Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why I Don’t Argue Evidence Anymore

The Bible is filled with appeals to evidence. God has given signs and wonders since the beginning to mark His revelation and to establish evidence of His authority. In the exodus of Israel, God performed some amazing things for Israel to experience. As they failed His expectations time and again, the subsequent wilderness wanderings were peppered with reminders of how God miraculously delivered them. In the Psalms, there are countless observations of God’s work in creation.

Jesus’ teaching was filled with evidence intended to encourage people of faith. Interestingly, the same evidence evoked a different response from those who lacked faith. The very presence of the Bible is evidence of the revelation of God it contains. It contains accounts of its own writing and its effect on people at different stages of its writing. It is part of the history that it records and we can see how different people have reacted differently to it as evidence of its veracity.

So evidence is important, but evidence never convinces on its own. The reason is that evidence is apprehended differently by different people based on their presuppositions.

Parenthetically, even arguing presuppositions is often pointless. The reason is because of what I have discussed recently regarding the dual nature of theistic epistemology. Lacking the Holy Spirit, making sense of the world is fraught with frustration for those who care to think about it. That’s why many challenge and contend for a pointless existence. In some way, they sense their own pointlessness and are irritated by it. Why even argue if what they say is true? It would be better to let sleeping dogs lie and go find somewhere to be blissfully happy until their inevitable demise. Yet they spend countless hours fretting about it and bothering people who seem to have the peace of mind they lack.

My current MO for dealing with people like this was illustrated recently on Justin Taylor’s blog. I won’t repost anything I wrote there. Just follow the link if you’re interested. Jay, apparently an atheist, made a blanket challenge for evidence and claimed that no evidence was sufficient. I responded enough to point out and illustrate that his problem was a faulty presupposition. That’s not really the core presuppositional argument, but it’s designed to make someone who is really interested in truth question their own presuppositions for flaws.

I did what I usually do at that point and exchanged enough to see if Jay would show signs of enough intellectual honesty to have a fruitful dialog. Two people in a discussion can only grow if both are honest enough intellectually. Usually, people like Jay will not question himself and seek to grow in the exchange, despite his challenge. The challenge is merely a pretense for verbally expressing the angst of a pointless case.

I did say something I’d like to elaborate on here. Children often cling to what respected authorities say unquestioningly among their peers. So a typical children’s argument might go like this:

                “My dad says….”
                “Oh yeah? Well my dad says…”
                “That’s stupid!”

So children grow up and their dad’s lessons are replaced with the likes of various books, professors, pastors, news media, celebrities or peers who appear authoritative by virtue of their insistent assertiveness. Now grown up these same children will draw on the authorities they know as they once did on people like their dads. These are the basis of the average person’s presuppositions. Inherent in assertions is an unmentioned authority as though to say, “Oh yeah? Well my dad said…”

Unless one is willing to address one’s presuppositions, the effect of any resulting argument is no different than the child’s argument above. I’m of the mind that it’s most fruitful not to allow a childish debate to continue, but to cut to the chase and ask people to question their true motives. If they will, then the discussion can continue. If they won’t be honest about it, the discussion should be over.

It’s also good to throw in a quick presentation of the gospel. No telling who is paying attention or if the Holy Spirit will see fit to use it at that time.


  1. Jim - I apologize for posting this here. Tried posting it at Justin Taylors Blog. It doesn’t post there.
    It seems they might NOT appreciated this perspective on “Celebrity Pastors.”
    I already had this written. If you do NOT care to continue the discussion I’ll understand.

    After reading your post here - Would you consider our disagreements similar to your post?


    Jim Pemberton

    Thank you for the pleasant response.

    You write...
    “However, your comment seemed to indicate that pastors in general
    are somehow biblicaly illegitimate.”

    That’s pretty close - From my research I would add - “Today’s Pastors,” are “biblicaly illegitimate.”
    Because NO shepherd in the Bible - Had the “Title” Pastor - Or - Were called Pastor.

    Jesus warned us about making “the word of God” of “non effect” through our traditions; Yes?

