Category Archives: Features

Logical Fallacies Explained to Mennonites

Editor’s note: This article is published by the Board of Church Ministries as we explore how to discuss and discern together. It appeared in The Daily Bonnet (Dec. 18, 2017), an online publication of gentle satire. The Anabaptist-Mennonite church is global with many cultures and languages, though in the article some German-speaking members are highlighted. Whatever our background, there is a common challenge: how to talk and decide together.

 By Andrew Unger

Mennonites are pacifists, so we can’t use physical violence to achieve our goals. So, how do we get our way? Well, by winning an argument, of course! We use words, not swords.

In order to make a good argument, however, we need to learn to be logical and not resort to reasoning errors. Therefore, to aid Mennonites in this quest, The Daily Bonnet has created this handy guide to common logical fallacies (i.e., bad arguments), each one explained in a way that Mennonites can easily understand.

  • Ad Hominem – This is a personal attack in place of an argument. When your opponent runs out of good arguments, they usually resort to insults. For example, Mrs. Friesen argues that vereneki (perogies) are better boiled than fried. Since Mrs. Penner can’t think of a comeback, she simply retorts, “Waut es mit die, du ola Schnodda Näs!” (What is it with you, you old snot nose!”)
  • Ad Populum – This is arguing on the basis of popularity, but it’s not a good argument. Even though all church decisions are made by committee, it doesn’t matter how many people believe in something; that doesn’t make it true. The whole world could believe Menno Simons was a mermaid; that wouldn’t make it true—although that would be pretty awesome!
  • Appeal to Pity – This fallacy is when you’re using pity and emotion rather than logic to win an argument. So, for example, Mr. Klippenstein wants to get a new hitching post in front of the MCC shop. Instead of using a rational argument to make his case, he appeals to pity and says, “Na, junges (No, boys), you wouldn’t want your old Opa (grandfather) to have to hitch his horses in front of the Co-ops across the street, now would you?”
  • Appeal to Tradition – This is self-explanatory. Just because something is traditional, doesn’t mean it’s correct. This is basically the Mennonite defence for everything: gender roles, church start times, Mr. Toews’ parking spot. Everything seems to be defended by simply saying, “Ach, that’s the way we’ve always done it yet!” It’s a bad argument.
  • False Dilemma – A false dilemma is when someone provides an artificially limited number of options in order to make one (previously undesirable) option seem more desirable. “You don’t want to eat chicken livers tonight? Well, it’s either you eat your chicken livers or you’ve got manure-spreading duty for a month. You decide!”
  • Personal Incredulity – This is when someone argues that something must be wrong just because they, personally, don’t find it believable. Your uncle does this one a lot, I’m sure. “Women wearing pants? Makes no sense to me!” or “Drums in church? It doesn’t give such!”
  • Red Herring –Mennonites don’t eat a lot of fish, but we do use a lot of red herrings. This is the use of distraction to change the subject from the original argument. So, for example, Andrea Wiebe says that the church should order 12 dozen raisin buns for the next funeral because they ran out the last time. In typical old Mennonite man fashion, Mr. Doerksen retorts, “Yeah, well, who’s going to shovel the sidewalk in front of the building?!” The meeting is then diverted into a lengthy conversation about icy sidewalks and Miss Wiebe’s original perfectly reasonable request is completely forgotten.
  • Slippery Slope – The slippery slope fallacy occurs when someone argues against one thing on the unfounded basis that it will lead to something worse. “You want people to be able to purchase a glass of wine with their meal? Well, if we allow that, then the next thing you know we’ll be legalizing cocaine, we’ll all become addicts, then there’ll be no one to harvest the grain, our entire society will collapse, and Kleefeld will never be the same again!”
  • Straw Man – This is when you distort someone’s argument to make it easier to defeat (like a straw man). Say, for example, Mrs. Loewen argues that the church should allow women to enter the building without a head covering. Mr. Plett retorts, “Yeah, well, you’d probably like to come into church completely naked.” I’m afraid, Mr. Plett, you’ll have to do better than that, as this statement is a fallacy.
  • Tu Quoque – From the Latin for “you also.” This is related to ad hominem, because it’s a personal attack in which you point out someone’s hypocrisy in order to diminish their argument. However, an argument must be judged on its own merit. Being a hypocrite does not negate an argument. Like when Mr. Peters suggested changing the communion wine to non-alcoholic Welch’s grape juice, but Mr. Fehr pointed out that Mr. Peters was the biggest boozer in town so who is he to talk. And then Mr. Peters said that Mr. Fehr’s wife Alice was known to down her fair share of real Mexican vanilla. And then Mrs. Fehr said that Mr. Peter’s wife Susan enjoys those brandy beans at Christmas a little too much, “not to mention the rum balls and boozy fruit cake,” and then Mrs. Peters said that…. You get the idea.
Andrew-Unger
Andrew Unger

