Max Shulman was a writer in the 50s who died in 1988. I know hardly anything else about him yet – but will find out more. But i did come across this ingenious short story this week – which you just HAVE to read if you’ve not already done so.

LOVE IS A FALLACY from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (first published in 1951)

i remember doing a course in logic at uni and being totally befuddled after a very short space of time. if only i’d read this story – so much more would have made sense. It is quite amazing how much people fall into the logical traps so perfectly illustrated by this story – and i’m talking just as much about Christians as anyone else (which is actually quite embarrassing, not least because i know i’m not immune). Read and Learn!

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. What a fantastic story! It almost made me understand all the terms involved-I think I may have to print it out. Thank-you. This blog is great, thanks Mark.

  2. What an interesting story!! How does this apply to the Bible- Dicto Simplicitor (God is good); Hasty Generalisation ( All men are sinners); Ad Misericordian ( Jesus answering the Pharisees questions) and Hypothesis contrary to Fact and Poisoning the Well (as demonstrated by the OT characters in instances where they justify their actions). This means that the logician can never understand Christ as he will tar man and God with the same brush – either completely good or terribly bad. And Christians are only like Polly wanting a man with a racoon coat. Without wanting to make a hasty generalisation, this must suggest that faith is not logical. But surely this is why Paul only preached Christ crucified ‘not in plausible words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’. However, logic obviously has its place as can be seen in the story and in the OT/NT stories where God leaves man to draw conclusions after certain events/ conversations. But when reading the Bible what is the right use of faith and logic at any moment of interpretation – or should we just rely on a sense of vague ‘reasonableness’?

  3. Fascinating thought, Kate. Though I think you’re just trying to be a little bit provocative! As far as i can see, one of the things that this short story illustrates is the need for rigour when it comes to how and what we assert when making claims for Christ. It gives means to evaluating where what people say, when they actually INTEND to be reasoned and logical.

    But talking about logic’s relationship with faith, that’s a whole other ballgame. There is a big debate amongst Christians about whether or not one should use apologetics at all, or whether or not one should simply proclaim and let eyes be opened as and when. My hunch is to be fairly equivocal – i think James Sire’s point in the book i mentioned on Jan 28th is that when we argue we should be as thought through and rigourous as we possibly can so that we never allow a ‘bad’ argument be the excuse for rejecting what may well be a ‘good’ gospel claim. There’s a lot more to be said on this, of course, as you may well want to point out…

  4. Yes, I agree with the need to be consistent and thought through in our presentation/ declaration/ defence of the gospel. However, as we are all sinners with not a single cell of our body exempt, I assume this to mean our minds and thought processes too. Even with our renewed minds as Christians our logic will be flawed so we must be careful as we use it in our discussions. And to take an example from our daily experiences, a womans logical management of a situation will often differ from a mans logical management of a situation! Both may be perfectly reasonable but the process is different. I wonder if what we also need is an understanding of the person we are talking to and their personality and world view. Logic may turn around an argument for one person but leave another completely in the cold.

    I believe logic/ apologetics has a place – to take a biological model it is like a protein that reconfigures a receptor in a cell membrane, therefore making it permeable to a molecule (ie faith). Logic can lay the ground work for someone to think that Christianity is reasonable but it is faith alone that saves them. As you say- for some people this will prevent a bad argument from stopping a person from consdering a good gospel claim. But faith has to be the greater player…Otherwise we run into the danger of saying ‘we’ decided for Christ and exclude a proportion of believers who are unable to rigourously reason for genetic reasons. Without wanting to be relativistic , how do you see it?

  5. Kate, i think this is very helpful – and while i don’t completely understand all the biological stuff (you are VERY clever, aren’t you!) it does seem to make sense. And in no sense do i want to reject the centrality of grace alone and faith alone. I suppose i’m reacting against the classic Dawkinsesque gibe that faith is just mindless, truthless and dangerous.

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