Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Religious Dialogue 101: For the Lazy and Dishonest (Part 2 of 4)

6. Misuse of comparative analogy. When analogy is used as “proof,” it is taken beyond its intended purpose. Analogy merely illustrates something by way of comparison (e.g. Psa. 1:3; Matt. 13:24); it does not prove it. In an attempt to justify infant baptism, Jordan Bajis argues that in 1 Cor. 10:1-4 baptism is likened to the Israelites crossing the Red Sea; since they took their infants and young children with them (Ex. 12:37), infant baptism is therefore valid.1 This is a cart-before-the-horse fallacy, where an illustration is used to prove a point rather than illustrating a point already proven. The Red Sea crossing of the ancient Israelites (“baptized into Moses”) was for the saving of their temporal lives, whereas the baptism of Christ’s new covenant is for spiritual salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21) and thus applicable to penitent believers (Acts 2:37-38; 8:12) rather than innocent babies (cf. Mark 10:13-16). See Are Humans Totally Depraved from Birth?.

7. Inductive reasoning via “begging the question is an attempt to build a case by arguing in reverse from an unproven conclusion with premises that seem to support it.2 Jesus is recorded as saying, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).3 It has been alleged that he (or his followers) plagiarized this golden rule from eastern religions, Greek philosophers, and/or Jewish rabbis, which calls into question the integrity of Christian doctrine.4 However, what Jesus says is noticeably different from the popular ethic of reciprocity (“Give to get something in return”) and the negative and passive version, “Do not do to others what you would not want done to you.” While similar sayings have been attributed to Buddha, Confucius, Isocrates, Plato, Aristotle, multiple Jewish teachers, and others, the first on record to express the positive form of this principle is Jesus the Christ. Moreover, “the Law and the Prophets” he cites (N.B. Lev. 19:18) predate the eastern religions, Greek philosophers, and Jewish rabbis. The fact that just about all civilized peoples and religions throughout history have adopted some form of this moral code is indicative of a maxim of human nature endowed by the Creator. In other words, Jesus articulates an eternal and universal truth.

8. Circular reasoning is a defective ploy wherein the premises of an argument rely on the conclusion for validation; supporting claims cannot stand unless the conclusion is assumed to be true. Although Jesus is clearly identified in the NT as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 22:12-13, 16) – an obvious reference to deity (Rev. 1:6) – the Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to accept it because the Alpha and the Omega is descriptive of Almighty God. According to their dogma, Jesus is not God, therefore no matter what the Bible says, it cannot mean that Jesus is God, because Jesus is not God.5 A Bible believer might affirm that the Bible is God’s word because the Bible says so, and the Bible can be trusted because it is God’s word. Granted, if the biblical record were void of such affirmations, this would be a strong argument against it. Having acknowledged the self-claims of scripture, however, there must be sufficient proof to support the claims (which there is!).6

9. “Apples and Oranges” is an idiom describing the false analogy of comparing things when there is no practical or legitimate comparison. Jesus stated in John 10:16, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” According to the Book of Mormon, the “other sheep” are the Nephites who allegedly settled in the ancient Americas, whom Jesus reportedly visited after his resurrection (3 Nephi 15:21). Others claim that denominational sects are in view, comprising the current global flock of Christendom.7 These interpretations, however, are sifting the biblical text through the religious environment of modern times rather than considering the statement’s immediate context and its fulfillment shortly thereafter. Contextually Jesus is referring to the inclusion of Gentiles into his Jewish flock (John 11:51-52; 17:20-21; Eph. 2:11-22; 3:6 = the unified church), not to proto-Mormonism or to modern-day denominationalism.

