Hiding Behind the Truth
by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: II Corinthians 4:1-6
I. One basic principle of logic is that if you start with a false idea, you can prove anything
A. False doctrine could be justified if you started with a false idea as evidence
1. Premise: Presidents of the United States must be younger than 35
2. Premise: Joe is President of the United States
3. Conclusion: Joe must be younger than 35
4. The logic is correct, but the conclusion is wrong because the premise is wrong
B. On the other side of the coin, I could use false idea and just happen to prove a truth.
1. Premise: Weathermen get their predictions wrong
2. Premise: The weatherman says it is going to rain tomorrow
3. Conclusion: It won’t rain tomorrow
4. The falsehood is that weathermen are not always wrong. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, this doesn’t prove that weathermen are always wrong.
5. In fact, because of the false premise, you can’t conclude whether it will rain or not.
C. Therefore, if you desire to prove the truth, you can’t use any means possible. The end does not justify the means used.
D. Truth must be used to persuade others of the truth - I Thessalonians 2:3-4
II. Misusing the Truth
A. Pulling a passage out of its context
1. Using Jesus’ temptation as an example - Matthew 4:5-7
a. Satan quoted the Bible and the Bible is the truth - John 17:17
b. But his use of the passage was in conflict with the greater context of the Bible, which Jesus showed by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16
c. Satan’s use of the Scriptures contradicted what God said elsewhere, therefore Satan’s claim was false.
2. Paul was accused of not being an apostle
a. Premise: Apostles are supported by those they teach - I Corinthians 9:9-11
b. Premise: Paul did not receive support from the local church
c. Conclusion: Paul is not an apostle
d. But the first premise is not a requirement - II Corinthians 11:5-13
B. Citing only favorable evidence
1. Those who advocate salvation by faith alone will cite numerous passages that say you must believe to be saved.
2. What they avoid are all the passages that mention other things connected to salvation, such as Acts 2:38
3. Truth is in the whole, not the part - Psalms 119:160
4. When someone uses only a portion of the Bible, it gives the impression of credence when the reality is that the Truth is being mishandled
C. Counting on the laziness of the audience
1. The Bereans were called noble-minded because they search the Bible to check that Paul’s claims were true - Acts 17:10-11
2. Some false teachers will make a series of assertions but only justify a portion of their claims
a. The natural tendency is to assume that if part of the claims are true then the rest of it must also be true
3. Example from the Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 5:43
a. I hear people say that the Old Testament teaches hate while the New Testament teaches love
b. But the Old and New Testaments are from the same God
c. The Old Law did teach that you should love your neighbor - Leviticus 19:18
d. But it did not teach people to hate their enemies. Actually, it taught the opposite - Leviticus 19:17
e. Even foreigners were to be loved - Leviticus 19:34
f. The treatment of enemies - Exodus 23:4-5 and Proverbs 25:21-22
4. Similar is to give so much “proof” that your audience is overwhelmed
a. The Jehovah’s Witnesses material is loaded with Scripture citations.
b. So much that few bother to look up the verses.
c. But if you did, you will often find that the verses cited have little or nothing to do with the arguments that they are presenting
5. Beware of preachers who cite passages without actually turning to them and reading them
a. It is far too easy to interject a falsehood
III. Insufficient Evidence
A. Only one witness
1. Jesus never lied - John 8:13-14
2. But arguing from insufficient evidence does not establish truth - John 5:31
3. That is why there has always been a requirement for multiple witnesses - Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16
4. Unfortunately if a statement is juicy enough to shock the hearer, people will ignore this requirement.
5. It doesn’t matter how honest the witness, one witness is not enough
B. Anecdotal evidence
1. This is when arguments are made from personal experience and not from research
a. Ad: “Susan in Grand Island, Michigan, says, ‘I took X and my life has never been better!’”
b. How do you get a hold of Susan to see if that is what she really said?
c. How do you know that it was X that caused the change and not something else?
2. Believers in modern-day miracles rely on the same anecdotal evidence. “I was feeling ill, so-and-so prayed over me, and I got better.”
a. Was the improvement due to prayer by this person or something else?
