Critical Thinking Exercise #1: Did Jesus Keep the Law?
One of the very key things that I am called to do as a minister is to encourage people to develop sound critical thinking skills. When I taught as a professor at a Bible school, I always attempted to inspire reflection and analysis among my students by encouraging them to think about the content of the course. Most theological schools merely “indoctrinate” their students, and critical thinking is too often highly discouraged. However, it has always been my goal to “educate” people instead. The latter can only be achieved if people are given the tools to think correctly (logically), and entrusted with the ability to use their God-given brains as they try to reach sound conclusions.
Yes, people will make mistakes, but that is also how we learn. Moreover, if a professor/teacher is secure in his or her own ability to discern and explain truth, then they should be willing to let people make the effort and then give sound critique to get them on-track if they miss the mark. We should teach students how to think first, and provide them a framework of understanding core doctrines of the faith at the same time. Then we need to allow them to put those same doctrines to “the test” by analysis.
Within my FREE audio series, The Fundamentals of the REAL Gospel, I called this the “lab” (short for “laboratory”) part of the education process. Using a chemistry or physics class as a metaphor, I liken the Bible instruction portion of the education process to the textbook reading and lectures. However, the concepts don’t become “real” to a person unless they can then see the dynamics involved with their own eyes. Hence, there is a “lab” class in which they get to “test” the theories they learned in the main classroom. There is something about actually working with the experiments that makes abstract concepts come alive to the mind, as we understand how they apply in the real world. Likewise, if a given doctrine is truly correct (i.e., both biblical and logical) then the “lab” of good analysis will verify that fact. However, if the doctrine is false, then when it is “put to the test” it will fall apart as the inconsistencies and contradictions are exposed.
With these points in mind, I would like to do something different with this article than I have within my previous ones…
Normally, I take a subject that I have on my heart and write an article. I lay out my case as logically and methodically as I can from the Scriptures, and attempt to provide analogies to make the teaching more comprehensible (much like Jesus used “parables” to do the same).
Once I post the article, however, it is not uncommon that someone will come along and challenge me on a point or two. When they do, I typically respond to them and dissect their arguments (like a good professor should) in order to demonstrate where their reasoning is in error (if, in fact, it is in error). Some appreciate this, and others do not. Of course, the Bible told us that is the way it would be:
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
(Proverbs 9:8, NKJV)
For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life…
(Proverbs 6:23, NKJV)
So not everybody appreciates the correction, but nonetheless, it is the way people are supposed to grow intellectually and learn. Another way that people learn is to “do” something concrete with the instruction that they have already been given, as I noted above with my “lab” analogy. So what I would like to do is to combine these two concepts, and that brings me to my idea.
I would like to do my OWN experiment here. Instead of answering a particular comment directly myself, what I would like to do is allow my readers to examine the comment and to dissect it to see if they can pick out the errors. Then I would like my readers to post their own comments underneath this article with their analysis, and I will affirm those points that are correct and coach them where they fell short, in order to sharpen their discernment and reasoning skills.
So to use another analogy, picture a classroom setting. One of the “students” (in this case, a reader of this website) has just stood up and presented a thesis that challenges something that I as the “professor”(in this case, the author of the article in question) have presented to the “class” (i.e., all my other readers). So turning to my class, I am asking, “Okay, he has presented his case. Is he correct? Is he wrong? In what way or ways is he wrong? Critique his thesis using sound reasoning, and be sure to justify your own answers accordingly.”
If this little experiment of mine works well, then I may do this more often from here on out. As I write articles, and people come to challenge me on points, I may take some particularly ideal comment and set it apart in an article like this for group analysis. (Not all comments are as well suited for this as the one I will present below, so I will only be able to do this as I have comments that are useful for the purpose.)
Supporting Analysis Is Provided
Of course, I will not leave my readers without some helpful instruction. What I will do is post the comment in question below, and then give you a few hints at what problems are in there that I have already identified. Then you can choose the category (or categories) that you want to study and analyze, and select the points underneath which you wish to address. Then write your comment at the bottom of this page in order to break down the problem AND to give the correct answer from the Scriptures. You can choose as many or as few points to discuss as you like and as your schedule permits.
What I will do on my end is to leave all the comments in the moderation queue for a few days (maybe a week or more) so that I can let them build up. I want to give you all a chance to respond to the parts that you want to address without someone taking your topic first and/or influencing your answer. When I am ready to pop them out of the queue, I will respond to each post (very kindly) and affirm the good arguments/points, while providing a proper critique of the parts that are not quite correct. Hopefully, we can work together to help this person understand why his comment is in error.
