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Let’s Play: Spot the Apologetics Fallacy!

Let’s Play: Spot the Apologetics Fallacy! September 7, 2021

Hi and welcome back! Recently, I got reminded that we just don’t see a whole lot of Christian apologetics these days. The tribe has been circling the wagons on so many counts that they’re not quite as interested in defending the faith as they once were. Maybe they’ve hit Dunbar’s number or something. Who knows! But today, I’ve got a little treat for us: a self-proclaimed apologist who has never met a logical fallacy he didn’t love on sight. Let’s go through his recent apologetics post and see which ones we can spot!

let's go let's go let's go!
(Image: Clément Falize.)

Everyone, Meet Robin Schumacher. He’s an Apologist.

Robin Schumacher is a middle-aged white dude who writes columns for Christian Post, including the one we’ll be checking out today. With very little trouble, I located a March 2021 post about him from his church, Southeast Christian Church. It’s a boilerplate fundagelical (evangelical + fundamentalist) church in Kentucky. It practices all the usual culture-war stuff we expect.

As his church’s writeup reveals, Robin Schumacher claims he was a lifelong Christian who caught the fundagelicalism bug in his teens. He insists that he wasn’t actually a Christian at all until then, alluding to fundagelicals’ warped strawman version of atheism (and subtly invoking that trendy ex-atheist label for himself).

Schumacher has some kind of computer-related job which he describes as “software executive.” He claims to have “helped manage” or to have “helped create” the databases used by Netflix and iTunes.

He appears to be simply a layperson member of his megachurch, from their own description of him. He’s a very fervent one, however, and he nurses some big dreams about his future in evangelicalism.

Similarly to my ex-husband Biff years ago, he desperately hopes to parley a volunteer position with his church and his apologetics writing into a job as a “professional Christian” somewhere.

Robin Schumacher Doesn’t Know How to Think Critically.

Reading about Robin Schumacher — and reading his previous posts, even more to the point — it’s very clear that he has never learned how to think critically about his religion’s claims. Nor does he see any need to start now. The Southeast Christian Church writeup of him (relink) actually has him praising huckster Hal Lindsey to the skies (and ignoring his hero’s numerous failed prophecies). He also praises the shockingly-bad apologetics writings of Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.

He’s even gotten a degree in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary. This online school eagerly hired Richard Land after his disgrace, so I’m going to guess they push really hard on evangelical belligerence to sell themselves.

Schumacher also holds a doctorate in “New Testament” — that is actually how the church writeup puts it — from Greenwich School of Theology. That’s a distance-learning school in the UK with a really confusing-sounding self-description.

And I am not impressed.

If even Biola University offers apologetics lectures that sound more like sermons except they suffer from twice the number of cringey logical flaws, I don’t hold out hope for Schumacher’s two main sources of education.

Indeed, this poor guy thinks he’s totally nailed down the Problem of Evil. Not one Christian in the history of the religion’s ever managed that, but don’t worry, y’all! He’s got it licked.

Fallacy One: A False Equivalence.

Robin Schumacher’s September 6 post is titled, “Beware the counterfeit Christ.” And it begins with a nice false equivalence:

Suppose I pulled the label off a can of your favorite soda and affixed it to a can of the deadliest poison imaginable. You then took it from me and quickly downed it. Would your false belief of it being soda save you?

A false equivalence is a logical fallacy (specifically, the fallacy of inconsistency). To commit this error, someone draws a comparison between two things or people that doesn’t hold up at all. La Wiki says people often call this fallacy “comparing apples to oranges,” and that definitely applies here.

In Schumacher’s example, a false belief about poison equals a false belief about “Christ.” But that’s not true at all. He can’t demonstrate that “Christ” even exists outside of the mythology of the Bible. He will certainly not be able to demonstrate that his particular conceptualization of “Christ” beats any other Christian’s different conceptualization. But poison is very real.

Further, he wants to give the rejecting of his religious claims the same level of danger and personal risk as the accepting of what someone has already seen is a can of poison with the wrong label.

