Ever hear of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy? There’s a delightful exposition of it, with great relevance for the church, on the Slacktivist blog. It is by Fred Clark, and it makes me want to read more of Mr. Clark’s stuff. Here’s how it begins:
The “No True Scotsman” fallacy is a common way of exempting a group from any culpability for the bad actions of members of that group. More generally, the useful Wikipedia article linked to there describes it as:
An ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule.
The key point there is that final phrase: “without reference to any specific objective rule.” I want to clarify that even further, and say that such specific objective rules need to be credibly accepted as excluding the counterexample. But I also want to reinforce this aspect of the definition to ensure that we’re not seeing the “No true Scotsman” fallacy where it does not exist.
It’s helpful here to look at philosopher Antony Flew’s classic example of this fallacy, from which it derives its name. That example is structured, actually, as a joke: Continue reading
Good ol' Clement of A, w/ his own quite impressive beard
And if you don’t get the chance to look at all the items from Pietist Schoolman’s blog (see my previous post), you should definitely check this one out, from Slate:
Why Does God Love Beards?
A discussion of facial hair in world religions.
By Brian Palmer
An Amish splinter group has gone on a crime spree, forcibly cutting the beards off of their rivals. Many religions, including Sikhism, Islam, and sects of Judaism, encourage or require their men to keep beards. Jesus Christ is often depicted with a beard. Why does God like facial hair so much?
Because it’s manly. Although beards appear repeatedly in religious texts, God never explicitly tells us why they’re so holy. In the absence of any divine exposition, many theologians have posited that a hairy face is a symbol of masculinity bestowed upon men by God. St. Clement of Alexandria, who was among the most emphatic proponents of this view, argued: “But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly! And, in truth, unless you saw them naked, you would suppose them to be women.”
This is the second of my “Grateful to the Dead: The Diary of Christian History Professor” series on Christianity Today International’s history site a few years back. It deals with the Christ-and-culture question:
#2: “All things to all men” or “Be ye separate”?
In the last installment of “Grateful to the Dead: The Diary of a Christian History Professor,” I took a cue from the Emergent movement and argued that we have to go back to the past to get to the future. (Some Emergents call this sort of thing “Vintage faith“; others, borrowing a phrase from the scholar of historical worship Robert Webber, use the term “Ancient-future faith.”)
More specifically, I argued that we need to read the lives of “the saints”—our forebears, who translated the gospel for their cultures by teaching, preaching, and especially living it—for clues to how we should be translating the gospel for our own cultures.
But now we face a serious question: Is the whole idea of “translating the gospel for culture” off-base to begin with? Continue reading
Continuing this week’s Anabaptist theme, here are the surprising and interesting factoids that made it into the front page of Christian History & Biography’s issue 94: Pilgrims & Exiles, about America’s Anabaptist groups:
Pilgrims and Exiles: Did You Know?
Interesting and unusual facts about America’s Anabaptists
Friday, October 1, 2004
You may be more Mennonite than you think
Many American Christians simply assume that the state has no business dictating church beliefs or practices, that a church should be a gathered body of believers rather than a net that scoops up everyone within the area of a parish, and that baptism is a step of obedience upon profession of faith. What most do not know is that Mennonites were the first (surviving) group of Christians to insist on these things, and that they died by the thousands for doing so.
“Are you saved?” … “Ask my neighbors”
The early Brethren (Dunkers)—a cousin movement to the Mennonites and Amish—practiced a lively evangelistic outreach. But the typical Anabaptist emphasis on showing, not just telling, one’s faith remained strong. When Brethren evangelist Rufus P. Bucher was asked by a stranger in a railway station, “Brother, are you saved?” Continue reading
As the editorial team for Christian History & Biography was preparing our issue on the Anabaptists in America (Amish, Mennonites, Brethren), a bizarre new reality show hit TV screens. The show, which threw a group of Amish teenagers into a west coast “party house,” had an interesting squirm factor:
“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “The Amish.”
UPN’s “Amish In the City” shows us our modern selves in a mirror that is positively medieval.
It began last night like a tasteless joke: “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Oh &*%^$%&! It’s the Amish! There goes the party.”
The first encounter between the six city kids and the six Amish kids thrown together in the new UPN reality show “Amish in the City” revealed much more about “us” than about “them”: Though there are winsome characters among the city kids, the first and lasting impression they leave is one of superficiality, fixation on sex and appearance, and deep-rooted self-centeredness. Next to these traits, even the ambivalent residue of communal spirit and Godly anchoring evident in the Amish young people has a tremendously appealing gravitas and sweetness. Continue reading
Over the next couple of days, I’ll be posting on a few things I learned about the American Anabaptists (in particular, the Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren) while working on Christian History & Biography‘s issue on that topic. This first item, my editor’s note from that issue, reflects on a research trip assistant editor Steve Gertz and I took to “Amish country” during the issue’s planning process:
Shaken Up by the Peace-Lovers
A trip through Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County.
Nothing restores one’s sanity like a little peace and quiet. As my colleague Steve Gertz and I rode through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the car of our host Steve Scott, the peacefulness of “Amish Country” refreshed us like a tonic.
Granted, faced with the near-perfect tranquility of the rolling fields, neat houses, and slow-moving black buggies, I did begin to get fidgety—looking around for a manuscript to edit or a layout to proof. But the sensation of being away from the “shot-out-of-a-cannon” life of publishing in the Chicago suburbs was nonetheless a pleasant one. Continue reading
Posted in Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Amish, Anabaptists, Brethren, discipleship, Lancaster County, Mennonites, Old Orders, pacifism, peace, Pennsylvania, Spirituality