(Of course, the person who posted the comment could themselves re-examine their original statements in the light of my “hints” about the problems therewith, and post their own corrections.)
The entire exercise should hopefully prove to be a great way for my readers to learn more about biblical exegesis and logical analysis. It is my hope that this will encourage a greater quality of critical and biblical thinking, while enabling me to take on more of a “coaching” role whenever the time comes to address another sincere (but erroneous) comment in the future. Again, my goal is to “educate” people. Part of that entails encouraging critical thinking and logical analysis. Thus, I hope that this “lab” time will help you all to attain greater skill in these areas.
Of course, I have to put a few control mechanisms in place in order to ensure the discussion stays objective and polite. I want to encourage academic-style discussion to the greatest degree possible. I do NOT want to merely encourage people to post unsubstantiated opinions on my page, or to abuse the person who has just inadvertently “volunteered” for this exercise by posing a public comment on one of my articles. So to be clear: I don’t want your “opinions.” I want your thoughtful analysis and resulting conclusions. (Yes, there is a difference.)
So here are the basic rules:
- No baseless name-calling. In logic, this is called the “ad hominem” fallacy. This is a Latin term that literally means, “at the man.” Whenever a person lacks good reasoning skills or have nothing by which to substantiate their thesis, they often resort to verbal abuse as a defense method. This is nothing less than a school-yard bully type of tactic in debates. Unless the statements/labels being used are relevant AND substantiated with fact (e.g., calling a proven heretic a “heretic” is perfectly legitimate), then we are dealing with an “ad hominem” fallacy. Such comments will either be edited (i.e., if they contain other useful commentary) or deleted entirely (if they do not).
- State facts, not opinions. In order to “make your case,” you need to address specifics with the person’s comment, or expound upon a Bible passage, or identify a relevant point of logic or something else of substance. While statements like, “I don’t like that” or “I think it should not be that way” may be honest expressions of your opinion, they are also not logical “arguments” in the true sense of the word. Stick with the facts, and make your case. Please keep emotions and mere opinion out of it as much as possible.
- Be respectful. While you may not agree with the commentator (or me), be respectful in how you address the other person’s view and argument. You may not respect their particular view (i.e., in the sense of agreeing with it), but you can still be respectful toward the person. Again, hostile or disrespectful comments will be either edited or deleted.
So with these basic rules in mind, let me now present to you the comment that we will all study together and analyze. I will thereafter provide some helpful “hints” as to what problems I have already identified therein (in several categories). It is then up to you to take it from there and make your case about any point that you wish to address (including any points that I do not identify explicitly because I have not stated all of them that I see, nor do I necessarily see all of the problems that are within the comment; I am certainly not omniscient).
The following comment was posted by a very sincere person by the name of Loddie Resnick. This brother was NOT hostile, so we must give him due respect as we reply to his comment. However, he is quite incorrect on a number of points, so I think it will be a good exercise for my readers to reach out in an effort to help this person see where his reasoning is not as scriptural as it could (and should) be.
This comment was posted underneath my recent article Casting “Boomerang Stones.” (Since his comment addressed a secondary point of that article, it would take that page way off topic if I replied to him there; thus, this is another reason why I have relocated his comment here so that we can discuss it without detracting from that other article.)
So before replying to what he wrote, you will certainly need to first read that article. This is necessary in order to understand the subject of what Loddie is discussing. In the mean time, here is what he wrote:
You state “One of the things that qualified Jesus Christ to be our Savior is the fact that He NEVER sinned! He was the sinless “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Thus, in order to KEEP the law (which Jesus had to do in order to be “sinless,” and He Himself said He came to “fulfill” it in every way), then Jesus would have had to AGREE with the Law—but only if it was being properly applied.” Nowhere in the 4 Gospels does Jesus ever claim that he came to “keep” the Law of Moses. The using of Matthew 5:17-18 to justify your belief that Jesus was testifying to his keeping the law “perfectly” in order to be sinless is just plain bogus. Jesus himself contradicts your understanding of what he meant by fulfilling the law.
