Fallacious and non-fallacious Whataboutism

In my view, many so-called ‘fallacies’ have rational counterparts. A fallacy is just a counterfeit for sound or cogent reasoning. It looks like good reasoning, but it is off in a subtle way. It is because there is a legitimate form of reasoning adjacent to the fallacy, which explains why the fallacy is so appealing.

Someone asked on Reddit “Is whataboutism always fallacious?

Here’s my reply:


Bringing up someone else’s lack of consistency across cases is not fallacious in and of itself. It’s basically an appeal to say “Show me your principles, so I can understand you” and follow-up “But are you really even relying on these principles? It appears you aren’t in this other case.” It is not fallacious only because if there is a double standard, it would best to find which standard should be applied. The rational inquiry is about what is the standard to which one ought to appeal.

Likewise, bringing up another case can highlight that the same principles are applied consistently, but there is a morally relevant difference between the two cases. The appeal to consistency, that like cases should be treated alike, can be satisfied, when one shows that the two cases are importantly dissimilar.

Bringing up someone else’s lack of consistency can be fallacious, if the effort is designed to distract, divert, or otherwise ignore the reasoning of the argument. At that point, the ‘what about’ isn’t brought up to find out either the principles or the morally-relevant differences between the two cases, but rather to gainsay the conclusion in a snarky way. In other words, it is fallacious when the charge of hypocrisy is irrelevant to the truth of the conclusion.

I’ll give a positive example:

Pro-life advocates believe that some people have special obligations to the vulnerable. Some positive rights (and positive duties) can accrue naturally. E.g., biological mothers have a unique relationship with duties to their unborn child.

But some pro-life advocates don’t think this clearly, or don’t really hold this view. They get confused or they get accused for holding a general obligations view, that we general obligations to anyone who is vulnerable. If you can help save someone’s life, then you ought to save that person’s life. If you can help stave off starvation, then you should do it.

And so critics might say what about charity work, welfare programs for poor mothers, welfare programs for children, government funding for adoption and foster care, sending government aid to other nations, etc. In other words, pro-lifers who appeal to the principle “we all, in virtue of being persons capable of saving lives, have obligations to care for any person who is in need of life-sustaining care.” Such a pro-lifer could be inconsistent in their principles, if they want to make abortion illegal but think that the government should never impose a tax to help the poor.

This is a NON-FALLACIOUS whataboutism.

Some critics say “You only care about them when they are in the womb! What about when they are born? You don’t really care about their welfare!”

This is a FALLACIOUS whataboutism.

Why? The pro-lifer thinks that the mother (and father) still have special obligations to the child after birth, unless she (they) can responsibly delegate them to another, say adoptive parents, extended family, etc.

Some critics say “You only care about the fetus’s rights. What about the mother? Doesn’t she have rights?”

This is a FALLACIOUS whataboutism.

The pro-lifer cares about the rights of the mother too. But some rights are more fundamental than others; say, my right to property is less fundamental than my right to life; likewise my right to autonomy is less fundamental than my right to life.

Some critics say, “You only care about the right to life, but what about standards of living? You seem to think you gotta keep them alive even if their life is horrible.”

This is a FALLACIOUS whataboutism.

The pro-lifer thinks that welfare is morally important. Welfare programs do not automatically get legal justification because welfare is morally important. Moreover, special obligations (individual to individual) are not the same, but grounded differently, as general obligations (individual to group, or group to individual).

Advent Reflections, part 3

Advent Season is characterized by waiting and yearning. A sometimes patient, other times impatient, desire to see God’s chosen one. He will deliver all God’s people from oppression and establish justice forever. Just as God’s people in the Old Testament looked forward to Jesus, the promised offspring who will rule with compassion and vanquish all evil, so also does the church today.

In this series this Advent season I will be reflecting on passages exclusively from the Old Testament that foreshadow and anticipate the arrival of Jesus Christ.


Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (ESV)

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”


Moses is referring back to the time when God appeared on Mt. Sinai. Israel had been rescued from Egypt and on their way to the Promised Land, but in the meantime, they were wandering in the desert and wilderness. When the people came to the mountain there were flashes of lightening and the top was filled with fire and smoke. God’s presence was so immense and great, that the people were terrified. God commanded that no one may approach unless he calls them up. When God spoke, they could not handle hearing from God directly. They begged for someone to mediate between them and God. So, God called Moses and brought him up, in order to give him the law. Moses was their mediator who will hear the word of the Lord and bring it to the people.

God will raise up a prophet like Moses. In what ways will the prophet be like Moses? Like Moses, the prophet to come will be “from among you, from your brothers”. This phrase is repeated twice. Perhaps it goes without saying, that the prophet will be a human, rather than an angel or someone else. The prophet to come will also be a true Israelite, and not born in a foreign land. The prophet will be raised in the law of Moses, and will have their heritage in Abraham’s promise. He will be in the family, their kin.

God promised to raise up a prophet like Moses

Like Moses, this prophet will speak the words of God. The prophet won’t be speaking on his own terms or his own thoughts. He will faithfully present what God has shown. Just as people would listen to Moses as if they were listening to God, the prophet to come will have the very words of God on his lips. Moses brought the law and taught God’s standard. He was called the great Law-giver. As a prophet, Moses foretold blessing and curse, based on obedience and faithfulness.

Moses was not only a prophet, but also had a role as a leader when Israel had no king. He led them out of slavery, delivered them from oppression, and went out ahead of them toward the promised land. He led people into battle in the wilderness and anticipation of entering the promised land. And the people followed – they didn’t splinter off into going different ways, but all united behind Moses. He was the closest thing to a king that Israel would have in the wilderness.

The prophet will be different from Moses, though, because the prophet will speak all and only what God commands. Moses failed in this, and it is the reason he never crossed the Jordan in the Promised Land. The prophet that Moses anticipated would be greater than himself.

And so, the people waited for hundreds of years for “The Prophet” like Moses to come, that they might hear the word of the Lord with authority once more. Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah came, but they also spoke of the one to come. When Jesus came, he was identified as that prophet. The people marveled at his wisdom and teaching, and that he spoke with authority. The apostles announced that the Prophet has come.

When will we see the Prophet like Moses? When will we see one greater than Moses? When will we feast on the word of God, taught with the authority of God himself?

When Christ returns.


And so we, the church, wait for our savior to return to us.

Revelation 22:20-21: He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

Advent Reflections, part 2

Advent Season is characterized by waiting and yearning. A sometimes patient, other times impatient, desire to see God’s chosen one. He will deliver all God’s people from oppression and establish justice forever. Just as God’s people in the Old Testament looked forward to Jesus, the promised offspring who will rule with compassion and vanquish all evil, so also does the church today.

In this series this Advent season I will be reflecting on passages exclusively from the Old Testament that foreshadow and anticipate the arrival of Jesus Christ.


Genesis 22:17-18 (ESV)

“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”


God appeared to Abraham, telling him to leave his parents and extended family, even his whole community, to turn away from false gods and instead follow after the true God. This was a calling to leave the rebellious line of the serpent, in order to be among those who will be faithful to God and will be delivered from sin and sorrow.

In this passage we see that God appeared to Abraham and promised offspring – a child, even a firstborn son, despite the fact that both Abraham and his wife Sarah were in their old age, and childless. They wanted children, but Sarah was infertile. She couldn’t have kids. But God promised a miracle, and this miracle would not just be for them, but for all people.

This promise has at least three parts.

First, God promised to make people numerous, who belong to Abraham. While Abraham was childless, he will have so many descendants, nobody could count them if they wanted. God’s people will be fruitful and multiply on the earth.

Second, God promised a secure home for them to inhabit. They would have a place to belong. But this is not all. It is clear that Satan also has a sort of dominion in the world, in enmity with God’s people. God did not promise here that they would simply be able to defend against Satan’s attacks. Instead, God promised that the offspring will be on the attack, taking over the gates or entry of Satan’s territory.

