Sunday, July 27, 2008

Does this sermon commit the fallacy of scare tactics?

Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

See this for a treatment of the scare tactics fallacy.

10 comments:

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

How do you think it might commit this fallacy, Victor?

Timothy said...

Well, I can see that what the sermon is saying is something along the lines of 'turn or burn!'

Anonymous said...

Well, if Jonathan does, Jesus *certainly* does in the Bible itself.

Victor Reppert said...

The emotion of fear can certainly be used to cloud sound judgment. Exaggerating fear of burglary in order to sell security equipment that is not worth the price would be an example.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

True, but I can't see that this applies here. If hell is all the Bible says it is, then how can you exaggerate the fear of it? It's the worst thing possible; "it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God". You're not, I gather, suggesting that the Bible itself exaggerates how bad hell is?

Regards,
Bnonn

Victor Reppert said...

That is the question I am posing. Obviously someone who believes in the doctrine of everlasting punishment believes that many people are in danger of this terifying outcome. However, fire-and-brimstone preaching has become unpopular even among those who believe in hell.

On the other hand, if Calvinism is true, there's nothing anybody can do about it anyway. It's all settled before the foundation of the world! Why scare people when it won't do any good?

(I'm not endorsing this as an anti-Calvinist argument).

Mike Darus said...

The definition of the fallacy of "scare tactic" that you cite is:
"Instead of threatening a consequence onto a person, scare tactics highlight the possible negative outcomes to the extreme, while merely suggesting causality."

Merely threatening a consequence does not meet the definition of the falacy. There must be an implication of potential outcomes (fueled by the listener's imagination) and also a suggestion of causality where there may be no actual causality. It Edwards is describing a real consequence, it cannot be considered a scare tactic. It it is a real consequence, he has the responsibility to say it whether or not people will respond (Ez 37). Calvinists believe they have the responsibility to proclaim the gospel but they have no false delusions that they are able to argue anyone into faith.

There may be room to argue that Edwards is guilty of scare tactics because of the genius of the visual images he describes. However, in his defense, according to accounts, his delivery was dry and boring. The scare factor could be very dependant on attitude in delivery.

Claire Rhodes said...

Well, the bible often used symbols that were WORSE than reality, so hell can't be very bad since God is loving, there's a great article about hell on Christianthinktank.com

Claire Rhodes said...

The bible often exaggerates that sort of thing like in Isaiah 34 for example, there's a great article on Christianthinktank.com about what hell really is and how it actually shows God's love.

Morya Melamed said...

I don't completely oppose scaring methods, but I do think that a talented salesman can recognize situations where a "peaceful type" of negotiation can be fatal.
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