There is a saying that frames this topic well: a text without a context is a pretext. That is, someone with an agenda will only tell you enough to persuade you to do what they wish. Television and radio advertising for political candidates is a sufficient example.
Thinking is critical and, seemingly, a lost art. Critique today is mostly against one’s personal opinions, and these opinions from, even, unreliable sources, mostly relative to contemporary social media. Frequently, our surface thinking accepts the misinformation (unintentional distortion) and disinformation (intentional distortion) without considering the complete file of information necessary for understanding. Then, too, there are the “straw-man” arguments that cloud the true issue, as in “do it for the children”.
Note the source of misinformation, disinformation, and straw man arguments in the following speech given by legendary ABC Radio commentator Paul Harvey on April 3, 1965:
If I were the Devil . . . I mean, if I were the Prince of Darkness, I would of course, want to engulf the whole earth in darkness. I would have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree, so I should set about however necessary to take over the United States. I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.” “Do as you please.” To the young, I would whisper, “The Bible is a myth.” I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what is bad is good, and what is good is “square”. In the ears of the young marrieds, I would whisper that work is debasing, that cocktail parties are good for you. I would caution them not to be extreme in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct. And the old, I would teach to pray. I would teach them to say after me: “Our Father, which art in Washington” . . .
If I were the devil, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull an uninteresting. I’d threaten T.V. with dirtier movies and vice versa. And then, if I were the devil, I’d get organized. I’d infiltrate unions and urge more loafing and less work, because idle hands usually work for me. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. And I’d tranquilize the rest with pills. If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellects but neglect to discipline emotions . . . let those run wild. I would designate an atheist to front for me before the highest courts in the land and I would get preachers to say “she’s right.” With flattery and promises of power, I could get the courts to rule what I construe as against God and in favor of pornography, and thus, I would evict God from the courthouse, and then from the school house, and then from the houses of Congress and then, in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and I would deify science because that way men would become smart enough to create super weapons but not wise enough to control them.
If I were Satan, I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg, and the symbol of Christmas, a bottle. If I were the devil, I would take from those who have and I would give to those who wanted, until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And then, my police state would force everybody back to work. Then, I could separate families, putting children in uniform, women in coal mines, and objectors in slave camps. In other words, if I were Satan, I’d just keep on doing what he’s doing. (Harvey)
Manipulators prey upon our lack of time or willingness and/or access to complete information. For example, consider the slippage in critical thinking from a recent survey of Christians.
Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research teamed up again this year to conduct a study concerning America’s core theological doctrines, and the results show that evangelicals are “deeply confused.”
The 2018 study examined 34 beliefs based on interviews with 3,000 Americans defined by Lifeway to be evangelicals to discover what they “believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible.” Overall, the study reveals that American evangelicals hold beliefs that are contrary to the historic Christian faith.
Stated Chris Larson, president and CEO of Ligonier Ministries, “It’s never been popular to talk about mankind’s sinfulness or the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. But at a time when a darkened world needs the light of the gospel, it’s disheartening to see many within the evangelical church confused about what the Bible teaches.”
Results indicate that 69 percent of evangelicals think that the smallest sins do not deserve eternal damnation, 58 percent believe that regular church attendance can be replaced by worshipping alone or with one’s family, and 59 percent believe that the Holy Spirit is a force and not a person. The study also revealed that 52 percent believe people are basically good, and 51 percent believe God accepts the worship of all religions, including Islam. (Survey)
This was true in Jesus’ day, also. How He handled such is instructional for Christians today. Notice how He handled the misinformation, disinformation, and straw man of the Jews who questioned him in John 8.12-59 (Bible).
The word, “word”, is the crux of the confusing misinformation, disinformation, and straw man of the Jews. I believe that Jesus uses “word” in John 8.31, 37, 43, 51, and 55to connect John 1.1 to John 1.14 to Matthew 1.21 and Luke 1.31. That is, the Word is God from the beginning of time. This Word became born for the reason Apostle Paul explains in Hebrews 2.14-15. And, this Baby was given the name “Jesus” because He is part of the Trinity of God. The God-head is named “Jesus”, as Jesus acknowledges in John 17.12and Paul infers in Philippians 2.9-11and Hebrews 13.8.
The Psalmist expresses the same understanding of the use of the “word” in Psalm 107.20, where he speaks about the “word” delivering from destruction. That is what the “Word” Who took on flesh did for whoever would accept “Jesus” (John 1.1 & 14;John 3.16). The 70 disciples returned proclaiming the power of Jesus’ Name to deliver from daily demons, in Luke 10.17. Notice Jesus’ authorization to them and to us in verse 19. The Centurion (Matthew 8.5-13) and Syro-Phonecian woman (Matthew 15.21-28) released the power of the Name Jesus without even speaking it. And, Jesus declared their faith ‘great’! They spoke an understanding of the power of the Word Who took on flesh (John 1.1 & 14). Perhaps, Psalm 103.20 and Mark 16.20 picture these actions and instructs you to speak “Jesus” with faith!
