It may not be 100% foolproof but it does work exceedingly well. Basically, if someone brings a doctrine or interpretation your way… bring up the relevant passages that appear to contradict their views and see how they respond to them or to the questions you ask in light of them.
I. GREEN FLAGS
It is a very good sign if they:
- Answer Prudently: Giving a cogent response, one that harmonizes the apparent contradiction(s); or
- Admit their current lack of knowledge: Asking for time to review, ponder, and pray about it… without proceeding to attempt to argue their point anyway.
II. SEVEN RED FLAGS:
It is a very problematic sign if they:
- Utterly Disregard: The biblical proof-texts you provide, or the questions you ask in light of them, choosing to not only ignore them, but to go on advancing their arguments in spite of them.
- Violate Proverbs 18:13: By giving a hasty, knee-jerk, response that is neither rational regarding, nor conducive to harmonizing, the passages at issue.
- Use Slander/Innuendo: To either (a) question/impugn your motives for bringing up the questions/proof-texts or (b) explain what you “really mean” by bringing up said proof-texts — when you know that you mean no such thing at all. These relate to the fallacies of Appeal to motive – “where a premise is dismissed by calling into question the motives of its proposer” and (somewhat) to Bulverism “(psychogenetic fallacy) – inferring why an argument is being used, associating it to some psychological reason, then assuming it is invalid as a result. It is wrong to assume that if the origin of an idea comes from a biased mind, then the idea itself must also be a falsehood.”
- Quote Others: To answer your questions or respond to your proof-texts, being unable to articulate their own thoughts, opinions, and reasoning in a way that rationally harmonizes the passages in apparent conflict. Note: This is truly a red flag only when the quoted text does not actually address the passages that you offer.
- Contradict God’s God-Breathed words: by applying interpretations/definitions to terms that run contrary to the inherent meanings of the words that God breathed out in the original Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek languages (of the Old and New Testament).
- Employ Red Herrings & Straw Men: To distract from the real questions and implications at hand.
- Red Herring: “As an informal fallacy, the red herring falls into a broad class of relevance fallacies. Unlike the straw man, which is premised on a distortion of the other party’s position, the red herring is a seemingly plausible, though ultimately irrelevant, diversionary tactic. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a red herring may be intentional, or unintentional; it does not necessarily mean a conscious intent to mislead.”
- Straw Man: “A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. The so-called typical “attacking a straw man” argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition (i.e. “stand up a straw man”) and then to refute or defeat that false argument (“knock down a straw man”) instead of the original proposition. This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery, entertaining “battle” and the defeat of an “enemy” may be more valued than critical thinking or understanding both sides of the issue.”
- Employ other Logical Fallacies: That can indicate a clear lack of critical thinking on the matter. If the responses are not compatible with critical thought, if they are incoherent and illogical, then they are not compatible with biblical revelation. Logic alone cannot lead to spiritual truth but spiritual truth is always logical for it stems from the Divine Logos. The following are fifteen examples of formal and informal logical fallacies that are commonly used to affirm the traditions, interpretations, and commandments of men:
- Anecdotal fallacy: Which is, “using a personal experience or an isolated example instead of sound reasoning or compelling evidence.”
- Argument from (personal) incredulity: Also called divine fallacy, or appeal to common sense, it takes the form of ‘I (personally) cannot imagine how this could be true, therefore it must be false.’
- Appeal to the stone: Or argumentum ad lapidem, involves “dismissing a claim as absurd without demonstrating proof for its absurdity.” This is related to the Pooh-pooh fallacy, which is “dismissing an argument [as] unworthy of serious consideration” like what many do with the Biblical-earth controversy.
- Argument from repetition: Or argumentum ad infinitum, “signifies that it has been discussed extensively until nobody cares to discuss it anymore; sometimes confused with proof by assertion.”
- Equivocation: Which is “the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time).”
- Fallacy of quoting out of context: Or contextomy, “refers to the selective excerpting of words from their original context in a way that distorts the source’s intended meaning” – whether done intentionally or unintentionally.
- False dilemma: Or, false dichotomy, fallacy of bifurcation, black-or-white fallacy, wherein “two alternative statements are held to be the only possible options, when in reality there are more.”
- Kettle logic: “using multiple, jointly inconsistent arguments to defend a position.”
- Moral high ground fallacy: “in which one assumes a “holier-than-thou” attitude in an attempt to make oneself look good to win an argument.”
- Proof by assertion: “a proposition is repeatedly restated regardless of contradiction; sometimes confused with argument from repetitionargumentum ad infinitum).”
- Thought-terminating cliché: ‘a commonly used phrase, sometimes passing as folk wisdom, used to cause cognitive dissonance, conceal lack of thought-entertainment, move on to other topics etc. but in any case, end the debate with a cliche—not a point.’
- Appeal to tradition: Or, argumentum ad antiquitatem, “a conclusion supported solely because it has long been held to be true.”
- Argumentum ad populum: Or “appeal to widespread belief, bandwagon argument, appeal to the majority, appeal to the people, where a proposition is claimed to be true or good solely because many people believe it to be so.”
- Appeal to consequences: Or argumentum ad consequentiam, where “the conclusion is supported by a premise that asserts positive or negative consequences from some course of action in an attempt to distract from the initial discussion.”
- Appeal to emotion: “where an argument is made due to the manipulation of emotions, rather than the use of valid reasoning.”
Much more can be said but the above should suffice in helping to understand Green Flags (those thinks that evidence either biblical revelation or a desire to submit to biblical revelation) or Red Flags (those things that serve to prop-up the carnal commandments/traditions/interpretations/teachings of men over against the true teachings of God). Simply put, the greater the number of red flags, the more suspect/erroneous the position is likely to be. The more closely an individual adheres to the green flags, the more trustworthy the source tends to be (though even the best intents, and methods, can lead to error if the Holy Spirit is not the one leading us into all truth, via the means that God has ordained).
A Work In Progress