How to Spot Contradictions

tfI suspect most of our readers here already know quite a bit about using logic and discerning truth from lies. If so, then I would love to learn more! As the holiday season kicks off with Advent, I feel it is important to point out some expressions of logic that helped me navigate the ubf quagmire. One of the Sunday Advent readings was Mark 13:33-37, where Jesus says “Be watchful! Be alert!” Should we not use our minds to be alert with reason as well as faith? For many years I was stuck on the question, should I stay or should I leave? None of what I’m about to share helped me in making that decision; I did that one by faith :) But these expressions of logic have helped immensely after leaving to make sense of the world around me, as well as the world of ubf I had left behind.

Are you entangled?

I hope no one spends this holiday season agonizing over the question of whether to leave ubf or not. That is an important question, but the lie is that this question is of utmost importance. As a friend and pastor advised me, that question is not a life or death matter. What is far more important are questions like these: Am I entangled by the contradictions in the ubf heritage? Am I making my own decision, together with my wife? Do I care about the people closest to me? Am I facing the facts about my life and telling my authentic self-narrative?

True and False Logic

Humanity is rarely so simply understood that we can apply binary thinking. We are complex and confusing creatures! Still, true/false logic is immensely helpful in untangling your mind. Consider this.

Here are five logic forms:

1. implication – if P then Q [first statement implies truth of second]
2. contrapositive – if not Q then not P [reversal and negation of both statements]
3. inverse – if not P then not Q [negation of both statements]
4. converse – if Q then P [reversal of both statements]
5. negation – there is P and not Q [contradicts the implication]

So then:

If a statement is true, then its contrapositive is true (and vice versa).
If a statement is false, then its contrapositive is false (and vice versa).
If a statement’s inverse is true, then its converse is true (and vice versa).
If a statement’s inverse is false, then its converse is false (and vice versa).
If a statement’s negation is false, then the statement is true (and vice versa).
If a statement (or its contrapositive) and the inverse (or the converse) are both true or both false, it is known as a logical biconditional.

Application: Candy Canes

Consider this absurd conclusion based on two facts:

Fact 1: Red colorings are in candy canes.
Fact 2: Red Dye #3 is a red coloring.
Conclusion: Red Dye #3 is used in candy canes.

The only way for this conclusion to be true based on these two facts is if (and only if) candy canes use all possible red dyes. Because we know this is not true (or even possible), we know that there are red dyes not used in candy canes. It is very possible that Red Dye #3 is not used in candy canes at all. Perhaps Red Dye #12 is used. In any case the conclusion is false given the facts.

Application: You are God’s servant!

Here is one of many logical fallacies that kept me bound to the ubf lifestyle. I don’t care if you are reading this and stay at ubf or leave ubf. I do care deeply that you understand this logical fallacy.

Fact 1: There are God’s servants at ubf.
Fact 2: You were called as God’s servant at ubf.
Conclusion: You must stay at ubf in order to be God’s servants.

This is literally how the importance of being God’s servant was explained to me, along with numerous bible quotes. This conclusion is just as absurd as the dye used in candy canes. The only way this conclusion can be true given these facts is if (and only if) all God’s servants exist only at ubf. So if the sum total of all servants of God are at ubf, then the conclusion is correct. If there are any servants of God outside of ubf, this conclusion is a logical fallacy.

Again, the point is not to stay or leave, but to expose the false logic used by many bible teachers at ubf to convince people to stay loyal. If you stay at ubf, fine with me. But please stay for logical reasons!

How to spot a liar?

Beyond logic, we need to learn how to identify when someone is lying. This is usually easier in person. Here are some excellent readings for determining if people are telling the truth or lying to you:

1. Look for deceptive behaviors and responses within the first five seconds of asking a question.

2. Someone telling the truth will say immediately and plainly that they did not commit the crime.

3. Liars often respond to questions with truthful statements that cast them in a favorable light.

4. Liars often repeat a question to stall for time, go into attack mode against the questioner or butter up the questioner with compliments.