    Mark 7:13 KJV - Making the word of God of **none effect** through your tradition...
    Mark 7:13 ASV - Making **void** the word of God by your tradition...
    Mark 7:13 NIV - Thus you **nullify** the word of God by your tradition...

    IMO - Those who, “Today,” have the “Title/Position” of “Pastor/Reverend/Leader”
    Are in bondage to the “Traditions of Men” and are NOT able to see what is in the scriptures.

    When I was ordained - (Yes, I was on my way to having a “Title.” I was in “Leadership.” Oy Vey! )
    I began searching for what a “Pastor/Leader” does **Today**... in the Bible,
    I had a very rude awakening. In the Bible I found almost nothing of what Pastors do today...

    NO - Pastors - in Pulpits - Preaching - to People - in Pews.
    ........ When folks come together, every one has a psalm, has a doctrine,
    ........ has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. 1 Cor 14:26.
    ........ Every one can, and is expected to, participate. NOT listen to just one.
    ........ The Pastor in a pulpit model creates spectators in the pews.
    ........ And now Today’s Pastor is responsible for many things NOT found in the Bible.
    NO - Pastors, as CEO’s of 501 (c) 3, non-profit, tax deductible, Religious corporations.
    NO “disciple of Christ” “calling” another brethren - Pastor, or “My” Pastor.
    NO “disciple of Christ” “calling” them self - Pastor or Leader.
    ........”ALL” disciples called themselves “Servants of Christ.” Hmmm?
    NO “disciple of Christ” having the “Title”or “Position” - “Pastor/Leader.”
    ........ Today that “Title” is written on - Diploma's on walls, business cards,
    ........ office doors, Sunday morning bulletin, street signs, and more.
    ........ And everyone knows who the “Pastor/Leader” is. Why?
    ........ Jesus, as man, humbled Himself, made Himself of NO reputation,
    ......... took on the form of a “Servant.” Could that “Title” be an “Idol?”
    NO “disciple of Christ” “Exercising Authority” over another believer.
    ........ I was taught; You submit to me, NOW, your “God Ordained Authority,”
    ........ And, one day, when you’re a Pastor, people will submit to you. :-(
    ........ Power, Profit, and Prestige, is highly esteemed among men. Guilty as charged. Oy Vey!
    NO - Pastors, separating themselves from the body, as a “Special Clergy Class.”
    NO - Pastors hired, or fired.
    NO - Pastors counseling anyone.
    NO - Pastors marrying anyone.
    NO - Pastors burying anyone.
    NO - Pastors visiting the sick.
    NO - Pastors wearing special clothes.
    NO - Pastors going from one congregation to another. What’s up with that?
    ...... Elders, plural, matured within the group, when, if, appointed, they were known.
    ...... Today - Pastors, Paid, Professional, are hired, and fired, NOT really known.

    And the list goes on...

    Could this be why the “Burnout’ rate for Pastor/Leaders is so high today?
    Most of what “Titled” Pastor/Reverends are expected to do “Today” is - “biblicaly illegitimate.”

  2. Given that you tried to post at JT’s blog and had problems and felt strongly enough to look me up over here on my blog and post, I’ll honor the issue that you take with a response. I think it’s a discussion worth having. I try to be pleasant and I see you respond in kind. Thank you very much.

    Also, my response is a little long, so I'll have to break it up into a few different comments.

    Before I address more specifically what you wrote, I’ll make the observation that ordination of pastors isn’t a biblical concept. Ordination of priests in the OT is a biblical concept. I don’t think NT pastors were intended to replace priests. As it is, we have Christ who is the priest (Heb 7:23-24). Likewise, as His faithful we are the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:5-9) just for being Christians. Christ Himself made the sacrifice for the ordination.

    Ordination probably came from the Christianization of the Roman Empire. As people were supposed to stop worshipping false gods and worship the Christian God alone, many of the forms of worship they were familiar with in worshipping pagan gods was adopted. Priests of pagan gods had been consecrated as such and the Christian scriptures were consulted for some equivalent position. The OT priest was the model they went for. This is perhaps the original reason why only priests are supposed to handle sacraments like the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic tradition.