C. Third-hand evidence
1. I once asked a man if he had proof that miracles were happening today. He told me that a friend of his had seen a man drink a cup of coffee that he was told had poison in it because the man’s wife was trying to get rid of him, and he didn’t suffer any ill effects!
2. How can this story be verified?
a. Did the man actually exist?
b. Was the coffee actually poisoned?
3. Another man told me he prayed for a man in India to be healed of blindness and his prayer was answered
a. The problem is that the man did not know if the man in India was actually blind
b. He doesn’t know the man, he was only told that the man was now healed
4. Notice the many opportunities for fraud to be committed
5. Compare this to the miracles recorded in the Bible
a. If a person involved wanted to commit fraud, how would it be done?
b. There are too many independent people involved
c. Evidence that the miracle took place was verified by multiple sources – often by people who had no reason to expect or want a miracle
d. Example: The healing of the paralytic - Mark 2:1-12
(1) Large crowd
(2) Hostile witnesses
(3) Friends who knew the man
(4) Extra evidence - Answering people’s thoughts
D. How many so-called miracles today have sufficient verifiable evidence?
IV. Throwing out the baby
A. A bad argument doesn’t prove an idea to be true.
1. However, a bad argument doesn’t imply that the idea is false
2. A bad argument is just a bad argument
3. Something could still be true despite a person’s bad argument
B. Our natural tendency is to reject everything if a portion is wrong
1. For example, if someone, who is involved in denominational beliefs, writes a book on handling money
a. The person may quote Scriptures and misuse many of them
b. Does this mean the person’s ideas are bad?
c. Not necessarily. It just means that they don’t know how to properly support their points
d. And they may still have a few good points and arguments buried in the bad
2. Because a person holds an incorrect view on one topic, we should not treat him as if everything he says is false
a. Example: I know a man who held a false position concerning God’s covenants. He happened to run across evidence of fraud being perpetuate in the churches in another country. Almost no one would look at the evidence he gathered because of his stand on an unrelated matter. As a result, the fraud continued for many years. His false belief did not imply he was dishonest.
C. Strawman Arguments
1. You see this often in politics. One politician will accuse his opponent of taking a controversial stand. They then prove the stand is wrong (a truth). But what is left out is any proof that their opponent actual holds the controversial stand.
2. This is how people fought against Christianity - Romans 3:3-8
a. Just because a person, who should have known better, is found to be unfaithful; his unfaithfulness does not change the truth about the faithfulness of God
b. Paul had to deal with being accused of saying, “Let us do evil that good may come.” (A strawman argument.) It was not a position that Paul held.
3. The riot in Thessalonica - Acts 17:5-8
a. In the middle of the Jews’ accusations is the claim that the Christians were “all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar.”
b. It was false (Romans 13:1), but most people forget that an accusation is not proof.
V. Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right
A. Because someone does me wrong, it is not justification to return evil - Romans 12:19-21
B. Some use it to justify sin
1. Because brother X smokes cigarettes, bother Y sees nothing wrong if he takes a drink or two. Brother Z then feels justified to use drugs recreationally because it is no worse than what brother Y is doing.
2. This is why sin spreads - I Corinthians 5:6
3. The good or bad behavior of another person is not proof that a certain action is right or wrong.
C. It can even be over things that are not directly wrong in itself
1. Someone might see a brother eating meat that came from an idol’s temple and come to the wrong conclusion that idolatry is not wrong - I Corinthians 8:1-12; 10:19-24
2. They might begin a practice that they are not fully convinced is right - Romans 14:19-23
VI. The End Doesn’t Justify the Means
A. Commonly people conclude that if we arrive at the truth, then the means used to arrive at the truth must also be correct
1. It is good to follow Jesus. So the denominations decide to streamline converting someone by telling them that they just need to pray a sinner’s prayer to Jesus to be saved.
2. If you ask for proof that praying a sinner’s prayer saves a person, you are asked how such a good thing can be wrong?
B. Paul had people arguing that since God’s grace will cover any sin that I might commit, then I should sin big-time so that God’s grace might be further demonstrated - Romans 5:20-6:23
C. As Paul said, the claim is false - Romans 3:8
VII. In each of our examples, truth was present but never wholly.
A. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from thinking clearly.
B. The wicked will use the truth as a cover - II Corinthians 11:13-15