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Reasonable, but Wrong

Start wrong, you'll end wrong.

Wrong Reason (1)

Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Matthew 22.29

Why are these people upset?
In our day, rational, respectable people from just about every quarter are lashing out at Christians and the Christian faith.

Prominent scientists, literary critics, politicians, academicians, bloggers, pundits, activists, and everyday Joes are whacking away at the faith in books, seminars, films, TV programs, and everyday conversations. Some have even resorted to violence. Public officials seem unperturbed that their policies threaten the liberties of the followers of Jesus Christ. Those who believe the Gospel are held up to ridicule as bigoted, narrow-minded, racist, and out of touch with reality. And the numbers of those who hold such views appear to be growing.

Those leading the pack in this endeavor argue cogently and effectively for their views and against the teachings of Scripture. So compelling is their logic that many have been persuaded and are jumping on the bandwagon to bash the faith.

Why are these seemingly rational people so completely irritated with Jesus and the Gospel? Why are they working so hard to persuade others to join them in their unbelief?

The short answer is: They’re simply mistaken.

These folks who object to the Gospel, even to the point of seeking to curtail the liberties of those who hold it dear, are not, for the most part, wild-eyed crazies, shouting and yelling and ranting like madmen. They appear to be intelligent and reasonable people. They make clear points as they work their way through carefully reasoned arguments designed to justify their concerns about and objections to Christianity and the Christian worldview. They make perfectly good sense to themselves and others who agree with them. 

Wrong then, wrong now
But they’re mistaken, just like the religious leaders who confronted Jesus so long ago. Having rejected God, they have embraced the lie that says we can make sense of our lives apart from God.

Listen to the problem posed by the leading intellectuals of Jesus’ day: “The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: ‘Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman died also’” (Matt. 22.23-27).

Now that situation may have been a bit far-fetched. But they were simply exaggerating to make a point. The technique is called argumentum ad absurdum. The situation they posed may have been absurd, but it could have happened, whether or not it really did.

So far their argument seems perfectly logical. The Bible says this, here’s what happened, everything seems to have gone along just like the Bible said it should. But there was a problem, at least as these intellectuals saw it. But the problem was not with the Bible, and certainly not with their view of the Bible. The problem was with Jesus and His understanding of the Bible. In particular, the idea of a resurrection from the dead. To the Sadducees of Jesus’ day, this idea made no sense whatsoever; and they were sure they could support their rejection of this view with logic and reason.

Here was their objection: “‘Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her’” (v. 28). Now that seems like a fair question, no? It certainly appears to follow rationally from their premises and logic. They expected Jesus to answer that question, but they were quite confident He could not. They would finally have Him at last, trapped in His own silly words about some “resurrection from the dead,” when even the simplest problem of logic could show why such a thing cannot be.

But Jesus was unfazed. He didn’t falter for a second, nor did He think twice about reframing the debate to demonstrate the faultypremises and wrong reasoning of His detractors. These intellectuals were mistaken. They were simply wrong, and Jesus was prepared to spell out for them why this was so.

Consider the boldness of Jesus’ response: Here He was, an uncredentialed itinerate teacher, brought up in a carpenter’s home, telling the most learned and rational people of His day that their thinking was mistaken and they were wrong. And the situation in which we find ourselves is the same as this. God is true. His Word is true. And all who differ from or oppose Him are liars, to one degree or another.

The fact of the matter is that people today who oppose the Gospel are simply mistaken. They are sincere in their unbelief, and their arguments make perfect sense to them. But they’re mistaken, and part of our calling in this age in flight from God is to graciously, unflinchingly, and clearly demonstrate why this is so. Reason is working in them, but because their starting point is wrong – denying God and His Word – their conclusions must be wrong as well. 

On the side of reason
Does this require of us that we become something other than reasonable in our response? Not at all. If you want to help people see where they’ve gone wrong in their thinking, it will hardly help you to respond irrationally, insultingly, or without good reasons to support our view (1 Pet. 3.15).

God has called us to engage the thoughts, opinions, and worldviews of our contemporaries with the mind of Christ (2 Cor. 10.3-5), and we must remember that Christ is the Logos – the Reason, the Explanation – of God and all things. It would hardly suit our purposes or His to be anything other than completely rational in trying to help others see why their reasons and views are wrong.

Which is precisely what Jesus did, and what we must learn to do as well (Prov. 26.4, 5).

For reflection
1. What do we mean by “wrong reason”? How does reason go wrong?

2. What is the role of reason in helping others to understand the Christian faith and Christian worldview?

3. How qualified do you feel to engage in a reasoned discussion about the Christian worldview with an unbeliever? Why?

Next steps – Preparation: Can you think of some ways that the reasoning and conclusions of the thought leaders of our time are simply wrong? What makes them wrong?

T. M. Moore

You can download all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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