10. Pitting scripture against scripture is an inappropriate attempt to counter one biblical statement with another. If the Bible is divinely inspired and its message is consistent, obviously one or both citations have been misapplied. A classic example is when Luke 9:50 is used to defend ecumenical diversity and the broadening of one’s circle of fellowship: “… for he who is not against us is for us” (par Mark 9:40). To justify narrowing lines of fellowship, Luke 11:23 is cited: “He who is not with Me is against Me …” (par Matt. 12:30). In context, however, the first passage addresses arrogant apostles forbidding the good works of a fellow-disciple simply because he was not in the immediate apostolic circle of the twelve. In the latter text, the Lord is condemning antagonistic Pharisees falsely accusing him of doing the devil’s work. To ignore the respective contexts, making application to unrelated circumstances, is to mishandle the word of truth (see For or Against?).
-- Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
    1 Jordan Bajis, “Infant Baptism,” in Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (1990-1996; accessed 2016), <Link>. Does the analogy of Noah's flood (1 Pet. 3:20-21) prove that animals are to be baptized?    
    2 This is in contrast to deductive reasoning, which relies on true statements of fact (premises) leading to a logically certain deduction. If every premise in the syllogism is true, and the rules of logic are adhered to with clearly defined terms, then the conclusion is necessarily true. In contrast, the inference of inductive reasoning is unproven and most likely unprovable. Nevertheless, beyond the self-evident laws of logic, inductive reasoning can be helpful and even necessary when determining by observation whether the premises of a given argument are valid. For example, by observing certain effects (induction) we can draw reasonable conclusions (deduction) about how gravity will affect an overturned glass of water, the presence of someone on an island by footprints on the beach, the existence of a Grand Designer, et al. See Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Dont Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004): 62-66; also Mitch Stokes, How to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016): 40-41.
     3 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the NKJV.
     4 Brian de Krester, “Pillars of the Christian Faith Demolished: Part III,” in Investigator (May 2010): 133; Dhungarvn the Grey, From Pulpit to Pagan (New York: iUniverse, 2008): 118; Walter Ernest Bundy, The Psychic Health of Jesus (New York: Macmillan, 1922): 10.
     5 “So the evidence points to the conclusion that the title ‘Alpha and Omega’ applies to Almighty God, the Father, not to the Son” (Reasoning from the Scriptures [Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1985]: 413). See Questions for My Jehovah's Witness Friends
     6 See Divine Origin of the Bible; also Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt, “Reasons to Believe the Bible,” <Link>.
     7 H. R. Reynolds and T. Croskery, “The Gospel of St. John,” Vol. 17 of The Pulpit Commentary, eds. H. D. M. Spence and J. S. Exell (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962): 46, 55.


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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Religious Dialogue 101: For the Lazy and Dishonest (Part 1 of 4)

     We interact, we converse, we discuss, we disagree, we argue, and we debate. We’re humans …. that’s what we do. But there are productive and unproductive ways to engage in these exchanges, whether in a public forum or in private conversation. One may be absolutely right in a position he holds, but with a mean-spirited and abrasive disposition he weakens his case and drives people further away. One’s views might be completely erroneous, yet he wins folks over with a more alluring approach. Assuming disputants are both rational and civil, how can the correctness or the wrongness of a case be determined, particularly in a religious discussion? Here are some logical and interpretive fallacies to recognize and avoid.

1. “Cherry picking” occurs when selected data are highlighted that appear to confirm a particular viewpoint while ignoring related information that suggests otherwise. How many have sought justification for something by instinctively reciting: “Judge not, that ye be not judged”? I would venture to guess that for many, this is one of the few biblical texts they have bothered to memorize, even if they can’t locate where the words are recorded in scripture. To “judge” is to make a judgment or assessment about whether something is right or wrong, true or false. If one cannot judge an idea or behavior to be wrong, neither can another judge it to be right. The fact of the matter is, the context of Matt. 7:1-5 (only a brief portion of which is quoted above from the KJV) merely denounces hypocritical judging. Righteous judgment, on the other hand, using God’s word as the standard, is biblically enjoined (John 7:24; cf. 1 Cor. 2:15; 5:3, 12; 6:2-5).1 All information must be gathered and evaluated before valid conclusions can be drawn.

2. Quoting references out of context is a logical fallacy in which statements are excerpted from the qualifying information surrounding them so that their intended meaning is distorted. A man once told me that he would never go to church because Christians are a bunch of hypocrites. When I asked him to justify his allegation, he replied, “Christians don’t drink, but the Bible says, ‘Eat, drink, and be merry’!” He was confident in his biblical assertion, yet he refused to examine the text to verify his position. By reading the immediate context of Luke 12:13-21, it is clear that Jesus, in addressing the problems of greed and materialism, tells a story in which the words of v. 19 (“take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry”) are attributed to a misguided rich man. The Bible does record this expression, but the context determines its meaning.

