Series on Logic Part 12 – Red Herring

Beloved, I have to admit something that might gross some of you out, I love sushi. It’s literally my favorite food. Unfortunately I’m not just frugal, I’m a straight up cheapskate so I only get it on special occasions like birthdays or Mother’s Day. So, as we continue through our series on Logic with a discussion on the logical fallacy dubbed Red Herring, I’m going to use sushi as an example.

A Red Herring is when someone fallaciously ignores an argument by changing the subject. It would look a little something like this;

Me: We should go eat Sushi for dinner tonight because it’s delicious.

Husband: It’s going to rain tomorrow, so let’s BBQ today.

This is fallacious because my husband ignored my reasoning on sushi being delicious. However, if he had pointed out (as he often does) that I’m the only one that likes sushi, that it’s expensive, and that it causes gluttonous tendencies in me, then went on to suggest the BBQ it would not have been a Red Herring. Setting aside my beloved sushi (unwillingly) let me give you an example of how this plays out. A street preacher shares the Gospel with someone, calling them to repent of their sins. They will, from time to time, completely ignore what was said and bring up a Red Herring. It starts with a ‘what about’ and ends down a rabbit hole.

A Christian might say “God sent His only begotten Son to die in your place, so the sins you’ve committed have been paid for. You can be forgiven if you repent of your sins and put your faith in Christ’s finished works on the cross.”

Response, for example…

“Ok, what about evolution though?”

Or…

“What about all the other religions?”

If you’ve watched enough LivingWaters clips, or Way of the Master episodes, you’ve seen the steamrollers who plow over the pleas from Christians with the What Abouts. The mass majority of those What Abouts are Red Herrings. To avoid this fallacy, dear ones, simply address the question or point made then ask if you can make a point. If someone is using this fallacy with you, lovingly ask if you can come back to that after you’ve heard their response to what you’ve just said. Most people will ask you to repeat yourself, so it’s a bonus, as it gives you a second opportunity to share the Gospel. Remember, friends, when sharing the Gospel you never know who else is listening. I hope understanding these fallacy’s will be a blessing to you all, beloved brethren. As always, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Author: lnhereford

I am a Christian, wife, mother, podcaster and homeschooler currently traveling the United States with my loving husband and darling daughter!

16 thoughts on “Series on Logic Part 12 – Red Herring”

  1. One of the best ways I have learned to deal with this is to use a New Testament where I have already underlined specific verses. I usually say, “That’s a really good question, would you be willing to read a few passages out loud and give me your idea as to what they say?” I have never so far had anyone refuse to do it. I let them give their opinion without correcting them and usually by the time we are through they know exactly what Scripture says and what they need to do in response. I learned this wonderful technique from “Sharing Jesus Without Fear”. I end by asking, “From what you’ve read and deduced what do you think you need to do in response to what you’ve learned?” If they are unwilling to I say “okay” and put my New Testament away and talk about something else. I might ask if they need clarification but I never say they are wrong nor do I correct them. It’s amazing how well it works because they have been allowed to come to the conclusion themselves. God’s Word can defend itself.

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  2. Thanks, sister! These logic fallacy lessons are valuable. Yes, I have witnessed these “red herrings” brought up as defense mechanisms. People generally aren’t familiar with the Bible so they’ll “fish” for popular objections in order to try to put you on the defensive rather than allow themselves to be at the disadvantage. Sushi? Ach.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, brother, for your kindness! I’m so blessed to hear that you’re finding these lessons valuable! You make an excellent point, it’s the unfamiliarity so many have with Biblical truths that cause these conflicts. Often times someone claims there are contradictions in the Bible, but can’t actually name any of the top of their heads. It makes sense to put the Christian on defensive rather then wave a white flag. This is why I’m always so edified by your comments! Thank you, again for what you’ve added. I’ll just ignore that crack against sushi and chalk it up to Christian liberty lol!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Honey, your examples here are non sequiturs, not red herrings. In your first example, the “response” has nothing to do with the initial premise; your husband isn’t creating a sophisticated red herring. He’s ignoring you because he doesn’t care what you want and doesn’t have the integrity to say “no thanks” before completely invalidating your desire.

    (I like sushi, my husband doesn’t. So that we’re both happy, I get sushi when he’s otherwise busy or isn’t hungry.)

    Red herrings are when the clues purposefully misdirect, such as if your husband told you he’s taking you out for a surprise seafood dinner that you’ll love and you *assume* he’s getting you sushi, but really it’s fish and chips. There’s no logic to it, it’s a misdirection meant to mislead. Red herrings are easily combated against if you simply never assume anything.

    “A street preacher shares the Gospel with someone, calling them to repent of their sins. They will, from time to time, completely ignore what was said and bring up a Red Herring. It starts with a ‘what about’ and ends down a rabbit hole.

    A Christian might say “God sent His only begotten Son to die in your place, so the sins you’ve committed have been paid for. You can be forgiven if you repent of your sins and put your faith in Christ’s finished works on the cross.”

    Response, for example…

    “Ok, what about evolution though?”

    Or…

    “What about all the other religions?””

    ⬆⬆THIS makes absolutely no sense! Who is supposedly creating the red herring? The street preacher? The Christian (is he different than the preacher)? The random dude on the street who isn’t interested in being converted? Are all 3 creating red herrings (that’s actually hilarious and would make for an interesting SNL skit)? WHAT IS THE ACTUAL RED HERRING?

    Learn all about red herrings here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RedHerring

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good evening Catherine, and thank you for your questions and input. I’m so glad you mentioned non sequiturs, I should have gone over them in this post. Red Herrings are very similar to non sequiturs, the main difference being the push for distraction within a Red Herring. Obviously the example of sushi I gave was supposed to be a bit silly, and the fictional Red Herring from my husband was the rain.
      I do want to say, however (and mostly for my readers benefits as I’m not sure if you even read my responses) that my families desires are important as well. It’s not a matter of integrity to consider everyone’s needs and feelings. Nor is it invalidating my desires not to give me everything I want when I want it. Marriage needs to be so much more than getting what we want right when we want it. We’re not children, we’re adults, and the secular push for spoiled behavior in marriage disturbs me. It’s so interesting to me that you immediately went to this perspective, as if my make believe story showed some type of mistreatment by my husband. It’s almost as if women now expect to be given everything while giving nothing in return, and for a bonus we mock and belittle our husbands, usually having a horrible attitude towards them. No one should be treated like that, we don’t need to disrespect men just to prove equality. Making our husbands less does not make us more, the opposite is the truth. I have watched so many marriages fall apart because the men just give up. Ok, rant over, hopefully that’ll be beneficial for someone sometime down the road.
      I’m sorry to hear you didn’t understand my last example. The Red Herring is the What About statement made in response to the street preacher who is a Christian. The video clip might clear that up. Thanks again for your opinion, I really appreciate it. I hope you’ll watch the video clip, and consider whats said with an open mind. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, brother! That’s a great way to put that, subset perfectly describes it. It’s such a slight difference in terms, it gives a better perspective of the two to put it in subsets. Thank you for that distinction, Pastor! I’m blessed to know my sushi reference didn’t gross everyone out. May the Lord bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

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