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“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ,’ and deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4 NIV)

In Part One, we witnessed Simon’s quick transformation. In Matthew 16, he was elevated from the ordinary to Disciple-extraordinaire, Peter. Picture him in Matthew 16:18-19 with a proud and pious look, holding the keys to the kingdom.

In three short verses, it all changes. He has horns and resembles the devil. In moments, Simon went from exalted status to Jesus’ enemy. He transitioned from celebrity saint to Satan. What line did he cross with God? The same one prominent Christians transgress on a regular basis. Peter knew who Jesus was, (i.e. the Son of the Living God), yet, in Matthew 16:22, he undermined prophecy. (“Never Lord. This shall never happen to you.”)

Peter knew some things, but the future was not one of them. He should have shut-up and listened to Jesus. Disciples are notorious for not taking prophecy to heart. They may know in part, presuming they know the whole, but it is what they don’t know that makes them dangerous. The wise are aware of how much they do not know, but the fool thinks he knows everything.

Jesus gave us the essentials in his Olivet Discourse. He instructed disciples on the basics for overcoming at the end of this age (Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:4, Luke 21:7). He, who is sovereign over all things, told his followers in advance (Matthew 24:25). Have we taken these words to heart? Have we listened to Jesus’ words, or do we let the well-intentioned Peters feed us a diet of fake prophecy?

The end times will be marked with a great falling away. Authorities will attempt to undermine God’s prophetic word. They will describe a different future than the one Jesus presented in Matthew 24:9-10. Religious leaders will become a major stumbling block to saints who take prophecy to heart.

Three times in Matthew 24 (vs. 4, 11 and 24), Jesus warns about deception. But does it matter to those who know only part? “Many will fall away because of me,” is not just a prediction, but, because of who said it, it is an absolute. The Lord said many disciples will fall away, not just a few on the fringes.

Has apostasy or a falling away ever happened? Of course it has. History presents a pattern. For example, many disciples could not accept Jesus’ hard teaching in John 6. Then what? We learn, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66)

When the going got tough, many, who had followed in the good times, bailed. We can understand desertion by pretenders, but what about the Lord’s inner circle, the twelve? In John 6:67-69, they had refused to leave Jesus.

As the cross of Calvary drew nearer, Jesus’ twelve disciples declared that even if they faced death, they would never leave him. Before that, in Matthew 26:31, Jesus said they would all fall away, and quoted Old Testament prophecy confirming it. So, were they there to the end or, that very night, as Jesus said, did they fall away?

Jesus never entrusted himself to men (John 2:23-24). Men will often reject the literal words of Jesus, and listen instead to sources like Peter.  If we read the whole, and not just part, we would know fake prophets will come and that those who stand firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).

Teachers will give the many what they want to hear. They purpose not to know the whole, only the part that suits them. So, the many are set up for a major deception. (My people perish for lack of knowledge.)

“A little learning is a dangerous thing,” so wrote Alexander Pope. Anyone who owns, or has access to a Bible, has no excuse. Ahead of time, Jesus told us all we need to know. For shame if we do not take his foreknowledge to heart.

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For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”  Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:19-20 NIV)

What permanent advantage is there in supporting a lie? If conventional wisdom urges toleration on some matters, but rabid opposition in others, should we go along with it? To do so is to risk sharing in their destruction. We must consider all matters with a Christian mindset, that means rationally. Anyone who tells you otherwise, should be considered suspect.

Last time, I shared my frustration. I had an argument. After what seemed like an hour, it ended in a truce. No one gave an inch. I lay part of the blame upon my reliance on my ability to persuade, and part on this dear one’s “Christian” fellowship. This is no knock on the people for they are precious souls, but on their church’s way of teaching disciples. Some of their more controversial views are protected by a wall of bad reasoning and poor Scripture interpretation. Leaders are entrusted with the pulpit after demonstrating skill in defending long-held doctrines. Whenever challenged, their rote training kicks in. They have ears but cannot hear. Anyone who differs, is an enemy. They stand on their version of truth, no matter what. (For that reason, many regard them as a Christian cult.)

This group is not alone. Much of Christianity has become illogical. Our diversity of doctrines is the result of lawyer-like argumentation more than seeking truth. I could site many examples. Pre-Tribulation Rapture (PTR) is one. Again, it is not a knock on the people, but on the illogical nature of their arguments, a reliance on intelligence and the lack of a Christian mind.

Logic and reasoning will protect us from the deceitful but clever-sounding arguments of our day. Next time, we will briefly look at the skillful way unbiblical and illogical teachers have succeeded in persuading much of Western Christianity. Did I say “unbiblical” and “illogical”? So what!

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  (2 Timothy 2:23 NIV)

So it goes in America:

“The Russians were involved in the 2016 Presidential election to help Trump get elected.”

“How? There is no evidence that anyone tampered with voting machines or the vote count. How did they effect the vote?”

“Well look at the conversations between Trump’s associates and Russian officials. It all points to collusion. There needs to be an investigation.”

“What would investigators be looking for? There’s no evidence of wrong-doing.”

“I don’t know but there has to be something there between Trump and Putin. We’ve got to get to the bottom of it. There’s plenty of smoke, and where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

Most in the U.S. are justifiably tired of hearing about the Russians and the election. The argument continues despite its baseless premise. If politicians had to stay within the bounds of logic, we would have civil discussions. But, no, we have legislators who engage in arguments that cause quarrels.

In my opinion, this is due to the legal system’s influence in government. Law students learn the art of argumentation. So, when they become lawyers they can win cases, not based on justice or truth, but on their skill as arguers. Clever sounding arguments often win the day. God help us!

Tragically, the art of argumentation has infected our Christian fellowships. One of the first things we should teach new converts is Logic. If the new Christian knows Logic, then they can detect when a fallacious but clever argument is headed in their direction. After the mental red flag goes up on a few fallacious arguments (“ad hoc ergo prompter hoc,” “the straw man,” “the red herring” and “circular reasoning”), the new convert could excuse themselves—that is unless they want to quarrel or test their ability to argue.

Recently, I became locked into a conversation that, unfortunately, became a quarrel. My head was spinning. My emotions got the best of me. I was frustrated and wanted to walk away. There was an answer for everything I said. It was more like a wall. After more than a half hour, I blurted out “Your argument is foolish,” and then it really turned into a mess. (Thank God I didn’t say “foolish and stupid” like 2 Timothy 2:23.)

I saw no good way out. I was entangled in a circular argument—the very thing the Apostle said to avoid. On the ground, I drew a circle with my finger. I said “This is how our discussion is going.” Of course, they did not see it that way. Had Paul’s warning been fresh in my mind, I would have bowed out as soon as the circular reasoning came into play. Believing I could reason successfully, I had to go around and around and around to find out my effort was useless.

Next time, Part 2, The illogical invades the Christian church.

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