So, there you have it! The next time you see a Mennonite friend making a fallacious argument, just show them this article. Problem solved. Oba yo! (Definitely yes!)

Andrew Unger (Stony Brook) is a teacher in Steinbach, Man.

Be Still, My Soul

By Janice Loewen

Imagine, four days of silence, never talking to anyone. A silence which means no use of WIFI, phones, emails, computers or anything else that would distract you from this intense silence. Silence is not the way our usual day to day world operates.

Our lives are filled with busyness and noise. We seem to like it that way. Silence is more than a quiet time with the Lord. In our quiet times we do most of the talking. Our own chattering and talking must come to an end. This type of silence involves being still and knowing that He is God.

Our Response

Let’s be honest. We all would respond to an invitation to a silent retreat with a variety of different thoughts and emotions. For most of us this is something completely new and strange. It most certainly takes us out of our comfort zone. The thought of total silence can be frightening because we fear it might reveal rough edges of our heart. We are not sure we are ready to confront our own naked heart. It cuts us off from the world and leaves us alone with God. For some of us, it is just downright hard to let go of our work or responsibilities.

Richard Foster puts it this way, “Genuine experiences of solitude undercut all pretense. In the very act of retreat we resign as CEO of the universe.”

It was no different for Arley and me. When the invitation came to us, my first response was one of pure joy and unbelief that we were offered something so wonderful. This had been something on my wish list for many years.

Arley, however, saw it as a daunting task and one that might lead him into many sceptical thoughts. How could someone as busy as he is, do nothing for five days!  But in the end, we chose to go.

Orientation

We were seven couple along with the mentors. Most of us had OM connections. We gathered together at a Catholic monastery in Thailand which had beautiful grounds and facilities for hosting a silent retreat. Our group was allowed to come in and use their facilities for our own silent retreat.

Each of us had our own individual bedroom with a small bathroom attached. Yes, husbands and wives were separated, each in their own room.

We began with a half day of orientation. Why come to such a retreat? What brought you here? For those of us who come from the West, this type of retreat seems out of character, a time-waster, unproductive. Our culture screams at us to be doers. To retreat is a difficult thing for an active soldier to do—it is seen as failure.

Yet as we look through the Gospels, we see that Jesus was also bombarded by crowds and demands from people. He was often on the move, going from place to place. And we read in Luke 5:15-16: “Yet the news about Him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him and be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Jesus needed to hear from the Father. To stop, to rest, to enjoy and delight in the Father.

This is what we came to the retreat for. Not to tackle world issues or theological problems, not even to solve our own personal problems. We have come to rest and delight in the Father. To be silent and hear from Him.

So like Elijah, who ran to escape from the demands and dangers of ministry, we stopped and asked ourselves these questions: What are you doing here? What is your desire? Longing? What is your expectation deep inside?

It was in stillness and quietness that Elijah heard God speak to him.

Both Arley and I wanted and longed for a fresh encounter with God, and so the days of silence began.

Daily Routine

The mornings began in silence, no alarm clocks. We woke to the rising of the sun. Some things continued as usual. Each morning, Arley and I separately went for our morning walks and prayer time.

Meals were served in a dining hall and we silently joined many others who were also on a silent retreat. All of us ate in silence, enjoying the quiet and meditative music that was played.  We were encouraged to slow down intentionally and to pay attention to what was around us. For me, meal times were special, relaxed and lengthy times of meditating on the many good and wonderful things I have received from the Lord. There was no rush, no hurry to be somewhere else.