Third, God promised that life will be high quality, in that they will be blessed, and this blessing will be so abundant, that it will overflow and be passed on to everyone. To be a nation and to have a place to live are not enough – they will thrive. Under the rule of the promise offspring, justice and peace will bring prosperity and the good life.

The promise for Abraham is a promise God kept. Jesus Christ is that promised offspring who will bless all nations, making a people for himself to inherit, and a dominion that conquers his enemies. In the culmination of his victory, Jesus will bring justice for all peoples.

Jesus Christ is that promised offspring who will bless all nations

Just as Abraham waited years longing for the offspring to come, so also the church.


And so we, the church, wait for our savior to return to us.

Revelation 22:20-21: He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints.

Advent Reflections, part 1

Advent Season is characterized by waiting and yearning. A sometimes patient, other times impatient, desire to see God’s chosen one. He will deliver all God’s people from oppression and establish justice forever. Just as God’s people in the Old Testament looked forward to Jesus, the promised offspring who will rule with compassion and vanquish all evil, so also does the church today.

In this series this Advent season I will be reflecting on passages exclusively from the Old Testament that foreshadow and anticipate the arrival of Jesus Christ.


Genesis 3:14-15 (ESV)

The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
    and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”


In the beginning, Adam and Eve were given authority to rule over all creation on behalf of God. But they were in a trial period to show their faithfulness to God, in the garden, to cultivate it and slowly make the city of God. The serpent knew that they were on probation he tempted them in the garden. Despite God’s faithfulness to them, Adam and Eve did not reciprocate but failed the test. They immediately knew that they had broken trust with their creator, and decided to hide. But God summoned them, interrogated them, and as a perfectly just judge, began to pronounce the verdict and sentence.

The passage here is God’s third verdict pronounced as judge: God addresses the subversive serpent, in order to officially declare holy war. He will bring vengeance and strike back against the rebels. There will be a struggle between their offspring. Though Satan may battle, he will lose the war, and any who follow after the serpent –the offspring of the serpent—will be crushed. The families of humanity will belong either to the serpent or to the woman.

The word ‘offspring’ has two senses. First, the sense of any born in that lineage, a family line of faithful people and a family line of unfaithful people. Those who are unfaithful can say that in some sense, Satan is their father. But second, the offspring is singular. There will be one offspring who will bring the war to a climactic end. There is one specific person who will put his enemies under his feet.

This is a summary of the gospel. While there is a widespread rebellion and oppression, God has promised deliverance to those who return to him. This pronouncement of curse upon the serpent is the good news of the gospel, since it announces a righteous deliverer will show compassion on the oppressed and bring justice.

Adam and Eve received grace that day, because they trusted that simple gospel God preached to them. Despite the limitations of their understanding, they responded by putting their hope in the fact that someday someone would come, who, unlike them, will successfully pass the test of faithfulness and will save them completely from sin and sorrow. They are considered saints because they looked forward to Jesus Christ, in faith.


And so we, the church, wait for our Savior to return to us.

Revelation 22:20-21: He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

A Healthy Tree

November 21, 2021 – Christ Central Buffalo (www.christcentralbuffalo.com)


Sermon Text: Matthew 7:15-23

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Walking, Growing, and Building with Christ

October 17, 2021 – Colonial Village Presbyterian Church (www.cvpchurch.org)


Sermon Text: Matthew 7:13-29 (ESV)

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Death and New life in Union with Christ

Aug 22, 2021 – Colonial Village Presbyterian Church (www.cvpchurch.org)


Sermon Text: Romans 6:1-14 (ESV)

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Saving Faith Has Works

May 23, 2021 – Christ Central Buffalo (www.christcentralbuffalo.com)

Sermon Text: James 2:14-26 (ESV)

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

God’s Purposes in Trials and Temptations

May 16, 2021, Colonial Village Presbyterian Church (www.cvpchurch.org)


Sermon Text: James 1:1-18 (ESV)

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

God’s Purposes in Trials and Temptations


Sermon text: James 1:1-18 (ESV)

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Sept 20, 2020 – Christ Central Buffalo (www.christcentralbuffalo.com)