Sunday, July 13, 2014

Side Issues Part 2 — Information and Discernment

— Cowboy Bob Sorensen

In Part 1, I defined theological "side issues" as things that are not essential to salvation, but are varying in importance. Some are extremely important, some not at all, and some are not important but vital in the eyes of adherents. One of my main points was that creation science is a side issue, but it is extremely important because Genesis is the foundation of almost all major Christian doctrines. This article will draw from some of my own experiences (some recent) and observations to emphasize the points I am making.

Some people are so focused on their prize nonessentials that they elevate them to supreme importance. Many put aside instruction in sound doctrine, glorify themselves (which sounds to me like, "I am so clever because what I believe is a vitally important truth") and put others down for disagreeing.

As I have discussed here before, one of the reasons that I put aside the Christian faith for about fifteen years was because Christians often do not act like Christians. (Naïve of me, I know, since we are supposed to look to Jesus, not other people.) Because of the previous article, I was saddened and even angered because I felt that I was attacked. It led to a loss of fellowship with someone who had been a co-laborer in Christ in one case, and astonishment at the pride and arrogance of someone else. I felt that they acted in an unbiblical manner when they slapped me seven ways from sundown. Ironically, those people proved my points in that article!

Seeing Their Point of View
When we are asked to consider the evidence for a position, that is a reasonable request. There are some drawbacks to it, however:
  • Too many Christians are not grounded in the Word (2 Timothy 2.15) and are easily swayed by a convincing presentation (Ephesians 4.14-16). Ever notice that Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and other cultists try to convert Christians to their way of thinking? They succeed far too often. As many of us keep saying, Christians need to know what and why they believe.
  • As a sub point to the above, some of these people indulge in Scripture twisting like the cultists. It may not be intentional and may have come from how they learned what they believe. A presentation of their views may seem convincing at first (Proverbs 18.17). I believe that my recent critics were motivated by pride. They decided that their views were of vital importance, and that I was misrepresenting God by rejecting their heterodox beliefs, but the Bible is my final authority. Although I did not name anyone, someone decided, "He's talking about me, so I'll use that to give me the right to give him a public shredding, and anyway, Paul did that to Peter in Galatians 2". (Those were not the actual words, but that is my perception of the attitude.) The use of Paul's confrontation of Peter had no relation to the issues that my critics had with me, yet this was Scripture twisting to justify their actions.
  • People who emphasize side issues and aberrant theology often misrepresent the position that they are trying to refute. Sometimes it is because of ignorance since they themselves were sold a bill of goods.
  • Emotional manipulation is a frequent problem. One of Satan's biggest tricks is appealing to pride (it was Lucifer's downfall, Ezekiel 28.12-19, Isaiah 14.12-15). He used pride back in Genesis. Again, people "think" with their emotions, and are easily manipulated by emotional appeal and provocative wording.
  • Lack of logic. This can come from Christians who are being confused or even deceived, but also from the ones presenting aberrant or heterodox theology. In the fallout from Part 1, I was accused of some logical fallacies. To do this, my words were twisted (as well as Scripture), then their accusations of my use of fallacious were fallacious! As I have said many times in various places, too many people "think" with their emotions, and are subject to manipulation by those who are unscrupulous, are deceived themselves or simply over-enthusiastic about promoting their special doctrinal views. I think it is far worse when people who identify themselves as Christians do this (Matthew 5.12-14).
In a similar way, like other creationists, I believe that our children should be taught about evolution. Adults should know about it as well. Simply saying, "Evolution is false" is not enough. When providing children and adults with critical thinking skills, a biblical foundation and solid creation science education can help people see the bad science of evolution, and that creation is affirmed. When people can think for themselves, they can refute many evolutionary claims rather handily.

Tradition or Orthodoxy?
The fallacy of Appeal to Tradition applies here. Just because a doctrinal view is held by your denomination, family, community, your persuasive clergyman or whatever, that does not mean that it is right. Christian beliefs should be Bible-based. The authority of Scripture is of vital importance. Many doctrines are in place because they have been examined and found scripturally sound for many years and measured against Scripture. Something that is heterodox or unorthodox should be approached cautiously and compared with the Bible, as the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Ephesians 6.17 NASB), and this is spiritual warfare.


Katana / FreeImages.com / sardinelli
Beware the Bandwagon
I have long maintained that people will support a view because it is popular in their circles. Rebellious teenagers may want to choose atheism as a worldview to please friends or a romantic interest. When becoming a Christian was in vogue, people were "asking Jesus into their hearts" for similar reasons. Some believe viewpoints because Reverend Feelgood preached it, or they liked a presentation by Dr. Psych on afternoon television and besides my friends are doing it too and I don't want to be left out you know? This bandwagon mentality can happen for all sorts of reasons that are primarily based on emotions and not rational thought or scriptural exegesis.

