The New Ad Hominem

Discussing topics such as politics or religion can often lead to arguments or heated debates. They usually become heated when one side of the discussion runs out of “ammunition.” When they can no longer defend a position with logic or reason, they turn to different tactics to shut down the debate.

Logical fallacies can keep people from coming to the correct conclusion in a debate. As with politics or religion, most people’s minds are about made up, and they do not care what kind of evidence or argument another person might bring. What starts out as quiet discussion can result in a fist fight.

Not being able to justify a position, one might bring up an ad hominem argument to end the debate. Ad hominem is a Latin phrase meaning “to the man.” It is a belief that the validity of the argument is based on the person making the argument. It is a type of smoke-screen to divert attention away from the merits of an argument.

In The Ultimate Proof of Creation (Master Books, 2010, pp. 119-120), author Dr, Jason Lisle points out two types of ad hominem arguments. One he calls the “circumstantial ad hominem.” A person simply holds a position because of circumstances. It would be like arguing over gasoline prices here in the Permian Basin. One side says that prices need to go down so people will not have to pay so much at the pump. The other side says that prices should go up so more people will have jobs. The other might argue, “You’re only for higher gas prices because you work in the oilfield.” That has nothing to do with the validity of a person arguing for higher gasoline prices. A similar argument would be like saying, “You’re only a Christian because you were raised in a Christian household. What if you had been raised in a Muslim household?” That does not have any effect on whether Christianity is true or not.

The second type of ad hominem is the abusive ad hominem argument. That is an attack against the character of the person making the argument, not against the argument itself. It is used many times to distract people from the issue at hand. This frequently occurs in political debates. Instead of focusing on the issues, candidates resort to mudslinging.

Rather than focusing on issues, you will see a word with –phobe or –phobic attached to it. If you disagree with someone on same-sex marriage, suddenly you become “homophobic.” If you are concerned about ISIS, you are “Islamophobic.” If you question Darwinism, others call you “flat-earther” rather than discuss the issues. These terms are not-so-slightly veiled insults used to stop the discussion of an issue. They are used to write you off and disallow your position without serious consideration.

The new ad hominem against Christianity is the word “judgmental.” Decades ago we would have said that anyone who stood their ground on an issue was a person of conviction or dedication. Now anyone who holds strongly to a religious belief such as one that says Jesus is the only way to God (His words, not mine. See John 14:6), is labeled as judgmental. Anyone who refuses to say that all religions teach the same things is judgmental. Anyone who compares religious teachings to the standards of the Bible is judgmental. Anyone who questions the doctrine of another preacher is judgmental.

People who do not believe in God or the Bible will usually rip Matthew 7:1 out of the Bible and misquote it. “Judge not!” they say. Then they follow that with: “Christians aren’t supposed to judge others.” They do not otherwise believe the Bible, but they will clobber others with it when it suits their purposes. Because most church-goers have no idea how to handle that fallacious argument, they keep their mouths closed and no longer stand up for what they believe in.

It may sting when unbelievers and non-church-going people use this type of argument to silence Christians. Where it really hurts is when church people use it against their pastor. When a person hears something from the pulpit they do not want to hear, rather than truly considering what the pastor said, they simply stop the argument by saying, “that’s judgmental.” (By the way, saying someone is judgmental is, in fact, being judgmental.) In effect, this new ad hominem “excuses” Christians from having to think critically. Even though they may never use the word “judgmental” out loud, they think it, thereby nullifying any debate on an issue they do not want to grapple with. It dismisses any unpleasantness from their minds.

As Christians we are called to stand up and “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). While you are defending your faith, do not let others shut you down with personal attacks of Judgmentalism or labeling you with some kind of phobia. Remind them to stick to the facts that deal with the issue at hand. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy: “and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Those times may become more frequent in the near future.

 

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THE DAY OF ATONEMENT

For anyone keeping up with dates, beginning Tuesday at sundown on September 22, 2015 is the Day of Atonement, also known as Yom Kippur, on the Jewish calendar. It is the holiest day of their year. Once a year on this date, the Jewish High Priest would perform a series of rituals before going into the Holiest Place of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. He would sprinkle blood from a bull over the Ark of the Covenant for his own sins. Then he would sprinkle the blood of a goat over it for the people’s sins. Another goat (the scapegoat) was set free to carry the sins away from the people of God.

Every year this served as a reminder of the sinfulness of the people and their need for a sacrifice for sins. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.” Jewish law required the sacrifice of an innocent animal without spot or blemish to atone for the sins of the people.

The concept of Substitutionary Atonement was known as far back as the time of Genesis. When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid in the bushes and made clothing out of leaves. God revealed their nakedness to them and took the lives of innocent animals to cover their nakedness. Innocent animals died to cover Adam and Eve’s sin.

Later in Genesis, God told Abram to take his son Isaac to a mountain that God would show him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. As Abram raised his hand to slay him, an angel stopped him. Nearby a ram had gotten stuck in a thicket. Abram took that ram and sacrificed it in Isaac’s place. That ram became a substitute for Isaac.

The Old Testament sacrificial system developed as a reminder of how seriously God takes sin. It cannot be atoned for without blood. The Bible says in Romans 6:23 “The wage of sin is death.” We cannot make up for our sin through good deeds as some sort of spiritual “community service.” No, we must die for our sin. That is the bad news.

Now, more bad news: “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews10:4). So if we must die for our sins if they are not atoned for, and the blood of innocent animals is not good enough either, what are we to do?