I’m sure his pals at Southeast Christian Church were super-duper-mega-licious impressed with his false equivalence. We, however, are not.

Fallacy Two: The Non Sequitur.

We move on to his second paragraph, where Robin Schumacher mangles the definition of the law of identity. He somewhat correctly calls it one of “the three laws of logic,” but then offers a false definition of it. Here is the real definition of the law of identity:

In logic, the law of identity states that each thing is identical with itself. It is the first of the historical three laws of thought, along with the law of noncontradiction, and the law of excluded middle. [. . .]

In its formal representation, the law of identity is written “a = a” or “For all xx = x“, where a or x refer to a term rather than a proposition, and thus the law of identity is not used in propositional logic.  [Source]

Here is how he mangles it:

The law of identity simply says that a thing is what it is and, in part, it serves as a protective reminder that bad consequences almost always exist for accepting a fake.

The law of identity does not serve as a reminder of absolutely anything. Nor can it be used to threaten people who believe in what he thinks is a fake “Christ.” Obviously, a fake “Christ” is not a real “Christ,” but since not one Christian in the history of the religion has managed to come up with a real definition for “Christ,” he’s got a long way to go before he can establish the relative danger levels of each different definition.

This kind of fallacy is called a non sequitur. His line of logic goes thusly:

  1. A thing is what it is.
  2. My version of “Christ” is the only real one.
  3. Therefore, it’s dangerous to accept something else as “Christ.”

His conclusion is not on speaking terms with anything else in this argument.

Fallacy Three: Circular Reasoning.

I love this diagram, because it so neatly sums up almost all apologetics:

The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round…

Indeed, Robin Schumacher then uses the Bible to prove a point about the Bible:

In His Olivet discourse, Jesus warned three times that “many” false messiahs and prophets would appear and lead lots of people into error and destruction. Paul also mentioned fake christs that present themselves as “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4).

The books of the New Testament were written many decades after Jesus’ supposed death. We don’t actually have any idea what on earth Jesus said. As for Paul, there are people who are starting to doubt he even existed.

The worst problem here, for Schumacher anyway, is that it was quite common in ancient times for people to show up claiming to be a dead person who got resurrected or reborn. Some rando tried it himself by pretending to be Nero, and he actually got pretty far with the deception! As we saw when we checked out the myth of the Road to Emmaus, all signs point to someone doing that after Jesus died — but that impersonation made it into the mythology and became canon.

Using the Bible to prove that the Bible is totes correct is a logical fallacy called circular reasoning. In circular reasoning, someone begins with a premise, doesn’t prove it’s true, and then ends with a conclusion that depends on that premise being true anyway. Christians love love love this fallacy.

And Now, the Doctrinal Yardstick Comes Out.

I adore it when Christians attack competing ideologies. They never realize that the people in those other groups can come up with the exact same criticisms of theirs in turn. The spectacle always reminds me of something a friend of mine wrote years ago:

Time and again the Bible will contain material that just completely wrecks otherwise coherent systems of Christian doctrine and often the heavy-lifting has already been done by some other group within Christianity.

Want to blow molinistic excuses for the problem of evil out of the water? Calvinists have already done the work. Want to undercut Sola Scriptura? Catholics have that covered. Want to illustrate the absurdity of the Trinity? Ask those Jehovah’s Witnesses that come to your door next Saturday. Want to show how evolutionary theory isn’t compatible with Christianity? Look no further than Answers in Genesis. What do all of these groups have in common? They all use the Bible to knock down each other’s theological systems.

rAmen, brother.

For my own part, back in college I realized this exact point. And it bothered me a lot. My group, Pentecostals, had arguments that blew Trinitarianism out of the water. Trinitarians had arguments that blew Oneness Theology out of the water. Mormons had arguments that blew whole bunches of doctrinal beliefs out of the water, and vice versa. Always, always vice versa. And none of us ever changed anybody else’s mind.