Read the account of the two men on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. Verse 27 states, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Then later in the chapter Jesus appears to his disciples back in Jerusalem and verse 44 states “Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’” The Law of Moses, in types and shadows, and the Prophets and psalms all pointed to Christ as the coming Messiah who would save mankind from their sins. Jesus was asserting, thus promising, he was going to fulfill all those things declared of him in the law and prophets. For you to twist Christ words in Matthew 5 to mean that he came to “keep” all the Law of Moses perfectly contradicts Jesus himself and calls into question your whole hypothesis about the boomerang words. You cannot start out contradicting Christ and somehow believe you will end up with the truth.
One enjoinder of Christ often repeated was to “follow me.” If Christ was in fact keeping the Law of Moses then we are obligated to “keep” that Law also or we would not be following him or way he lived his life in the Gospels. Do you really believe true born again Christian are obligated to “keep” the Law of Moses in order to follow Christ and live as he did? Seems to me one would have to believe that if they truly believed Christ was “keeping” the Law of Moses. Otherwise they would not be truly following Christ.
Gal 5:18 “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” Is not someone under the law obligated to “keep” the law? Yet keeping the law would be counter to walking in the Spirit. If Jesus was “keeping” the law was he then not being led of the Spirit? Of course Jesus was led of the Spirit thus he was not under the law and therefore, not “keeping” the law. He manifested the life of his Heavenly Father that dwelt within and thus was never under law or “keeping” the Law of Moses. This is exactly how we live our lives by following the example of Christ in being led by the spirit and not under law. The Apostle Paul puts that whole argument to rest.
“But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” (1 Timothy 1:8-11) Just how does a true born again Christian use the law lawfully (correctly, properly)? They use it correctly in revealing Christ to sinners and their need of him for salvation. They misuse it when they attempt to “keep” it or try to impose it on others as a necessary part of salvation. Paul is emphatic that the law was not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and ungodly. Why would Christ, our righteousness, have to submit to and “keep” the Law of Moses since it was not made for a righteous person? Makes no sense that Christ had to “keep” the law “in order to be “sinless,” (your words, Rich) if he was already sinless and righteous before his Heavenly Father.
Rich, you contend Jesus would have insisted upon Law of Moses being obeyed by supporting the stoning the two caught in adultery, had the man been brought to Christ along with the woman. Your argument is based on the belief that Christ had to “keep” Law of Moses perfectly. Nowhere in the Law of Moses does it allow for the mitigation of stoning adulterers even if they are contrite and repentant of their sin because the Law of Moses was the ministration of death (2 Corinth 3:7) not life. If what you contend was true then the words of Christ from Luke 9:56 “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” would be disingenuous at best to the ordinary Jew in those times but more so the words of a hypocrite and deceiver.
Rich, you really need to go back and rethink what you have written here and ask the Lord for clarification and correction.
Your brother in Christ
This is a well-written comment, indeed. Most of the ones that challenge me are not this well stated, well formatted, or grammatically correct.
However, there are a number of biblical and logical errors within this sincere brother’s comment. Let me point out a few of them here, and then let me challenge my own readers to explain WHY these are problems and what the correct biblical exegesis is that will get him on track.
Points to Note
The problems that I have already identified with what he wrote above fall into three categories: His use of fallacies, self-contradictions, and statements of error. Let me explain (in general) what I see herein:
Use of Fallacies:
The first thing to note is that there are at least four fallacies that he has used within this comment. “Fallacy” is a word that is defined simply as error in reasoning. More specifically, these are “informal fallacies” that he used because they do not pertain to the formal structure of his argument, but rather to his ability to “form” and then “target” his argument at all. These are:
- The “Straw Man” Fallacy: Whether due to misreading my arguments to which he addressed within his commentary, or due to an unclear explanation on my part, or due to his own faulty thinking, etc., the position that he thinks that he is attacking is not real. It is a figment of his imagination. In short, what he thinks that I was arguing, is not what I was arguing. So like fighting a “straw man” rather than a real one, his entire thesis is pointed toward an illusion instead of what I really said. (Note: You can study about the “straw man” fallacy by clicking here.)
- The Fallacy of Bifurcation: This fallacy occurs when a person wrongly thinks things are “either this or that.” In other words, they think that the answer is one of two “mutually exclusive” choices (and, of course, they think theirs is the “correct” choice) when, in reality, there may be three or more choices. It is like a person who thinks everything is either “black or white” when in the world around us, there are colors like red, green, blue, yellow, orange, and even “banana cream.” (Many years ago I worked in the paint department of a major home improvement retailer, and some of the names of paint colors made me hungry! LOL!) In particular, Loddie thinks that what I said, and what he proposes, are mutually exclusive positions. However, what I really said (i.e., not his “straw man” argument) is perfectly congruent with the passage he mentioned from Luke chapter 24. (Those of you who have listened to my FREE audio teaching series, The Fundamentals of the REAL Gospel, know that I spent considerable time teaching from Luke chapter 24 within that series.) Yes, there are times when bifurcation is not fallacious because there really are only two mutually exclusive choices. However, Loddie falsely thinks that his answer excludes my earlier points, when they do not. (Note: You can study about the fallacy of “bifurcation” by clicking here.)
