by Mike Ratliff
The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of “reasoning” has the following pattern:
1. Person A has position X.
2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
3. Person B attacks position Y.
4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.
Straw Man “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. The Straw Man Fallacy is a favorite weapon our enemy. It is always fallacious, but it can cause much confusion and, therefore, can be foundational in the development and support of heresies because it is a form of deception. Those professing Christians who use this from of argument may believe they are serving God with their attacks, but if a person’s argument contains this sort of fallacy then it is not of God. God does not need this sort of thing nor would He ever lead any of His people to use it.
I receive these types of attacks nearly every day. It can be very discouraging. However, as soon as I see the Straw Man fallacy within the attack, I know that I’m dealing with the deceiver. After all, is this battle really between people?
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:9-12 KJV)
I received a comment today on my post Dead to Sin Alive to God and Slaves to Righteousness. I will not reveal who it was from nor will I use all of the original text. However, here is the first few lines.
“Man you are in for a rude awakening. You think you know what you are talking about in your blind zeal from your own understanding which is man’s teaching and has NOTHING to do with MY LORD JESUS CHRIST THE SAVIOUR FOR THE WORLD (MANKIND) not your ARROGANCE from your own imagination.”
First off, that post was an exegetical look at real salvation and discipleship as taught by our Lord Jesus Christ along with a verse-by-verse study of Romans 6. What is Romans 6 all about? Verses 1-14 are Paul’s arguments for the fact that real salvation means a believer is immersed in the death of Christ and is, therefore, a new creation who is dead to sin and alive to God. Verses 15-23 shows the transformation of a lost person who is a slave to sin to a Born Again believer who is a slave to God or a slave to righteousness.
In that post I did not use any verbiage or arguments from any other teacher or writer. I used Holy Scripture alone. The attack from the commenter was that I am blind in my zeal from my understanding of man’s teaching and that what I exposited in that post has nothing to do with our Lord Jesus Christ. Really? Since I quoted our Lord verbatim from Matthew 16:24-26, simply repeating what He said there, I am at a loss to see how that has nothing to do with our Lord. Here are my own words from that post and the passage in question.
“Our salvation is an incredible gift by His grace. That is why it troubles me so when Christian leaders cheapen it with their man-focused, easy-believism. Easy-believism produces professing Christians who believe their salvation came as a result of something they did. I know this because I was one of them for nearly 20 years. If this is our mindset about our salvation, we believe that our walk as Christians is also totally dependent upon our will power. It is as if what the Bible teaches about regeneration is unheard of or at least completely misunderstood. Also, Jesus’ own words about the exclusivity of who are His disciples and who aren’t seems to be in code because few seem to grasp what He is saying.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26 KJV)
Easy-believism either colors over or totally ignores this passage. Jesus tells everyone that to be His disciple, he or she must deny self, take up their cross and follow Him. This speaks of dying to self. This is total submission and surrender to the Lordship of Christ.”
I must conclude that the one objecting to this part of my post must be an adherent of easy-believism or No Lordship salvation. However, I also must be careful here to not fall into the trap of building my own Straw Man to attack. Here is the next part of the comment.
“It amazes me that you can attack anything so you can reaffirm your false teaching’s and not follow the VOICE of GOD and HIS WORD. You better repent of your foolishness (TEACHING’S) and follow the LIVING LORD BY THE POWER OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT not the futile way of THINKING just like the PHARISEES who thought they were chosen TOO!!”
What am I being accused of here? I am attacking anything in an attempt to reaffirm my false teachings. I simply teach what the Bible teaches. I don’t add to it. I don’t take away from it. I use scripture to interpret scripture. If that is the basis for false teachings then I don’t know how anyone could be a real Bible teacher.
Let me give you a little background how I came to be an opponent of Easy-believism and all of the false teachings that go with it. In the early 1990’s a friend gave me John MacArthur’s book, The Gospel According to Jesus. In that exposition, MacArthur revealed the biblical fallacies of Easy Believism by comparing what its proponents taught with what the Bible says. Reading the book was the beginning of God drawing me out of the darkness of man-focused Christianity into a genuine biblical understanding of the Gospel. Since then I have refused to take any man’s version of the gospel for granted as being biblical without checking it out with what the Bible says first.
Now let’s look at the Straw Man argument here. This person’s accusation is that since I am teaching Lordship Salvation and backing that up with what the Bible says then I am not following the VOICE OF GOD and HIS WORD. The Straw Man argument is that if anyone teaches Lordship Salvation then they could not possibly be following the VOICE OF GOD and HIS WORD. This accusation was made with no scripture backing whatsoever. Also, this person accused me of, “THINKING just like the PHARISEES who thought they were chosen TOO!!” Where did that one come from? Election was not mentioned in that article at all so I must conclude here that this person believes that any teaching that is not Universalism is Pharisaical. Again, we must be careful to not build a Straw Man of our own here.
