We line them up like mannequins in a store window when it suits our purposes, and then promptly turn on them. What do I speak of? That old standby in arguments gone awry–straw men. They show up wherever arguments are made, they find prolific life in Christian circles, and we in the Independent Baptist world have dolled up several in their Sunday best.
One of the most horrid that retains life after many years when the shirt is still but stuffed with straw is the tale that John MacArthur believes the Blood of Christ is of no effect. I can’t tell you how many times I have had it quoted as fact, though I never once was provided with documentation. I did come across a few dubious articles where a few obscure quotes went a long way, but no proof. Then I stumbled over an article written by MacArthur himself where he reiterated his belief on the subject. After reading that response you realize he was crucified by some before the evidence was even considered.
The point is not the value of MacArthur’s teaching, or the lack thereof (you can make your own opinion there). No, the issue is that some could concoct such a story and get such great numbers of people to believe it and requote it. It is sad that such a farce could have him labeled a heretic and so many not even care enough to see if it were true. I actually know of several such straw man arguments that have been widely accepted.
Why do some offer these type of arguments? Some may be thoughtlessly repeating what they have heard. But if you go back to the originators of such arguments, you must figure deeper motives; such as:
1. Inability to handle the legitimate argument.
When you have no good answer for your opponent’s good answer, and admitting defeat will never be a possibility for you, then coming up with some ugly charge to divert attention from your weak arguments is always a temptation.
2. A desire to tear down another voice so that only yours remains.
If a radio teacher like MacArthur is enjoyed by some you preach to, could it be that tearing him down means you can have all the love to yourself? I fear this is often the issue.
We can’t stop others from offering straw men arguments, but we are in control of our responses.
Remember this about straw man arguments:
1. They are insulting.
As one article said, “To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument.” So they only work if we are ignorant! We, then, should be more thoughtful about accepting arguments without checking the facts. We have all done it before, but don’t you feel embarrassed when you figure it out?
2. They can not spread without our help.
Were we to be more careful, these type of arguments would not thrive. In fact, it would throw the embarrassment back where it belongs–on the backs of the perpetrators of straw man arguments.
Let’s stop crucifying those blindsided in a straw man attack. Instead let’s stop being gullible and value accuracy as a matter of integrity. Were we to do so, the real issues could be profitably discussed.
Find all articles in the series here.