What do people mean by the statement, “That’s just your interpretation”? Many mean: “You have your view of what the passage means and I have mine. Who’s to say mine’s wrong and yours is right? We should not condemn each other’s views. We should allow each other to hold different views.”
We live in a “pluralistic” society. “Pluralism” simply means that various differing, even conflicting, views are permitted to coexist. This attitude is quite prevalent in today’s world. Television talk shows constantly stress that there are no absolutes. Truth is subjective and relative to many people. They insist that there are very few, if any, definites—very little black and white, but a lot of gray.
The matter is muddled further by the fact that on any religious or moral question, there are knowledgeable, sincere authorities on both sides of the issue. The general posture of the American mindset is that since truth is so elusive, no one should be judgmental of anyone else; no one should be so arrogant or dogmatic as to insist that a certain viewpoint is the only right viewpoint.
Without even examining God’s Word, we ought to be able to see that this attitude, and this position, is self-contradictory and unacceptable. Why? Because those who espouse it insist that they are correct. They are dogmatic in their insistence that no one should be dogmatic. They hold as absolute and certain truth the fact that there are no absolute truths. Therefore, they have to deny their viewpoint in order to hold their viewpoint!
Only in religion do people take the foolish position that truth is elusive and unattainable. Only in the task of interpreting the Bible do people take the position that truth is relative, always changing, and something of which we can never be sure. We human beings often “reason” in religion in a way that differs from the way we reason in other facets of our lives—like driving our car or picking up our mail.
For example, when we go to the doctor because we are not feeling well, we communicate to him our symptoms and expect him to understand us. We expect him to gather all the relevant evidence (the verbal information we give, as well as the signs our bodies manifest) and then properly interpret that evidence to draw the right conclusions concerning our ailment and proper treatment. He then writes out a prescription that we take to the pharmacist and, once again, we expect the pharmacist to interpret properly the doctor’s instructions. We take the prescription home and read the label, fully expecting to understand the directions. The fact that doctors and pharmacists can make mistakes by drawing unwarranted conclusions about our condition does not change the fact that if they gather sufficient evidence and reason properly about the information, they can know the truth about our situation.
Every single day that we live, we interpret thousands of messages accurately. We read the newspaper, fully expecting to understand what we are reading. We read novels with the same expectation. We watch the news on television. We go to the mailbox, get our mail, and browse through it, fully expecting to interpret properly the messages being conveyed. The fact that misunderstanding sometimes occurs does not negate the fact that more information can be examined in order to draw the right conclusions and arrive at correct interpretations.
We go through this process constantly—every waking hour of the day, day in and day out, year after year. We give ourselves credit for having the ability to operate sensibly and communicate with one another intelligibly. Yet we turn right around and imply that the God of heaven, the One Who created our minds and our thinking capacity, the One Who is infinitely wiser and more capable than humans, is incapable of making His will known to humanity in a clear and understandable fashion! When we come to the Bible, we suddenly do an about-face and insist that we can’t be sure what God’s will is, we can’t be dogmatic on doctrine, and we must allow differing opinions on what is spiritually right or wrong!
Many people who claim to embrace Christianity ridicule and denounce logic, debate, argumentation, and emphasis upon being rational and reasonable. The practical effect of such propaganda is the upsurge of subjectivity, emotions, and personal taste as authoritative standards in religious practice. The Bible as the comprehensible and unchanging source of religious authority is thereby supplanted, and the Satanic severance of human culture from the God of heaven is complete.
The term “logic” refers to nothing more than correct reasoning. A person is logical when he/she reasons correctly. Being “illogical” amounts to engaging in incorrect reasoning. Does the Bible reflect affinity with the laws of thought and logic? Did Jesus, Paul, and other inspired speakers and writers argue their cases, prove their positions, and engage in rational, reasonable discourse? Please consider the following scripture references.
Jesus demonstrated incredible proclivity for rationality in His sharp, potent, penetrating use of logic and sound argumentation. His first recorded responsible activity consisted of a logical dialogue between Himself (at the age of twelve) and the Jewish theologians. Everyone was amazed at His understanding and answers (Luke 2:46-47). On the occasion of His baptism, He reasoned with John in order to convince John to go ahead and immerse Him (Matthew 3:13-15). He advanced a logical reason to justify the action!
Immediately after this incident, Jesus faced Satan in the desert. Satan posed three arguments, urging Christ to act on the basis of the erroneous reasoning that Satan set forth. Notice carefully the sequence of the disputation between the two, with special attention to Christ’s superior (i.e., accurate) use of logic to defeat His opponent.
MATTHEW 4:1-11 (NKJV)
Satan: “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
Jesus: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ ” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Christ offered authoritative Scripture as evidence to contradict Satan’s conclusion. In other words, satisfying the legitimate need of hunger never must take precedence over the need to obey God and tend to spiritual needs first.
Satan: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down.” This time, Satan offered Scripture (Psalm 91:11-12) as evidence to justify his proposal.
