Thursday, March 24, 2022

Don't buy the Snake Oil

 Read Galatians 4

The churches in Galatia had known the truth but were then sold a bill of goods by some very aggressive salesmen. You probably know the drill.

Do you like vacations? Yes.

Do you like tropical vacations? Yes.

Do you like free stuff included in your vacations? Yes.

Do you like fried liver? No.

Would you like a vacation where they don’t serve fried liver? Yes.

Please sign here and put your credit card number here and you can have a vacation to the tropics every year and will never see fried liver again.  Some conditions apply.

The zealous salesman has no reprehension about using red herrings and nonsequiturs in his pitch.  He just wants to make a sale.  The Judaizers wanted to make sales.  They wanted converts.  They were recruiting. They wanted their religion back.

Jesus came and fulfilled the law, died for our sins, rose from the dead and offers us life eternal by the grace of God which we receive by faith.

The Judaizers said, that’s too good to be true.  You need to buttress your belief with some religion.  Faith alone can’t do this.  You need to circumcise your males, stick to the seventh-day Sabbath, and start observing the festivals that God established. Then, your faith might be worth something.

But this saved by the grace of God stuff won’t cut it. Paul said, “I’m calling Horsehockey on that.” Listen again to what Paul has to say.

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them.  It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

Paul uses the analogy of birth pains.  You should only go through them once per child, but these Galatians who were born of the Spirit seem to have crawled back in the womb. 

You were free from sin and death!  You lived by faith!  You knew the truth!  I am at a loss as to how you were fooled.

The chapter headings sometimes work against us.  This is a letter best read as a whole, but in the age of memes and tweets limited to 256 characters, that seems ambitious.  What’s my point?

If we continue into the next chapter, Paul gives us these words.

You were running a good race.  Who cut you off?

How could you fall for the sales pitch?

Let’s leave the Galatians alone for a while.  Paul gave them their chewing out.  We won’t add to it, but what can we learn from it?

How about you know the truth.  Your salvation is a gift from God.  You did not earn, nor could you do anything to earn it. You did not deserve it but God loved you so much that he made you right with him and he made the sacrifice that atoned for your sins himself.

God did it all.  We received this wonderful gift by faith.

Even today, there are those who will challenge this and offer arguments as to why they are right.  There is this one online site that likes to discredit New Testament scripture by saying that the gospels were not yet in written form and couldn’t be useful for teaching or rebuking or training in righteousness.  They couldn’t be God-breathed.  They couldn’t be living and active.

Why?  They were not in print yet.  It sounds convincing.  The posts are not nearly as direct as my explanation because the modern-day Judaizers want your mind to make the leap from they were not available in written form yet to all references to scripture are only to Old Testament scriptures.

I’m not sure if this is more of a red herring or a non sequitur, but the logic fails upon examination.  Most of the Old Testament was not put into writing for about 3,000 years or more.  So, was there no scripture during this time?

We should ask ourselves why does the word of God need to use the tools of the Father of Lies to make its point?  That’s a rhetorical question.  The word of God stands alone and does not need anything to buttress it.

Now some of you were thinking that we are supposed to be beating up on the Galatians, but Tom wants to talk about critical thinking.  What gives?

You do remember that God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind.  I’m talking about using your sound mind so that you are not deceived.  God gave you a mind.  Use it.  Sharpen it to the point that you don’t fall for the tricks of the Father of Lies.

Like what?  Let’s try belief bias.  It was used a lot to fit scriptures into support for the BLM movement.  First, let me say that I think we should do whatever we can to abide in human dignity for all and raise up those who carry unnecessary burdens, well, everything except pervert God’s word.

How do they pervert God’s word?  They make subtle changes to the scripture to fit the narrative.  They make the scripture support their existing belief.  This can also be confirmation bias.

There is a logical fallacy called the strawman that misrepresents an argument to be countered. It’s used all of the time. What example do we see frequently that connects to this letter to the Galatian churches?  The strawman argument is that people believe that the law was nailed to the cross and done away with. 

The only people who believe this are those who don’t read their Bibles or try to fit the scripture into their existing beliefs (confirmation bias).  It is also eisegetical—fitting your beliefs into God’s words instead of extracting God’s intended meaning from them.

We should understand that this misrepresentation is used by some to make points that they cannot make effectively with logic and critical thinking. 

Our sin, the invoice for our sin, the bill for our sinful selves was nailed to the cross.  The law still shows us our sin. Don’t worry, we will get to this part when we reach Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

Why is this important?  If you let someone misrepresent the premise, they can prove anything they want.  The logic is:  If the premise is false, everything thereafter may be proven to be true.

Why should you care about red herrings and nonsequiturs?  Why must I be aware of the framing effect or begging the question?

Consider these words from the previous chapter:  You foolish Galatians.

God gave you a sound mind.  Do not surrender it to logical fallacies and cognitive biases. You know the truth.  Don’t let anyone add or detract from it, no matter how good of a snake oil salesman they might be.

I would love to talk metacognition all day, but let’s bring this home.

You must know—be fully convinced in your own mind—that your salvation is 100% the gift of God.  Do not be persuaded otherwise.

Don’t buy the snake oil



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