3. A “straw man” argument involves misrepresenting facts to make something seem more extreme or simplistic than it really is so that it can be more easily refuted. John Shelby Spong, in his Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism,2 challenges the integrity of Genesis by accusing its author of being “quite confused” about the nationality of those to whom Joseph was sold into slavery. In one reference they are identified as “Ishmaelites” (Gen. 37:25), while a few verses later they are called “Midianites” (v. 28). The fallacy of this charge is that of twisting a “both-and” situation into an “either-or” predicament. The caravan was comprised of Ishamael’s descendants who lived in the land of Midian (cf. Gen. 25:12, 18; Ex. 2:15; Judg. 8:1, 22-28). According to ethnic descent they were Ishmaelites and according to their place of residence they were Midianites (cp. Deut. 26:5). A fair-minded person sees no dilemma here, and upon closer examination Spong’s belittling accusation is not as compelling as it might have first appeared.

4. Emotional appeal is an underhanded maneuver that seeks to manipulate emotions in an attempt to strengthen one’s case rather than employing logical reasoning with factual evidence. Citing Matt. 7:17-18 in his God and the Gay Christian,3 Matthew Vines maintains that condemning same-sex relationships has historically been destructive to gay Christians, producing the “bad fruit” of guilt, depression, and suicide; whereas loving, committed, same-sex relationships produce the “good fruit” of joy and companionship. Objectively evaluated, this is not a reasoned argument drawn from careful exegesis of the Bible but a subjective emotional appeal. Contextually the “bad fruit” of Matt. 7:17-18 is applicable to false prophets and their corrupt teachings and sinful living. Vines’ emotive analysis is based on his own biased perception and a shrewdly misappropriated proof-text. Compassion, kindness, and upholding biblical morality are not mutually exclusive.

5. A “red herring” is something irrelevant and diversionary thrown into a discussion that distracts from the issue at hand. Renowned atheist David Silverman has argued against the Bible as an objective moral standard because Hitler’s Nazis murdered Jews in the name of the God of the Bible.4 Similar arguments have included the Catholic inquisition and crusades, sexual perversion of priests, immorality of televangelists, hypocrisy of professing Christians, ad infinitum. But surely we understand that violating and misconstruing biblical teachings have nothing to do with the validity of the Christian faith or the integrity of the scriptures. Legitimate evaluative criteria of any philosophy or moral standard cannot to be sought in its abuse.
-- Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the NKJV. The Bible addresses two types of human judging; one is denounced, while the other is enjoined. (1) Wrongful judgment or unfair criticism (Matt. 7:1-5; Rom. 2:1-3; 14:4; 1 Cor. 4:3-5; Col. 2:16) involves hypocritical assessments, or trying to discern another’s intentions and motives, or drawing conclusions without having all the facts, or making judgments based on misinformation, or using oneself as the standard (cf. Jas. 2:13; 4:11-12). (2) Righteous judgment (John 7:24; 1 Cor. 2:15; 5:3, 12; 6:2-5) relies on God’s word as the standard, evaluates observable actions and substantiated facts, and sincerely has the person’s best interests at heart (cf. Gal. 1:9; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 10-11). While making judgments (decisions) and condemning error is necessary and expected (Matt. 7:6, 15-20; 18:15-17), one’s attitude and behavior must be in line with the divine will (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:23-35; Rom. 2:21-23; Jas. 4:11-12).
     2 John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Harper, 1992): 107.
     3 Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-sex Relationships (New York: Convergent Books, 2014): 5-20. For a brief response to his main arguments, see Postmodernism and the Homosexual Christian Part 2.
     4 “Examine Reality” was a debate between David Silverman (president of American Atheists) and Christian apologist Frank Turek on 18 April 2013 in Shreveport, LA, <Link>.