    The concept of pastor in the minds of the people in Jesus’ time would more likely be that of the local rabbi. Rabbis would read the scripture and preach in synagogue. Songs would be sung. Classes would be conducted in a room just outside the main part of the synagogue. Children would come to learn the scriptures. Those who had interest in learning more or who exhibited a greater wisdom would be called aside for more in-depth instruction. Of these one would be called to follow the rabbi around and learn to become the next rabbi.

    So what use is the ordination of pastors today in protestant churches? In Western culture, we look for a leader. Indeed, church leadership is a biblical concept. That’s why Paul’s letters to Timothy are important. Now, the liturgical churches follow closely to the RCC pattern of sacramentalism. Non-liturgical churches like my Southern Baptist church look for spiritual direction from a pastor. It follows the Western pattern of the leader of an organization. “This is our church and our pastor is our leader,” along with the deacons or elders, of course, who are like the board of directors. And the model seems to fit what Paul wrote to a large extent. However, what do we do when our pastor leaves or retires and we haven’t bothered to raise up someone to take his place? We go looking for someone at large who is qualified. But it’s an important decision in this model. If the church finds someone who is ordained, then there is at least some seal of approval that the denomination has given this person. In my mind, that’s the extent of the usefulness of what we call “ordination”.

  3. Now, on to some of the specifics you mentioned.

    “NO shepherd in the Bible - Had the “Title” Pastor - Or - Were called Pastor”

    I think the issue you have here is with the “title”. Titles are useful for designation. The head honcho of the place I work has the title “CEO”. My boss is the “Plant Manager” of my plant. I’m the “Production Controller”. The title gives some indication of what someone does. If you know that every company has a CEO, then you can walk into the lobby and ask to speak to the CEO without knowing who the CEO is. Titles are useful that way. I would be inclined to call the position that Paul made for Timothy “pastor” although he didn’t specifically write it. What he instructs Timothy to do is what we instruct those people we call “pastor” to do today. Without using some title, we don’t have an idea what to call the people who do Timothy’s job today. If I visited a church, how would I identify that church’s timothy? Let me ask one of the guys at the door greeting people and helping them find their way around… “Excuse me. I need some spiritual help. Who here is qualified to help me like the guy in the Bible, Timothy?” The title makes the question simpler: “I need to talk to the pastor?”

    So, was Timothy called “Pastor” in the Bible? No. But it’s a close enough description of what he was left in Ephesus to do.

  4. “Jesus warned us about making “the word of God” of “non effect” through our traditions; Yes?”

    This is true. Tradition should never trump scripture. That’s what this passage means. It doesn’t mean that we should never have tradition – only that tradition shouldn’t trump scripture.

    “IMO - Those who, “Today,” have the “Title/Position” of “Pastor/Reverend/Leader”
    Are in bondage to the “Traditions of Men” and are NOT able to see what is in the scriptures.”

    That’s a pretty broad statement. Taken at face value, I have to wonder if you would consider yourself a Christian anarchist. Do you think that there should be no Timothy-type people? If you say that there should be people who are to do what Timothy was instructed to do, then what biblical name do you give them? If you say that there should be no Timothys, or deacons or elders, then you need to provide a biblical alternative.

    “NO - Pastors - in Pulpits - Preaching - to People - in Pews.”

    Pupits and pews are furniture for the purpose of facilitating preaching. Should we use the furniture mentioned in the Bible instead? Okay, I admit that was a little snarky. No furniture is mentioned in the Bible. It’s wise to use some kind of furniture.

    Timothy was called to preach and teach (2 Tim 4:1-2). Timothy was called to lead (1 Tim 4:11). Read on in 1 Tim 4 from verse 11 and you read that Timothy was not to neglect his gift as given to him when the council of elders laid hands on him. You can’t do any of this without other people.

  5. “........ When folks come together, every one has a psalm, has a doctrine,
    ........ has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. 1 Cor 14:26.”