5. Nonverbal cues to lying include hiding the mouth or eyes, throat clearing or swallowing, grooming gestures like adjusting shirt cuffs, shifting weight around and sweating.


  1. Contradictions might perhaps be more easily spotted and identified by outsiders. But insiders who have been part of any church or organization or institution for several decades often begin to switch off a certain level of critical thinking, analysis and contemplative meditation, because the mind has already become quite familiar with the predictability in the repeated teachings, sayings, stories and main emphasis.

    That’s why I think that if one does not genuinely and humbly seek outside input and feedback, we become stuck in a rut with the same old, same old stuff repeated over and over again, while the mind becomes more and more numb. The easiest thing to become is an old wineskins. This happens everywhere, not just in churches.

  2. forestsfailyou

    The converse is not generally true. If you have any square it is a rectangle, but if you have any rectangle it does not need to be a square. A more biblical example is if you love me then you will follow my commands, but that does not mean if we follow his commands we love him. Any disgruntled employee can attest to this.

    This is sometimes tricky because the converse is true if the statement is an if and only if statement. If (and only if) you believe in your heart and profess with you mouth that Jesus is Lord are you saved. In general conversation nearly everytime we use “if…then” we mean “if and only if…then” so it’s a common problem in math classes.

    • forestsfailyou

      Sorry, I didn’t read far enough. Looks like you covered that. A biconditional is an “if and only if…” statement. Another good warning sign is when someone’s person or motives are attacked rather than their argument, or a question is not answered. Keep in mind not every response that follows a question is necessarily answering it. If I ask if its required I attend a conference and am answered with “If you have faith you will attend.” The question has not been answered. Question avoidance is a favorite of politicians and other people who do not want to go on record being wrong, but cannot bring themselves to an outright lie.

  3. I have heard and seen enough responses and reasons as to why everyone should/must attend a ubf conference:

    1) If a UBFer knows you are not attending a conference, their spontaneous first response is invariably shock, surprise and anger that is often well controlled. This response expresses incredulity that you are not attending the conference, which to them is an absolute, mandatory requirement which should never ever be questioned. To them not attending a conference is unheard of and totally unacceptable. Thus, the shock, surprise and anger.

    2) After the initial shock and surprise is usually an imperative statement: You must attend the conference. It is interesting that the initial response is not why you are not attending, but simply a command that you should attend. To them “why” should not even need to be asked.

    3) When they realize it is still No, they may say something like, “Pray about going. Your attendance is very important.” It is important because you are a leader. Or your must be a good influence as a leader by attending the conference. Or because you are a missionary you must show yourself to be a missionary by going. Or as Forests says, “if you have faith you will attend.” Some will also attempt to pay for your conference registration fee. (God bless their generosity!)

    4) Throughout the discussion, the question, “why are you not going” hardly ever arises. It seems that some leaders are not interested in listening to why people do not want to go. They seem to primarily use their position of authority to command you to come with varying degrees of guilt-tripping (God blessed you so much, you must attend to pray and to bless others), and pride arousal (You must show yourself to be a leader and show the example to others by attending).

    Such responses demonstrate a lack of understanding of justification that is by faith and by God’s grace, and not by works, and certainly not by attending the conference to prove oneself or for any other anthropocentric reason.

  4. Thanks for this post, Brian. I haven’t had any formal training in philosophical logic, so mostly what I know about logic has stemmed from computer programming, logic design with electronic circuitry as well as some personal reading on the subject of philosophical logic. The benefits of logic in terms of forming cogent thoughts and arguments goes without saying. I’m plan on urging my children to learn logic so that they will be as discerning as they can be in this crazy world.

    Logic goes a very long way when talking to religious people in general. Specifically, for UBFers, I would say that it is important to also equip yourself with facts about the history of the ministry. Presenting these helps to move a conversation along much further than it would normally go.

  5. An interesting blog on body language analysis of figures in popular stories in the media: