TRUE OR FALSE-DISCERNING THE PROPER USE OF SCRIPTURE
by Teri Lee Earl
Wisdom, Righteousness, and the Word
"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away." (Psa 1:1-4)
"O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, For Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Thy precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Thy word. I have not turned aside from Thine ordinances, For Thou Thyself hast taught me. How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Thy precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way." (Psa 119:97-104)
These two Scriptures outline how meditation upon the 'law' or Word of God, steers us away from the path of the wicked and destruction, to the path of righteousness and blessings in Him. Instead of getting our counsel from the foolishness of the wicked, we get our counsel from the wisdom of God's Words. If we did not study and obey His precepts, we might become associated with the words or counsel of the wicked and identify with them. Because we are following or 'walking' with them and in their advise, we can end up in a state of open and bitter rebellion of faith in God (sitting in the seat of the scornful).
In contrast, the prophet Jeremiah compares his love of God's Word with the result of not wanting to "sit in the seat of scoffers": "Thy words were found and I ate them, And Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts. I did not sit in the circle of merrymakers, Nor did I exult. Because of Thy hand upon me I sat alone, For Thou didst fill me with indignation. (Jer 15:16-17) He was willing to be alone, rather than choose to associate with the foolish. David also said he would not sit in the "assembly of evildoers", while comparing this with walking in God's truth (Ps. 26:4-5).
Certainly then, loving and meditating on God's Word brings the benefit of being blessed by God because we understand His ways and will, and therefore would not get trapped in the web of foolish counsel, unrighteousness, and destruction because we have gone into the 'camp' of those who do what God hates-the wicked. Reading and carefully considering God's Word is not a passive activity any more than it was for Jeremiah, who 'ate' (took in and digested) God's word. It requires some amount of study on our part, and then the action required of realigning our lives according to His commandments or 'law'. We do not study God's Word to change others or to try to fit it into our mindset of how God works, but to renew our understandings, change ourselves, and change our lives for the better.
Renewal of the Mind vs. The False Premise
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:2)
Most Christians have a firm idea about what the Scriptures mean to them on a particular subject. However, I find that some Christians are basing their interpretation and understanding of Scripture less on actual Scripture, and more on what I call a 'false premise'. Whether it is something they 'inherited' from their particular culture, favorite teacher, or something they have come to believe due to life experiences, this premise is something they had prior to reading the Scripture. Somehow, reading the Scripture did not change this foundational idea, or prejudgment. They may even have gone so far as to incorporate Scripture into their faulty ideas, and now preach it as if it were true. Rather than putting on the "new self" in Christ by "being renewed to a true knowledge" (Col 3:10), they remain "conformed to this world."
If there is a false premise involved, then this is what they are building their statements or arguments on---not the premise Scripture would give them. Right or wrong though, they will make statements on matters of interpretation of Scripture as if it were a concrete truth. They may even speak as if they are the final authority on the subject due to their credentials, in an attempt to silence any dissenters to their viewpoint. According to their level of natural charisma, authority, and most especially what people like to hear, incorrect interpretations can infiltrate an entire fellowship group, church, denomination, or even a nation. Once this is done and something is accepted as a matter of Truth by the peer group, it becomes more difficult to challenge since the falsehood is more entrenched. Resistance includes more than human psychological group peer pressure to conform to the 'majority' opinion of the fellowship, it is also a matter of spiritual battle.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)
The main battle is definitely in the mind, starting with our own. We have to remember that before we became Christians, we most certainly took with us into the New Kingdom ideas about God and a number of other subjects which have nothing to do with the truth presented in Scripture. The battle is on within ourselves as our minds are renewed-as we 'put on' the mind of Christ. Externally, the battle is on because of false brethren and false teachers with their false doctrines. To assure us of victory in Him, He has given us:
1) equippers in the faith to help teach us to discern, until we are no longer like "children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of crafty men…"(Eph. 4:14)
The Lord revealed to me that the 'false premise' is the foundational lie of a fortress of lies-whether it be something we came to believe in our own minds or something taught (fed) to us which is not true. A fortress can seem quite impossible to breach, but it is not. A fortress of lies can seem even more impenetrable when bits of Scripture are craftily woven into the bricks of the fortress-but again, it is not. To help the deceived who have been tricked, or to refute the teachings of those who teach or repeat false teachings which sound good to them, we have a most formidable weapon: The Word of God.
