If you don't affirm this, then...
Updated: Jun 2, 2022
It has become popular in secular and progressive Christian circles to make statements like this:
If you are affirming of ______
Then bad things won't happen as a direct or indirect result.
You are not affirming of ________
Therefore, bad things are happening as a direct or indirect result.
Since I run an apologetics ministry and I'm a Classical Conversations (CC) Challenge Director (middle-high school ages), where we study logic and identify fallacies, I feel like this is a good opportunity to put this claim to the test.
First, lets break down the Hypothetical Syllogism Argument and its symbolic form:
If you are affirming of A, then B
Therefore, not B
Below it is the symbolic form alongside the translated version of it:
If "you are affirming of ______" (A)
Then "bad things won't happen as a direct or indirect result" (B)
"You are not affirming of ________"(not A)
Therefore, "bad things are happening as a direct or indirect result" (not B)
For the rest of the response, I will write it as a "dialogue" between the "logic student" and the "honest progressive" making the claim. This format will make it easier for me to show the exchange between ideas and pushback. Also, if this format is new to you, be patient. I will breakdown what each term means in more detail as we go.
Logic Student: by what standard should I determine if A is good to affirm? Is it there a direct logical implication of not A and not B? Also, can you clarify more what "A" represents?
Honest Progressive: Society, feelings of happiness and self-fulfillment is the standard for determine if "A" is good to affirm. Also, "A" means: Loving their "true self" and finding happiness is the essence of existence...for "The end of all being is the happiness of man" (Paris Reidhead, not a humanist, but describing what humanism states). In other, words expressive individualism is our highest aim and thus is defined as " the belief that each person must act based on expressing his or her core feelings and intuition, and in so doing they become “authentic,” or, to put it another way, they become really themselves." (Trueman, Nov, 2021, Tabletalk, emphasis mine).
Logic Student: Society and self is a very subjective standard. How do you know which "self" and which "society" is the best or correct standard to determine what is good ? By what standard do you know which one is correct? Or Is it possible there is an objective and unchanging standard that corresponds with how we are designed? Since we are designed by God, shouldn't we go by his standards? Since he is perfectly good, the standards given to us via his word, Scripture, is the best and only standard us creators should build our lives around.
Also, what if I don't affirm that "A" is true and good? If A is not good to affirm, shouldn't we also consider if "not B" is directly caused by doing "Not A"? Also, can you clarify what "B" is?
Honest Progressive: B represents bad things that don't happen when we are loving, tolerant are happening. To put it another way, when "not A doesn't happen, then people won't get hurt!" If you are a "not A" person, then you are threatening the lives of people!
Logic Student: Ok, yes I'm aware that bad things are happening. However, how do you define terms like "bad" and "love?" What is your standard for determine those?
Honest progressive: Whatever doesn't cause harm to others is "good" and love is just "when someone feels accepted for who they are." Or "love means affirming whatever journey a person wants to be on." (Faithfully Different, Crain, pg. 56)
Logic Student: Wait a minute...is that a universal statement that "whatever doesn't cause harm to others is "good?" Are there exceptions to that? Can you think of examples in life where something was painful, but it was still good for you? Like a surgery or getting disciplined by your parents for "bad" behavior. Again, Your view of good seems very "pragmatic" (doing what works for you) and subjective. The same with your understanding of "love." Since there are good reasons to believe Jesus rose from the dead, I'm going to go with his definition of love. In Matthew 22:36-40, he says,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
My friend Natasha Crain makes an important observation about Jesus' words:
"Note that Jesus said loving God is the greatest commandment. This implies that any other commandments should be obeyed within that context. What it means to love others, therefore, depends on what it means to first love God. If we take the Bible to be His Word, we can know what it means to love God because He has revealed who He is, what He has done, and how we are to respond in relationship and obedience. To love others, therefore, means to want what God wants for them based on what He has revealed in the Bible" (Faithfully Different, Crain, pg. 94)
Honest Progressive: Very interesting. You have given me a lot to think about. Perhaps I haven't thought very much about how I define love and goodness. However, I would like to hear more about why you think the resurrection and the Bible is true. I don't accept Jesus and his Bible as true...
Logic Student: I'm glad you are thinking about these things. I think it's important that we build our lives around what is true and good. Also, yes, lets talk about the resurrection of Jesus more sometime. This article here is a good place to start.
Going back to your original syllogism...your argument was stated as such:
If you A, then B
Therefore, not B
So, again, we should revisit if your argument itself is even valid. You are making a hypothetical argument, which is "a statement that affirms an outcome based on a condition" (Introductory Logic, 227). The basic form is clear when you state "If A, then B."
However, the question remains, is your full argument valid?
Honest progressive: Of course it is! And who cares about logic? Why are you getting all technical with me. Can't you see that "no B" is happening? We must Affirm A! If we don't then.....
Logic Student: Hold on. You are using logic right now! Granted, I believe your use of "logic" has much to be desired....
Honest progressive: What do you mean? I think it's VERY OBVIOUS that my logic is clear and you only disagree with me because you are a bigot and one of those 'conservative Christians that believe in the Bible.
Logic Student: Why you are calling me names? I'm not sure how that supports your position. Also, are you familiar with the definition of bigot? A simple google search reveals that it means, "a person who is obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction, especially one who is prejudiced against or antagonistic toward a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group."
Your name calling is actually called an 'informal fallacy' (error in reasoning) of 'ad hominem' as you are dismissing what I am trying to say by merely attacking my character. It's not dealing with the actual argument. Also, you are committing the 'genetic fallacy' as you are trying to discount my position because of the origin/source of the one making it: i.e. " You only believe that because you are a Bible believing Christian."