New Revelation
Another fallacy that comes to mind is the Appeal to Novelty: This must be good because it's new and not apart of established traditions (you don't really want old stuff anyway). Use caution whenever someone claims to have a "new revelation". Joseph Smith started Mormonism by saying that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him that everyone else was wrong, and he was going to start a new, correct church. (People who knew the Bible would see that his visitation was false because of John 1.18, 1 Timothy 6.16 and so on.) Similarly, people can claim that they have special understanding of the Bible that has been lost/hidden/suppressed. While organized religions can suppress the truth, Scripture reveals it. The Roman Catholic Church has a history of suppressing salvation by faith and the Bible itself, but they could not keep the truth hidden. There is no new Scripture being given to man, so be careful when someone has a special message that is new or rediscovered, or a minority viewpoint that has been allegedly suppressed.

Some people falsely claim that biblical creation (Young-Earth Creation, YEC) is a recent phenomenon. This is disproved from the Scriptures and the church fathers, as is documented in Dr. Sarfati's Refuting Compromise. Liberal Christians had compromised on YEC and mixed old-earth views with the Bible to appease "science" since Darwin, Lyell and others were gaining popularity, and Old-Earth compromisers display considerable hostility toward us. But what if biblical creation was a new view for the church? Just because something is new does not make it good, nor does newness make it bad. When some new or lesser-known idea does not match Scripture, watch out. Biblical creation upholds Scripture and its authority. If the claim that YEC was new to Christianity was true, its support of biblical authority would be an important point for consideration.

Edit: At the risk of flogging a deceased equine, annihilationists will sometimes say things like, "If eternal torment is not correct then it is creating an unnecessary stumbling block for evangelism - it is often mocked by unbelievers as contradicting the love of God and being cruel and inhumane." That is an opinion stated as fact. Also, we hear similar things from old-earthers who insist that biblical creationism is a hindrance to the gospel, which is the opposite of the truth.

Corruption of Scriptures?
Mormons believe the Bible is true as far as it is translated correctly. The Jehovah's Witnesses have their own spurious translation to fit their own worldview. Old-Earthers tell us that the Bible does not mean what it says, and we have to interpret the first eleven chapters of Genesis according to the current trends of science philosophies. Some Annihilationists not only say that we have been misunderstanding Hell all along, but that Hell is a pagan doctrine which has crept into Christianity, and Bible translations also have this error. Great, now we cannot trust the Bible, but we can trust what they say that it says? This kind of talk should make any Christian proceed with caution, whatever the doctrine.

Passionate Devotion
Many of the people who emphasize heterodox beliefs, heresies, side issues, "new revelations", compromisers and so on have certain characteristics, including:
  • Pride. I need to re-emphasize the pride issue. I have encountered and read the writings of people like this who think they are totally right, spiritually enlightened, more complete, have a better understanding than the rest of us — because of their different view of the Bible.
  • Interrogation. "What research have you done on this topic? Have you watched any debates?", and so on. When someone gets "in your face" and puts you on the defensive, that is a time to wonder if the topic is worth discussing any longer. I have had Calvinists reject me because I refuse to accept all of their views, and vice versa with Arminian teachings.
  • Personal. If you take a stand against something that you consider erroneous, be ready for people demonizing you in addition to what you stand for. They will also act like atheists in joining with other people ridiculing the person with whom they disagree.
  • Proselytizing. Not content to simply let you believe your way and they believe their way, they want to convert Christians to their way of thinking. Cultists do this as well, since they have the One True Church™.
  • Arrogance. Some of them are so obstreperous, you cannot tell the difference between atheists and them. Going back to my experiences with Part 1 of "Side Issues", the one who said (in essence), "He's talking about me" though I had not given names had identified himself and somehow that gave him the right to rip into me. (I had an atheist do the same thing, where I left names out of the article, and he came around and identified himself! When I pointed out his foolishness, he deleted the comments that he left on that site!) Both of those articles were more about attacking me to justify themselves, one of which was very vituperative (it read like it was written by an angry atheist), both were unchristian in their attitudes and approach.
  • Obsession. Some of the "major on minors" people are so enthusiastic with proclaiming truth as they see it that they bring up their pet topics inappropriately. Many believe that they are promoting and defending truth as well as refuting error, but are unwilling to admit that they may be in error themselves.
  • Lack of Christian love. This is summed up above, really, but I felt that it needed extra emphasis. Unbelievers take particular joy when Christians attack other Christians and do not show John 13.35. Like I said, I felt slapped around. It was not Christian disagreement or instruction through biblical love, and made very personal.
Showing off my pet cactus, Zane Green
People who do not have a grasp of logical fallacies will undoubtedly be accusing me of various ones again, including appeal to motive. Some things may have that superficial appearance, but they are clearly offered as speculations and possibilities for the reader to consider; unlike some people, I do not claim to know the hearts and minds of others. But these people who act like atheists and cultists would do well to examine themselves, since they react strongly and negatively to principles that they do not like and the people who hold them.

Should we hear people out who have differing views? Sure. But be certain of what and why you believe what you do. Scripture is the highest authority. If they are obnoxious and push you to "convert", that should be an indication that what you are hearing or reading is quite possibly not from God.