Jesus: “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:16). Jesus countered with additional Scripture that demonstrated Satan’s misapplication of Psalm 91 to the situation at hand. In other words, Psalm 91, though intended to convey the care and concern that God manifests for the faithful, was not intended to apply to deliberately placing oneself in peril in order to force God to come to one’s rescue. God will take care of me, yes. But if I purposely walk in front of an oncoming car just to see if God will miraculously prevent my being struck—I’ll be struck! In the context of Deuteronomy 6:16, God was referring to the kind of testing/tempting that the Israelites did when they murmured, grumbled, and challenged Moses to produce water—as if God were unable or unwilling. For Jesus to have complied with Satan’s challenge would have placed Jesus in the same condition as the weak, unbelieving Israelites who “strove with” (chided, tempted) God (cf. Exodus 17:2). The only logical response to such a challenge was the one that Jesus, in fact, mustered: “Do not tempt God! Do not put Him to the test since such indicates your own lack of faith!”
Satan: “All these things I will give you if You will fall down and worship me.”
Jesus: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord Your God, and Him only You shall serve.’ ” Jesus, for the third time, marshaled scriptural proof to show the falsity of Satan’s position, while reaffirming the Truth. In other words, based upon Deuteronomy 6:13, it would be sinful to worship Satan or anyone else except God. He alone is worthy of worship.
This marvelous demonstration of Christ’s mastery of debate and logical disputation is not an isolated instance. Jesus employed logic and reason throughout His earthly sojourn. He consistently responded to His contemporaries with piercing, devastating logic. He continually was besieged with questions and verbal tests to which He consistently displayed rational, reasoned response (Luke 11:53-54). Consider these few examples:
1. The exchange with the Pharisees over eating grain (Matthew 12:1-9).
2. The dialogue with the chief priests and elders over authority (Matthew 21:23-27).
3. The interaction with the Pharisees over taxes (Matthew 22:15-22).
4. The response to the Sadduccees concerning marriage and the resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33).
5. The argument posed to the Pharisees over the identity of the Messiah (Matthew 22:41-46).
6. The demonstrations of healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:14-16; 14:1-6).
7. The response to the lawyers concerning the source of His miraculous power (Luke 11:14-26).
8. The answer concerning fasting (Luke 5:33-39).
9. The handling of Simon’s disgruntled view of the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50).
10. The exchange with the Pharisees concerning His triumphal entry (Luke 19:39-40).
11. The comments upon the occasion of His arrest (Luke 22:47-53).
Jesus was so sensible and rational in His discourse that when hard-hearted Jews declared Him to be mad or demon-possessed, others countered: “These are not the words of one who has a demon” (John 10:21). Indeed, Jesus consistently provided evidence, even empirical evidence, to substantiate His claims (John 10:24-26,36-38). How could anyone possibly question the fact of Jesus’ consistent use of logic and correct reasoning? He was, and is, the Master Logician Who created the human mind to function rationally! His inspired disciples followed His example.
The apostle Paul was a master of logical argumentation in both oral and written proclamation. Shortly after his conversion, he entered upon a life-long career of debate and rational discourse. Examine carefully the terms that the Holy Spirit selected to describe Saul’s verbal activities:
“confounded” and “proving” (Acts 9:22)
“reasoned” (Acts 17:2)
“explaining and demonstrating” (Acts 17:3)
“reasoned” (Acts 17:17)
“reasoned” and “persuaded” (Acts 18:4)
“reasoning and persuading” (Acts 19:8)
“explained and testified” and “persuading” (Acts 28:23).
These terms all connote rational, logical activity! Paul’s magnificent defense of the resurrection was couched, by inspiration, in logical thought forms. Identified in formal logic as a series of hypothetical propositions (“If...then...”), Paul carefully brings the reader to the irresistible conclusion that “Christ is risen from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:12-20).
How typical of Spirit-inspired writers! When Paul charged Titus with seeing to the appointment of qualified bishops on the island of Crete, he noted that elders must “be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). Elders must be debaters who can refute false teachers! No wonder that, when Festus accused Paul of being crazy, Paul coolly countered: “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak the words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25). Paul was answering the charge of insanity by arguing that his words were sensible, logical, and reasonable! Compare the same word in its verb form (sophroneo), used to refer to the demoniac after the expulsion of the demons, rendered “in his right mind” (Mark 5:15).
Luke engaged in the same sort of rational enterprise. He wrote both his gospel and Acts that Theophilus and subsequent readers might “know the certainty” (Luke 1:4), and to identify “proofs” (Acts 1:3) for the purpose of convincing. These terms connote rational activity! Apollos, likewise, employed logic and reasonable discourse. Study the terms that are used to describe his verbal activity—“vigorously refuted” and “showing from the Scriptures” (Acts 18:28). Peter followed the same logical approach to his religious work. On the momentous occasion of the establishment of the church of Christ in Acts 2, Peter advanced four lines of argumentation, meticulously based upon scriptural evidence, in order to drive at the conclusion: “Therefore...” (Acts 2:36).
The reader is urged to pause and read the following passages: Proverbs 14:15; Isaiah 1:18; Acts 17:11; Philippians 1:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:15,25; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 4:1; Jude 3. These passages demand rational, logical, cognitive activity! They, in fact, make absolutely no sense if attention to logic is unimportant to God or unnecessary!
We must not succumb to the humanistic hurricane that is assaulting our country. With this destructive storm have come the winds and waves of existentialism and pentecostalism. These violent and damaging forces have seeped into the church of our Lord. We must awaken out of our slumber and do all that we can to salvage and save all who will manifest receptivity to the reasonable truths of our God. Now, more than ever before in recent history, we must remain unwavering in our proclamation of “words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25). We must understand that living the Christian life means living a rational life.