Mk 6:14-29 Herodians and Logical Fallacies

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Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.  John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him…”

Herod feared John.   The King liked to listen to a commoner named John, who spoke simple truths that got people’s attention, including the King’s wife.  And although the King, on account of his wife, had the commoner (or little guy) arrested and bound in prison, he (the big guy) still liked to listen to him (the little guy).   What a twist!  “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”  What a paradox!  What a truth! 

G.K. Chesterton would say, “A paradox is a truth standing on its head to attract attention to itself.”

Herodias feared John even more.  How do you win an argument?  Well, one way, the best way, the honest way, is to keep away from logical fallacies1and to identify them in the arguments of others.   This is honorable, valuable and increasingly rare.

Herod and Herodias (let’s call them “the Herodians”) attacked John’s statements (on the dignity of marriage) by attacking John’s body.  They didn’t bother with attacking his logic.  That was way too hard.  So they decided to go for his head, literally.

Fallacy of Relevance (argument ad hominem):  There are plenty of people today who attack Christianity by verbally and physically attacking Christians.  These modern Herodians do not discredit Christian philosophy and theology the honest and logical way, but psychologically.  How?  Simple.  They call the Church and her member’s names, such as homophobe, fanatic, crazy, retarded, backwards, stupid, etc.  They laugh at her and say “Everyone is laughing at you!”  Now this fallacy, known as the“bandwagon fallacy”, actually works, but is, of course, irrelevant to the arguments being made.  And sometimes our modern hardcore Herodians will turn soft on us and cry, accusing the Church and her members of making them cry:  “Look at what you did!  Look at how you made him/her cry!!!” Again, another irrelevant appeal.

Yes, the Herodians will insult us, utter every kind of unkind word against us, but what they won’t do, or seldom ever do, is tell us what is wrong with our beliefs.   When they do, they often show an ignorance in Christian doctrine.

Fallacy of Ambiguity (equivocation fallacy):  Have you ever heard of this fallacy?  I’m sure you have, and most likely in the following way:  (1) Christianity teaches that faith is necessary for salvation.  (2) But faith is irrational; it is belief in the absence of evidence.  (3)  Therefore, Christianity teaches that irrationality is rewarded.  The problem with this argument is that it is fallacious because it equivocates on the word faith.  If faith is belief in the absence of evidence, then was St. Thomas condemned from heaven because he saw and believed?  Hardly. 

Christian belief is in a real person, Jesus Christ.  And faith in an empty tomb is not absence of evidence but evidence of an absence.

Appeal to force.  Herod to John:  You better change your views on our marriage, Johnny!  Or else…”  This kind of “appeal” is very common and popular.  It is an argument that will not go away.  It was the same kind of argument that was made against Virginians before they voted on a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage:  “Vote Yes! Or else we will conduct our business and hold our convention somewhere else!”  It is the same kind of “appeal” that is being made by the federal government on Catholic schools and institutions with regards to contraceptives:  “You better pay for this, or else you will pay big time!”  It was the same argument that was made in the recent Chick-fil-A saga:  “Change your views or we will eat chicken somewhere else!”  It is an old “appeal”, the appeal of power and authority.

From King Henry VIII to the latest and greatest ruler, the Church has always demanded the following:  Don’t give me the argument of your power, but the power of your argument.
And like her founder, she has suffered for it.

1.  fallacy:  In all my blog postings, now and future, the term fallacy includes both formal and informal fallacies, and both logical and factual errors. (0)

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Fr. Alfonse (1044 Posts)

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