Strange Reasonings

Jerry C. Ray
Irving, Texas

Clark Braden in The Problem of Problems gives a humorous illustration of a lawyer employed to defend a man accused of borrowing a kettle and refusing to return it. The lawyer in his opening remarks stated that he intended to prove: (1) that the plaintiff never had a kettle, (2) that the defendant never borrowed a kettle and that he had already returned the kettle, (4) that he had paid for the kettle, and (5) that kettle was worthless, and there was no loss to the paintiff.

This story of absurd inconsistency is amusing in the realm of fiction but grievous when found in reality. And yet such inconsistency is found in the reasoning and beliefs of many religious people.

"Faith Only"

The Discipline of the Methodist Church affirms that the belief "that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort" (1940 edition, page 70). Yet the people who endorse this creed will maintain (and rightly so) that one cannot be saved without true repentance and the love of God in one's heart. They will state that one cannot be saved without the blood of Christ and the grace of God. Now if salvation were by faith ONLY this would exclude anything and everything else as essential to salvation. If it is by faith ONLY it cannot be through and by anything else. They are arguing (1) The sinner is saved by faith ONLY, (2) The sinner cannot be saved without the grace of God, (3) The sinner cannot be saved without the blood of Christ, (4) The sinner cannot be saved without repentance, and (5) The sinner cannot be saved without the love of God in his heart. However, the Bible settles the question: "Ye see them how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24).

Instrumental Music

Many who advocate and use instrumental music in worshipping God will affirm that the instrument is simply an aid to worship; that it is on a par with the songbooks, lights, etc.; that it is generically authorized as an expedient under the command to sing or the command to worship. Then later they will argue that the instrument is specifically authorized in the Greek word "psallo" in Eph. 5:19, translated "making melody". If they are right in the first argument, they are wrong in the second. Something cannot be an an aid, thus optional, and at the same time authorized by specific authority, thus commanded of God. They are arguing that (1) the instrument is not authorized by specific authority, but by general authority in the realm of expediency, and (2) the instrument is specifically authorized and included in the command to "psallo" in Eph. 5:19.

Caring for Needy

Brethren in Christ sometimes argue just as inconsistently concerning caring for the needy. First it is argued that the church is commanded to practice "pure and undefiled religion" by the misuse of James 1:27 (which applies to individual, not congregational responsibility). Then it is argued that the church is not a home and therefore cannot "practice pure and undefiled religion." So the work is turned over to a human institution--an orphan asylum--so the human organization does the work for the church and the church can only send money. All the while these brethren strongly affirm their belief in the all-sufficiency of the church of the Lord.

They have shifted the work of "visiting the fatherless and widows" from the individual to the church in their misuse of the above mentioned passage. They then shift the work from the church to a human corporational child-care institution, and the reason given for this last step is that the church cannot do what God commanded it to do! (But the church in Jerusalem did not establish an Old Folks Home (a separate business corporation) to take care of the needy saints; they took care of them within the framework of the local church (Acts 6:1-6).

These brethren thus are arguing: (l) The church is commanded to "visit the fatherless and widows", (2) the church is all-sufficient to do the work God told it to do, (3) but the church cannot, under its own elders and within the framework of the local church, do the work of "visiting the fatherless and widows" that God told it to do. Well, there's that lawyer again!

Truth Magazine VII: 10, pp. 12-13
July 1963