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Wednesday, 16 March 2016

A Heterosexual, a Homosexual, and a Pedophile walk into a Church …


     Tom, Jake, and Raymond have been friends since childhood. While they share much in common, they’re also very different.
     Tom has a strong sexual attraction to women. He married his high school sweetheart after graduation, but divorced her a couple of years later because he just didn’t want to be married anymore. Now he’s lonely. His hormones are raging, and he’s always on the lookout for female companionship. He’s hoping for intimacy and affection in the future with the person of his dreams.
     Jake doesn’t share Tom’s sexual inclination. He has a strong attraction to other men. He didn’t choose to be this way, yet his raging hormones are constantly directing his attention toward those of the same gender. He wonders if there might ever be a future of intimacy and affection with the person of his dreams.
     Raymond’s sexual proclivity is different than both his friends. As long as he can remember, he’s felt sensually drawn to young children. He didn’t choose to be this way, yet his raging hormones are constantly directing his attention toward little kids. He’s doubtful there’s a future of intimacy and affection with the person of his dreams.
The Spiritual Journey
     In their younger years the three friends committed their lives to the Lord but later strayed from the path of righteousness. Now they’re trying to get back on track and have agreed to help one another on this spiritual journey. Through careful and honest Bible study, they understand that sexual purity is expected of all who profess allegiance to Christ.1
     Tom, having divorced for reasons other than infidelity, has learned that in his current situation, intercourse with another woman, even in remarriage, is adultery.2 Jake realizes that sexual activity between two men is contrary to God’s revealed will,3 and Raymond understands intimate relations with a child is wrong.4 Neither Tom, nor Jake, nor Raymond necessarily wants to be celibate for the rest of his life, and each one has sought advice from others to make sure his interpretation of scripture is correct.
Adultery is Not Adultery?
     Tom has met some friendly people who insist that the traditional understanding of the biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage is incorrect. Surely the Lord wouldn’t deny someone loving companionship and expect one to remain celibate. After all, Tom is a red-blooded male with innate needs and a healthy sexual appetite. The word “adultery,” they contend, doesn’t actually refer to sexual sin but is metaphoric for breaking the marriage covenant. All he needs to do is to be sorry for having divorced, promise not to do it again, and then he’s free to remarry another person with impunity.
     All this sounds good to Tom, and he really wants to believe it. But every time he reads Matthew 19:9, it keeps saying the same thing: “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” And then he reads further: “Do not be deceived: neither … adulterers … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). He feels like his confidants are playing Russian roulette with his soul.
Homosexuality is Not Sinful?
     Jake has been befriended by some nice folks who assure him that it’s okay to be openly gay. After all, this is his sexual orientation; it’s how God made him. Yet he wonders about his friend Raymond. Is God responsible for Raymond’s attraction to young children? Is that Raymond’s sexual orientation? Jake is being told that the Bible passages that seem to condemn homosexual behavior have been misinterpreted; they only forbid sexual exploitation and excess, not monogamous, same-sex relationships. Surely God wouldn’t withhold loving companionship from Jake and expect him to remain celibate.
     All this sounds good to Jake, and he really wants to believe it. But every time he reads Romans 1:24-28, it keeps saying the same thing: “God gave them up to dishonorable passions …. and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” And then he reads further: “Do not be deceived: neither … men who practice homosexuality … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). He feels like his confidants are playing Russian roulette with his soul.
Pedophilia is Not Condemned?
     Raymond found a group of individuals who are saying it’s perfectly natural and normal to be sexually attracted to kids. Although in the antiquated past it was considered a psychological disorder, now pedophilia is being accepted as a sexual orientation. There is no proof, they claim, that children are harmed by having sex with adults, and nowhere does the Bible explicitly condemn it. Surely the Lord wouldn’t withhold loving companionship from Raymond and expect him to remain celibate. After all, God made him the way he is, and God doesn’t make mistakes!
     All this sounds good to Raymond, and he really wants to believe it. But every time he reads 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, it keeps saying the same thing: For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust …” And then he reads further: “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). He feels like his confidants are playing Russian roulette with his soul.
