Non Sequitur

H. L. Bruce
Colorado Springs, Colorado

"Non sequitur" is a type of fallacious argumentation. Webster gives it this definition: "It does not follow: an inference that does not follow from the premise; specifically: a fallacy resulting from a simple conversion of a universal affirmative proposition or from a transposition of a condition and its consequent." (Seventh Edition, page 574)

Thus you have it: a non sequitur argument is an unnecessary conclusion from a given premise.

In illustrating the fallacy of Pharisee logic, Brennan cites, "Because holy men bow their heads in prayer and say Lord, Lord! those who bow their heads in prayer, and say 'Lord, Lord are holy men." (See "A Handbook of Logic" page 209) The Pharisees were not logical. Their conclusion was not merited from the given premise.

Religious Examples

Many today use this line of argumentation, which is just as fallacious as it can be. For instance, we are told that "Protestants in reality believe in purgatory." "Haven't you noticed that they pray at funerals?" We are asked! The conclusion is a faulty one: It simply does not follow that a prayer at a funeral indicates that the dead are being petitioned out of purgatory.

Our Adventist friends make the same mistake. In the first century, the Apostle Paul and others would preach to the Jews during their Sabbatical assembly. "But Paul observed the Sabbath," we are told. It is true that Paul preached on the Sabbath, but does that warrant the conclusion that he gave it the connotation that the Jews of the first century gave it? When we preach on Saturday today, does that mean that we are Adventist? Paul did not believe and preach either Jewish or Adventist doctrine. He preached that the law had been abrogated and the Sabbath taken away. (See Rom. 7: 17; Col. 2:14-16) Preaching on the Sabbath would not indicate that one is observing the Sabbath any more than preaching on December the 25th would indicate that we are copying the Catholics.

Our "Holiness" friends have a line of reasoning after this fallacious order. It is very shallow and it is as deceptive as can be. They conclude that since Christ and the apostles worked miracles in the first century, that "They did, therefore we are" seems to be their line of thought. I have my first time to discuss miracles with one of these people who would not give that kind of proof (?) for their doctrine. While it is true that Christ and the apostles performed miracles that do not merit the conclusion that such are performed today. The apostle Paul taught that such terminated in the first century. (1 Cor. 13: 1-13)

Present Controversies

Members of the Lord's church have not altogether "observed the Passover" with regards to the fallacious and erroneous non sequitur line of argumentation. "He opposes general benevolence," we are told, "therefore he would let little orphan children starve to death before a dime could come from the church treasury to feed them." Well, does the 'premise merit the conclusion Does it follow that opposition to general benevolence would warrant the conclusion that anyone would starve, whoever they be? Indeed not! In the first place there are optional alternatives. The above erroneous, fallacious, non sequitur conclusion precludes the immediate sympathetic action of all present concerned, active and benevolently disposed Christians. It simply does not follow that to oppose the church being involved in general benevolence would mean that Christians would allow anyone to starve. Such argumentation is not only highly prejudicial but also establishes mental barricades to an open minded and non-emotional study of the issues at hand.

In the same line of thought and employing the same unfair tactics, some can tell you what we are all like. A few individuals will be selected, scrutinized, judged and sometimes mis-judged to be cranks, fanatics and lunatics. Then from this judgment and conclusion comes the old non sequitur: "They are all alike-just a bunch of cranks and fanatics, etc."

Non Sequitur reasoning even precludes much of our personal evangelism. We reason that since some are prejudiced and some will not listen that all are prejudiced and will not listen. We are, therefore, defeated before we get very far, and that all because we conclude erroneously that since some respond after a certain pattern, others will do likewise.

We need to reason and analyze in the society in which we live. We need to be reasonable people. Isaiah said, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord" (Isa. 1: 18) But we should be conscious of the possibility of our reasoning being fallacious and properly discipline our thinking. We hurt ourselves and the cause for which we contend when we allow our conclusions to be defended by an inaccurate line of argumentation.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 43, pp. 7-8
September 9, 1971