There are times when people express arguments for cases that are difficult to respond to, not because they contain a great argument for a worthy cause, but because they contain flawed logic. Last Friday I received just such an argument in the form of a comment to a post from May 6. I might add that the comment had nothing to do with the post, and was pasted into another comment on another older post the following day; interesting.
I bring this up because this week I’m doing a few posts about why Christians argue so much. I began Monday with the weekly podcast, continued Tuesday recalling that troubling conversation I had Sunday evening, and I continue here. I want to make it very clear that I have no intention of calling anybody out or pointing any fingers at anyone. I am sure that the gentleman who wrote the comment is a great guy, good brother in Christ who, like all of us from time-to-time simply made a mistake. The only thing I wish to do here is to use the argumentation as an example to show what sometimes causes us to make such mistakes in the hope that we can avoid them in the future. Because the comment is quite lengthy, I will only quote parts of it here, but you can view the entire comment at the bottom of the comment string after “Jesus is Our Role Model“.
The comment in question is making the following case:
“Which is the most important?
Jesus was asked twice, by two different men, the same basic question about which is the most important or greatest commandment in the Law. Here is how Jesus answered that question:
“One of the teachers of the law… asked him [Jesus],
‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]
…an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”
Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]
But in contrast with Jesus, Paul the Pharisee didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote:
“The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]
And again, Paul wrote:
“He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]
Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to
.1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and
.2) second, love people.
Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.
This is very similar to The Beatles- “All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love, Love, Love.” (In other words, the second commandment, the love of man, without the love of God. Love as me, myself and I define love to be, and continuously redefined by sinful men.)
In essence, it is also the same principle as what Eve did in the Garden of Eden, forgetting about the Tree of Life, which is the first tree in the middle of the Garden, and instead referring to the second tree as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” [Genesis 3:3 & 2:9 2:17, 3:24]
Kind of like the Pharisees with Jesus, who were pushing the false idea that we can consider ONE commandment in the Law, alone in isolation, to be “the greatest commandment in the Law.”
Or like today, false teachers in the Chrislam – Purpose Driven – Seeker Sensitive – Emergent – Liberal – Ecumenical – New Age – world church movement pushing the false idea that the ONE RULE is “Loving God and Neighbor together.”
The Lord God Jesus the Jewish Messiah, Son of Yahweh the Most High God of Israel, said:
“All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.”
Not one. TWO.
Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.” sic
In this structure, intended or not, the last line is the conclusion of the argument; it is the Thesis. The middle portion from the Beatles reference through the current people who have it all wrong is essentially irrelevant, and then he goes back to generating his thesis. These structures detract from a clear point, they are distractions. The real issue here is the last line: “Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.”
With all of the stuff being thrown at the wall so far, a reader may at first miss the fact that our author has committed theological suicide!
As a Christian, when you approach the Scriptures, do you hold the possibility, or even the likelihood that the Scriptures either contradict themselves or that they may be wrong as one of your assumptions? Our author has quoted both Jesus and Paul. Jesus did not write any of the gospels, in the case cited, He was quoted by Matthew. Both Matthew and Paul were Apostles who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and if they can be wrong while under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, there is no reliable book in the New Testament… and the atheists have been right all along; our faith is based upon a collection of old myths. Do you see why I say this is theological suicide?
In addition, such a false premise appears to negate the necessity to consider context, at least in this case. Jesus was answering a specific question. Paul is being quoted summing up his letter to the Galatians, which you will recall was written to condemn in the strongest terms the re-introduction of the Old Testament legal system into the church by those who taught (falsely) that a Gentile must first be circumcised a Jew before he can become a Christian. Paul asserts that the entire law can be summed up in “love your neighbor as yourself.” He was not asked “which is the greatest of the commandments. Think about it: Can anyone love their neighbor as themselves, without first loving God “with all they’ve got?” It would seem unlikely.
All of this is the result of a presupposition, that the Scriptures can either contradict themselves or contain errors. As a result, context simply becomes irrelevant. That is one major false premise, and may not even be held on a conscious level. This is why it is so important to become aware of our own presuppositions!
There is more to come, but this has become a bit lengthy, so I’ll finish up on Saturday afternoon: See you there!