    This is true. Read on in 1 Cor. 14 – verse 40: But all things should be done decently and in order. Who determines the order? So if people have something to contribute, someone needs to be in charge of keeping everything in order. In fact, the Bible doesn’t say how anyone is supposed to keep anything in order. I think Paul assumes that someone will be intelligent enough to devise a method for establishing order so that everyone can contribute and people who don’t build up the church (the rest of verse 26 that you left off the quote) can be vetted. That probably means that some people will be upset that they didn’t get their say.

    “NO - Pastors, as CEO’s of 501 (c) 3, non-profit, tax deductible, Religious corporations.”

    It doesn’t say that. Of course, those things didn’t exist in that day. Those things don’t exist in many countries around the world today and many churches are not that way. That’s a construct of the United States government for categorizing churches and other non-church entities that have a similar socioeconomic impact.

    Speaking of which, most states require something like ordination in order to conduct marriages. If you want a church wedding, someone has to be ordained to perform it. Otherwise, the Justice of the Peace is available.

    So today we are part of a government that didn’t exist back then and the Bible didn’t address all the governments that did exist at the time. What we are instructed is that we are to be subject to the governing authorities. Even Jesus paid His taxes. Like it or not, that’s where we live. (I’ve assumed up to this point that you are a US citizen like myself.)

  6. ”ALL” disciples called themselves “Servants of Christ.”

    Yes. That includes pastors, teachers, evangelists, deacons, elders, etc.

    “........ I was taught; You submit to me, NOW, your “God Ordained Authority,”
    ........ And, one day, when you’re a Pastor, people will submit to you. :-(“

    What you were taught is a misguided view of who Timothy was called to be and you are right to reject it. Timothy was instructed by Paul to establish deacons and elders, what to do with certain people who needed ministering to, and to be on the lookout for false teachers. He was instructed many such things by Paul. He was left in charge of the church in Ephesus – not to lord over it like the gentiles do, but to serve it with godly leadership.

    “NO - Pastors, separating themselves from the body, as a “Special Clergy Class.”
    NO - Pastors hired, or fired.
    NO - Pastors counseling anyone.
    NO - Pastors marrying anyone.
    NO - Pastors burying anyone.
    NO - Pastors visiting the sick.
    NO - Pastors wearing special clothes.
    NO - Pastors going from one congregation to another. What’s up with that?”

    I would agree with much of this. However, I would think it’s a bad pastor who wouldn’t visit someone in the hospital. That’s what shepherds do – tend to the sheep.

    I don’t like the idea of pastors going around from church to church. The members of the pastoral staff in my church have all been there for a long time and two of them grew up in the church. None of them are looking to go anywhere as far as I know. When the senior pastor steps down, there will be people to draw from. Our minister of education did a class a couple of years ago regarding the difference between “career” and “vocation”. “Career” is related to the word “careen” and invokes the kind of person who advances in their field by moving from place to place. “Vocation” is related to the word “vocal” and probably means something closer to “profession”. It’s something you stay in one place and make a life “professing”. So our staff looks at their place among us as a vocation rather than a career. They are to profess among us, not to be concerned for their own place by moving around ever hunting the better job. They have all explicitly expressed that their calling is tied up with our local congregation. We had one member of the staff leave the staff because his evangelistic ministry was growing. He’s still a member of our church, but he goes around as an evangelistic preacher.

    I call myself a maverick minister because I’m not ordained, but I serve as a supply minister in small churches in our area who don’t have qualified men to preach when their pastor is away. I typically know the churches I preach in so it’s not like I’m a stranger who has come and gone for only a Sunday.

  7. Jim

    Appreciate your efforts for your long and well thought out responses. Mine are kinda long also. ;-)
    You certainly covered a lot of territory. I’ve re-read your comments a couple of times.

    And - I do NOT mind “snarky” responses. IMO - they can add to the fun of commenting. ;-)
    Warning - Some “Snarky” comments might be on the way. ;-)

    Haven’t you ever wondered...
    How us edjumacated “Christians” can read the same words in the Bible and interpret them in so many different ways. We tell the world that “Jesus is the only way.” And to prove it - we now have **thousands of “different” denominations.** Many say the Bible is the Word of God and most disagree about something. I guess it’s kinda hard for God to get “Denominational Church Leadership” to agree about much of anything.

