Logical Fallacies From a Biblical Perspective: Straw Man

The straw man fallacy is a classic. You might have heard it mentioned in casual conversation before. It’s when someone misrepresents an opposing argument, making it easier to defeat. For example, a nutritionist might argue that fried food is bad for you. An objector might then say, “That’s absurd. Everyone needs food to survive. Frying food is a perfectly valid way to prepare it. You wouldn’t want uncooked raw meat, would you?”

This is a fallacy. The nutritionist never said people should go hungry, that frying food is an invalid method of preparation, or that meat would be better raw. He just said fried food is unhealthy, which is true. So… who is the objector arguing with? He’s arguing with a straw man, someone who doesn’t exist—a man who hates fried food so irrationally that he’s willing to condemn it at any cost, even if that means people starve to death.

It’s much easier to win an argument against a make-believe nutjob than the real person sitting in the room with you. This is why the straw man fallacy is so popular. Everyone wants to be the noble knight defeating the evil dragon. But you can’t do that without a dragon, so what happens when there is no dragon? You have to make one up.

Tilting at Windmills

A drawn picture of Don Quixote riding a horse to fight a windmill.

The famous novel Don Quixote comes to mind. In it, we see a man who longs to be a knight in shining armor in a time when such things are antiquated. But he doesn’t care. He decides he’s going to be a knight anyways, imagining windmills as towering giants he must defeat.

When we imagine our opponents as worse than they are, we become unnecessarily antagonistic towards them. We falsely attribute evils upon them so we can show others that they are wrong and we are right. But life isn’t black and white. Life is full of nuance and humans are complicated creatures.

This reminds me of the ninth commandment:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Exodus 20:16 (ESV)

Most of us think this means, “Don’t lie.” That’s true, but it means even more. Condemning someone for a position they don’t hold (by using a straw man) is a form of bearing false witness. You’re misrepresenting them to onlookers and purposefully ignoring the truth (the nuance of their actual position) so you can get the outcome you want and win the argument. It’s dishonest and manipulative.


The obvious example of the straw man fallacy is the discourse surrounding modern-day politics. Invariably, you see both sides go at each other’s throats with the most ridiculous straw men imaginable regardless of the conversation at hand. The media pushes this dichotomy constantly.

To liberals, anyone who voted for Trump is a deranged, hateful, racist, sexist idiot who wants to let schoolchildren be shot to death, steal elections and taxpayer dollars to feed corrupt right-wingers, take away all social programs and civil rights protections, and gleefully kill LGBTQ people in cold blood.

To conservatives, anyone who voted for Biden is an unhinged sexual deviant who wants to pervert and manipulate children, steal elections and taxpayer dollars to feed corrupt leftists, take away all of our constitutional rights, and gleefully kill babies in cold blood.

Have you noticed that it’s rare to find anyone like this in the real world? Sure, they definitely exist. But more often, you get people with a unique mix of ideas. Some will be taken from friends, family, or personal experiences. Others are copied from TV and social media. Still others are original perspectives (Who would have thought?). But everyone is a person created in the image of God with their own view of the world. It’s important that we not lose sight of the human (who isn’t made of straw) in the midst of the outrage, no matter how justified.

“With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.”

Proverbs 11:9 (ESV)

How Straw Men Are Made

I think it’s worth asking where these straw men come from. They don’t really exist until we invent them. We find ourselves at odds with a person or idea we refuse to deal with honestly, so we conjure these straw men from our own imagination, puppet them around, and use them to slander people. Where does that leave us?

“A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.”

Luke 6:45 (CSB)

Jesus makes it clear that we are solely responsible for that which comes out of us. The words and actions we express are the sloshes of water that leap from the edges of the barrel of our heart, filled to the brim with our very souls. We should not take it lightly. We will be held accountable.

