Avoid Arguments that Bite Back

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For quite a while now, I’ve been feeling the need to say something about this, but have held myself back. I’ve noticed a tendency for Christians to say just about anything in order to get others to admit that they are wrong in their worldview, but in doing so, they’ve thrown an argument out there that would cause that very same person to question the validity of the Christian worldview.

Let me give you a few examples before we dive into the argument that sent me over the tipping point yesterday:

1) Attacking the character or moral failures of a key leader in a religious movement as proof that they could not be a true prophet and the religion they founded is false.

– Yes, it is true that Buddha left his wife and child to begin his quest for enlightenment and never went back once he found enlightenment. Yes, it is true that Joseph Smith had 34 wives (about) and some of these were teenagers, some had living husbands, some were even mother/daughter or sister/sister pairings. … But, one doesn’t have to turn far in their Bibles before realizing that Noah got drunk, David committed adultery, several key figures were polygamists. In fact, one of the reasons I believe we can trust the Bible is because it is honest about the failures of its heroes. They are real people who made real mistakes and suffered real consequences for their actions. … So it is a fallacy to say that we can point to the moral character of the religious founder or leader to prove their religion false. That same argumentation would discount almost every single prophet and cause us to abandon several core beliefs as Christians.

2) Using Revelation 22:18-19 to immediately discount any scripture written after Revelation or not included in the canon of Scripture we know (as Protestants) as the 66 books of the Bible. Here’s what Revelation 22:18-19 says:

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

– I remember giving this argument to an LDS missionary once, and I never gave it again. Why? Because they immediately replied with this:

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32)

You may not realize this, but there are several verses spread throughout the Bible commanding us not to add to or take away from the words of Scripture. Deuteronomy is just one example. So, in other words, if we use the same logic in Deuteronomy as most Christians use in relation to Revelation verses, anything written after Deuteronomy would have to be thrown out as “adding” to God’s word. It is also believed by many that John wrote his gospel and epistles after Revelation, which would mean that John added to his own words under this logic.

Instead, if one wants to use these verses, the argument should be that we are not to contradict what God has already revealed through previous Scripture. This would allow us to examine the Koran, Book of Mormon or the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and Ellen G. White in light of previously revealed Scripture and ask whether or not they match up. If you want to watch, listen to, or read an example of using Jesus’ teachings to critique the teachings of the LDS church, click here. 

3) Okay, so here’s the argument that tipped me over the edge yesterday, and this is actually a caving in to pressures coming from the outside in regard to the Trinity. In trying to discredit the Trinity, the oneness Pentecostals, as well as some other groups, have claimed for quite some time that the Trinitarian baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19 was not in the original version of Matthew’s gospel. There are Christians who have given in to this argument and agreed that Matthew 28:19 was added to by scribes after the council of Nicea to popularize the new teaching of the Trinity.

– In doing some prep work for an upcoming sermon on Matthew 28:18-20, I encountered this claim yet again, so I did some homework. I want to say thank you to my friends over at the New Testament Textual Criticism facebook group who confirmed my findings.

It turns out that there are zero manuscripts that give any other version of Matthew 28:19 than what we currently have in our Bibles. Their argument completely revolves around the fact that we never see anybody baptize using the Trinitarian formula in Matthew 28:19. There are several ways of resolving this issue that I won’t go in to here.

Their other argument is to cite the church father Eusebius who “sometimes” changed the rendering of this verse. The problem is that Eusebius didn’t always change the verse, and when he did, baptism wasn’t even mentioned. This argument also neglects to mention that several other early church fathers (earlier than Eusebius even) quote Matthew 28:19 in the form we have it today. All of this was well before the Council of Nicea by the way.

What I want to address is the idea that we can base what we “think” should be the original text of the Bible with absolutely no manuscript evidence to support that idea. What I want those Christians who feel this is legitimate to know is that they have just placed textual criticism of the Bible on the same level as the Book of Mormon (that has zero manuscript evidence), the additions and edits made in the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible (that has zero manuscript evidence), as well as the argument presented in 1 Nephi 13:40 of the Book of Mormon that many “plain and precious truths” were removed from the New Testament after the death of the apostles, causing the “true church” and “priesthood authority” to be removed from the earth until later restored by Joseph Smith.

The idea that a change could be made, either a removal or addition, to Scripture, without one manuscript evidencing the original version, is ridiculous for this reason:

Can you imagine the work that would go into tracking down every single manuscript copy in a church that was persecuted and in many cases had gone underground, making changes to every copy in a way that would not look like changes had been made (remember, no computers or copy machines, not even a printing press), without anybody knowing that this was done and telling the true story about what happened, or re-creating the correct version of the manuscripts to preserve true doctrine?

If you believe this could have happened with Matthew 28:19, then you have to concede that its at least possible that it happened elsewhere in the New Testament, that the claim of the Book of Mormon is correct, and that our Bible, in its current form, cannot be trusted.

Avoid arguments that bite back!

Here’s a simple key to avoiding this. Stick to the core issues. Stick to what is solid. Stick to talking about Jesus, grace and the gospel, giving evidence to back yourself up when needed, and you’ll be fine.

Remember, we no more need to defend Jesus than we do a lion. We just need to let Him out of His cage.