- The Fallacy of Hasty Generalization (aka “Hasty Conclusion”): This fallacy occurs simply because too few samples are taken before “jumping to a conclusion.” In the field of statistics, an example would be conducting a survey of five people and then concluding from these few responses that “everyone in this town thinks this way” about that topic. The sampling has to be significant enough in order to be credible. In the world of theology, however, this fallacy takes on a slightly different character. Basically, this fallacy occurs whenever a person studies too few Scriptures before reaching a conclusion about a given doctrine. Loddie is sincere, but he is also ignoring many Bible verses in order to make his point. I run into this particular fallacy frequently when people propose doctrines in error. In Loddie’s particular case, he is taking an OVERLY narrow view of a much broader subject than he realizes. (Sorry, there is no quick link to a Christian website that I can provide for this one at the moment, but I might write an article about this fallacy later myself.)
- The Fallacy of Begging the Question: In this instance, the fallacy in question involves assuming a conclusion that has NOT yet been proved. In other words, it is a case of a person thinking that they are right, and then insisting that they are right, without actually proving that they are right. This is why this fallacy is also called “circular reasoning.” Now, reasoning in circles is not necessarily fallacious. We all do this all the time. For example, you might be talking with co-workers about something that you all already know (e.g., some technical issue). Unless the underlying assumptions are challenged by someone, then those assumptions speed the conversation along because it would be a waste of time trying to “prove” something concerning which everyone is already in agreement. However, the moment you are presenting an argument to someone who does NOT agree with that assumed position (or if they challenge you to prove it), then you have to validate that assumption. Otherwise, a person commits this fallacy as they continue to assume that their assumptions are “true” without proving that the are so. Likewise, Loddie has assumptions about the truthfulness of his position that are unproven, partly because he is fighting a “straw man” and partly because of his bifurcation. In fact, because of the contradictions within his argument (which I will note next), his entire thesis is entirely unprovable. (Note: You can study Begging the Question by clicking here but also by clicking here for a second article on the subject.)
Now, there may be other identifiable fallacies within his comment. Nevertheless, I will leave this list off here for the sake of time. If you notice other fallacies that he used, however, feel free to elaborate upon them within your analysis as you post your comments below.
One critical point of logic is that no genuine TRUTH can ever self-contradict. For example, something cannot be “this” and “not-this” at the same time. So a car cannot be “in the garage” and “not in the garage” at the same time. Now someone might protest, “Well, the car could be half-way in the garage, and be both.” No, that is NOT “not in the garage” but “half-way in the garage.” There is a difference. Someone else might say, “Well, something could be black AND white at the same time.” Yes, that is true; but that is not a contradiction. If someone says “it is black and it is NOT black,” then they have self-contradicted. Being black AND white is different (i.e., there is no contradiction there). Stating that something is “black and not-black” at the same time is a contradiction.
There are at least two contradictions that I see within what Loddie wrote above:
- The contradiction that comes from the combination of his “straw man” argument and bifurcation, in that he quotes my stated point and then PROVES my point with what he writes thereafter. That is like saying, “You are wrong and you are not wrong” at the same time. Whenever you say that someone is wrong, but then prove that they are right, that is a contradiction. (Note: I will revisit this particular contradiction again further below.)
- The second contradiction is one that I already explained within the article itself, Casting “Boomerang Stones.” In anticipation of challenges, I had already explained in that article (irrefutably) that to argue against my stated position on that point puts a person into an automatic self-contradiction. If he had thought carefully about what I had written regarding this, then he would have perhaps realized that he was self-contradicting himself by trying to argue against my stated position.
In short, one cannot base their case upon contradictions AND still be telling the truth. The two parts cancel each other out, so that the “argument” is self-nullified. So the fact that Loddie self-contradicted himself twice proves that those particular points are invalid. Since those points are integral to his thesis, then his entire thesis collapses by self-nullification.
