I have a friend with whom I discuss Apologetics as well as many other general Christian topics. We were talking about Paul Washer during one of our discussions and afterward, he went on YouTube looking for a random Paul Washer video and watched it. He sent me an email with his critique – here are some excerpts and quotes:
“it seemed like a lot of logical fallacies or preacher tactics.”
accusation: do you know the attributes of God? Are you learning the important things?
straw man: we see the church as Six Flags over Jesus
Bifurcation: Revival or Judgement
scare tactic: I have great fear for you.
Generalization: based not on scripture but on culture
irrelevant thesis: most of what I will say is scandalous
straw man: God – you will not be able to avoid Him – no matter how hard you try
straw man: God looks like Santa Claus today
” : we so little knowledge of Scripture
Bifurcation: God he is everything or He is nothing
Here was my response:
Regarding Paul Washer – he is definitely not an apologist, he’s a preacher. Paul Washer’s main goal seems to be to get individuals to consider whether they are really saved, based on the way they’re living.
He uses hyperbole for sure (e.g. the “Six Flags over Jesus” comment), but Jesus did as well – I’m not sure we can label that as a straw man. In fact Jesus used many of those tactics, for example:
- Hyperbole (straw man) – I don’t think Jesus really meant that we were to cut off our hands/feet or gouge out our eyes: Matt. 18:8-9 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
- Scare Tactics – Jesus used scare tactics many times. Like when talking to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:33 – You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Or Luke 12:5 – But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
- Bifurcation – I don’t think we could accuse Jesus of bifurcation in Matt. 12:30 – He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters or His brother – James 4:4 – You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
- Accusation – I don’t think we can accuse Jesus of illegitimate accusation during His conversation with Nicodemus: John 3:10-12 – “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?“.
I could go on… But I give these responses to show that Paul Washer is using tactics that, on their face, may seem like fallacies or preacher tactics, but we can find many preachers, prophets, apostles and Jesus Himself in the Bible using these same “tactics”.
If we’re honest, I’m sure most preachers commit logical fallacies. We could probably find logic errors in many of our favorite preachers (unfortunately) – even R.C. Sproul or John MacArthur. However, I tolerate it because that’s not what I listen to them for. I listen to them for better understanding/insights about the biblical text and for exhortation and bringing conviction of my heart (which Paul Washer, Steven J. Lawson and others do very well). But they give good analogies and good stories that get right to the main point and make it clear. Here is one of my favorite Paul Washer sermons, at the very end (59:26) he gives a pretty good analogy: