Friday, April 23, 2010

Exegetical Fallacies

Exegetical Fallacies Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“In short, this is an amateur’s collection of exegetical fallacies” (p.26). Carson examines word-study fallacies (chp 1), grammatical fallacies (chp 2), logical fallacies (chp 3), presuppositional and historical fallacies (chp 4), before offering some concluding reflections (chp 5). This is a work I will return to frequently.

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Anonymous said...


This is a great book! I've returned to it many times myself.

Even Carson himself though is prone to exegetical fallacies betimes (as we all are).

Vincent Cheung points out once such occurrence in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount:


Many theologians and commentators agree that the love commanded by Scripture is a volitional but non-emotional benevolence that results in edifying speech and helpful actions toward other people. However, more than a few people wish to include an emotional element to the biblical concept of love.

For example, when referring to the above definition, D. A. Carson writes, "If this were so, 1 Corinthians 13:3 could not disavow 'love' that gives everything to the poor and suffers even to martyrdom; for these are 'concrete actions.'" But this is an invalid argument, and involves a surprisingly amateurish inference from this professional New Testament scholar. Paul is making the point that one can exhibit "loving" actions without actually having love, and from this, Carson infers that the missing element must be, or at least include, the emotion. Why?! He gives no actual justification for this assertion.



MJK said...

Thanks for pointing me to that example Joel.

Of course, Carson's conclusion could still be correct, even if he arrives at it illegitimately. In Desiring God Piper argues that "love is the overflow of joy in God that gladly meets the need of others" (p.119). And in his sermon on Romans 12.9-13 (link below)argues that in order to obey the NT commands that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must feel an affection, as well as do an action. Do you think Piper's arguments are correct?

BTW, I haven't forgotten about our unfinished discussion on whether God is emotional... :) Will try to post something soon.

MJK said...

(sorry. here's the link.)

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike,

Ha - sorry about the knock against emotion...wasn't intentionally trying to troll.

Carson's conclusion could be correct as you say, but it could not be verified as correct from his interpretation of Scripture. There's the rub.

I would not agree with Piper about feeling affection. In fact, I'm quite surprised that Piper, a man who has drunk deeply from the writings of Johnathan Edwards, would link feeling with affection. Edwards is quite clear in that feelings/emotions are not tantamount to affections.

Says Edwards:

"Here it may be inquired, What the affections of the mind are? I answer, the affections are no other than the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.


"It is not the body, but the mind only, that is the proper seat of the affection. Nor are the motions of the animal spirits, and the fluids of the body, anything properly belonging to the nature of the affections; though they always accompany them yet are they entirely distinct from the affections themselves and no way essential to them."