Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 28, 1958
NUMBER 17, PAGE 11-13a

A Fallacious Syllogism

Gene Frost, Houston, Texas

Logic is "the science that deals with the canons and criteria of validity in thought and demonstration; the science of the normative formal principles of reasoning." Simply, logic is the science of sound reasoning. The

truthfulness of a conclusion of a reasoning process depends upon (1) the truthfulness of its premises and (2) the validity of the argument (or process) itself. Errors in reasoning may occur, then, in the material (the statement of the premises) or in the form of the inference.

These fallacies are termed material fallacies and formal fallacies.

In the present controversy regarding the activities of churches centralized in a church or human society, prominence has been given to the syllogism. Brethren Roy Deaver and Thomas Warren have submitted this device in an attempt to prove the scripturalness of the practice of centralization. Whether the practice is sustained by the syllogism or not we shall determine through a study of the syllogism and formal and material fallacies: showing, not one, but four basic fallacies. The Deaver-Warren syllogism is stated:

1) All total situations the constituent elements (component parts) of which are scriptural are total situations which are scriptural.

2) The total situation described in my proposition is a total situation the constituent elements (component parts) of which are scriptural.

3) The total situation described in my proposition is a total situation which is scriptural.

As we have already stated, in order for the conclusion to be true without doubt, both the material and form must be correct, true and valid. We first examine the form.

Formal Fallacies

I. Four-term Pseudosyllogism There are some arguments that look like syllogisms which are pseudo because they contain a fourth term. A valid syllogism contains three: the subject (minor), the

predicate (major), and the middle. In Barbara form, first figure, the order is:

1) Middle Term (M) — Predicate (P)

2) Subject (S) — Middle Term (M)

3) Subject (S) — Predicate (P)

Obviously the terms must retain the same definition in each premise. However, when a term is used in two ways, a fourth term in introduced. This fallacy is called a four-term pseudosyllogism'. In particular, a fallacy arising from the use of a word that may be taken in more than one meaning is called the fallacy of equivocation. Depicted:


M — P M1 — P

S — M S — M2

S — P S — P By diagramming the statements it can be readily seen that the "middle term" of the pseudosyllogism actually contains two terms, totaling four terms (S-pMl-M2) compared to the three terms (S-P-M) of a valid form.

It is here that the Deaver-Warren syllogism is fallacious in application. In analyzing the syllogism, we shall distinguish in different kinds of type the various terms. The subject is set in regular type; the MIDDLE term is in all capitals; the predicate is in bold-face.


2) (The total situation described in my proposition) is a (TOTAL SITUATION THE CONSTITUENT ELEMENTS (COMPONENT PARTS) OF WHICH ARE SCRIPTURAL).

3) (The total situation described in my proposition) is (a total situation which is scriptural).

A word used in the middle term is "scriptural." Question: Does it retain the same meaning throughout its use in the premises? In the major premise "scriptural" means according to or in harmony with, approved or authorized. In application (as adapted to the Deaver-Warren proposition) the term "scriptural" in the minor premise means contained in Scriptures There is a vast difference between a subject being approved or authorized by Scripture and merely being contained in Scripture. It is a subtle fallacy, but clearly the fallacy of four terms.

If, on the other hand, it be contended that the terms are identical, then it can be shown that the component parts do not total an authorized situation. However, notice that if the terms are to be taken identically, the entire major premise is tautological and begs the question. By replacing "scriptural" with its connotation this is easily seen:

"All total situations the constituent elements of which are authorized (as a total situation) are total situations which are authorized (as total situations)."

This is the very thing to be proved, i.e. that the constituent elements of the situation are authorized in view of the whole! If this could be done, the truth of the proposition would be proved without the syllogism! The Deaver-Warren syllogism is useless in valid form (three terms only) and fallacious in the four-term use made of it! The advocates of centralization are back where they were before the syllogistic smoke-screen was thrown up — without scriptural authority for their practices!

II. Fallacy Of Composition

Apparently our institutional logicians overlook the fallacy of composition contained in their assumptive reasoning. This occurs "when we reason from the properties of elements to the properties of the whole which they constitute. For the same word may have a different significance when applied to a totality than it has when applied to an element." 2. Because the elements of a situation are scriptural when isolated from the circumstances involved in the situation does not mean that they are necessarily scriptural in every particular total. Brother Cecil Douthitt ably demonstrated this truth in his illustration of Tabernacle Baptist Church (in the Douthitt-Warren Debate in South Houston, Texas), Tabernacle, Baptist, and Church are three scriptural terms, but when composing a total — Tabernacle Baptist Church — the situation is not scriptural. Thusly, the result of assembling various elements without regard to the composite is far more grave than simply blundering in mental gymnastics: it encourages the indulgence of the unsuspecting in sinful and divisive practices!