    I mean - you even say - “church leadership is a biblical concept.”
    Well, maybe - But - I can’t find”Church Leadership” in my antiquated KJV.

    BUT - Maybe you’re correct - BUT - I would ask...
    Which “Denominational Model for Church Leadership” is the “Real” *Biblical* concept?

    1 - The Elder Ruled Church?
    2 - The Elder Led Church?
    3 - The Multiple Elder Led Church?
    4 - The Congregational Led Church?
    5 - The Reverend Led Church?
    6 - The Most Rite Reverend Led Church?
    7 - The Most Holy Reverend Led Church?
    8 - The Pope Led Church?
    9 - The Bishop Led Church?
    10 - The Priest Led Church?
    11 - The Father Led Church?
    12 - The Pastor Led Church?
    13 - The Senior Pastor Led Church?
    14 - The Apostle Led Church?
    15 - The Chief Executive Apostle Led Church.
    ...... There really is a Chief Executive Apostle - No Kidding - Saw it with my own eyes. ;-)

    It’s funny to me, how many today will say, “church leadership is a biblical concept.” hmm?
    If “Church Leadership” is so biblical - How come “Church Leadership” can’t figure out how to do it.

    I’ve already pointed out - Why I believe - “Today’s Pastor” is “biblicaly illegitimate.”
    I also believe the teaching about “Today’s Church Leadership” is also “biblicaly illegitimate.”

    Haven’t you ever wondered...
    Why Jesus, in Mat 23:10 NASB, taught **His Disciples** NOT to be called “Leaders?”
    For you have “ONE” leader - the Christ.

    And NOT one Disciple did... In the Bible, ALL “Disciples of Christ” called themselves “Servants.” ;-)

    New American Standard Bible - Mat 23:10-12.
    Do not be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your **servant.**
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    If someone calls themself a “Leader” - Are they one of “His Disciples?”

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? ;-)

    When you believe the lie you start to die...

    1. A. Amos Love,
      The issue of denominational differences is different than the church leadership issue. For the church church leadership issue, you are right that the term isn't in the Bible, but the example the Holy Spirit gives us through the words of Paul to Timothy is. Timothy is exemplary of church order. There's enough left open in the model Paul gives Timothy for it to be adapted to various cultures. But don't make me repeat myself by ignoring what I've said. Church leadership is marked by exceptional servanthood, not the lack thereof. So the one called out to be the local "Timothy" is called to "serve" as leader, not lord over those in his charge as the Gentiles do.

  8. Very good point. It comes down to why we argue. Do we persist on being right, or need to prove that God is right? 2 Corinthians 4:4 suggests that prayer should precede any argument because God Himself proves that He is right, faithfully and consistently, every time. We need to ask God to grant us a willing, open, and receptive ear - good soil - and much grace on our part (to remember why we are arguing in the first place). It is not evidence or clever rhetoric, but the truth - the unadulterated Gospel - that promises to win anybody at all. It was God's Word, revealed by His Spirit, that saved me from deception, which God allowed for a season and for a purpose, regardless and in spite of any or all clever arguments. Thank God!

  9. Jim

    You do a nice job giving me man’s view, and the Baptist view, of why we have Today’s Pastors and “Church Leadership.” I have heard, and believed, many of those views before I left “Todays Religious System” in the early 90’s, through much pain, tears, and “Spiritual Abuse.” :-(

    I maybe mis-reading your comments - but for the most part - we start out in agreement with much...
    But, then, like I used to do, you turn back to your Baptist Traditions. And try to make sense of what you do. And Why.

    NiB = Stands for = Not in Bible.