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:36-37 (ESV)

So be careful what you say to make sure it’s the truth. It doesn’t matter if you’re quoting an enemy or a brother. Bear faithful witness to their actual argument so you can address it properly. A man who can’t even bear to repeat something accurately is hopeless to defend the truth with his character, much less his speech.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Enter your email to keep in touch with me. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Logical Fallacies From a Biblical Perspective: Equivocation

You probably know what a logical fallacy is, don’t you? It’s when someone declares something false to be true. Wait… that’s not it? You say it’s the use of faulty reasoning in an argument? Oh, then we had better clear up our definition of “fallacy.” Can’t have a proper discussion unless we’re all on the same page, after all. And that’s exactly what equivocation is all about.

This is one of my favorite fallacies to talk about. It’s one of the most common, yet least acknowledged. It pops up absolutely everywhere and rarely gets the attention it deserves. It most often leads to quarrels over innocuous things, but can sometimes trick entire generations into believing lies.


This fallacy occurs when a word is used with an ambiguous or double meaning, usually to swap out the definition when the word is used later in the argument. For instance, someone might say that critical thinking is a bad skill to learn because we already have enough critical people in the world. They’ve just used two completely different meanings for the word “critical.” In the first instance, they are referring to the skill of critical thinking in which a person carefully considers something by questioning it with sound reasoning. In the second, they are referring to people who think negatively of those around them and sling insults around. These are entirely different things.

Here’s a less obvious example. I ask my wife for my green jacket. She hands me my jacket with a green hood. But this isn’t the one I wanted. I was thinking of the jacket with a green liner. My wife isn’t ignoring me. She just interpreted “green” to mean the most visible part of the jacket. My definition of “green” was different. I shouldn’t blame my wife for handing me the wrong jacket. I should be more specific and clarify what I meant.

This is how misunderstandings can turn into fights. It’s common for people who are already at odds to use this fallacy against each other, pointing fingers and escalating small disagreements into rifts that tear the entire relationship apart.

“The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.”

Proverbs 10:18 (ESV)

Remember this fallacy. You need to see it coming so you can stop it in its tracks and disarm bad-faith arguments from friends, news articles, and governments alike. It’s also helpful to be aware of it when you’re the one who’s speaking. You want to be properly understood by those who listen to you.

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

1 Peter 4:8 (ESV)

Stopping Useless Quarrels

Next time you find yourself on the edge of a conflict, ask yourself how sure you are of the other person’s definitions. If in doubt, ask them. The simple phrase, “What do you mean by that?” can go a long way! Seriously, try it. It can work wonders to deflate tension and bring reason back into the conversation.

It’s no use trying to have a discussion if you can’t agree on what your words mean. You’ll end up talking past each other. I can’t begin to count how many disagreements I’ve experienced or witnessed that could have been resolved right at the beginning if someone had only taken a few moments to clarify the terms.

You may not like the terms someone else uses, but that’s not the point. Your goal is to communicate. Sometimes you have to use their terms and sometimes they have to accept yours. It’s a game of give and take, but the real goal is to understand one another, removing as much ambiguity as possible.

“I urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:1-3 (CSB)

Explaining Yourself Effectively

One of the best feelings in the world is being understood. It’s an art form to speak in such a way that the contents of your heart are transported into the mind of another person. It takes practice to learn this skill, but one easy trick you can use is to keep a sharp eye on the definitions of your words.

It’s a common mistake to use equivocation on accident, especially when talking “off the cuff.” When you speak, keep tabs on what significant words you’re using as the cornerstones of your argument. These are the most important words to clarify and stay consistent with.

Let’s say you’re persuading an audience to make a savings account for emergencies only. You might talk about how this money comes in handy for unexpected bills and home repairs. But you also want to emphasize that it can’t save you from emergencies. After all, it’s just money. It won’t prevent bad things from happening to you. We have to trust God at the end of the day.

