Posted by: Heather | March 24, 2012

Non Sequitur from Galatians

I am probably the queen of logical fallacies, so this is not a criticism as much as it is a point of information pertaining to Tim Weidlich’s blog post called “I Hate the Law… Should I?” In it, he cites this popular passage from Galatians:

 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. (Gal. 5:4-6, emphasis mine)

The idea there is that the law doesn’t save us. I think we all agree on that. But then people tend to say that because the law doesn’t save us, we shouldn’t obey it. That’s where the non sequitur comes in.

Galatians, to put that quote in context, goes something like this: Paul explains how the question of keeping the law and being circumcised to be saved came up. Paul says we are saved by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Paul has choice words regarding the people who confused the assembly in Galatia in the first place. End of book.

When an argument contains a non sequitur, it means the conclusion does not follow from the premises. It speaks neither to the truth of the premises nor the truth of the conclusion. It simply means there’s a disconnect, so the argument doesn’t work.

So here’s the fallacy that springs from the book:

Premise: We are saved by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

Premise: We are not saved by keeping the law.

Conclusion: We should not keep the law.

So now you’re probably thinking, “Right. That’s what I’ve heard my whole life. What’s wrong with it.” Well, let’s try that same line of reasoning with another thing that does not save us: driving a car.

Premise: We are saved by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

Premise: We are not saved by driving a car.

Conclusion: We should not drive a car.

Um, doesn’t that seem a little fishy? You might say, “Heather, whether we drive a car or not has nothing to do with salvation. This argument doesn’t make sense.” And you know what I would say? Exactly.

Let’s try it again just because it’s kind of fun.

Premise: We are saved by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

Premise: We are not saved by plucking daisy petals.

Conclusions: We should not pluck daisy petals.

That works just as well–as a non sequitur–as the first example. Do you see how whether we pluck daisy petals or not has nothing to do with how we are saved? Good. Because that’s the same error of those who say that because we are not saved by the law, we should not keep the law. Whether we keep the law or not has nothing to do with how we are saved. Whether we’re circumcised or not has nothing to do with how we are saved. Really, since Christ is the only thing that saves us, nothing else has anything to do with how we are saved!

Paul says it’s bad news for those who rely on the law to save them. It’s the same bad news for those who rely on circumcision to save them. It would be the same bad news for those who rely on driving cars or plucking daisy petals to save them.

Now, I haven’t proven the premise is true (that we are saved only by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ), and I haven’t proven the conclusion is true (that we should not keep the law). All I’ve done is suggest you can’t get to one from the other. Arguing that we shouldn’t keep the law because it does not save us is a logical fallacy. The law was never a means of salvation for any Jew or gentile.

What we should do or how we should respond to the faithfulness of Christ is another question, but Paul’s point is that the fundamental thing that reconciles us to God is the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Accept no substitutes.

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Responses

  1. Positively briiliant! 🙂

  2. I agree, Sarah. Heather I got a good laugh out of this one. 🙂

    Love & Peace
    Ama

  3. Thanks, Sarah and Ama. : )

  4. This comment, Heather, seems to enjoy an exercise in logic that misses the point entirely. The point of the whole Blog is that the Law leads us to Christ, therefore the Law has no power to save us, but its power is in its purpose, which is to show us our need of another, Christ to save us. Paul, in the entire book of Galatians, develops an argument that seeks to walk us away from the Law and to Christ. The result is that we don’t rely on the Law, but on Christ.
    Arguing about the law of non sequitur focuses on one verse, the book of Galatians builds the entire argument just as Romans does for Justification.

    • If I have missed the point of your post, I’m sorry, but I’m also relieved. I really thought when you wrote “Thus, Paul can say that we don’t need the Sabbath, our Sabbath is Christ; we don’t need dietary laws, or feasts, or any of the Law” that you meant more than that we don’t need the law to save us (as it never saved anyone); I thought you meant it sort of evaporated. I got the impression—maybe the wrong impression—that when you wrote Paul tells us we don’t need the Sabbath, food laws, feasts, etc., that you think Paul broke the Sabbath and taught others to break it, ate unclean foods and taught others to eat them, and ignored God’s holy convocations and taught others to ignore them. In sum, I thought you meant the doctrines of Paul made the commands of God of none effect once a believer comes to Christ.

      But if I’m wrong, that’s great.

      And I see a lengthier response on the issue on your blog, so I’ll be by to read it.

  5. Reblogged this on oogenhand and commented:
    Taking Protestant logic to its conclusion.


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