    1 - We Agree - “ordination of pastors isn’t a biblical concept.”
    Baptist Tradition - **Southern Baptist church look for spiritual direction from a pastor.** NiB
    Baptist Tradition - **This is our church and our pastor is our leader.** NiB

    Bible - Sons of God are “Led” by the Spirit. His Sheep - Hear His Voice - and **follow Jesus.**

    Rom 8:14 KJV - For as many as are *led by the Spirit* of God, they are the sons of God.
    John 10:27 KJV - My sheep *hear MY voice,* and I know them, and they *follow me:*

    2 - We Agree - “So, was Timothy called “Pastor” in the Bible? NO.”
    Baptist Tradition - **I need to talk to the pastor?** NiB
    Baptist Tradition - **Titles are useful for designation.** NiB

    Bible - NO flattering “Titles” are to be given unto man.

    Job 31:21-22 KJV
    Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give **flattering titles** unto man.
    For I know not to give **flattering titles;** in so doing my maker would soon take me away.

    3 - We Agree - “Tradition should never trump scripture”
    Baptist Tradition - **Timothy was called to lead (1 Tim 4:11)** NiB.

    Bible - Timothy is to command and teach - NOT Lead.
    ........... Paul calls Timothy a Servant - NOT Leader.

    1 Tim 4:11 KJV - These things command and teach.
    Php 1:1 KJV - Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ.

    4 - We Agree - You say - “I would agree with much of this.”
    NO - Pastors, separating themselves from the body, as a “Special Clergy Class.”
    NO - Pastors hired, or fired.
    NO - Pastors counseling anyone.
    NO - Pastors marrying anyone.
    NO - Pastors burying anyone.
    NO - Pastors visiting the sick.
    NO - Pastors wearing special clothes.
    NO - Pastors going from one congregation to another. What’s up with that?

    Baptist Tradition - **it’s a bad pastor who wouldn’t visit someone in the hospital.** NiB

    Bible - Jesus sends His Disciples (NOT Pastors) to preach the Kingdom and pray for the sick.

    Luke 9:1-2 Then he called his twelve disciples together,
    and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
    And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
    5 - We Agree - “For the church leadership issue, you are right that the term isn't in the Bible,”

    And the list goes on and on... and on... and....

    Kinda hard to believe this denominational thingie - Is really God’s idea - IMO - It’s man’s idea...
    With all the different “Traditions of Men” NiB - (Wikipedia says there are over 30,000 Denoms)

    Sounds to me like “The Traditions of Men” are “trumping the scriptures” these days.

    What is popular is not always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is not always popular.

    1. Amos,
      Here's what we agree with:

      1. There are abuses of power by some pastors.

      But we cannot conclude that this makes the pastoral model illegitimate. God gave the priesthood to the Hebrews in the Law. Many priests abused the priesthood. But their abuse didn't make the priesthood illegitimate. Sin doesn't negate the law. A lack of graciousness doesn't negate grace.

      2. There is much that pastors do that isn't mentioned in the Bible.

      However, we cannot conclude that pastors shouldn't do those things that aren't mentioned in the Bible. There's much not specifically mentioned in the Bible that is perfectly legitimate for us to do today in the name of Christ. Translating the Bible isn't in the Bible. How we are supposed to go about doing Communion isn't in the Bible. How we're supposed to recognize people's spiritual gifts isn't in the Bible. How a church of over 3000 (from Acts) is supposed to meet together isn't in the Bible. I can go on.

      Now, there are two patterns I notice of your responses to me:

      1. You aren't responding to what I'm saying.
      2. You are repeating yourself after I have answered what you have.

      As to your accusation that I am relying on the traditions of men over and above the authority of scripture, I have already answered that and you have ignored it. For what it's worth, I was baptized in the Church of the Bretheren, spent years in the Lutheran Church and only within the past decade have joined the Baptist Church. I'm not particularly invested in the traditions of any of them.

      What I have offered you as a positive direction is Timothy as exemplary of what pastors are all about... from the Bible. But you won't talk about that.

      My observation at this point is that because you won't interact with what I have said, the discussion isn't progressing. So it needs to end.

      Thank you for your time.

  10. Jim

    Sorry you have decided end the conversation.

    Be blessed in your search for "Truth."

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold - One Shepherd - One Voice - One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}