- His Word of Scripture and, most of all
- Himself and His Spirit (1 John 5:1-9;20)
The Sword vs. The Dagger
"And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph 6:17)
The "sword of the Spirit" (machaira, Gk.) is the only offensive weapon Paul lists among the "full armor of God" of our spiritual armor of Eph. 6:11-17. The machaira was a short, two-edged sword carried by Roman soldiers, who wielded it with deadly accuracy. Since the sword was short, it could be moved rapidly. The fact that it was two-edged made it possible to strike on either side without changing its position in the hand, and its razor-sharp point could pierce armor.
Roman soldiers, unlike Barbarians, were extensively trained. This is a major reason why they were so successful against the undisciplined Barbarian armies. Barbarians swung their weapons wildly from side to side, basically hacking at the enemy. The Roman soldiers, however, were trained to be very precise with their machaira. Optimally, one strike of their sword meant a mortal wound. It was extremely difficult to approach a Roman soldier well trained in the use of the machaira. By using the armor of the well-trained Roman soldier as the analogy for spiritual armor, the Bible makes it clear that skillful and proper use of the Word in spiritual warfare enables the Christian to stand fast "against the wiles of the devil" (6:11).
As I was meditating on the fact that sometimes Christians seem to use their 'sword' in an inappropriate way on other Christians, the Lord gave me a picture of a dagger, rather than a sword. He was demonstrating to me that a dagger was different than a sword. A dagger is not straightforward, but is 'twisted', because the Word of God must in some way be twisted in order to accommodate a lie of the enemy. These daggers are not weapons from God, but are from the enemy. Satan uses the Word of God because of the power in the Word, but he cannot use it without first twisting it. I have long noticed that in some cases, a Scripture isn't even quoted correctly. Since it is coming from the demonic, the demon could not utter the Scripture correctly if he tried. A lie, plus a twisted representation of the Word of God, equals a dagger. A dagger is a deadlier weapon than a mere lie without Scripture. The weapon of our warfare, however, is the 'untwisted' Scripture-the sword of the Word.
Building on the False Premise with Faulty Reasoning
Just as it is impossible to couple the true Word of God with a lie without twisting it, it is impossible to have pure, straightforward logic on a false premise. We cannot build something healthy on something unhealthy. It won't work. They won't mesh quite right. The crooked man walked a crooked road, and had a crooked house. Similarly, if someone has a false premise, they will follow that with faulty reasoning, which will then lead to a faulty conclusion. Although we as Americans pride ourselves in being able to logically reason so well, the Lord began to show me that in fact this is where we make our mistakes. It is in the very thing that we pride ourselves most in (Westernized, logical thinking) that the enemy has used against us. This is because we often assume we would not make such 'simple' mistakes in logic, and believe those around us have surely studied the Scripture enough to not do the same. Too often, that is not true. In fact, some of these errors of reason (based on a premise which is not in the Scripture at all) have so completely infiltrated the Church here in America as to now be widely acceptable! It is important then, to start praying, noticing, and not just passively accept anything what everyone under the sun says, no matter what the 'credentials' given or the charisma held by those who would teach it.
If you are to do true battle with those with a dagger, you must use the Word of God in an appropriate, precise manner. In other words, like the Roman soldier you must find the 'mortal kill' target. Remember, you are not to attack the people at all-not AT ALL. If you do, you are being a Barbarian. Attacking people is not what it is about, for this is not about 'flesh and blood'. Your primary target needs to be precisely on the bull's eye, or the false premise they are building on. Forget about the bricks and mortar of the fortress. Go for the heart of the matter. You want to be able to trace their statements back to the foundational false belief system, and strike it with the True, straight, Word of God.
