Article 4 in this series.
Article 1: Logical Fallacies (a brief intro)
Article 2: The Red Herring
Article 3: Appeal to Ignorance
I just read an article that made me think of this form of fallacy. The author labeled a form of theology with a tag that is only used by it’s opponents. The label is, “Replacement Theology.” I personally know of no one who would label themselves as a “replacement” theologian. Many who are labeled as such would be okay with the theological title, as titles are only a way to identify a type or system of theology. However that being true they would never choose to label themselves that way. Why? Because they don’t think their theology replaces any group with another and thus the label is inaccurate. More on that later.
An example of accepting a label that you, yourself don’t find accurate would be the following. Someone says, “You believe doctrine X, and believing doctrine X makes you a heretic.” You might respond, “okay I’m a heretic, now tell me what is wrong with the doctrine.” In one on one debates such labels mean nothing, at least to me. Some are offended by them even in a private context.
Now in public discourse, such as the article I read, such labels are a type of Weasel Words. They would fall under the informal fallacy of Poisoning the Well, which is a form of Red Herring (same link for both.) Using this type of language can achieve two outcomes, either of which can be intentional or unintentional, while neither of which lead to truth.
Often Weasel Words are used that automatically place a proposition in a bad light. An example, “those dirty communists think X is the right thing to do.” The word “dirty” here poisons the well because we all know any thing a “dirty” person thinks cannot be right. Today we often see this in political discourse when a conservative is labeled a “neo-con” or a liberal is called a “socialist.” We automatically tend to discount any argument they make because, you guessed it, the well has been poisoned by using weasel words. Just a note: sometimes Weasel Word labels become adopted as acceptable by both parties, pro and con. The terms Christian, Protestant and Baptist were all at one time derogatory names for groups or ideas. In which case it is proper to use the terms in discourse. In the case of “Replacement Theology” the term is neither accurate nor accepted by those whom are accused of believing it.
The proper and non-inflammatory terms for “Replacement Theology” are many, as many groups do not hold to a view that the Church is separate from Israel. Covenant Theology and Covenant Eschatology are but two of the labels used and accepted by these groups. Most all of these groups would tell you they don’t think the Church replaced Israel, and therefore the label is inaccurate. Using an inaccurate label poisons the well against their view. Note: I do not believe the author of the article I read used the term to intentionally inflame opponents or to poison the well. It was just a logical mistake that has become common in eschatological discussions, but a mistake nonetheless.
The second outcome goes more toward the Red Herring aspect of using Weasel Words. If an opponent does not accept the label placed upon their position, the argument becomes sidetracked to discuss the appropriateness of the term. The two parties must then chase down that rabbit trail before they can get back to discussing the merits of the propositions.
Now to “Replacement Theology,” just for my opinion. Covenant Theology/Eschatology as understood by the majority of those who teach it, does not replace Israel with the Church. Nor do many other forms of theology that are labeled “replacement.” I think anyone who argues this way doesn’t understand Covenant Theology very well. Perhaps this is why the author did not quote (in context or out) any recognized teacher of the opposing view. Further I have heard the case rationally made that it is Dispensationalism that replaces Israel with the Church. However even this critic didn’t refer to dispensationalist as replacement theologians. They merely did a fine job of reversing the charges. For instance, this is the “Church Age” a dispie might say, meaning this is the age in which God is dealing with the Church. Well….who was He dealing with before He began dealing with the Church? Dispie answer, …Israel. Conclusion: The Church replaced Israel in this dispensation and later Israel will replace the Church after the “rapture.” That’s oversimplified and the speaker made a much fuller and convincing argument than this, using Dispensationalism’s own writers and teachers. Some of the popular Dispensational writers he quoted actually said the Church replaced Israel directly.
This argument against Dispensational “replacement theology” however, is also an informal fallacy. I covered it in the Red Herring article under the Genetic fallacy of Tu quoque, You too, You also. Simply saying your guilty of what you accuse me of doesn’t make either proposition correct. In this case it does make the point that the dispie believes something he says is wrong and is therefore inconsistent within his own view. Meanwhile the Covenant Theologian claims their is no replacement and is consistent throughout his view in that point. The point may be wrong but at least he is consistent with himself while making it.
Further, even those who believe that God is finished with “old covenant Israel according only to the flesh” don’t believe he replaced them with the Church. They believe the Church is, “the new covenant Israel of God according to faith.” Other ways it can be said are: The Church is Israel according to faith. Gentiles of faith were combined “adopted” along with the faithful remnant of Israel into this new entity called the Church. It’s not either or, it’s both who are included in the new covenant Church. One was not removed and another put in it’s place. Rather, a new body/man was created that incorporated all humans of faith which came to be called the Church. Again, NO REPLACEMENT!! Israel was never removed, and thus, cannot be replaced.
One can disagree with that idea but, one cannot read into it a replacement of any peoples with another without redefining the term “replace,” which is called Equivocation (another informal fallacy under Ambiguity.) On that note, here are the synonyms for replace found at Dictionary.com:
1. succeed. Replace, supersede, supplant refer to putting one thing or person in place of another. To replace is to take the place of, to succeed: Ms. Jones will replace Mr. Smith as president. Supersede implies that that which is replacing another is an improvement: The typewriter has superseded the pen. Supplant implies that that which takes the other’s place has ousted the former holder and usurped the position or function, esp. by art or fraud: to supplant a former favorite. 3. refund, repay.
In all of the above situations one thing must be removed in order for the other to “replace” it.
I do not wish to argue the theology involved in this article. I only mentioned it because it was the impetus for my thinking of the logical fallacy of Weasel Words. And finally, I didn’t use the term “dispie” to be derogatory. Typing dispensationalist over and over gets old.
Article 5: Ambiguity and Equivocation