Material Fallacies

If there were no complaints against the validity of form, there still would remain the material investigation. In this section we are concerned only with general observations of the proposition:

"The scriptures teach that one church may (has the right to) contribute to (send funds to) another church which has assumed (undertaken) the oversight of a work to which both churches sustained the same relationship before the assumption (undertaking) of the oversight." (Deaver-Warren)

III. Attendant Circumstances

Logicians recognize the fact that a proposition which is true under a particular circumstance may not be true under other circumstances. Materially the Deaver-Warren syllogism is fallacious because it commits the grave error of failing to consider the circumstances under which a proposition may be true and circumstances under which it may be false. To these brethren the proposition is true without regards to attendant circumstances . . . and this is tragic. Perhaps to escape detection in this fallacy, the syllogism under consideration is made to resemble a mathematical axiom. "But mathematics, far from being the typical form of reasoning, is a highly articial and exceptional form. In dealing with the innumerable perplexing problems which confront us in daily life, we are forced to separate complex and ambiguous propositions into many parts, and to make a final judgment of probability from many facts and arguments, weighed against each other in balances..." And so Foster well notes: "Students who come from the study of the simplified inferences of logic to the complicated affairs of life, bring with them too abstract a view. Their formal processes are beset with difficulties. These they are impatient to brush away. They are in danger of overlooking the attendant circumstances which prevent the immediate reduction of an argument to the simple and isolated forms of logic. Yet these attendant circumstances are the making or breaking of an argument."

3. For example, the sending of funds from one church to another is scriptural (the proposition) when equality is established (the attendant circumstance), (2 Cor. 8:14.) But it is not scriptural when the exchange is an element of a universal situation of churches in an hierarchal arrangement (a varying circumstance), e.g. the Roman Catholic concept. (Or again. Baptism for a remission of sins for the penitent believer is scriptural, but baptism is not scriptural as an element of a Calvinistic situation.) The attendant circumstance is the breaking of the Deaver-Warren proposition!

IV. Inductive Inference

We notice that the proof of the minor premise involves the examinations of specifics (elements). Beforethe total situation of a proposition can be pronounced true, every element must prove to be true in view of the composite. Reasoning from the specific to the general is called inductive reasoning. "A complete or perfect induction must examine all the specific instances covered by a general statement or conclusion." 4. But who can be certain that all of the specifics are listed? The advocates of the Deaver-Warren syllogism realize their inability and evidence it in their ever-changing total of specifics. Where perfection is lacking "there is no necessity. Even if the reason is true, the conclusion could be false." 5. So, to grant the correctness of every specific listed by the syllogists (and we do not), proof of the correctness of its conclusion is still lacking ... unless the syllogists are perfect and their list of specifics is perfect! Being fallible human beings these brethren are subject to error — cannot be absolutely sure of the specifics involved — and the height of such errors as committed is the specious argument contained in the Deaver-Warren syllogism!

A Demonstration

To demonstrate the fallacy of the proposition advocated by Brethren Deaver and Warren. Brother E. J. Bridwell of South Houston, Texas has submitted a parallel proposition employing the same syllogism. (Refer to the Deaver-Warren syllogism, third paragraph this article.)

Proposition: "The scriptures teach that a church may (has the right to) assemble daily and observe the Lord's Supper when assembled."

Proof of major premise: Deaver-Warren assumption. Proof of minor premise:

1. It is scriptural for a church to assemble. Acts 2:46, Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 11:20, Heb. 10:25.

2. It is scriptural for a church to assemble daily. Acts 2:46.

3. It is scriptural for a church to assemble and observe the Lord's Supper. 1 Cor. 11:20, 29, Acts 20:7.

Note: To make Acts 20:7 a binding pattern for a church observing the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week only, you would have to substitute "church" for "disciples;" and most, if not all, congregations are leaving off two parts of the pattern: they do not have someone preach until midnight, and they do not assemble in an upper room.

Now we have shown:

1. A church has a scriptural right to assemble.

2. A church may assemble daily.

3. It is scriptural for a church to assemble and observe the Lord's Supper.

Conclusion: The day or time when we observe the Lord's Supper is a matter of opinion and is left to the judgment of the elders of each local church to decide when they will observe the Lord's Supper.

In order to refute the foregoing, one must prove:

1. That one of the components is unscriptural.

2. That the first day of the week assembly was the only one in which the church at Troas observed the Lord's Supper.

3. That the church at Jerusalem did not observe the Lord's Supper in their daily assemblies. Acts 2:42,46.

4. That the church at Corinth assembled only on the first day of the week, or that they observed the Lord's Supper only on the first day of the week.

A Challenge

If Brethren Deaver and Warren do not accept the proposition of our demonstration "proved" by their own syllogism, we candidly request their examination of it showing wherein it is fallacious but their own proposition is not. Of course, the fallacies of logic already referred to are found in both.


Inasmuch as some of the institutional-minded have already accepted the proposition that the Lord's Supper may be observed any day, and we are convinced that the conclusion was drawn on the same illogical basis as the Deaver-Warren proposition, their syllogism perhaps being the very device employed, we have set forth the twain with a common refutation. By paralleling the two, it is hoped that many yet may come to realize what ridiculous conclusions may be drawn when illogical devices are employed, and consequently will reject the unscriptural propositions advocated by the same.

Let brethren everywhere know that logic is the friend of truth. We do not oppose logic in opposing institutionalism in general or the Deaver-Warren syllogism in particular. We are opposing the illogical and the unscriptural!


1-Webster's New International Dictionary 2-Page 377, Logic and Scientific Method, Cohen-Nagel

3-Page 127, Argumentation and Debating, Foster 4-Page 135, Ibid.

5-Page 199, Practical Logic, Beardsley