In order to do this you must first be a disciplined, attentive listener of their spoken word, and a keen observer of their written word. Plus, you must also have a decent knowledge of Scripture yourself. Praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit (Who is our 'guidance system' for revealing Truth) is crucial. You can't wield the sword of the Spirit without the Spirit! Discussing Scripture is not a purely intellectual or philosophical exercise. It is spiritual, and can be spiritual warfare!
Below are some common examples of faulty reasoning that people use. Some seem quite obvious, and some are not so obvious. Like good detectives though, once we notice the telltale signs of faulty reason, or something 'not quite right' about the poor logic being used, we need to start praying for wisdom from above, to identify the lie beneath the crooked house, or behind the fortress of the mind. For our own sakes (remember, we are armed to defend ourselves in spiritual warfare) and the sakes of others, we should diligently trace it back to the false premise. Starting with ourselves, we can ask God to help us identify a false belief or idea, and actively renew our own minds with what the Scripture actually teaches. The Holy Spirit is there as a gift from God to help us do just that. (John 16:13; 1 John 2:27)
Some people are more comfortable with putting things in a nice neat package, labeling them, and categorizing them. There's nothing wrong with this if it is not taken to the extreme. Organizing ideas well into 'files' in our minds is a good way to process data for later retrieval. However, dogmatism is more than that. It is the stubborn refusal to consider anything else than what we have predetermined and 'filed' away. A dogmatic person doesn't wish to re-examine or open the filing cabinet. Their minds are closed and unwilling to accept new data.
Although a dogmatic person may believe they are merely being firm in their convictions, dogmatism is not to be equated with the same type of firm conviction as, for instance, Martin Luther had. The kind of 'stubbornness' of Martin Luther had in his convictions was born out of his openness to new insight in the first place. He received new insight, and held it dear because it was what the Spirit was speaking for that time in history. A dogmatic person, however, has all the conviction and certainty, but none of the openness. It is an imbalance between openness and conviction. None of us should be so 'open-minded' as to toss out our convictions about what the Scripture says at a moment's notice. But none of us should be so 'close-minded' as to refuse to even consider new insight we have previously not considered, either.
There are some Scriptures which are ambiguous in nature. Scholars are still studying, and still not agreeing, on what those Scriptures mean. If the interpretation of the passage is not clear and does not fit an interpretative framework, a dogmatic person will feel threatened by the fact that it is unresolved. This is because to them, all things must be clearly defined, put in a 'box', labeled, categorized and filed away. Anything else causes anxiety -- there must be no 'grey' areas -- everything must be black or white, true or false. To them, the only way to solve the dilemma of a Scripture or subject in the Scripture which seem still open to interpretation is this: Stuff it in a 'box' (even if it doesn't fit), label it, categorize it, and file it away. Instead of God being 'in control' because He purposely left some things open for discussion or personal growth, the dogmatic person is now 'in control' of something he cannot fully understand. While other people might be still scratching their heads, saying 'Gee, I don't know…', the fully dogmatic person has a quick label and a 'solution' which is not open to any further insight. For them, there is no 'expanding' beyond the box or the filing cabinet. Case closed.
According to a study by Leigh Shaffer (cited in "The Psychology of Biblical Interpretation", by Cedric B. Johnson pg. 59), we can discern whether a person is behaving dogmatically by the following signs:
1) He or she chooses to refer to the opinion of some chosen authority to solve the interpretative dilemma. The "authoritative" statement may come from a former mentor, seminary professor, or significant church leader. The "commentaries say" is usually a reference to the views of esteemed leaders on one side of the theological spectrum. The dogmatic person refuses to read Karl Barth's position when Cornelius Van Til is the chosen authority on a given problem.
These people are, according to Shaffer, "Threatened people who manufacture personal security by abducting their freedom of thought and action to a few trusted authorities whom they follow loyally."
2) Oppositive views to those of the authority are viewed as dangerous, heretical, or unorthodox. There is an overly simplistic polarization of the "good guys" and the "bad guys".
Not everyone is so extreme in their dogmatism, but this propensity to judge and then be not be open to further insight or discussion (bringing out the 'big guns' when there are honest questions) is something we all need to guard against. Often, people join a denomination, cult, or teacher because what they teach or practice is something they originally agreed with-what they hear 'sounds reasonable' to them. Afterwards, it becomes all too easy to suspend continue suspending their own discernment, and not research the Scripture themselves.
