I wished I would have mentioned was that just because the Bible talks about something like slavery or divorce for example, it doesn’t mean that God approved of that action or practice. Much of the Bible is descriptive and not prescriptive. It describes the people and their actions. People who are imperfect sinners, just like me, who make wrong choices. I don’t know if he was unaware of the differences and the straw man argument that he was building, but I felt compelled to speak up and not let the truth be misrepresented. If any of the students from the Parkview SSA club are reading this, I wanted to let you know that I actually started this post 2 days ago and did not start it today because of the discussion we had. I had a bit of writers block until today.
The best way to defend against the straw man fallacy is to know your stuff. To know what you believe and why so that you can stop the straw man from being easily pushed over in an argument. This takes time and effort on your part, but if you are going to allow God to use you in helping people understand the true Biblical worldview, it is a must. One of the ways that I try to help maintain as much knowledge that I can is through taking notes. Research shows that if you take notes within 24 hours of learning you can remember 90% of what you learned. I use a computer program to keep all my notes together in one location where I can categorize then by subject and easily find them when I need them.
As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.