Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Borrowed Arguments

by Larry Rouse

I recently was asked by a brother to look over an e-mail discussion he was having with a friend who was also an experienced preacher. As I looked at the discussion I was impressed with how the preacher had steered the study away from an honest application of Bible authority to a series of emotional and disconnected statements and arguments that would do little more than confuse and intimidate. This preacher was not a man that understood Bible authority. He was not committed to giving “book, chapter and verse” for his practice. In fact his words were very strange when taken in the context of the immediate discussion. He kept bringing things up that seemed to come from “out of the blue” making extreme charges about what a position would lead to and making sweeping generalizations about the beliefs of others.

Why would a man do such a thing as he attempted to discuss the Bible with another? In this particular study, I knew this man was reading material and debates from a series of controversies in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In many debates the goal of the debater was to make the opponent’s position look so absurd and confusing, that the listener would just turn off their minds to the discussion. This was a particularly effective technique when you had “power” from a political and numerical side of a question. If a majority of members, churches, preachers and influential institutions wish to continue practicing something without authority, then the easiest way to keep others “lined up” is to shut off the discussion by these approaches.

How would the Lord view such a “successful” strategy? “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:1-2). When one is touched by the grace of God that comes from the pure truth of the gospel, he puts away the tricks and the strategies of men. A basic honesty and sincerity will produce a principled and consistent approach to the study and application of God’s word. When you handle God’s word in this manner, then you will see the fruits that God intends to produce. If people disagree and leave, or people repent and stand from such a study, then both results will bring glory to God. Please do not become a “peddler” of God’s word to meet human goals (2 Cor 2:14-17).

When one is serious about the power of God’s word, he will make statements affirming an openness to study and a willingness to change in order to be in harmony with that word. You will also see a gentleness that will lead the mind of one towards the gospel rather than use the personal, emotional intimidations of a slave driver. There are weapons that Satan will use in such a battle that the servant of the Lord must never touch (2 Cor 10:3-5).

This preacher was, in effect, parroting another man’s arguments. He was employing the arguments, tactics and language of debaters in years past. He talked about Christians allowing babies to starve, caring more about a church lawn than helping a child be protected from the elements, and would ask if everyone was “going to hell” if they disagreed with the personal belief of this brother.

As I read this discussion I was saddened from several standpoints. I thought back to the generation that allowed these kinds of arguments to stand. There was a time in years past where brethren believed in having authority for all of their practices (Col 3:17). It was debaters like this that completely undermined this stand. When men learn that practices can be justified by carnal tactics and those who try to reason from authority are labeled as “radicals” and “cast out of the synagogue,” then the next generation will use these same tactics. The present generation among mainstream “churches of Christ” has completely discarded any belief in Bible authority and is now following the lead of “church colleges” in their attempt to become another denomination amongst the denominations.

The other thought that saddened me is that this preacher is actually attempting to stop the apostasy of this present generation. He needs desperately to teach others about respect for the Bible and how to handle it. Today, He, and those like him, are in a position where they are in a great minority and are being labeled and misrepresented with the very same kind of tactics.
Let us all examine our hearts and make sure our stand is firmly upon the Lord and His word. As we open God’s word, let our only motive be to find His truth. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:19-21)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You observed: "As I looked at the discussion I was impressed with how the preacher had steered the study away from an honest application of Bible authority to a series of emotional and disconnected statements and arguments that would do little more than confuse and intimidate."

I have received a lot of material from a preacher who teaches the mental divorce/second divorce false doctrine. Most of the material he is sending is described by your statement.

When brethren use such tactics, they are showing that their position is very weak.

Paul K. Williams

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Jarod Lewis said...

Very good article, Larry.

8:25 AM  

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