The Scriptures are the authority, not the teacher or denomination. Some people become very compliant in the presence of an authority figure such as a teacher, and others rebel against anything with authority (including the Scriptures!) It may seem that those who respond rebelliously are the only ones who have a problem with authority, but this is not true. Those who are completely passive in the presence of an authority figure also have a problem with it. Whatever the authority figure says, they remain compliant. The authority figure can tell them that the Scriptures say to go jump off a cliff, and they will do it! Such compliant people are not like the Bereans in Paul's day, who "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true"(Acts 17:11) They would not likely participate in the sometimes passionate interactive discussions which used to happen in the Jewish synagogues during the time of Christ. By remaining so passive in their understanding of the Scriptures, they are likely to be carried off by anyone who sounds sure of himself, whether it be the narrow-minded dogmatic person or the cult leader.
The hidden false premises of the dogmatic person:
- Everything can be rigidly defined, and there is no 'middle ground'
- Once defined, there is no expansion of the definition; there is no insight which could also be included in that definition-no new paradigms, please!
- Anyone who challenges the old paradigm is quickly labeled as somehow being rebellious, deceived, and dangerous.
It is human nature to draw quick conclusions on too little evidence. Everyone can do this to some extent, because it's easier to draw a simple conclusion than to examine the subject more. But, opinion based on a few instances might arrive in writing or speaking as though it is some universal law. It is like taking a paint brush, and 'broad brushing' everything according to that opinion or example. Foreigners might travel to a foreign country, and upon seeing some poor examples, come back with an overgeneralization about the people there, such as "Americans are all rich."
I once had a Danish visitor who was staying with my husband and I during part of his vacation. Expecting that all Americans had guns in their house, he asked me quite seriously how many guns we owned! We had a great time joking with him thereafter according to the stereotypes he saw on TV in Europe. He had an especially good laugh when I told him we had a gun and a car for each member of the family (children, too), and we were going to be good American hostesses, and offer him drugs at a party soon. It was macabre humor, but effective at correcting this overgeneralization. He understood the humor immediately and appreciated it.
Similarly, a student who reads a few works by Ernest Hemingway might begin to state that "Hemingway is among the greatest writers of American literature," without being familiar with the rest of American literature. This is a harmless assumption. But overgeneralization can be harmful too, because it can lead to rash action ---people have been known to advocate the drafting of all able-bodied young college men in time of war because they saw three or four students doing nothing but reading a book by Hemingway, or just sun-tanning themselves. In such cases, overgeneralization is not so humorous, because the false premise or conclusion underneath this overgeneralization is that college students are lazy and have nothing better to do, or that they will ultimately serve their country better in the long run, by going to war.
Instead of saying 'always,' 'never' or 'absolutely', it is often more wise to say that according to YOUR experiences, or these few examples, this premise APPEARS to be true. That way, you are not projecting your limited experiences or observations on everything under the sun that looks similar. You are not painting the whole picture with just the one color you know about. Otherwise, we could be basing all kinds of decisions on a false premise, which we based on less evidence than our decisions or statements or mandates deserve. We should be careful to not be foolish in such a manner.
Stereotyping is the unhappy marriage between dogmatism and overgeneralization. It is the dogmatic adherence to an overgeneralization about a set of people. Imagine if you were to take a pail of paint out of the 'box' or filing cabinet which contains your conclusions and decisions about a group of people, and then broadstroked over anyone who matches the 'label' on the box. Label 'X' means they are the color green, no question about it!
In stereotyping, no new data is allowed which might change the ideas that are attached to this 'label', because of the firmness or stubbornness of belief which disallows any change. Thus, prejudice and stereotypes are also unchangeable or dogmatic. Overgeneralization is a mental process which concludes much out of little (i.e. the 'label' that is the most simplistic clue of what is contained), and can be based on the pride of 'knowing it all' or refusing to consider one might be long. Dogmatism is based on anxiety or fear which leads to the need to label and box in that which cannot be easily categorized. Once something is 'solved', there is no further need to reexamine the contents of the file, and therefore no anxiety. The anxiety is also temporarily shoved into the filing cabinet.
Stereotyping and prejudice can be learned either by indirect or direct experiences. It can be based on what has been taught to be true about a set or group of people, or upon a few personal experiences (or even one, depending on the amount of fear, trauma, or pain involved). Stereotyping is the step right before prejudice, and prejudice leads to preferential treatment or maltreatment of groups of people, based on the 'label' upon them.
If someone has had a bad experience, and overgeneralizes that experience, they might conclude that 'all men are creeps'. This is a mental mechanism by which to protect themselves from further harm. If 'all men are creeps' then they don't expect anything better than that, and therefore don't get disappointed. But, if 'all men are creeps' it is also a justification for avoiding all men, or for attacking or sinning against them because after all, they are 'creeps' anyway. With that, many women justify treating men poorly. And all because only a certain 'box' fits around the word 'men'.
Stereotyping, actually, can do harm whether a group of people are thrust in the 'good' category or file or the 'bad' category or file. As in the example used above, if it is presumed that all men are good , kind, gentle and fair to women, then someone would not be willing to process data which contradicts this. If someone were to say that a certain man did some 'creepy' things, then according to the 'good' stereotype someone would not be able to accept the possibility that something amiss has gone on, and will automatically conclude the woman making the complaint is just being over-sensitive or a liar.
Ministries and groups of people can be rigidly defined or 'stereotyped'. Key phrases such as 'pastor', 'sheep', 'prophet', 'men', 'women', or 'wounded person' can illicit certain, almost predictable responses. Many times, people are not fully aware of why they react the way they do, because they haven't recently examined what's in the 'filing cabinet' of their minds and emotions. Even though stereotyping is not at all based on Scripture, some people dogmatically try to use a few Scriptures so they can quickly identify by the label and put in the 'box' or filing cabinet, and close it. This leaves little or no room in their minds at least, for the person with the label to change, grow, heal or act differently than what is expected of them. This stereotyping has led to many a burn out of pastors, unwarranted suspicion or idolatry of the prophet, and unnecessary lack of compassion and avoidance of hurting people. This is because certain judgments are placed upon that person or group of people, whether positive or negative, 'good' or 'bad'. The key word is a label, and that label is attached to a certain box or file, which contain certain false presumptions. It is past time we re-examine the false premises on which these stereotypes are based on, and stop putting people in our boxes of overgeneralizations.
Attacking Like a Barbarian
There are various ways to avoid looking at false premises in the pure light of Scripture. It can be confusing and convincing to someone who does not know the Word very well when someone quotes a Scripture or two to 'prove' their false premise. However, they often are quoting out of context. They might also quote too little. In other words, they only refer to those Scriptures which seem like they support their ideas, without being thorough enough at all in their Biblical 'evidence'. By being very selective in their Scripture and by focusing on just one side of an issue, they end up with something that is extremely unbalanced. Or, they have invented some rigid legalism on their favored interpretation of ambiguous passages.
The good news is that Scripture IS the ultimate authority. Once challenged by knowledgeable use of Scripture, someone who has proposed a false premise may fall completely silent and suddenly not answer. It's like if they ignore you or your words, they hope you will go away. Or, they may attack in a variety of ways without any reference or decent answer to the truth in Scripture you just proposed. Indeed, they may even completely 'rewrite' or 'restate' what you proposed as something completely different than what said, because they don't understand anything other than the false premise. With their barrage of words, people who are observing may actually be influenced to think this is actually what the argument is about. Logically restating your original answer to their false premise, and asking for a reasonable discussion or answer to this WITH Scripture, may completely infuriate them.
When challenged, they may make intimidating and generalized statements such as 'The Bible is the Word of God and the ultimate authority, and the Bible is so plain on this I don't see how you can dispute it…" or "If you believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then certainly you see that what I am saying is correct." They may quote some expert or teacher they admire to back them up if they are the dogmatic person. However, as the saying goes, 'They don't have a leg to stand on' when it comes to actual, real, bonafide scriptural evidence.