Seeking First God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness
     Tom, Jake, and Raymond have found a lot of folks who are eager to tell them what they want to hear. “Accept who you are,” the well-meaning advisors are saying, “God wants you to be happy, and who knows better than you what it takes to make you happy?” Beyond a self-centered, worldly perspective, all this sounds a little too good to be true – “the best of both worlds” mentality. But the Bible still says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
     The three friends have enough sense to know that godly love is not simply telling or giving someone what he wants. It involves saying and doing what’s in the person’s best interest.5 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9). Biblical Christianity does not and cannot condone the practice of sin, whether sexual or otherwise, ultimately leading to severance from God.6 “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26-27).
Bear One Anothers Burdens
     Tom, Jake, and Raymond would rather surround themselves with devoted Christians who love them enough to speak the truth, hold them accountable, and encourage them to obey God without compromise. They realize that following Christ isn’t easy for anyone and has always demanded self-denial, actions demonstrating repentance, faithfulness, and mutual support.7 They are searching for balance, neither grace at the expense of truth nor truth at the expense of grace (John 1:14, 17), appreciating that God’s love does not cancel out his holiness and vice versa (1 Pet. 1:16; 1 John 4:8).
     Tom, Jake, and Raymond believe in the transformative power of the gospel and the divine promise that no desire or enticement is inescapable (1 Cor. 10:13).8 Sanctification does not mean eliminating temptation; it is the pursuit of holiness in spite of it (1 Thess. 4:3; Heb. 4:15-16; 12:14). The apostle Paul, who chose the single life devoted to God like Jesus did, confidently affirms, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content …. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11, 13).
Conclusion
     A heterosexual, a homosexual, and a pedophile walk into a church, not to seek unconditional acceptance but to receive loving support to help them become what God intends them to be. The shallowness of the world says a person’s identity is defined by his sexuality, but these three friends know that their true identity is in Christ and the purity of life that’s worthy of him (Col. 1:10).
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 See Matt. 5:8, 28; Rom. 6:11-14, 19; 13:14; 1 Cor. 6:13-20; Gal. 5:16-21; Eph. 4:17-20; 5:3, 5; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; 1 Tim. 4:12; 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:19-22; Tit. 2:12; Heb. 12:14; 13:4; Jas. 1:14-15; 1 Pet. 4:1-4; 2 Pet. 2:18-19; 1 John 2:12-17. Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the ESV.
     2 Matt. 5:32; 19:3-9; Mark 6:17-18; 10:11-12; Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:10-11. For a brief exegetical analysis of all the biblical passages on this topic, see Divorce & Remarriage Part 1Part 2Part 3; see also Jesus on Divorce & Remarriage.
     3 Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 7:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:8-10; Jude 7; cf. Gen. 13:13; 19:4-7; Lev. 18:22; 20:13. For a brief exegetical analysis of these passages, see The Queen James Bible; and Postmodernism and the Homosexual Christian Part 2.
     4 Mark 9:36-37, 42; 1 Cor. 6:9, 18; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; cf. 1 Cor. 7:1-3; Heb. 13:4.
     5 Matt. 5:29-30; Luke 3:8; 13:3; John 3:16; 14:15; 15:12-14; Rom. 5:8; 12:9; 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 5:1-5; 13:1-7; 2 Cor. 5:11-15; Gal. 5:13-15; Phil. 2:1-4; 1 John 3:16, 18; et al.
     6 Mark 9:43-48; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30-31; 1 Cor. 6:15-20; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; Gal. 5:16-21; 6:7-8; Col. 3:5-9; Heb. 10:26-30; Rev. 21:8.
     7 Matt. 5:11; 7:21; 10:38; 16:24; Luke 5:32; 14:27; Acts 14:22; 26:20; Gal. 6:1-2; Heb. 3:13-14; 4:11; 5:8-9. The circumstances depicted above are not new. Commenting on the issues that sparked the Corinthian correspondence, Lyle D. Vander Broek observes: “Each of the community problems Paul needed to address grew out of the Corinthians inability to let the gospel message fully reshape their gentile, Greco-Roman lives, whether because they misunderstood that message or because they rejected it outright …. The Corinthians were simply trying to be Christians with a minimal amount of social and theological disturbance” (Breaking Barriers: 1 Corinthians and Christian Community [Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002]: 27-28).
     8 Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:9-11; 9:24-27; 15:1-2, 9-10; Phil. 1:27; Eph. 4:1.

*While the above parable is fictitious, the three main characters are based on real people I know or know of, who have taken up their respective crosses and are wholeheartedly dedicated to pleasing and serving God according to his righteous expectations. My personal experiences as a single Christian have also provided perspective.



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