Your audience is now confused. You said this fund was for “emergencies,” but now you’ve just told them that it’s no use for some “emergencies.” You have to clarify what you mean. The fund is meant for bad situations that can be solved with money, but it won’t save you from a heart attack, it won’t keep you from being arrested if you break the law, and it won’t save your soul from sin. These are different from financial emergencies and it’s important to point that out. Just because you understand your point doesn’t mean others will.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

COVID-19 and Lying with Definitions

Misunderstandings and quarrels are one thing, but lies from a business, news organization, or government are another beast entirely. You had better be ready when communication experts purposefully try to brainwash and manipulate you or you won’t stand a chance.

Do you know the definition of “vaccine?” Here it is, according to Merriam-Webster:

Vaccine – noun: a preparation of killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms, or living fully virulent organisms that is administered to produce or artificially increase immunity to a particular disease.”

At least, that’s what it was until January 2021. Then they changed the definition. Why? Because the new shot developed for COVID-19 didn’t provide immunity. But you see, “protein spike shot” just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely. The government and big pharma wanted everyone to get this shot. They knew people would trust it more if they called it a vaccine, so they did. They lied. They knowingly advertised the shot as a vaccine even though it wasn’t.

To cover their tracks, dictionaries like Merriam-Webster and other “authoritative” sources changed the definition of a vaccine overnight. Today, it takes up your entire screen and very carefully says that vaccines “stimulate the body’s immune response.” This is different from providing immunity.

This is a clear case of equivocation. The government called the shot a “vaccine” with a new definition knowing the public would accept it based on the previous definition. When they were called out, they claimed this new definition was “more accurate.” Excuse me, but how so? Definitions are based on the use of a word in the culture at large and should never depend solely on the whims of a few ruling elite. This kind of transparent manipulation is becoming more outlandish by the day. They only do it because we fall for it. Stop taking the bait and think for yourself.

“For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”

Romans 16:18 (ESV)

What is Racism?

A similar thing is happening to the definition of “racism.” It was once understood by everyone to be “prejudice or discrimination based on race,” but today you’ll hear a different story from university professors and self-important TV personalities.

Racism is now defined by some as the systematic oppression of people of color by white people. It’s being framed as an amorphous force of evil exclusive to one race (ironically enough). How convenient! This new definition absolves you of the responsibility to provide evidence that a particular person is prejudiced. You can just blame “the system” of racism and claim the same experiences as those who have actually suffered. Isn’t it great to be a victim?

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

Proverbs 18:2 (ESV)

Gender and Sex

When I was growing up, gender and sex were interchangeable. My sex is male. My gender is male. I am a man. They all mean the same things. Today, you’ll be taught that gender is a social construct. Sex is biological and determined by reproductive organs, but gender is your self-expression and can be changed at any time. This new definition allows men to declare themselves to be women and intrude on women’s bathrooms or sports competitions, which were designed with the original (biological) definition of gender in mind.

Modern gender theory is quite recent. It was formed in the 90s by Judith Butler and others, but they refer back to an experiment in the 60s by psychologist John Money. He took twin brothers and raised one of them as a girl, forcing them into sex positions (to reinforce gender roles) and abusing them in other ways. This study was declared to be a success and stands as the foundation for much of modern gender theory.

What they don’t tell you is that the boy was miserable living as a girl and decided as a teenager to go back to living as a boy. He later killed himself with a shotgun and his brother overdosed on antidepressants. The history of modern gender theory is stained with innocent blood.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18:21 (CSB)

Stay Vigilant

Equivocation is dangerous. It can ruin marriages and it can brainwash a country. We must be vigilant in defining what our words mean and speaking the truth in love. We must keep a lookout for anyone trying to manipulate us. Be shrewd as a serpent and innocent as a dove (Matt 10:16).

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”

Psalm 141:3 (ESV)

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Enter your email to keep in touch with me. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Logical Fallacies From a Biblical Perspective: Appeal to Authority

A logical fallacy is the use of faulty reasoning in the construction of an argument. It’s usually the rule, rather than the exception, that logical fallacies come into play in modern discourse. It’s far too common. Few people care to be internally consistent, form their statements properly, or in some cases use basic logic at all. It’s much better to copy the beliefs you think you’re supposed to have from the people you’ve been told are in the right, right?