The next “argument” in the comment was this, “You do not see any where in scripture THE LORD goes out of HIS way to attack people to tell them they are wrong HE SHOWED THEM BY EXAMPLE even in the temple only the PHARISEES did that in their complete ARROGANCE thinking what they knew was more important than BEING HIS which is one day at a time “TODAY” NOT WHAT HAS NOT YET BEEN.”
Do you see the Straw Man here? He is saying that anyone who tells the truth about what people are doing that is unbiblical is arrogant and a Pharisee who believes that it is more important to know things than simply being His. This part of the argument really stung me for some reason. Do I do this? Am I guilty of teaching people that doctrine is more important than living a Holy life separate from the world that is in total submission to the Lordship of Christ in all things? It was by analyzing this statement and comparing it to what I really teach that God confirmed to me that this was an attack from the enemy. Why? I teach that we are to be Holy as we walk before the face of God as Spirit-filled believers. I do not go out of my way to attack anyone. I simply obey God in revealing false teachers as He leads me. I would prefer to disciple my Lord’s sheep than expose apostates and heretics, but it is a two-way street. Part of my role is to warn the sheep of the dangers of false teachers and preachers.
The last statement in this part of the argument confused me. I don’t really know where this person is going with the remark about being His which is one day at a time “Today” NOT WHAT HAS NOT YET BEEN. What does that mean? I can only speculate and if I go too far with that then I would, again, be falling into the trap of building my own Straw Man. No thanks.
Here is the last part of the argument, “This is not attack it is a warning hoping you will repent from your PRIDE NOT KNOWING JESUS CHRIST BUT THINKING YOU DO BY WHAT “YOU” BELIEVE HAVING A FORM OF GODLINESS BUT DENING THE POWER WHICH IS JESUS CHRIST ALONE!!! “TODAY” HE IS LORD!!! WITH LOVE BECAUSE OF JESUS CHRIST.”
Is this a Straw Man argument as well? Yes it is. If a person believes in Lordship Salvation then they don’t really know Jesus Christ but only think they do. They have a form of Godliness but deny the power… This is a Straw Man argument because I firmly believe that our salvation is by Grace through faith, it is a gift from God. God saves us; we do not save ourselves because we can’t. Am I guilty of believing and teaching that we are to be hypocrites who look good on the outside, but deny Christ on the inside? No! Read my articles and you will see the opposite is true. Do I deny that Jesus Christ is Lord? No, the opposite is true. What I teach is the evidence of what I really believe. However, it is my assurance by the work of the Holy Spirit in me that I know that I am regenerate.
This is just an example of the sort of “attacks” that I receive more times than I care to think about. My salvation is called into question along with my character. However, what we must do is not focus on this stuff, but know that God allows this and uses it to make us examine ourselves. I do that every time I am accused. By the way, who is the accuser of the brethren? In this exercise of self-examination I am assured, but I also find things within that I repent of and those things usually end up as the basis of a post. 🙂
Since this accusation is that I don’t really know Jesus as Lord and Saviour then I must examine myself as scripture commands. (2 Corinthians 13:5) Are there things within us that would reveal whether we really are saved or not? Is there a Biblical way we can discern if we are genuine believers or not?
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2Corinthians 13:5 KJV)
The following is a summary of a document by John MacArthur taken from the reference section of my John MacArthur Study Bible. The title of it is, “The Character of Genuine Saving Faith.” The document has two sections. The first section is titled, “Evidences that neither prove nor disprove one’s faith.” He lists seven things that cannot be used to prove or disprove whether a person is really a Christian or not. Here they are: Visible morality, intellectual knowledge, religious involvement active ministry, conviction of sin, assurance, and time of decision.
The next section is titled, “The fruit / proofs of authentic / true Christianity.” Here they are: Love for God, repentance from sin, genuine humility, devotion to God’s glory, continual prayer, selfless love, separation from the world, spiritual growth, and obedient living.
If the first list is true of a person and the second list is false, there is cause to question the validity of one’s profession of faith. However, if the second list is true, then the first list will be also.
I believe we should all examine ourselves like this periodically, especially when we are in the fire. Despite what the enemy is trying to do to this ministry, and me, I rejoice and praise God in the struggle because I know that all things work out for good for those who love God. Remember, only genuine believers really love Him and that love grows ever deeper and the fruit of that love is obedience.