Each morning, after breakfast, we had a morning devotion as a group. We met in a small chapel. The mentors read scripture and presented thoughtful questions and other passages that we could read throughout the day. We as participants remained silent at this time and enjoyed the quietness, the contemplative music and the Word of God.

The rest of the day, we each made our own routine of where we wanted to go and spend time with the Lord. There were several small chapels on the grounds. Outdoor benches and tables with coverings to protect from the sun and heat were scattered around the grounds. There were also paths for slow, meditative walks. Something we all loved was the labyrinth, a place to walk while we ponder on Scripture, or questions or thoughts that had come up during the day or to reflect on what the Lord has done in our lives. In the centre of the labyrinth was a large rock which represented Christ. All of us felt it was a “journey” worth taking each day.

Each evening we met again as a group for a time of communion. It was such a relaxed, unhurried time and each of us by turn went up to the communion table and spent time with the Lord before taking the bread and wine. It was amazingly calm and refreshing.

And throughout the day and the various times spent with the Lord, we journaled and journaled, writing our thoughts and our hearts deepest moments spent with the Lord.

Scripture

We spent much time meditating on Isaiah 55:1-13, to come, to listen and to delight, to seek God and to call upon Him; then to go out with joy and be led forth in peace.

We also spent much time in John 4:1-14, meditating on how Jesus provides the water of life which should become a spring of water within us, welling up to eternal life.

I personally enjoyed becoming much more sensitive to God’s presence and His voice.

We experienced a calmness and slowness that brought a fresh peace and quietness. Indeed, silence slows you down! Silence is a great equalizer – no one is left out, no one dominates the conversation. It was wonderful to walk and eat in silence alongside our friends and know that they too were experiencing a deep and quiet time with the Lord.

What Next?

Arley and I are now developing new, spiritual disciplines in our lives. We do not want to lose the wonderful gift of drawing away from the rush and hurry of life, to be near to God in a special way of silence and to learn from Him and delight in Him.

If someone were to ask us, “Would you go on another silent retreat?” or “Would you recommend a silent retreat to others?” My answer would be a resounding, “Yes!”

Janice Loewen has been serving the Afghan world with OM since 1982.

Dr. Harvey Plett: Great Significance in Obedience: ‘Your Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven’

 

The Lord’s Prayer 2019

By Dr. Harvey Plett

Many of us memorized the Lord’s Prayer in grade school. The Manitoba Education Department prescribed daily Bible readings and a daily reciting of the Lord`s Prayer for the public schools. That has changed now, but many of us know the prayer from those days.

Continue reading Dr. Harvey Plett: Great Significance in Obedience: ‘Your Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven’

Our Daily Bread—And What About the Future?

The Lord’s Prayer 2019

By Kevin Wiebe

Our culture is one that is full of differing diets: gluten-free, paleo, ketogenic—and that is just the beginning. Many of these diets cut out or reduce carbs. So, when Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” many readers may not be so appreciative of bread. Continue reading Our Daily Bread—And What About the Future?

Terry Smith: In Jesus of Nazareth, God is Revealed

By Terry M. Smith

Prisons and slums, natural and human-made disasters and deaths, wars and other forms of suffering all illustrate that our world is far from what it should be. In the midst of all of this, how can we be aware that God is good and worth knowing? How can we be confident that God cares and cares enough to act? Continue reading Terry Smith: In Jesus of Nazareth, God is Revealed

Kevin Wiebe: I Am the Weaker Brother

By Kevin Wiebe

When you believe you are right about something, how do you behave? How do you treat those with whom you disagree? I’m not talking about issues of sin, here. There are a great many things the Bible very clearly defines as sin. So, what of disputable matters, issues that are not very clear? Sure, there are folks who try to make every kind of sin into a “disputable matter,” but like it or not, there are in fact some things that are not as clear-cut in the Bible as we would like it to be. Continue reading Kevin Wiebe: I Am the Weaker Brother