No. That’s what today’s fallacy is about. I’ll be going through a bunch of these, but first on the agenda is the appeal to authority.

Appeal to Authority

It’s a very popular tactic to appeal to an authority figure (on the subject at hand, hopefully) when making a point. If the authority figure agrees with you, then it’s settled, right? After all, they must know better than us because they’re an expert on the matter. Maybe, but not necessarily.

When making an appeal, we argue that our position is the correct one. We claim it’s rooted in truth. But truth doesn’t care about authority. Truth stands alone, available for anyone of any status, any fame, any ability, any age, any gender, any location, any appearance, or any wealth to possess it. It cannot be held captive by any one person or group.

Truth in the Bible

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'”

John 8:31-32 (ESV)

God is the only one who has an unequivocal claim to truth.

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

John 17:17 (ESV)

In John 17, we read that God’s word is truth. It doesn’t say God’s word is “true.” It says God’s word is literally “truth” itself. We ought to read the Scriptures if we desire to align ourselves with truth.

“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

Psalm 25:5 (ESV)

God speaks the truth, but people in authority are just people. They’re fallible and imperfect. Sometimes they’re right, but other times they’re wrong. What makes them valuable, then? Well, that depends on the authority.

The Value of Authority

Some authority figures are experts, meaning we trust them because they’ve done the research or have the experience to back up their claims. Others are leaders, meaning they know how to effectively direct people to action. The former is more likely to offer valuable insight on a given topic than the latter, but many still trust leaders because they inspire us on an emotional level.

Either kind of authority figure may know better than us, but they won’t always. This is why experts meet together on a regular basis to exchange ideas and information. If they were already individually perfect, there would be no need for this. But even after doing the research and discussing it with other professionals, authority figures in the same field still disagree with one another on a regular basis.

The Problem

The problem with appealing to authority is that truth is not inherent in any authority apart from the divine. Not even the apostles claimed to be perfect.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

1 Corinthians 1:10-13 (ESV)

In 1 Corinthians, Paul rebukes the people for aligning themselves with specific authority figures and forming divisions among themselves. This passage is primarily about church unity, but there’s also a lesson to be learned about human authority. Paul asks, “Was Paul crucified for you?” No, of course not. Jesus was crucified for us. Rather than align ourselves with Paul, we should align ourselves with Jesus.

This fallacy betrays that the person using it probably doesn’t have an argument of their own. They either don’t have the truth or they don’t know how to express it. Pointing at someone else to do the job for them is irresponsible, ignorant, and risky. At best, the authority figure is correct and the person committing the fallacy is revealed to have taken a shortcut to truth with little to no idea why they believe what they believe. At worst, the authority figure is wrong and the person committing the fallacy is revealed to be incorrect, using confirmation bias to recklessly latch on to a claim they find attractive while forgoing an honest search for truth.

The Solution

What then should we do? If an authority figure claims something to be true, our goal should be to discover that truth for ourselves so we can understand it and make our own arguments based on it. Truth should be our appeal, not the person we hope possesses it.

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

Acts 17:11 (ESV)

Only by doing our due diligence will we be able to argue aright, with educated opinions of our own rather than appealing to someone else. By doing our own research, we learn so much more about the subject at hand. We’ll be better equipped to argue our position and we’ll be arguing from an informed perspective.

And guess what? If, after looking into something, you find yourself disagreeing with the opinion you previously had from an authority figure, so much the better! That’s called thinking for yourself and it’s a good thing. Don’t let your biases constrain you. Pursue truth relentlessly, holding God’s truth above all. In doing so, you’ll strengthen your worldview and ensure its foundations are solid.

That’s all for now. I’ll write about more logical fallacies in the future. Let me know which fallacy you want to see next by commenting below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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