Be On the Lookout for this Creature

M. Mooney, Ministry Practitioner 
Reporting For 

A minister needs to
keep an ever-watchful ere for this varmint known as the “either/or.” Sometimes
he is called the either/or fallacy –also referenced as a false dilemma. He is a
pest because of the way in which he causes confusion over subjects and choices
that might otherwise not be points of disagreement.


He is distinct in his
appearance, formed as a question that offers only two options as the answer to
an absolute truth. Option one is “either” and option two is “or.

Be On the Lookout for this Creature


When hunting for this
literary pest, his location is not very obvious. In fact, it is relatively
simple to overlook him while hiding among obvious factors. Furthermore, he is
often most undiscovered by the well-meaning person asking a question. 


He is able to hide so
well because he is a fallacy and his camouflage is that of a personal bias. A
fallacy is naturally hard to discover because it is closely associated with
otherwise good reasoning. A bias is equally hard to spot because it is clothed
in assumption. 

As an example, consider the popular bumper sticker
that sounds like a person making seating arrangements stating: Smoking or Non-Smoking,
Heaven or Hell? This question suggests that smokers choose to spend eternity in
Hell. The reason this example is tricky is because Heaven or Hell is a true
scenario that may be only answered in either or terms. Additionally, Hell is
considered a place of never ending smoke. However, this says nothing about
cigarette smoking. 

In the same way, the either or fallacy usually
stands in the shadow of some truth. Yet, it is a fallacy because it limits a
question to only one of two contradicting possibilities, while assuming there
are no alternative answers or middle ground.

Reasons to watch
for this critter

For fellowship reasons, this fallacy can cause people to misunderstand each
other, resulting in disagreements that were never intended.

For personal reasons, this fallacy can limit thinking about possible
alternatives to decisions. If a person has to make a decision and believes that
there are there are only two choices, they may miss an alternative option that
could have been a much better choice.

Often a minister has
to make important decisions regarding their direction in ministry.  Their desire is to follow the will of God. Many
times a fallacy arises when they begin to think that they have only two
possible choices, and that one of them is the “right” choice. Rather, they
might consider bating their options in prayer, then making a decision.  After that, they should spend their time “making”
their decision the right one, as opposed to thinking that there was only one “right”
decision. For when it is all said and done,
“we know that all things work
together for the good of those who love God-those whom he has called according
to his plan
” (Rom 8:28 GW).


Therefore, it is good
to keep watch for this fallacy in order to maximize the opportunities that may
be available when making a decision.
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