Do Christians Commit The No True Scotsman Fallacy?




Many atheists believe that religion of all kinds are detrimental to society. They believe that the majority of human ills stem from religion. Richard Dawkins is one of these atheists that believe this. This is a pretty foolish claim, for it ignores the beneficial effects that Christianity in particular has produced over the centuries; hospitals, charity organizations, mission trips to help starving and sick people in third world countries etc. Mother Teresa’s moral life was primarily produced by her Christian beliefs. However, to support their claims, they’ll point out people who claimed to be Christians but did terribly wicked deeds and/or people who did wicked deeds in the name of Christ. These include people like Hitler, The Crusaders, and some others.

When Christians try to point out that these people aren’t genuine Christians, atheists are quick to accuse them of committing the No True Scotsman fallacy.

"No True Scotsman fallacy". Is this a legitimate fallacy or a desperate attempt to salvage an argument?

Atheism On The Slide, a Facebook group I liked a few weeks ago, had this to say. This is what Atheism On The Slide said in one of their most recent statuses

“Hypothetical situation:
Bob's a nice guy and he always calls himself christian. We never question it because he never gave me a reason to think otherwise. One day, me and my atheist friend goes to Bob's house. We're hanging out in the livingroom and i have to go to the bathroom. As i'm heading to the bathroom, i pass a door. I'm a nosey person so i open the door. Inside this room is what seems to be a satanic ritual that has taken place. I see pentagrams, 666's, candles and a slaughtered goat that looks to be sacrificed. I take my atheist friend and i leave. I tell my atheist friend what happened and that he's not a Christian, he worships the devil...

Now, if my atheist friend says "what do you mean he's not a Christian? Just because he doesn't practice your version of Christianity, doesn't mean he's not a Christian. That's a no true Scotsman fallacy." that would be ridiculous. Anyone who knows a thing about Christianity would say "yea, that guy's not a Christian. Christians don't do that." This is because there's a certain criterion for being a Christian and there's just some things that Christians do not do.”

Atheism On The Slide then said “As I said earlier, the No True Scotsman Fallacy is often called after a Christian deems an evil person as not a Christian. From what we know about Christianity, calling this fallacy is a fallacy itself because it when It's used, it always blatantly ignores all of the criteria for being a Christian. That won't stop some atheists from still calling this fallacy, even after you refute it because calling people like hitler, the kkk, and other people Christians is one of their favorite and most common arguments.”

Try to imagine the following conversation.

Person A: I'm a vegan but I eat meat.
Person B: You're not a true vegan!
Person A: You’ve just committed the No True Scotsman fallacy!

Does anyone who claim to be Napoleon has to mean they really are? Does everyone who claims to be a doctor really a doctor? If I claimed to be a cop but had gone through no prior training, had no uniform or badge, and no police station in my area ever even knew I existed, would you still consider me to be a police officer just because I claimed to be? It's ridiculous to think that claiming to be something alone makes that claim true.

I think you can begin to see that just because a person claims to be something, it doesn't mean they are. If it looks like a dog, barks like a dog, and walks like dog, I don't care how many times he claims to be a cat!

I admit that there are instances where saying "You're not a true X" is a fallacy. But certainly the atheist would agree that in for X to be X, X must meet certain criteria. The Wikipedia article linked to above gave some absurd examples of what disqualifies a person from being a true Scotsman. But it doesn't follow that because some things have no bearing on the Scottish-ness of a man that therefore there aren't criteria one has to meet to be a true Scotsman. For example, if a man claimed to be a Scotsman but you investigated his claim and found that he was born and raised in New Jeresey, that his parents and grandparents were raised in New Jersey, and that his great grandparents moved here to the United States from Italy, I think we'd be justified in claiming that this man wasn't a Scotsman. To be a Scotsman, you must be Scottish.

*What Does The Bible say?

Indeed. By the way, The Bible itself argues that such people aren’t Christians. Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' “ (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus here explicitly says that those practice evil are not known by Him. Jesus disassociates Himself with unrepentant people, with those who willfully, deliberately, purposefully live an immoral lifestyle. Even if they claim to be Christians. Even if they actually believes God exists and give intellectual assent to the creeds of the church, those who practice such a lifestyle will not be acknowledge in front of the Father by Jesus.

Galatians 5:22-23 describes certain character traits that a regenerate Christian will have. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Now let me ask you, did Adolf Hitler display these fruits? Did the Crusaders? Did the Catholic priests who go around molesting children display the fruit of self control? Now, granted. All people are sinners (Psalm 14:2-3, Romans 3:23). And even Christians stumble and fail to consistently produce all of this fruit all the time. Even Christians stumble into sin every now and then. That’s true. As a church sign near my home once read “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” Nevertheless. A truly regenerate Christian will display some of these fruits some of the time. And if their sanctification progresses exponentially prior to their passing, they’ll eventually get around to showing all of these fruits on some occasions.

Moreover, although Christians aren’t morally perfect people, the truly regenerate Christian will not become a moral abomination. The truly regenerate Christian might look after a scantly clad woman walking past him with lustful eyes, but he isn’t going to go out of his way to slaughter 6 million people of a particular ethnicity, for example. He might take the Lord’s name in vain when he accidentally strikes his thumb with a hammer rather than the nail he was aiming towards, but he isn’t going to go out of his way to pick up a prostitute every week followed by physically abusing that prostitute.

There are some sins that we stumble into inadvertently due to our sinful nature, things like cursing, lusting, occasional selfishness, or something else. However, there are other sins you don’t just fall into. There are sins that must be deliberate (i.e done on purpose). Sins like slaughtering 6 million Jews, demon worship (Atheism On The Slide’s example), child molestation, or killing people in the name of Christ. These sins must be deliberate. A genuine Christian will never sin on purpose. If he ever sins, it will be in moments of weakness. He won’t go out of his way to do bad things. 

1 John 3:6-9 says "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, don't let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of The Devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God's family do not make a practice of sinning, because God's life is in them. So they can't keep on sinning, because they are children of God." 

Now, at first, it might seem like John is saying that someone who’s been born again will never commit a sin again, he’ll live a morally perfect life from that moment on. I don’t that’s the case. I think he’s talking about deliberately sinning. Why? Well, for one thing, earlier in his letter he said that if we say we have no sin, we’re basically calling God a liar (1 John 1:8) and then He said if we confess our sins to God, He’ll for forgive us (1 John 1:9). I’m highly doubtful John would contradict himself in the same letter! So, he’s not saying a Christian will never ever sin. But what John does say is that if we make a practice of sinning, we are not saved. There's a difference between committing sin and practicing sin. Committing sin is when you occasionally stumble in your walk with Christ into sin. Practicing sin is sinning on a repeated, ongoing basis without any care at all about whether or not what you're doing is evil or immoral. For example, someone who's seduced into sleeping with a woman he’s not married to commits a sin, but he's not practicing sin, he just fell in a moment of weakness. Contrast that with a person who goes and hires a prostitute on a weekly basis or someone who attempts to perform an ethnic cleansing. He purposefully goes out of his way to do these things. The person in the latter example is practicing sin.