How To Lose Credibility
It is common enough that it is worth the time to address — rhetorical strawmen.
“A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument which was not advanced by that opponent.”
As I was listening to a speaker this morning, I was again reminded of how dis-ingenious a speaker can sound (he may not be disingenuous, but he can sound duplicitous and/or even dishonest).
When a speaker knocks down straw men, erects sham characterizations, uses “weasel words,” and/or builds a case for his/her position which relies on unfair representation, they lose all credibility with me as a listener. The longer I listened, the more disenchanted with and distrusting of the speaker I became!
Perhaps I am being unfair and too critical. You will have to be the judge at the end. You may agree or disagree, but listen to the clip before you jump to the bottom and see who is speaking.
Here is the link to this transcribed clip as cited below (and the link to the full message).
(@6:23 Minute mark of full message – or link to this clip)
Paul was coming to a church in which many of the members were living like carnal men.
They were living like lost men.
Nowhere in this text is Paul just assume that they are all saved — they’re just not living like it.
Paul comes to them and this is a weighty matter for him.
You’re not living as Christians — which means you just might not be Christian.
In the United States of America, we have developed a doctrine
it’s the doctrine of the continuously carnal Christian
that a man can truly be a believer and yet live his entire life without growing in holiness or growing in a passion for God.
And I want you to know that’s a modern day invention of the American evangelical church and it’s not found in Scripture and nor is it found in church history.
Look what we have done!
We are preaching false doctrine!
We have taken the gospel of Jesus Christ and reduced it down to four spiritual laws or five things God wants you to know.
And if we can get someone to say “yes” to every one of four questions then, in the end, we pronounce them born-again.
And that’s why we have what we have out there in the streets – today
First of all, I am sure you might find “someone” — but I think you would have to search far and wide to find a Bible-believing pastor who believes or teaches
“that a man can truly be a believer and yet live his entire life without growing in holiness or growing in a passion for God.”
who holds the so-called “doctrine of the continuously carnal Christian?”
who would so trivialize or minimize the message of the Gospel so as to believe and teach that answering “yes” to four or five questions makes a man born-again?
that such men believe that they can “pronounce anyone born-again” — as if such men think that salvation is like “the knighting of a squire.”**
There are far too many examples of this same flawed rhetorical technique throughout the message for me to believe that the message is anything other than manipulation. Whether one can find an example of what he is attacking does not justify a message which relies on erecting and then attacking a straw man. The inconsistencies, overstatements, mischaracterizations, and skewed examples eat away at the credibility of a speaker.
It is disconcerting to listen to men who preach and teach the Bible, who employ such fallacious and manipulative arguments (and are perhaps even dishonest, if they know and understand what they are doing).
I imagine that one can find some “men in the ministry,” primarily in the liberal elements of Christendom, who might exemplify some of the characterizations laid out in this message, but not among actual Bible-believing ministries.
Again — (@7:53)
and then when most of these guys die
after spending a lifetime of selling drugs — living in carnality — alcoholism — fornication — whatever
spending a lifetime doing those things
they will get a Christian burial from a pastor who will declare to all their friends he’s going to heaven because when he was nine years old, he prayed a prayer and asked Jesus to come into his heart
Is that not true?
Really! That is how Bible-believing pastors and churches act and think? At a funeral, they declare drug dealers, alcoholics, womanizers as heaven bound? Really? That characterizes evangelists and pastors?
Merely because one can find extreme examples within any group of people (even in the Paul Washer camp of followers) does not mean that is representative of that group.
Such depictions eat away at one’s credibility!
Again — (@21:47)
How many times have I heard evangelist say — It’ll only take five minutes.
No, my dear friend – it’ll take your life – all of it
How unfair to characterize an evangelist as saying that being a Christian is only about five minutes of your life or that they believe that it will not take your life, all of it!
If you listen to the whole message, the examples only pile up and reveal how dishonest, unfair, and extreme the straw man characterizations are. Regretfully, I must say that at times it approaches disingenuous and even dishonesty!***
Such strawmen eat away at one’s honesty!
* This is a message by Paul Washer titled “Paul Washer Preaching To Reformed Rappers” – youtube link
** I well understand that there are some men in the ministry who have watered-down the Gospel in every generation. They range from those who are universalists and teach that all men are the recipients of God’s grace, to those who teach a Gospel that does not include holy living.
Nevertheless, the failure to teach a holy life-style and the failure of some to live a holy life-style does not mean one is not saved. It may mean that one has not been properly taught and/or grown in God’s grace (i.e., “righteous Lot”).
*** Another example of such characterizations: @19:50
In one case, he is willing to spend three days explaining to a lost man the truths of the Gospel (@31:00) and then in another account, he tells a woman (@35:33) to go home and pray until she prays through.
In another portion, he disdains having men understand that they are sinners (@10:33), while later on, he uses those very words in leading others to Christ.
He states that he literally hates church signs that speak of Jesus as a key to heaven (@16:00). How about Jesus as a “gate.”
Note: Also, preach this message with the thief on the cross in the audience. Explain the working of the Gospel in the heart to the 3,000 and 5,000 men who were saved, as recorded in the book of Acts.