Anthony Buzzard’s Logical Fallacies

This is a short post regarding a comment Anthony Buzzard made on twitter today. Now I must admit, I am not too familiar with Buzzard’s general positions, and so if I make some error regarding this, please excuse it.  But I do know he is not a Trinitarian. I have watched several debates between him and Trinitarians online, and in this debates he seems kind and fair. This is, of course, by no means an attack on him personally, or even on his views more widely. This is simply to point out a logical fallacy he happened to make.I must also acknowledge that twitter is hardly an appropriate platform upon which to be making detailed, careful, scholarly claims, and it is indeed a bit paltry of me to make a judgment upon a tweet. But, I am currently researching the issue upon which he commented, and I thought the mistake might be worth pointing out.

In a tweet found here Buzzard makes the statement that “The immortal God cannot die. The Son of God died,” with the obvious inference that thus Jesus cannot be God. Of course I agree with each of the premises. God certainly cannot die. Jesus, the Son of God, certainly did die. But Buzzard’s conclusion attacks a straw man and commits the informal logical fallacy of a False Dilemma. Buzzard presents us with these (implicit) options: 1) If Jesus died,  and God cannot die, then Jesus cannot be God, or 2)If Jesus is God, and God cannot die, then Jesus must not have really died, or even 3)If Jesus is God, and Jesus died, then it must be possible for God to die. Why is this a False Dilemma? Because it completely ignores a central Christian doctrine: the Hypostatic Union, which states that Jesus had both a human and a divine nature. Now, the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union could be totally false, and Buzzard could be totally right that Jesus is not God; I am not here commenting on that, or attempting in any way to defend Jesus’s deity or the doctrine of the Trinity. I believe in both of these, but they are issues for another article, and are irrelevant to the point being made, which is that Buzzard does not even acknowledge that the Hypostatic Union is a possible option. Instead, he acts as if the only two options are the one’s listed above, without offering any comment or refutation against the Hypostatic Union (in his tweets, at least). Thus his Straw Man, for when another twitter user presses him, arguing that Jesus is in fact God, he responds here with the blunt question “so the immortal God died?” completely ignoring the position of the Orthodox creeds that when Jesus died, his human nature died, and not his divine nature, so that, if this position is correct, it is not necessarily true that saying Jesus died is equivalent to saying God died. Of course, again, it is not relevant whether or not the Hypostatic Union is actually true; it is only relevant that it is an option completely ignored in the conversation. When Buzzard attacks the position of trinitarians in his tweets, he attacks a position that orthodox trinitarians would not hold in the first place.

Again, I have much respect for what I have seen from Buzzard. And again, his tweets today may not accurately represent the totality and fullness of his arguments. But that doesn’t mean he should get away with it, even on twitter.

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7 thoughts on “Anthony Buzzard’s Logical Fallacies

  1. The Hypostatic Union as a “central Christian doctrine” is an accident of history. After Nicaea, the Monophysites and the “Unionists” fought each other for centuries. When the Roman Emperor took sides, “orthodoxy” often changed. The Unionists ended up on top, not because the doctrine is true, but because they won the political war.

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    • Hi again!

      You are absolutely right that many such doctrines have complicated and convoluted histories. The point of this post was not necessarily to defend the Hypostatic Union, but simply to point out that Buzzard completely ignored it as an option at all. Buzzard may be quite right that the Hypostatic Union is false, and he may elsewhere have detailed arguments for thinking so. I was just making note of the fact that in his tweets he did not offer any such arguments, or any reference at all, to the possibility.

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  2. I understood that you were responding only to Buzzard’s leaving out the Union option. I’m thinking that, because it was a political football, maybe it doesn’t belong with the other options. I don’t know that was the case, and I would not have left it out. But, as you said, you can’t conduct much of an argument on Twitter.

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    • Might I ask how you would respond to Buzzard’s question, that how can Jesus die if Jesus is God and God cannot die? It’s an interesting question indeed. But I think that even if you reject the Hypostatic Union, it isn’t necessarily true that saying “Jesus died” amounts to saying “God died,” because Jesus is just one person of the Trinity (if you’re a trinitarian) and Jesus dying isn’t the same as the entire Godhead dying.

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      • I don’t mind your asking. My answer would be, Jesus was not God. However, I am biased. I am a philosophical naturalist, yet I am fascinated by religion. The more I study it, the more fascinated I become. I want to find a flaw in Aquinas’ argument from a first mover (and Feser’s teaching of it) but I cannot. That bothers me a lot. As I wrote previously, Aquinas’ system seems so loosely tethered to experience, that it’s too uncomfortable for me to accept. Yet, for now at least, I find myself agreeing with his logic. So I keep studying.

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      • Sorry for the late response. I am also fascinated by studying religion (not just my own) and philosophy. Not very many people often admit that they cannot find problems with arguments which oppose their overall worldview, so thank you for your intellectual honesty and fairness, it is very respectable!

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