In this case, Robin Schumacher spends most of the rest of his post attacking other ideologies’ conceptualization of Jesus. The main problem he has with those other conceptualizations is, simply, that they are not what he believes. He compares all of these other conceptualizations to his own childishly-misunderstood flavor of Christianity, and obviously finds them all wanting.

I guarantee that someone in every group Schumacher attacks would find his own conceptualization of Jesus just as lacking. And they’d have equally good reasons to believe he was Jesus-ing all wrong.

More Circular Reasoning.

Oddly, after trotting out several logical fallacies and serious mistakes in logic, Robin Schumacher ends his post by insisting that it’s very dangerous to follow those other groups’ ideologies. Seriously. That’s it. He ends with a threat, just in case nobody bought the bad logic:

The counterfeit christs identified above are “strangers” that a born again believer will not follow and for good reason. The motivation behind Jesus’ and the New Testament writer’s concern over false prophets and counterfeit christs is simple but terrifying: a fake Jesus leads to a fake salvation, which leads, sadly, to a very real Hell.

The logic here:

  1. His flavor of Christianity offers the only correct definition of Jesus.
  2. That flavor makes absolutely “terrifying” threats about rejecting his definition.
  3. Therefore, all humans everywhere should adopt his definition as a means of self-protection.

He never supported the first point. He doesn’t bother offering any reason to accept the second. In the conclusion, he simply assumes those premises are correct.

Pascal’s Wager makes many of the same elementary mistakes Schumacher does. It would not surprise me if he turned out to greatly admire that failed but venerable bit of argumentation.

Why This Guy’s Post Even Exists.

It’s beyond hilarious reasoning, but Robin Schumacher is on pretty safe ground doing it. I can’t think of many non-evangelicals who go to Christian Post except to criticize it and maybe get an idea of evangelicals’ current culture-war positions. (*cough*)

He’s really just preaching to the choir here as well as using irrational thinking. The Christians reading his post already believe the same package of nonsense that he does. That’s good, since there’s no way his post would induce anybody to rethink their position unless they’re just really vulnerable to threats.

Thus, all he’s doing in his post is telling his fellow Christians that they are totes correct to believe their shared package of nonsense. He can offer up any logical fallacy he likes, because his conclusions make himself and his readers feel good.

Among his tribemates, he’s free to let his pretty pony of irrational reasoning frolic in the fields of fallacies as much as he likes. And oh, he does, he does!

Christians’ Strange Inability to Recognize the One Real and True and Actual Christianity.

In reality, every single Christian who believes in a different kind of Jesus has good reasons (they think) to hold their belief. Threatening them with Hell might work to poach a few from other groups, sure. It even worked on me, back when I was a teenager and completely unversed in evangelical tactics! So yeah, evangelicals have ridden the threat train for so many years now that they can’t even remember any other kind of evangelism.

As a result, it’s not even surprising to me to see that Robin Schumacher started a post with inept apologetics reasoning, then insisted that any other flavor of Christianity represents the dreaded fake Christianity even though he’s entirely failed to establish that his version is the only real one, then punted to threats of Hell to seal the deal.

I bet this guy is super-proud of his apologetics writing, as cringey as it is, and hasn’t ever bothered to examine his ideas more critically. He doesn’t even realize that the function of apologetics isn’t to persuade the unpersuaded by demonstrating that Christianity’s claims are true (which is good, because no Christian ever has), but to reassure the existing flocks that they’re on the winning team.

But ultimately Christians’ unverified, unproven, logically-inconsistent threats represent as false a reason to believe as apologetics’ logical fallacies themselves are. It’s nice to see that apologetics hasn’t changed at all, even as evangelicals themselves shift and shimmer into new and deadlier forms to meet their current challenges.

NEXT UP: A Southern Baptist church in a tiny town in Georgia has bagsied a lot of baptisms this year. Baptists news sources are celebrating, but there might be some very earthly reasons why this is happening. We’ll explore some of those potential reasons tomorrow. See you then!


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About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.
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