If their first attempt to silence someone who disagrees with them does not work, they may resort to other methods of attacking. Certain defense mechanisms may have even become an automatic reaction to those who challenge their false premise. Attacking and discounting the speaker or writer who disagrees with them is one good way. If you are more interesting in crushing the person who makes an unwelcome statement, then abuse, sarcasm, half-truths, unsavory details about him, and recriminations are your weapons. For instance, if someone were to say, "How much law is really necessary?" they might reply, "Only a subversive or a rebellious person would ask that question!" Therefore, honest inquiry into the subject itself is lost.
This attack against the speaker can be subtle, especially since many have made an art of being polite, nice-sounding jerks, instead of obvious, obnoxious jerks. They've changed the words of their language and inflection of their voice, but their tongues are still full of poison. For this you will have to listen closely, and not be put off by the 'smoke screens' of pretend flattery (insincere compliment or build-up--usually followed by a bad message or lie behind it) or other manipulations.
The false premise behind this is that it is okay to sin against people who don't agree with us. They weave in attacks of character, intelligence, or 'qualifications' of their challenger during their 'discussion' of Scripture and spiritual matters, while never answering points made. Many, many times, the speaker or writer they are attacking was not even aware that expressing something about Scripture would evoke such a reaction. By merely speaking the truth, they may have unwittingly pushed someone's buttons.
Deflecting off the Point
Besides discounting the speaker in some way, another false strategy is called 'arguing off the point'. For example, saying that congregational rule is the best form of church government, and then giving as example how a particular church decision by this rule was good for your brother John, is arguing off the point. One specific instance does not prove that the absolute is true.
There is also the 'statement that does not follow'. Here's an example: "It was very difficult to see my brother confined to a wheelchair when young. Therefore, it is important to prevent cruelty to animals." Obviously, the two statements together do not make logical sense. Quoting Scripture out of context is similar to these types of faulty reasoning.
You may think these types of obvious faulty reasoning would not be the norm for Church history. But you would be wrong. Believe it or not, Scripture has been grossly misapplied in a number of instances. For instance, The Holy Office of Inquisition used Proverbs 27:6 "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" to justify torturing 'heretics' into making confessions and renouncing whatever the church frowned upon, whether it was about religion, science, or medicine. The word 'wounds' in this Scripture does not refer to torture, but to 'open rebuke' in the Scripture above (Proverbs 27:5). And a torturer certainly cannot qualify as a 'friend'. Equating the words in this Scripture with torture and torturers is a gross false analogy.
A false analogy states that two situations are similar in some respects, and therefore are similar in all other respects, too. The word 'wounds' in the Scripture was a useful analogy for clarification of an explanation, or in describing something better for someone's understanding. But if you take the analogy beyond what the context intended, then you go beyond clear reasoning into clear error.
Manipulating the Emotions
Many a speaker, writer, or preacher has used statements or arguments which appeal to people's emotions or personal interests, rather than the principles or facts of Scripture. For instance, they may appeal to pride by attacking an opponent who disagrees with them. It's easy to discount someone's words or teaching when you feel that you are superior to them, and thus 'know more' than they do, or are 'better qualified' to share something about Scripture. If it is in a group situation, then the main speaker can make his opponents sound inferior in some way. By being intimidating with their 'credentials' as compared to other, there can easily be enough peer pressure to keep the group silent and docile. Not many people will speak out, even if they disagree and find it all some how disturbing. By doing that they have at least the apparent backing of the whole group. And if you think the 'teacher' is superior, then you can identify with your teacher by silently watching them go after someone who just can't compare with the teacher's vast knowledge and qualifications. Indeed, the arrogant teacher can successfully appeal to everyone's pride by making everyone in the audience feel better than his opponent(s). Everyone is laughing and having a good time and feeling good about whom they identify with, while being unaware that arrogance is the biggest disqualifier to being any sort of teacher or discerner of Scriptures at all.
Also, if they can somehow villianize the other person, then they can appeal to fear. Now maybe the other person is not stupid and pitiful-- someone to be dismissed without a hearing. Maybe he or she is cleverly evil! Every one stop their ears, lest they be led astray by the false prophet! When appealing to fear, you'll hear very little except Scripture or rational discussion. Instead, the audience's own discernment is suspended while the teaching being attacked is not even answered.
