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Erroneous forms of or bases for reasoning commonly used to create or maintain divisions in the Body of Christ

By Ian B. Johnson

Division in the Church is generally based upon false assumptions or poor logic

The scriptures tell us in numerous places that the Body of Christ is just that—one Body, already united in oneness in a single Spirit. (For two different authors' expositions of this point, see Lauston Stephens' Pursuing Oneness in Christ and my own This truth cannot be changed by our failure to accurately perceive it. Therefore, any division in that Body, anything that causes strife or that causes two members of the Body to fail to recognize each other as members of Christ, cannot be the result of correct perception and accurate thought. It must result from some error on our part.

Of course, our experience teaches us that most of the strife which occurs in the world and in the church is caused, in the first instance, by conflicts over our own sin-warped desires. See, James 4::1-2. Thus, much strife between individual Christians is caused by the unfulfilled (and usually unjustified) expectations of one or both of the parties that their personal needs and desires would be fulfilled. James 4:2. Strife also arises from the lust for power over others. 3 John. Fights can also be caused by envy, jealousy or hurt pride. See, James 4:2; Galatians 5:19-21. Almost any petty disagreement can turn into a war, if the parties respond to it wrongly. These motives by themselves are usually sufficient to keep strife going between individuals, and they are the real underlying motives that generally start wars between larger groups of Christians as well. The chain of events leading to battle very seldom is initiated, in the first instance, by a dispute over a doctrine or moral principle.

However, wars between groups of Christians can only continue over long periods of time if they become institutionalized. Institutionalization of disputes between Christians requires, in turn, that the leadership groups on both or all sides, those who would really stand to lose something if the fight ended, must recruit and maintain groups of followers who will not question the necessity for the dispute even though it is not really their fight. Convincing followers to accept their leaders' disputes as their own, in turn, requires convincing arguments. These arguments almost always appeal to doctrinal positions or moral principles. But these arguments in favor of strife among God's people are always, of necessity, based upon one or more illogical arguments or false assumptions about the nature of God, the nature of the individual believer or the nature of the Church. The Body of Christ is one, and any argument favoring its division must necessarily be based upon some error.

It should be noted that the great majority of these fallacious argument are not limited to the Church, but are also frequently employed to create division in secular organizations, cultures, nations and society itself. As in the church, these divisions in other groups are usually created deliberately, in the first instance, for the profit of people who are trying to hide what they are doing. The fallacious arguments give those who started the divisions, and who hope to profit from them, a place to hide, so that neither the real cause for the division nor the identity of those actually responsible for it will usually be readily visible. That is, the fallacious arguments used to justify and perpetuate an argument are nearly always smokescreens, at least in the beginning. They only grow to be the "real" cause of the division after they outlive their creators.

This site will discuss a lengthy but admittedly incomplete list of the most common erroneous forms of argument that are commonly asserted in support of the existing visible divisions in the undivided Body of Christ. To make them easier to access, they are divided into the nine categories stated below, each of which is given its own web page. To find these discussions, click on the title (in all capital letters) of the page that most interests you. All of these pages discussing specific erroneous arguments or argument forms contain page indices for easy navigation.


This page discusses a list of logical fallacies—that is, argument forms which often lead to error. Most, but not all, of these argument forms are logical fallacies recognized and discussed by rhetoricians since classical times. Specific errors of this type discussed are the Appeal to Authority, the Argument ad Hominem, the Inverted Syllogism, the Non Sequitur, the False Dilemma, the Slippery Slope, the Circular Argument, the use of Prejudicial Language, the Buzzword Fallacy, and the Appeals to Consequences, to Force and to Popularity.


This page discusses argument forms, some of them classical fallacies, others not discussed by classical authors, which draw invalid generalizations or improper conclusions from them. Specific errors of this type discussed are Fallacious Generalization, Circular Generalization, the Fallacies of the False Analogy, the Undistributed Middle and of the Four Terms, Fallacious Modal Uses of generalizations, and the Ahistoric (Pigeon-Hole), Monolithic and Caricature Fallacies.


This page discusses drawing incorrect conclusions from invalid comparisons. Specific errors of this type discussed are Fallacious Comparison, Fallacious Quantification and Fallacious Binarization.


This page discusses the formation of inaccurate understanding resulting from ignoring context or attaching the wrong context to a statement. Specific errors of this type discussed are Fallacious Equation or Identification and the Presumed Referent, Misplaced Focus, Cultural and Human Wisdom Fallacies.


This page discusses methods used to deliberately manipulate scripture to assert what the speaker wants it to say. Specific errors of this type discussed are the Bible is for Theologians Fallacy, Fallacious Allegorization and the Resolved Tension, Proof Text, Historical (Traditional), Theological Language, Law of First Reference, Ecclesiastical Convenience and Negativistic Interpretation Fallacies.


This page discusses the assignment of wrong causes to events and the invention of "facts" that agree with the speaker's belief as to causation. Specific errors of this type discussed are Fallacies involving Temporal Sequence and Causation, the Uniform Experience Fallacy and Fallacies involving Oversimplification of Causes.


This page discusses underlying errors about God's nature, role and modus operandi which lead to division. Specific errors of this type discussed are the Human Frame of Reference, Silent God, Divine Ogre, Santa Claus and Dualistic Fallacies.


This page discusses underlying errors involving the proper place, duties and roles of individual believers. Specific errors of this type discussed are the Legalistic, Individualistic, Individual Expendability, Heavenly Boss, Homologistic, Homopraxic and Homoaesthetic Fallacies.


This page discusses errors in defining the "church" and delineating its authority and role. Specific errors of this type discussed are the Local/ Universal, Territorial (Political), Organizational, Membership, Clerical, Celebrity and Authoritarian (Opinion-maker) Fallacies.

WHAT IS AN HERETIC? (Click here)

Contrary to the traditional view, the essence of heresy is divisiveness, not doctrinal disagreement or error. A person whose doctrinal views are unorthodox is not necessarily an heretic. On the other hand, a person who insists upon an objectively correct doctrinal position in a divisive way and with wrong motives may be an heretic. Much division could be avoided if Christians generally understood this. The basis for these statements is discussed on this page.

Contact us.


Worship and giving

To Be Made More Holy: Sanctification, Spirit Baptism, and Many Different Churches.

Description and reviews of the book Our Oneness in Christ.


Many texts have contributed to this site. Several of the more heavily used were:

1. Stephen Downes Illogic Primer, an excellent work that is, unfortunately, no longer posted on the Web (as of August 2005).

2. J. Ellul,The Subversion of Christianity.

3. Kenneth S. Latourette, A History of Christianity.

4. Justo Gonzalez, Faith and Wealth.

5. Edward Hulme, The Renaissance, the Protestant Revolution and the Catholic Reformation in Continental Europe.

© 2000, 2005 by Ian Bruce Johnson.

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