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Common Logical Fallacies for the New Calendar

By the Very Reverend Mark Templet


I’m not saying that no New Calendarist has ever tried to make a logical argument to me, but they are
rare. These days critical thinking skills and the ability to argue based on logic is all but extinct. I do give
credit to some New Calendarists with whom I have had rational discussions. Sometimes these people
acknowledge the validity of our concerns and they are hopeful that the issues will be addressed in the
future. They may not come over to my side, but they have no wish to condemn it either.

However, some also come to argue, but commit to arguments riddled with logical fallacies and therefore
invalid arguments. The following are the most common:

 The general category of insults (e.g., “You’re so judgmental”, “Why are you
worshiping/putting your faith in a calendar”, “You’re just a schismatic”, “You Old Calendarists
do nothing but fight each other and keep fracturing”, etc.)
o Logical Fallacy: Ad hominem (attacking the person not the argument). These various
insults are emotionally charged and lack any logical validity in their arguments. The
worst of these is the accusation of being judgmental: basically stating, “I have judged
that you are too judgmental.” Which is itself a judgmental statement. One would think
the burden of proof would be on the party that made the calendar change, yet they
often twist this around to pretend that the burden is on the party who did not make a
change to explain why they make a judgement on the change. None of these statements
are valid arguments.
o Logical Fallacy: Tu quoque (answer criticism with criticism). This a common tactic by
which the New Calendarist disregards the criticism of the calendar change or seeks to
legitimize their position by lobbing criticisms at the Old Calendarist. None of these are
valid arguments:
 You are judgmental, therefore I am right.
 The Old Calendarists have been mean to each other in the past, therefore I am
right.
 You’re all splintered and crazy, therefore I am right.
 Unlike you, I don’t care about calendars, therefore I am right.
 “The New Calendar is more accurate.”
o Logical Fallacy: False Attribution/Straw Man. This is the assertion that Old Calendarists
are only arguing on the merits of one calendar over another based solely on accuracy. In
fact, most Old Calendarists do not argue that the change itself is the danger rather that
the danger lies in the motivations behind the change and how the change was
conducted. Old Calendarists attribute the calendar change to be the symptom of the
more serious disease of ecumenism; that the New Calendarist hierarchs are in the
business of betraying Orthodoxy for the sake of worldly unity with heretics.
o This argument also assumes that the only judgement that can be made about the New
Calendar is its accuracy. This disregards the well-established processes for proposing
and enacting such changes in the Church, much less how it affects the continuity of Holy
Tradition.
 “Jesus (or some Saint/Holy Father) never said anything about the Calendar.”
o Logical Fallacy: The Burden of Proof. This is the logical fallacy where the burden of proof
lies not with the person making the claim, but with someone else to disprove it. No,
there is no record of Jesus saying anything about calendars. Jesus also never said
anything about betting on mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt
obligations which caused the 2008 economic meltdown, but my guess is that He would
not have been in favor of such. Although this logical fallacy is seductive, it is not a valid
argument since the person cannot absolutely prove that Jesus didn’t mention it. At the
end of St. John’s Gospel, he mentions that Jesus said and did many things that were not
recorded.
o It could also be said that this is an appeal to non-existent authority. In other words, the
New Calendarist is arguing that there is an authority in what Jesus never talked about
that is equal in authority to what He did address.
 “It’s just a calendar, why are you making it such a big deal? You shouldn’t split over it.”
o Logical Fallacy: Argument from Personal Incredulity. Asserting that the opponent’s
argument must be false because you personally don’t understand it or can’t follow its
technicalities. Because I don’t understand the importance of the calendar to Orthodoxy
or the implications of changing it, then such negative outcomes do not exist.
o Logical Fallacy: Argumentum ad Populum (Argument to the People). Using an appeal to
popular assent, often by arousing the feelings and enthusiasm of the multitude rather
than building an argument. The use of modifying words such as “just” before the word
“calendar” and “you’re making a big deal [over nothing; you have over-reacted].” Such
are not logical arguments and set as a false initial premise that you are wrong without
proof. This is essentially the faulty argument: We all know you are wrong, why are you
so wrong.”
 “But the New Calendar didn’t change the date of Pascha, so what’s the big deal?”
o Logical Fallacy: Ignorantio Elenchi (Irrelevant Conclusion). Adoption of an argument
purporting to establish a particular conclusion and directs it to prove a different
conclusion. This fallacy occurs when the person assumes that the only consequential or
meaningful change that can occur to the Orthodox calendar is if the date of Pascha is
changed. This is often based on the mistaken conclusion that the First Ecumenical
Council only stipulated that the calculation for the date of Pascha could not be altered.
 The original aim of the 1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress was to create an entirely
new calendar with a unified fixed date for Pascha. Because this has not