Additionally, Jesus’ teaching in John 15.1-11 includes a similar explanation of the “word” in verse 7: “‘If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.’” Abiding in Jesus (John 15.7) and abiding in His “word” (John 8.31; not meaning His teachings) are the same. That is, Jesus is the Word, and the Word is Jesus, from John 1.1&14. In John 12.44, Jesus confirms this point, and, in verse 48, warns that the Word will judge all who deny Him. Notice the affirming dialogue of Son and Father in John 12.28 and how the adoring crowds agree on Palm Sunday, in Matthew 21.9.
Also, “abiding in” is the same concept as being baptized “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28.19; see John 17.21, too). Jesus states this in John 17.12: “’I kept them IN your name, which you have given me’” (my emphasis). How does Revelation 12.11extend “kept them in Your name” to us?
So, why would the Jews hate the “word”? Because satan was thrown down to the earth” from his place in Heaven (Revelation 12.9; and would be “cast out: of earth by Jesus—in John 12.31—into the Pit of Hades, Isaiah 14.12-15) and was leading that generation of ‘blind’ Jews as he had previous generations, beginning with the Jews Wilderness that rejected their God-given, that is, ordained, role in Exodus 19.6. Jeremiah 13.10 explains how this devolution began and continued throughout the generations and continues today, as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4.3-4. Consequently, we might expect their misinformation, disinformation, and straw man arguments to distract away from the central issue.
John 8.48 is an example of misinformation and disinformation. “You are a Samaritan” is misinformation, and “have a demon” is disinformation. These and similar comments have been used by satan earlier in other Bible passages to confuse the other Jews listening to the dialogue. Conversely, Jesus exposes and condemns the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ misinformation and disinformation in His Seven Woes in Matthew 23.1-36, Which do you identify? How did Jesus respond?
But, let’s focus on straw-man of Abraham. Jesus acknowledged that Abraham was their physical father, in John 8.56but crippled this argument, in verse 39, by reminding them of God’s acclaim of Abraham: faith in God resulting in obedience to Him. Paul explains in Galatians 3.6-9and Romans 4.16what is illustrated by Abraham’s actions (his “works”) in Hebrews 11.8-10. James (2.21-24)emphasizes the importance of behaviors from thinking that is directed by the right mindset. Thus, Jesus continues in John 8.40that Abraham would have acknowledged Jesus as Savior and made Him Lord. He looked for the day of his Seed (John 8.56; Galatians 3.16)!
The Jews may have been physical progeny of Abraham but were not his spiritual progeny. Rather, Jesus rightly identifies satan as their father in John 8.44, recognizing that their lies about Himself were the lies that satan had repeated since deceiving their fore-fathers from accepting and obeying God’s ordained role for them. Notice Jesus’ other descriptor for satan: he murdered, as in the prophets (Matthew 23.30 & Luke 11.47-51). Jesus may have been foretelling of their murder of Him.
It is ironic that the Jews’ disdain for truth (John 1.17) even deceived their response to Jesus’ explanation to believers about the Source of truth; that is, the Name “Jesus” (the Word; see earlier paragraph).
See John 8.33: we “have never been enslaved to anyone”. Roman soldiers were their current masters; Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians had been the masters of their fore-fathers. Jesus’ reply in verses 34-35 is their disdain for the Name above all others (Philippians 2.9-11) provides only momentarily pleasure. Paul writes about this by contrast in Romans 6.16.
Dr. R. G. Lee’s sermon title seems an appropriate conclusion to this matter. During his years as pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, he preached “Payday, Someday” (Sermon). Mankind can listen to satan’s agents’ speaking just enough truth to cover their misinformation. And, mankind can, even, accept the disinformation lie without searching out the truth. Further, mankind can give in to the emotion of the straw-man argument without looking for what it is hiding. That is, a text without a context is a pretext!
Only the Holy Spirit knows for sure; ask Him (John 16.13-15; John 14.26; Romans 8.14)
Only when mankind abides in the name Jesus (John 8.31) will we experience the freedom of truth and “never see death” (John 8.51).
1 Peter 1.22-25!
Bible. The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. www.olivetree.com.
Harvey, Paul. April 3, 1965. ‘If I Were the Devil’ (Warning for a Nation)
Survey. November 2, 2018. Study ShowsAmerica’s Evangelicals Are ‘Deeply Confused’. www.factn.org.
Critical Thinking 181104
Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2018. www.sozoclass.com.