The No True Scotsman Fallacy

by Patrick Collins

Been accused of using the “No True Scotsman” fallacy?  You’re not alone.

The No True Scotsman fallacy occurs when one makes a claim that someone would never do a certain thing because they’re a certain classification of a person.  The recognition of this fallacy originated with the example of a Scotsman reading the newspaper and saw that a horrible act was committed in his community.  He responded by saying that, “No Scotsman would do such a thing.”  The implication is that certain types of people are incapable of doing certain bad things.

Christians are often accused of using this fallacy when they are confronted with an example of a person who is said to be a Christian but did something immoral.  In many Christian circles, upon hearing that someone did something horrible, they’ll say “they weren’t a true Christian, anyway.”

The No True Scotsman fallacy exposes non-sequitur logic.  It’s not logical to say that because someone did x, then therefore they’re not a Christian.  A person is not a Christian based on their works, but their faith.  However, a Christian’s works gives evidence for their faith.

I have two thoughts on this.  First, I think when someone says “They’re not a true Christian,” many times they really mean “They’re not living consistently with Christ’s (or the Bible’s) teachings.”  So, in the sense that one meaning of “Christian” is “Christ-like,” it’s true that they’re not being like Christ.

Second, before this issue can really be addressed, the question that must be answered is, “What is a true Christian?”  Let’s look at an analogy that puts some light on this question.  If Larry lives in Scotland, but isn’t a citizen and wasn’t born there, then he does not meet the qualifications of a Scotsman.  Simply stated, Larry isn’t a true Scotsman!  Likewise, there are many opinions on what a Christian is…

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RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:   Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions / Reasonable Faith (3rd Edition): Christian Truth and Apologetics / Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith / More Apologetics Resources >>>