happened yet, is not an adequate logical argument.
 Three Orthodox Councils condemned any change to the Church calendar (1583,
1587, and 1593). The 1583 Council of Constantinople states: "He that does not
follow the customs of the Church and what the seven Ecumenical Councils have
decreed concerning the Holy Pascha and the calendar which have been laid
down as law for us to follow, but desire to follow the Gregorian Paschalion and
calendar, let him, as well as the impious astronomers who contradicts all the
decrees of the Holy Councils and wishes to change and weaken them, be
anathema, separated from the Church of Christ and the assembly of the
Faithful." (Note: some assert that one or more of these councils is a fake or
forgery, yet none have ever supplied the verifiable proof of these claims to me;
habeas corpus).
 “Why can’t we change the calendar it’s not dogmatic?
o Logical Fallacy: Argumentum Ad Verecundium (argument from that which is improper).
Specifically, this is an Appeal to Biased Authority, meaning, because “we” say that we
can change the calendar and that such a change is not a dogmatic change, then it is not.
Here the authority for deciding the argument is cunningly changed from logic to the
“we”. It also presupposes that anything not nailed down with the “dogma hammer” is
free to be changed at will. This presumes an artificial dichotomy as well: there are
dogmatic things (that cannot be changed) and non-dogmatic things (that can be
changed). Therefore, if “we” change it—it wasn’t dogmatic.
o Logical Fallacy: Straw Man Argument. In this case, the person asserts that the argument
against the calendar change is based on the belief that the calendar is a dogma of the
Church.
o The answer is: The Church can change her calendar. The Church certainly has the power
to address her issues that threaten her homothumadon. For example, suppose some
event shifted the Earth in its orbit and caused the length of a year to increase by a day.
It is not hard to see that in as little as 30 years’ time all calendars would be off by a
month! The Church would absolutely have to address such a situation. Was this, or
something like it, the case in 1923? The burden of proof falls upon those who sought to
make the change to the calendar: What problem were you solving?
o If by dogma you mean a belief or acceptance of something that is required for salvation,
then no, we have never maintained that the calendar is dogmatic. Nor can we judge the
fate of any soul in eternity. We simply don’t wish to see how many bricks can be taken
away from the foundation of the Church before it collapses. We don’t see the Orthodox
faith as something that can be toyed or experimented with merely because we can.
Again, what are you hoping to gain on the New Calendar that was unachievable on the
patristic calendar?
 “But how can all the Patriarchs and millions of Orthodox Christians around the world be
wrong?”
o Logical Fallacy: Argumentum ad Populum (Argument to the People). Using an appeal to
popular assent, often by arousing the feelings and enthusiasm of the multitude rather
than building an argument. Specifically, this is a Bandwagon Approach: Everybody is
doing it, so it must be right. This is not a logical argument, rather it is based on the faulty
notion that people often emotionally maintain that God would never allow masses of
people to go astray. This argument could have been used by the heretic Arians during
the time in Church history when Arians far outnumbered the Orthodox. It is not a valid
argument.
 “But we could attract many more people to our churches if we have a calendar like the rest of
the world. “
o Logical Fallacy: Non Causa Pro Causa (Not the cause for a cause). People don’t
come/won’t come to church because of the calendar or lack of change to it. Although
this is not in itself necessarily untrue, it is implied without proof. Even if such an
assertion where provable, one would have to ask if this is a sufficient cause to enact
such a change given the totality of Holy Scripture and Tradition.
o This premise would not fit logically with the following instructions of Christ (John 15:19,
John 8:22-24) and the instructions of St. Paul (Romans 12:1-2) of not following worldly
trends or trying to reshape the faith to suit the world.
 “Okay, so the New Calendar wasn’t a great idea or at least it wasn’t gone about the right way,
but it’s not a heresy nor a reason to break communion. That doesn’t sound Orthodox”
o Logical Fallacy: No True Scotsman. This is the error that makes a generalization true by
changing the generalization to exclude a counterexample. This is the argument that no
true Orthodox person would break communion for a calendar issue. Tell that to the
Quatrodecimians. This is not a valid argument because it assumes that those who are on
the New Calendar hold the only authority to determine if making such a change is
grounds for severed communion. It is an invalid argument because it offers no logical
grounds to show that severing communion for the calendar change is unprecedented. In
fact, there is ample evidence for the opposite conclusion, i.e., the Quatrodecimians.
 “Calendars don’t matter. If you’re not in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople [or
name any other Patriarch] you are a schismatic.”
o Logical Fallacy: No True Scotsman. This is the error that makes a generalization true by
changing the generalization to exclude a counterexample. So, in the year 370 when the
see of Constantinople was presided over by Demophilus, an Arian, were the Orthodox
not Orthodox when they weren’t under the Arian Patriarch of Constantinople? I ask
those who assert such a claim to back it up by citing the canon that requires being in
communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch (or any other Patriarch) to be Orthodox.