Ignoratio Elenchi (Latin title: probably irrelevant article)

For a few months I have been considering writing something brief on a remarkably popular line of reasoning that is often employed and yet, utterly fallacious. I began thinking about writing this after proofreading an essay for someone at college who made this mistake. I began actually typing stuff out after John MacArthur did it.

It often seems to happen when the topic of creation comes up, this is perhaps because creation is one of the most contentious issues amongst evangelicals. It is called “Ignoratio Elenchi” which is Latin and therefore must mean something important (see what I did there?). The source of all knowledge: wikipedia, explains those foreign words as, “irrelevant conclusion, missing the point – an argument that may in itself be valid, but does not address the issue in question”.

The example that pops up again and again seems to be something to the effect of

Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 2:16)–inspired truth from God. “[Scripture] never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Jesus summed the point up perfectly when He said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17, KJV).
The Bible is supreme truth, and therefore I am right!

By the way, I stole everything except the bold bit from Johnny Mac’s blog entitled “Genesis 1: Fact or Framework?”.

Now in general I don’t really like bashing chaps publically (like this). When you write a blog and get a million readers though, I feel like you need criticism (and I’ll email this to him as well – I get an absolute ton of readers so even if he doesn’t get my email, it’ll surely get to him simply by word of mouth). Here’s my criticism though Dr. MacArthur: The fact that the Bible is supreme truth would not be disputed by Meredith G. Kline. Why are you arguing for it? The answer is: because it makes your position appear to be the biblical one. Your argument, while valid, does not address the question. It’s really not helpful to say it, all it does is portrays those who don’t hold your position as people who reject the Bible. I believe that the Bible is inerrant, not people who interpret it.

Now you should know that you’ve got a bit of slippery slope fallacy sneaking in there as well, “Why could not the resurrection itself be dismissed as a mere allegory?” But I’m not really interested in that stuff, I just wanted you to know that I know a bunch of people who actually believe framework hypothesis and the Bible… For that reason, it’s really not a helpful to present a case for inerrancy or infallibility: if we are ever going to figure this stuff out, we need to start taking each others’ arguments seriously. As a starting point, let me suggest you imagine a person who holds to the framework hypothesis and rejects theories of an old earth and evolution and the rest, who believes the earth is young and who loves Jesus with all his/her heart – what is your argument now? Stop with the slippery slope stuff, stop with the ignoratio elenchi stuff and sit down and let us reason together.

What’s more haven’t you ever noticed that strawberries are red. Red is the color of incorrect things. If you like strawberries, you know what that means… That’s just a joke and considering the title of this post includes Latin, you couldn’t possibly have expected anything beneath it to actually be funny.

James Cuénod
Student at Wheaton College
I love Jesus, preach his Gospel, disciple his children, study his word and I am incurably passionate about the glory of God.
Inching my way towards teaching pastors in South Africa. Student at Wheaton College. Excited by Hermeneutics, Old Testament and Biblical Theology.