(Unfortunately, his entire thesis also qualifies as outright heresy because it indirectly attributes sin to Jesus Christ, but I doubt that he realizes that fact. So please be gentle with him as you reply.)
Statements of Error:
Loddie also made at least one factually incorrect statement. (He may have made more, but I will let you search for those if they are there. Again, I am trying to encourage critical thinking, so I want to see what you all come up with here.)
When Loddie wrote above, “Nowhere in the 4 Gospels does Jesus ever claim that he came to ‘keep’ the Law of Moses,” he was making both a straw man argument AND an incorrect statement. Moreover, he seemed to forget that the Bible is more than the four Gospels alone. So let me challenge my readers:
- Can any of you find passages in the four Gospels in which Jesus explicitly or implicitly stated that He was sinless, and thus, keeping the law perfectly?
- Can you find quotes about this fact from anywhere in the rest of the New Testament?
- Are there any such passages found about Jesus Christ (i.e., prophetic descriptions of Him) in the Old Testament?
Of course, I can give quotes from all three areas of the Bible, but I want to see what you all come up with first.
Again, all of this points back to the Fallacy of Hasty Generalization that I explained above. It also demonstrates that one should not make “absolute” statements about the Bible unless they have truly studied the Bible.
(Again, the very fact that Loddie tried to argue that Jesus was NOT sinless–which is the implied meaning of his argument–is a contradiction, as I already explained within the article Casting “Boomerang Stones” itself.)
One Correct Point to Note:
I do not want to leave my readers with the impression that Loddie’s entire comment lacked merit. I should note, in all fairness, that Loddie DID make a correct statement when he wrote:
The Law of Moses, in types and shadows, and the Prophets and psalms all pointed to Christ as the coming Messiah who would save mankind from their sins. Jesus was asserting, thus promising, he was going to fulfill all those things declared of him in the law and prophets.
In fact, with that one statement Loddie proved my entire thesis (i.e., the very thesis that he was challenging). Again, this is one of the self-contradictions that I mentioned above. Can any of you explain why this statement of his PROVED my entire thesis, contrary to what he intended?
Now that I have pointed out three categories of error that are found within his comment above, along with a few specifics under each category, it is time to see how good the critical thinking skills of my readers are. Here are a few pointers:
- Please do NOT try to tackle too many categories or issues in one comment. Otherwise, your comment will be too long and it will be hard for me to reply to you. Instead, try to keep to one or two issues within each comment.
- Please do NOT try to tackle too much in one sitting. You may need to ponder these things a bit. Moreover, your schedule may only provide you enough time to touch on one or two things, but you can then come back later to address other points.
- Please READ Casting “Boomerang Stones” first, because you need to understand his comment within the context of that article. You will ALSO need to understand my own points (to which he addressed his comment) within their own context. So read that article first so that you do not commit the “hasty conclusion” fallacy yourself:
A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart…. He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.
(Proverbs 18:2 & 13, NKJV)
- Please also remember that we are trying to help Loddie understand why his entire thesis is incorrect. This is to be a respectful discussion.
- Please FOCUS on explaining what the Bible really says about Jesus keeping the Law (i.e., the subject at hand) and try to avoid running off into unrelated topics or tangents.
- Please do NOT think that you need to “defend” me or my article. This is NOT about me. It is about learning to discern and explain biblical Truth while helping a brother to see that Truth. (Besides that, I am quite able to defend my own theses whenever the need arises.)
So with these points in mind, let me again invite my readers to take the time to do some reading and analysis, and to post your comments below. I will again keep the moderation queue from posting publicly until I have collected a few and have the time to respond to each one. Also, again, I will endeavor to tactful in replying to a sincere effort to respond to Loddie’s comment above (or to me). So please just keep in mind the rules above and don’t be nervous about writing your comment.
Once I start releasing the comments from the moderation queue, we can also begin to dialog further. I hope to get a good discussion going through this exercise. So please feel free to mark the “notify me of follow-up comments via email” option whenever you post your submission (you can always cancel those updates later if you wish). That notification system will enable you to monitor the discussion as it proceeds. (By the way, I will likely release all future comments in batches too, simply because of my schedule. So don’t be nervous about any delay in having your comment approved because sometimes I get busy.)
If this experiment of mine works out, and my readers seem to enjoy learning by this method, I may do it again in the future from time to time. So if you like this idea, then please be sure to participate! Please be sure to also “like” and “tweet” this article so that others know about it and can participate.
Now, get to reading, and get to thinking!
Always in Jesus,