If it is not 'politically correct' to interpret Scripture in a way that threatens the status quo, then there may be reprisals for listening to a teacher or prophet who expose the status quo as not being in line with Scripture or scriptural intent. Thus, it is necessary to villianize them. Intimidation and villianization is a lethal dose of double fear. Therefore, the Inquisition could run around quoting Scriptures and torturing people, and at the same time be too feared to be challenged. The threat of loss of pay, group peer pressure, or whatever threat there is, might be enough to silence a teacher or prophet, but let's hope it isn't!
In addition to these more obvious ploys, emotional fallacies frequently touch our more unconscious needs and fears to provoke emotional reactions. Once emotions are aroused, logic, reason, and even basic principles might be suspended. Appealing to the emotions works even on intellectuals, because it works in the presence of the prejudice, anxiety, or the pride that is already there. That's why Scriptures were easily used to support human slavery by almost all the churches of both the North and the South before the Civil War. Everyone was comfortable with it, until the underlying prejudice and hidden pain of slavery was exposed by the Christian abolitionists. Once the prejudice was gone, using Scripture to condone human slavery seemed ridiculous.
Similarly today, if someone has a prejudice and fear of any group of people or practice, such as women or lay-leaders in ministry, speaking in tongues or other gifts of the Spirit, or expressive worship such as dancing, their interpretation and use of the Scripture will be greatly influenced by this. This might easily lead them to preach something which is actually a subtle or obvious expression of that which they fear. A false premise might be, "if someone is dancing, they are doing it to get attention," and so they make a mandate or 'suggestion' that one must dance only in the back, out of sight. The Scriptures support public dancing to the Lord rather than suggest there is hidden agenda or shame to it , and so this type of mandate is supported by preferences and and the false premise of judgment upon the dancer's motives alone.
Most oppressive use of Scripture is born out of fear. Roman Catholics and Protestants alike feared witchcraft so much that they suspected it behind every disaster or trouble. Thus, they used Exodus 22:18 (Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live - KJV) to prove they had an obligation to find and destroy them. Thousands of innocent people died over the course of two hundred years of witch hunts, because of fear. The underlying false premise was that every disaster was due to witchcraft, and using their neighbors as 'scapegoats' to blame for their troubles was okay. Plus, torturing, drowning, and otherwise killing people was okay because in the end it 'saved their soul' from hell.
The False Cause and The False Choice
One of the major tactics of the enemy is to narrow down choices or possibilities.
The best way to describe this is to give an example of these, and the Scripture which reveals the lie of the false premises.
Something bad happens in someone's life because they did something wrong, and they are being punished by God, or are most certainly suffering because of their own errors.
False premises: Bad events in a person's life is always caused by their sin or is their fault; God can be blamed for all bad events.
Scriptures: the book of Job, Luke 13:1-5: Matt. 5:45
True premise: Bad things, just like good things, sometimes happen to both the good and the evil. God can be credited for the nice things that happen to all men, good or evil.
Apostles know the full picture, while prophets do not, so it is that is why can override or discount what the prophet says. Therefore, if they do override, it is because they are right.
False premise: Apostles are always right, and know the whole prophetic picture, because the apostle is an authority figure over the prophet. Any disagreement between the two about prophecy is because the prophet is wrong, because there are only two choices:
1)The prophet is right and the apostle agrees
2) the prophet is wrong, (and we know that because...) the apostle disagrees.
There are no other choices. The prophet or the apostle could not be both partially right and interpret the 'picture' slightly differently, and the apostle definitely cannot be wrong. We have an 'either/or' choice, with no modification of the choice.
