Truth is Truth

"You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me." - Psalm 40:11 This is a sometimes monthly column concerning the truth of Christ Jesus and the issues that face our world as published in various newspapers and journals by Pastor Dave Seaford. You can return to the home page of the church by going to:

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Location: Redway, California, United States

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

A Lesson in Criticle Thought

We Christians are often guilty of a general lack of care in our critical thought. Since this often leads to specific distain of Christians by the scholarly and shouting matches with the ignorant, I thought this article prudent. First, if you disagree with someone, there should always be a sound basis of “authority” when stating your objection. That “basis” can not legitimately be solely one’s opinions or feelings. Those might be relevant to ones anger, but they are insufficient basis to argue the legitimacy and truthfulness of any position. The Word of God secured in its context, is the source of all incontrovertible truth and is the purest authority (2 Tim. 3:16).

I am occasionally criticized for articles appearing in this paper. Sadly, it is rare that any of these critics offer any basis of “authority” for their view unless one considers the self expression of cleverly worded but grossly unarmed “opinions” and “feelings.” Opinions presented as truth reveal the critic’s view that multiple truths exist and that there can be as many “truths” concerning any one matter as there are opinions. This is the result of Post Modernism succeeding to convince our culture that there is no absolute truth therefore no definitive and pesky moral laws and that intolerance is the real enemy.

The “authority” of legitimate debate must be clearly rooted in some absolute, otherwise the debate is hopeless. Those who hold Scripture as that absolute can expect to be chastised by those who’s opinions have been offended. Those with wounded opinions often preach tolerance for everyone, except it seems, anyone who believes the Word of God is absolute truth. Here is the rub. Once anyone begins proclaiming the views of another are intolerant and therefore can’t be tolerated, have themselves defeated their own argument by becoming the very one who’s opinions are themselves the source of intolerance.

Secondly, note another illegitimate tactic often found in this kind of attack. In logic it is called an ad homina attack. This is normally done when the attacker finds no solid basis (truth) against an argument on the substance, and thus attacks the person taking, what to them is an objectionable position. People responding to that which they object by attacking the character of the person frequently do not know if the venom they are spewing is true or not. The fact is that for the point that I will endeavor to make here, the truthfulness of their attack on the person is not relevant. One could be all the things that their attacker suggests and it would not take away from the illegitimacy of this wrongly aimed argument. It is a fact that a person with all the “dis-qualities” that can be thrown at them, can still make “absolutely true” statements of fact. So, attacking the person is NEVER a legitimate argument against any stated position.

It should also be said that when one seeks to defeat another’s premise, they must take care to never misquote nor take the premise out of its context in order to make their opponent’s point appear weaker than it is. A partial truth is often easily presented as either bias or an outright lie. Either way, if the attacker begins by building a “straw man” he does so only to make its tearing down appear easy and leave the opponent’s position looking weak. IF one is to argue a point with any integrity, they need to present the whole argument from the other person’s perspective and then defeat it soundly based on authoritative and incontrovertible truth. Opinions and feelings are simply insufficient.

Today we live in a world that is constantly using these tactics in order to put down those that stand on the Word of God. Tolerance is usually the tool of choice initializing emotional attacks, which are followed quickly by personal attacks which attempt only to legitimize inherently weak positions. While this tactic may be an effective persuasion to the uninitiated, the discerning will recognize the tactics of completely empty arguments and pity their purveyor.