Again, it doesn't deal with the actual argument.
Furthermore, according to the definition of bigot, it seems that you are the one holding to your position 'unreasonably' and refusing to dialogue with me calmly and reasonably.
Honest Progressive: Ok, I see your point. I'm sorry. I'm just so concerned that more people aren't hurt!
Logic Student: I don't want more people to be hurt either! That's exactly why I want to think carefully through every issue you hear and make sure that it's a valid argument. In fact, in the words of my logic book he (God) "...created man with the ability to reason" as he said "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 1:18). He did this so that we could communicate with him and one another. This enables us to love and obey him." Indeed, formal logic is UNAVOIDABLE for all people and it is "the science and art of reasoning well" (Introductory Logic, 1).
If we are bad at logic, then we are bad at thinking and will end up hurting ourselves and others.
So, back to the point I was making....
Again, this is the form of your argument:
If you A, then B
Therefore, not B
Before explaining this further, it's important than you understand some basic logic categorial terms here. I will quote from my Introductory Logic point to help explain my points:
"The categorical statement after the if is called the antecedent" and "the statement after the then is called the consequent" (Introductory Logic, 227-228).
So, here's the deal: I believe you are committing a logical fallacy with your main argument.
It's called the "fallacy of denying the antecedent."
it's called that "because the antecedent ("B") of the hypothetical statement is denied in the second premise."
My Introductory Logic book explains this fallacy via another example of this fallacy:
"If I study, then I will get good grades.
I did not study.
Therefore, I will not get good grades." (ibid, 230)
You see the problem with the above argument? It's a "non sequitur, meaning it does not follow." (ibid, 230)
To see the fallacious reason more, the book gives another example:
If you were a gorilla, then you would have two legs.
You are not a gorilla.
Therefore, you do not have two legs."
It's another example of the fallacy of denying the antecedent.
Honest Progressive: ohhh, wow. Thanks for explaining that. I'm going to have to think on that some more.
Logic Student: Yes, I hope you do. We both recognize that it's sad and not good that "not B" is happening. However, we differ on how we would break down the argument of the cause (conditional/hypothetical syllogism). Again, we have to ask, 'does not affirming A logically imply not B?
Honest Progressive: Well, I'm starting to question my position as well. If "A" might not be good then....
Logic Student: Yes, I think it may take some time to process all of this.
Here is the bottom line: If "expressive individualism" or "humanism" is false (including 'progressive Christianity' versions that try to meld humanism w/ Christianity) then we should start with a God centered and Word (Scripture) driven focus on where to find meaning, purpose and identity. When we start with a false assumption about reality (humanism), it will logically lead to more confusion and pain and a reductionist view of reality that forces EVERYTHING (even our reading of scripture) to fit into the box of this humanist worldview. Anything that sticks out (like 'design' 'purpose' 'self-denial,' or built in parameters and definitions for love and relationships) must be "cut-off" cause it doesn't fit into this "humanism-Christianity box."
Treating A as good can also lead to one fallaciously assuming that anyone who doesn't affirm A is the direct culprit of causing pain. It's also a "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy (after this, therefore because of this), but we don't have time to unpack that one right now. (click here for more on this fallacy).
This isn't to say that there haven't been people who have rejected "A" yet wrongfully caused pain, "B", to others. However, it must be stated clearly that, "Not affirming "A" does not logically imply or lead to "B."
Additionally, I believe there are good reasons that Scripture (properly understood and applied) should be our ultimate and final authority.
Nowhere does Scripture say that we must affirm an idol in order to truly love and reach someone.
The problem comes when ones tries to build an entire identity AROUND "A" being true and good...instead building it around their Creator and determining if Scripture even affirms that it is good. If you start with the reverse first, you can easily end up twisting scripture to make it say what you want to be true.
Nancy Pearcey makes a great point about how loving God's design is good for us. In her book called, Love thy Body, she talks about how the Christian worldview actually promotes a great love for the body God has given us and a high view of his design and purpose. Here is a great quote from her related to loving reality/our body and the dangers of affirming "A" (as expressed in the original argument) as true and good:
"This is a devastatingly reductive view of the body. Young people are absorbing the idea that the physical body is not part of the authentic self—that the authentic self is only the autonomous choosing self. This is ancient Gnosticism in a new garb. Policies imposing transgender ideology on children as early as kindergarten are teaching them to denigrate their bodies—to see their biological sex as having no relevance to who they are as whole persons. The two-story dichotomy causes people to feel estranged from their own bodies.” (Pearcey, Nancy. Love Thy Body (p. 196). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
Here is what Scripture does make clear....
"All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and all who repent of their sin and believe in the Lord Jesus (Rom. 10:9) WILL be "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Rom 3:24)
Also, Scripture clearly affirms we are to forsake sin and build our identity on Christ alone:
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
In closing, I encourage you to check out the testimony of Rosario Butterfield on how she came to reject affirming that A is good and instead embraced a Christ centered identity for her entire life. You can watch it here.
Honest Progressive: Great! Thanks for taking the time to explain all of this to me. Most people I have talked with seem to just throw around slogans to shut people up instead of engage in a very thoughtful dialogue. I may not agree with everything you just said, but I promise I will think over all of it seriously. I'll start with watching that video and reading the Bible for myself to see if it can actually be trusted.
To our Readers...
If you still have more questions about Christianity, I encourage you to start reading the gospel of John, take notes, and write down any questions you have. From there, I encourage you to reach out to a Christian friend and talk with them about your questions. Also, please feel free to email me, check out our other articles, our Engage Truth podcast or YouTube show, or attend one of our Engage seminars or intensive classes.