Scripture against the false premise: 1 Corinthians 13:9-13
True premise: Paul, who was a true apostle, wrote this Scripture with the pronouns 'we' and 'I'. He wrote this about HIMSELF too. No member of the Body knows the whole picture. Neither the apostle nor the prophet knows all, and neither one can be proud. This fact keeps both interdependent on one another, putting the 'pieces' together in humility. An apostle might reasonably have more revelation than a prophet, but they are not God, and therefore are no more infallible than prophets are. To suggest that those with apostolic ministry credentials are infallible, while the prophet is fallible, is a lie of pride in favor the 'apostle' as some how better than the prophet. Sorry folks. The Bible's main premise is that all are brothers and sisters in the Lord, first. The Bible does not support any one being 'better' than the others, and this would of course include anyone including the 'prophet'.
The 'two' Swords-Logos and Rhayma -- or is it the 'two-edged' Sword?
Logos is the Greek word which means a word (as embodying an idea), a statement, a speech, an account. It is used in Scripture to denote the written Word of God.
Rhayma is the Greek word meaning charge, discourse, message or saying-The spoken word for a given moment. In Scripture, there are clear implications that it is prophetic in nature, since it is timely Word.
This word for sword in Eph.6:17, machaira, is also used in Heb. 4:12:
(Heb 4:12 NASB) "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
In Heb 4:12, the 'word' is translated from the Greek word "logos", or the written Word of God. The capabilities of the word of God are clear. God's word is sharp and penetrating, acting as a critic of the thought-life and the motivations or purposes of the human heart. The logos word of God has the unique ability not merely to discover the merit of men's actions but also to reveal hidden motivations. Thus, "all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (v. 13).
But Eph. 6:17 does not use 'logos' in describing our weapon of warfare against the enemy. There, the "sword of the Spirit" or the "word of God" is translated from "Rhayma", not "logos" as in Heb. 4:12. This is not the written word, but the timely, often prophetic, spoken word. The gifts of the Spirit which utilize the spoken word would include words of knowledge, wisdom or discernment, proclamations of faith, healing and salvation, tongues with interpretation (1 Cor 12:1-11), prophetic exhortation, consolation, and conviction (14:3;24-25), songs from the Lord, and teaching and revelation (14:26). The 'logos' is often either woven into these gifts of the Spirit or well-represented by them - a divinely powerful weapon indeed! (2 Cor 10:3)
You can learn to discern fallacies in reasoning by probing for the hidden assertions which support the fallacy. Instead of being passive listeners, pay attention to what indeed is behind the window dressing of carelessly used or misused Scripture. Find out what foundation someone is 'building' on when they speak or write. If it is a false premise, then Scripture will not ultimately support it. If the foundation is not really true according to Scripture, it is Jesus, and is not built on by gold and silver and precious metals. (1 Cor 3:10-15) It is would also not be found to belong in the character of Jesus, Who is the Foundation and was the Word made flesh.(John 1:14) The Holy Spirit, also called the Spirit of Truth, would also not bear witness to a lie.
When our minds are not yet renewed by putting on the new self, we will continue to think and act more according to the world, then to Scripture. Since 'putting on' is a process, renewing and relearning in light of God's Word is also process. We are mere human beings, and it is too easy for us to view Scripture according to our perceptions rather than according to God's. Therefore, we need to humbly ask for the ministry and the anointing of the Holy Spirit to be our teacher of the truth. In fact, without the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it may be impossible not to be influenced by our culture, life experience, and other biases of the mind as we read Scripture. In my opinion, it is good idea to pray before reading Scripture, and before reading into Scripture.
Taking advantage of the false premises, or the 'mind set on the flesh' is one of the major tactics of Satan. He uses the faulty reasoning necessary to support the false premises, assumptions, and prejudices to undermine the true meaning of Scripture if he can. These false premises might not be consciously known by the believer, until God reveals it. However, someone who has chosen to embrace the lie rather than the truth has chosen deception. They could be armed with a dagger by Satan, ready to use it. They could be 'armed and dangerous' to other believers around them.
We should also be 'armed and dangerous':
"For Thou art my lamp, O LORD; And the LORD illumines my darkness. For by Thee I can run upon a troop; By my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, besides the LORD? And who is a rock, besides our God? God is my strong fortress; And He sets the blameless in His way. He makes my feet like hinds' feet, And sets me on my high places. He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation, And Thy help makes me great. Thou dost enlarge my steps under me, And my feet have not slipped." (2 Sam 22:29-37 )
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