Monday, August 01, 2011

Breivik and the no-true-Scotsman fallacy

Some unbelievers are accusing Christians of committing the no-true-Scotsman fallacy when they deny the Christian identity of Breivik.

To begin with, of course Christians should have a say in who we are. After all, if outsiders presume to define what insiders stand for, the insiders at least have some right to define what they stand for.

Take the Council for Secular Humanism. Don’t you think insiders reserve the right to define who qualifies for membership?

Now, if Christians were concocting ad hoc caveats to artificially insulate Christians from blame, the charge would stick. But Christians aren’t particularly defensive about the possibility that Christians can do wrong.

To take a few examples, King David is, for better or worse, a type of the Christian life.

Likewise, when Robert Duvall’s film The Apostle came out several years ago, I don’t recall Christians en masse mobilizing to boycott the film, even though it depicted a Christian minister beating a man to death with a baseball bat in a fit of jealous revenge.

Let’s take a few examples: liberal church historian Martin Marty made the following comparison:

Start with a timely quiz. Q: What do the following have in common? Anders Behring Breivik, killer of scores of innocents in Norway; assassins Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK) and Sirhan Sirhan (RFK); serial killers: Dennis Rader (Kansas, murdered 10); Charles Starkweather (Nebraska, 11); Jeffrey Dahmer (Wisconsin, 17); and Dylan Kiebold (Columbine, CO, 13).
Answer: they were all Lutheran Christians.

Now I’m not Lutheran. So I don’t have a vested interest in sticking up for Lutherans, per se.

But I wouldn’t say, “Ah ha! Lutherans are dangerous!”

I don’t consider them representatives of Lutheranism.

Likewise, Hector Avalos says Hitler was Catholic.

Goodness knows I’m no friend of Roman Catholicism. But I’ve denied Hector’s allegation. Yet that can’t be chalked up to special pleading on my part, as if I have a stake in preserving the reputation of Roman Catholicism.

Likewise, I'm not fan of Arminian theology, but if  Methodist did what Breivik did, I wouldn't hang that on Arminians. 

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