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A hypothetical syllogism is, by definition, a deductive argument consisting of a conditional (hypothetical) premise preceded by if (the antecedent) and followed by then (its consequent). For example, "If one is a politician, that one lies!" could be the major premise followed by a minor premise, "If he lies, then he denies being a politician!" The conclusion must be, for the argument to be valid (validity is a reference to correct form in logic not to truthfulness): "Therefore, if that one is a politician, then he denies being a politician!" (See Irving Copi, Introduction to Logic, MacMillan, pp. 250-252.) The first premise of a hypothetical syllogism and the conclusion must have the same antecedent (if) and the second premise and the conclusion must have the same consequent (then) and when the component parts of a conditional syllogism are so related, the argument is valid (Ibid., p. 251).

Another kind of conditional syllogism can have one if-then premise and one categorical (direct statement or sentence) premise and the categorical premise must affirm the antecedent of the conditional premise and the conclusion must affirm its consequent (Ibid.). For example, "If one tells the truth, one is a politician!" "One told the truth," (affirming the antecedent of the if premise), "Therefore, one is a politician" (affirming the consequent of the categorical or minor premise). Such a valid mixed hypothetical syllogism is called modus ponens (affirming mood). 

A third type of valid hypothetical syllogism is one in which the categorical premise (minor premise) denies the consequence of the if-then premise and the conclusion.  Then must deny the antecedent of the if-then premise. This latter form is called modus tollens (the mode of denial).  Any hypothetical syllogism not in one of the three valid forms described above would be guilty of a modal fallacy. That is, the argument would not be in a valid form. Consider the following syllogism which syllogism its author labeled infallible.

1. If (1) the word of God can directly affect the human heart and (2) the Holy Spirit indwells a saint's heart in conjunction with the word and (3) the word alone in a heart cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit, and (4) the saint must produce the fruit of the Spirit, THEN the Holy Spirit must directly affect a saint's heart.

2. (1) The word of God can directly affect the human heart (Psa. 119:11; Acts 2:37) and (2) The Holy Spirit indwells a saint's heart in conjunction with the word (Acts 2:38; 1 Thess. 4:8; Eph. 5:17-19; Col. 3:16-17) and (3) the word alone in a heart cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit (John 15:1ff; Rom. 8:9-11; Matt. 7:16-20) and (4) the saint must produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24).

3. THEN the Holy Spirit must directly affect a saint's heart.  In order to derive a necessary conclusion from an antecedent where there is the conditional "if-then," there must be a necessary antecedent and a necessary condition. Logicians call this necessity qualification strict implication and where modus ponens (recall that this is an affirming syllogism) for strict implication is concerned, when the antecedent is affirmed by a particular modality (method) then the consequent must also be affirmed by that particular modality.

The above "infallible" argument is not sound because a formal fallacy of modality was committed when the argument was written. Something necessary cannot be derived from that which is merely possible. Note that the "infallible" argument starts with "if" and fallaciously derives a necessary conclusion. Therefore, the author of the argument failed fully to reveal the modality of his proof and so unknowingly or knowingly tried to secrete the fallacy. In other words, the author either deliberately hid the fallacy because he could not prove his major premise, or he did not realize (although he claims to be a logician) his mistake.

In Aristotelian categorical logic, the beginner is taught that one cannot draw a universal conclusion from a particular premise. A similar fallacy has been committed by the author of the "infallible" syllogism. He started with a partial and formed a whole! What he wrote is something like, "If it is a China, then it is a pig. It is possible it is a China. Therefore, it is a pig." The formal fallacy of modality makes the "infallible" argument above invalid as to form and also indicates that the author assumed his "minor" categorical premise without proof. (The author had no verse of Holy Scripture that indicated the Holy Spirit worked "in conjunction with" the Word of God.  He assumed such.)

A second problem with the above "infallible" argument (to a logician, a deductive argument means that one has a valid, syllogistic form) is that at least one of the terms in the wording and, perhaps, two are used in two differing senses. This aforementioned usage is called equivocation and this fallacy of ambiguity occurs when one confuses "the different meanings a single word or phrase may have" and uses such terms "in different senses in the same context" (Copi, p. 110). Copi included the traditional illustration of this fallacy which example is: "The end of a thing is perfection: death is the end of life; hence, death is the perfection of life" (Ibid.). Since end can mean goal or last, the goal of a thing is its perfection, but as to death it is the last event of life. Both meanings, goal and last, are legitimate usages of end, but one cannot confuse the two terms in one syllogism.

In like manner, the author of the "infallible" argument used word in two differing senses. In the conditional premise, the author used the term to refer to the written Bible, but in the categorical minor premise, the term is defined by the author as either preached or written. His "proof" text in the if-then, major premise is not given, but he used Acts 2:37 (the record of the orally given Word), and Psalm 19:11 (the record of the engraved Word) to define his terms.

That author also mixed terms by using word and word alone which he does not define as to the contrast. His syllogism is something like this: "If nobody is a better comforter than God, and if somebody is a better comforter than nobody, then somebody is a better comforter than God!" Note that the author wrote that "if the word of God can directly affect the human heart, and if the Holy Spirit indwells a saint's heart in conjunction with the Word, and if the word alone" (here he equivocates, is it word or word alone?) "cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit" (which statement the author has never proved) "then the Holy Spirit must directly affect a saint's heart."

In the if-then conditional, major premise, ambiguity also is seen in that the author surmised that the Word of God could directly affect a saint's heart and then surmised that by itself (word, word alone), the Word of God could not produce fruit. Which if the author intended to be correct is certainly left to the imagination of other amateur logicians who, at least, know that humor and jokes are based on the fallacy of equivocation, but the working of the Holy Spirit and the understanding of that work should never be left to comedians. The Bible explicitly states that the "sword of the Spirit is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17). Handlers of swords know that they work through the sword NOT parallel to it or "in conjunction" with it.

All of the above technicalities ASIDE, the author of the "infallible" syllogism needs a verse of Holy Writ he does not have. He needs one for his categorical premise (second premise) that teaches "in conjunction with" as the mode of the Holy Spirit's working. Also, one who has a direct operation on one's mind (heart) needs the information as to which side of the brain the testosterone driven male is affected directly by the Spirit and whether the Spirit affects both sides simultaneously of the non-testosterone female.

What does it feel like when the Holy Spirit directly affects a brain? Is there an electrical charge to each synapse (the point at which nervous impulses pass from one neuron to another) and are God's children the only ones who can feel this charge? Or, is the "direct affectation" of the Christian's heart only "spiritual" thus defying explanation and outside of the realm of human understanding and logical syllogisms?

It is most interesting that all of the arguments (?) presented by one claiming direct (please, dear reader, understand the import of this claim) operation on the Christian use Scripture to affect his claims. The infallible author should just tell one how such an operation feels and how one knows when the operation is in effect and not try to use Holy Scripture to "prove" some feeling.

Keith A. Mother, Sr., Yokevellow, A Publication of the Memphis School of Preaching, February, 2004