There is another sacrifice, which the Book of Hebrews was talking about. Jesus came to John the Baptist for baptism. John said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Another Innocent One came to die for the sins of mankind. Christ died in our place to pay for our sins. He became the perfect substitution for us. He provided complete atonement for our sins. God sacrificed his Son on the very mountain where he had told Abram to sacrifice his son. God did not ask Abram to do anything that God himself was not willing to do.

How do we receive that atonement? Is it be doing good deeds? Titus 3:5 says, “It is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 2:8-9 also says that it is not of works so that no one can boast about their accomplishment. Jesus said that anyone who hears his words and believes in the One who sent him has eternal life (See John 5:24).

No one was ever saved by Old Testament sacrifices. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness over 400 years before God gave Moses the sacrificial laws. Therefore Abram could not have been declared righteous based on his keeping of sacrifices. Paul wrote, “If righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21).

The Roman army destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. Since that time the Jewish people have had no altar to sacrifice on. Not only was the blood of bulls and goats insufficient to atone for our sins, there is no longer even a place to offer inferior sacrifices. But there is a perfect sacrifice.

The Good News is that Christ died in our place. He was substituted for us. He took our penalty. He paid the debt that we could never pay. A jailer in Philippi asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31).

It’s as simple as that. It’s not easy though, because it demands that you give your life completely over to Jesus. We become living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). Our lives become a daily sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise for what God has done for us in Christ. Now live your life in such a way that it shows your gratitude to God.

Are Christians Haters?

One accusation often thrown at Christians is that we are haters. Any time a Christian objects to an activity or behavior on moral grounds, the other person often slaps on the label “Hater” or “—ophobic.” Rather than focusing on the questionable behavior or action, the critic levels a personal attack. The critic would ask the question, “Would Jesus treat someone in such an unloving way?”

First, does your disagreeing with someone mean that you hate him or her? We can have plenty of disagreements about many things. Such might include personal tastes in music, fashion, movies, and food. We may even feel passionately about some of these things, but that doesn’t mean that we hate someone because they have different tastes. We can disagree about such things without damaging relationships. We can even hate some of the things that other people prefer.

But what if you have a loved one who was involved in some sort of dangerous behavior beyond just personal preference? If your loved one were addicted to drugs, could you not hate the addiction and still love your family member? What if you have a child who is rebellious? You may not love that behavior, but you still love the child. Hating an action does not equal hating the person who performs the action.

Second, are Christians commanded never to hate? If we are never to hate anything, does that mean all things are lovable? Romans 12:9 says, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” How can Christians determine what is evil and what is good without some amount of discernment or judgment? Paul says that we are to hate what is evil, not who is evil. Clearly we are to hate some things such as injustice, cruelty, greed, corruption, theft, murder, adultery, dishonesty, and all unrighteousness. No one would argue that those concepts are evil.

Now, how do we determine what is good and what is evil? That would involve some level of judgment, or discernment. No one would deny those things are evil. How do we determine good and evil? What is to be our standard? Popular opinion? Public vote? Some things which the Bible clearly condemns people today want to call simply a matter of preference. If you disagree with that preference, they label you a hater.

Even in the Old Testament, we find admonitions to hate what is evil. Amos 5:15 says, “Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate.” In ancient cities, the elders gathered at the gates of the city wall to render justice. There they met and discussed cases of mutual interest. The gate represented the seat of justice in that community. Many times in the Old Testament God warned people to practice a righteous judgment, and not to be swayed by bribes or corruption. For society to remain safe, the elders had to hate evil and love what was good, and thereby establish justice for all.

Did Jesus ever hate evil? In his first sermon that Jesus ever preached, he demanded repentance. In Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “repent and believe the good news!” When the men brought the woman taken in adultery in John 8. Jesus confronted her sin. After announcing he did not condemn her, he told her, “go and sin no more.” He expected her to repent and give up a life of sin. Certainly we could say that Jesus hates such things as injustice, dishonesty, greed, corruption, adultery, and unrighteousness.

Did Jesus ever demonstrate “hateful” behaviors toward others? Jesus overturned the tables of moneychangers in the Temple. In John 2:13-17, we find the story; “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Notice that he actually made a whip from nearby cords and used them to drive these men out of the temple courts. This was not nice or loving behavior. It was not politically correct behavior.

Also in Matthew 23, Jesus called the Pharisees some rather unloving names. Many times he called them “hypocrites.” He said unkind, yet true things about them. He called them “whitewashed tombs,” and a “brood of vipers.” Although what he said was not kind, it was accurate. He detested their behavior. They had polluted the Temple. He hated the evil and he clung to what was good.

Did Jesus hate those people? Did he hate the Roman soldiers who drove the spikes into his hands and feet? Did he hate the soldier who scourged him with a whip? Did he hate the people who laughed at him while on the cross? Did he hate the thief that ridiculed him from the cross? No, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He was able to distinguish between hating evil and loving people.

So when Christians disagree over moral issues found in the media today, that does not make us haters of people; but we are haters of evil. We hate what the Bible calls evil, even an abomination. That does not mean that we hate the people who practice those actions. Saying Jesus Christ is the only way to God does not mean that we hate those who practice other religions; we simply want them to be aware that by Jesus own words, they will not reach God. That’s not being judgmental, that’s not being hateful; that is simply pointing out what Jesus taught. Why expect less of Christians?

Amos 5:10 sums up a common feeling against Christians these days, “They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly.” Once being a Christian seemed popular and easy. It may not be so for much longer. Remember the admonition of Paul, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).