Person A: “I am going to be moving to Thailand?”
Person B: “Why?”
Person A: “I am going to be a teacher, but the main purpose to do missions. I want to tell them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Person B: “I don’t really like proselytizing.”
Person A: “Why don’t you like proselytizing?”
Person B: “I think it is wrong to push your beliefs on others.”
Person A: “So are you telling me it is wrong for me to push my beliefs on others?”
Person B: “Yes.”
Do you see the problem with this conversation? No, I do not mean that the conversation in itself should not be had, actually I strongly hope people are having rich conversations about important topics. However, I want to point out a common mistake people have in their logic when discussing world views, opinions, etc. The mistake many make is called Suicide. This is a wonderful tactic I gained from reading Tactics by Greg Koukl, so all credit goes out to him.
Let’s go back to the conversation above. Person A tells Person B that they will be heading overseas to share the Gospel with others. Many people find this offensive and wrong, so does Person B who responds with “I don’t really like proselytizing.” Person A does a great job at asking a question, so that Person B must defend their claim (burden of proof). The Suicide is committed when Person B gives their burden of proof, which is that they think it is wrong to push their beliefs on others. Isn’t Person B “pushing their beliefs” on Person A with their comment? So in that comment Person B has committed Suicide.
Many inaccurate views tend to easily self-destruct, or commit suicide. We know these commonly as self-refuting views. These views do not need expended energy to address because they destroy themselves. Greg Koukl gives a simple example of this through a statement: All English sentences are false. In this sentence it is easy to see the problem. If all English sentences are false, then obviously the sentence declaring it must be false too.
The Suicide tactic works well because of a rule of logic called the law of noncontradiction. The law follows the commonsense idea that contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time. Basically, A is the case and A is not the case.
Koukl explains how to recognize the suicidal tendencies:
1. Pay attention to the basic idea, premise, conviction, or claim. Try to identify it.
2. Ask if the claim applies to itself. Then it commits suicide.
3. Finally, simply point out the contradiction.
Here are some examples of suicidal statements:
1. There is no truth. (Is this statement true?)
2. There are no absolutes. (Is this an absolute?)
3. No one can know any truth about religion. (And how, precisely, did you come to know that truth about religion?)
4. You can’t know anything for sure. (Are you sure about that?)
5. Talking about God is meaningless. (What does this statement about God mean?)
6. You can only know truth through experience. (What experience taught you that truth?)
7. Never take anyone’s advice on that issue. (Should I take your advice on that?)
Koukl makes a distinction between two types of Suicide tactic: Formal and Practical. The tactic still works the same, but one is committing suicide in the statement, and the other is committing suicide in real-life application.
In the end, everyone should be aware of their own and other’s claims because it can be easy to say something we think is logical, but contradicts itself. If we desire to pursue truth, then we must stay away from contradictions.