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STRAW-MAN FAITH – May 26

May 26, 2014

“For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow. “ Judges 12:35b

“What if God told you with all certainty to kill my son, would you do it? And you cannot say that God would not ask you to do that because you know for certain that he did.”

This was the question posed to me by an individual who I had served with on a CRU summer project over twenty years ago, but is now an evangelical atheist. I have since come to understand that this question comes from the book, A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian.  The intent of the question was to assert an inherent immorality in the God of the Bible. As my old acquaintance told me, he had rejected the God of the Bible because of the immorality of His Old Testament commands to kill other people.

It occurred to me that the clever question intended to disquiet a person’s faith, suffered from a straw-man fallacy. A straw-man fallacy occurs when an argument is crafted in a manner that simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position.

The conditions of the question excludes the full function of my faith. It distorts my full faith by not allowing me to question the voice of God that I have hypothetically heard. I believe that any word of God will be consistent with the character and commands of God revealed in the Bible. God has commanded, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13). Therefore, I can know the voice that I hear telling me to kill this friend’s son is for certain not from God. The full breadth of scripture is one of the tools that we have been given to ascertain whether commands, callings, urgings, impressions are actually from God or not. Limiting our faith from the full breadth and depth of scripture is to live by a straw-man faith.

Unfortunately, history is full of examples of people following straw-man faith. I read about Jephthah’s tragic vow in Judges. It is just another example of a man with a straw-man’s faith. He made a foolish and rash vow and was trapped by a distorted understanding of the law.

If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you and you will be guilty of sin. (Deut. 23:21)

As a result, he committed a sinful abomination by sacrificing his daughter.

You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for the gods, for they even burned their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. (Deut. 12:31)

Straw-man faith, like my friend’s, has been the rational of
many for the rejections of the Gospel.

Straw-man faith, like Jephthah’s, has been the basis for
many historical atrocities committed in the name of Christ.

10369741_10152459863255761_5831069409391983704_nYet, straw-man faith does not reside just on the extremes of distorted devotion or denial. Our sound-bite world encourages an acceptance of quick and shallow answers to deep and meaningful questions. I know all too well the temptation to live a straw-man faith; accepting narrow explanations because the practice of my full faith can often be exhausting. Digging through the word of God to understand the beautiful complexities of commands and grace, mercy and obedience, takes time and patience. Yet, we do a disservice to our own faith and that of others when we don’t live in the full revelation that has been given to us.

I know from the inclinations of my own heart and by observation of the world, that straw-man like faith flourishes when the attitude of Jephthah’s generation abounds.

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

I always get myself into trouble when I use the Bible to justify what I have already determined to do. Many of the controversies of our time stem from a desire to justify an action that has already been determined right in eyes of the contender.

Straw-man faith flows from human will, through select scriptures, into defensible, loveless and/or selfish actions.

Full faith always begins with God’s will, flowing through all of scripture, altering human will, manifested as transformed loving actions.

We would all benefit from the Faithful practicing full faith in patience, deep reflection with a determined desire to live only by what is right in God’s eyes. Imagine how our conversations and subsequent actions might change if every controversy was subjected to God’s will:

  1. What does all of the word of God say?
  2. Do my actions manifest a love for God with all my heart, soul, and mind?
  3. Do my actions manifest a love for my neighbor as myself?

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for living a straw-man faith.  Forgive me for being satisfied with answers that conform to what I already want to do.  Lord, change my heart to do what you want done.  Protect me from wrong thinking that relies upon what is right in my eyes.  Open my eyes to what is right in your eyes.  Give me the patience and diligence to seek you deeply in all things. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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8 comments

  1. “We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats’ feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar”

    –Excerpt from “The Hollow Men”
    By T.S. Eliot


  2. “Straw-man faith flows from human will, through select scriptures, into defensible, loveless and/or selfish actions.

    Full faith always begins with God’s will, flowing through all of scripture, altering human will, manifested as transformed loving actions.”

    What an amazingly succinct way to define the difference between the two. Again, JD, you have hit on brilliant wording. I think I need to keep a journal of my favorite quotes from my favorite bloggers!

    Thought-provoking post. Have a blessed week!


  3. Thought-provoking post, JD. We DO need to dig through the complexities of God’s Word to understand the tenets of our faith as fully as possible. I love the adjective you chose for those complexities! Not “complicated,” not “confusing,” but BEAUTIFUL! Indeed, the more we learn the more awestruck we become with our glorious, mysterious God!


  4. Nice meme.


  5. […] Straw-Man Faith – “What if God told you with all certainty to kill my son, would you do it? And you cannot say that God would not ask you to do that because you know for certain that he did.”  This was the question posed to me by an individual who I had served with on a CRU summer project over twenty years ago, but is now an evangelical atheist. I have since come to understand that this question comes from the book, A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian. The intent of the question was to assert an inherent immorality in the God of the Bible. As my old acquaintance told me, he had rejected the God of the Bible because of the immorality of His Old Testament commands to kill other people. […]


  6. Very enlightening.


  7. I think I have a learning disability….the bullet points and the prayer were at my grade level and were enough to bless me.


  8. Reblogged this on U.S. Constitutional Free Press.



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