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Before You Ask

Chapter 3 - Equivocation

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Revised May 28, 2006

Before You Ask - Chapter 3

Equivocation - Hazards of Ambiguity and Vagueness

Have you ever felt like: "Something isn't quite right about that statement, but I can't put my finger on exactly what it is." Or "That explanation just doesn't ring true, somehow." Pay attention to your feelings! The speaker may have equivocated. If you're really determined to get to the bottom of your questions, it is very important that you understand Equivocation thoroughly. This entire chapter will be devoted to explaining the subject and in guiding you to recognize and overcome Equivocation. You don't want to be caught unaware and unprepared to meet the semantic enemy, Equivocation.

I may sound like a broken record as I continue to emphasize the need to ask for clarification and definitions. Life would soon pass you by if you took time to make certain every statement you heard was totally free of vagueness and ambiguity. However it is a good idea to insist on precision concerning any key terms that are relative to what is important to you. It is far better to be more precise than necessary, than to be too vague to be useful. This proverb is very true: A good understanding prevents a misunderstanding. Not only does asking for a definition increase your vocabulary, but it also erases Assumptions, which are discussed in "Scaling the Language Barriers in Communication." Asking for clarification eliminates a multitude of problem areas.

If you adopt the habit of always asking for definitions of ambiguous or vague words before drawing conclusions, it will have a direct impact on your happiness and relationships. This practice will prevent you from needlessly feeling hurt, disappointed, worried or angry. Until you are sure the person intended to say what you think you understood him to say, why get disturbed? Why run to accuse, jump to unfounded conclusions or race to pin blame? Why not be sure before going off the deep end?! Isn't it better to give someone the benefit of a doubt -- and save yourself the unpleasantness of getting all upset over nothing and perhaps looking like a fool? Down with ambiguity!


"As the Meaning Turns..."

What is Equivocation? It is when a word or term shifts or switches meaning within a given context. The shift may be obvious or it may be very subtle and hardly noticeable. Ambiguous words or terms and those having double meanings are often responsible for Equivocation. Just as you cannot plagiarize the ideas, writings, etc. of another and pass them off as your own, neither can you legitimately ("rightly divide the word of truth") take the meaning of a word/term and pass it on to another, or infuse its meaning into another word/term, where it isn't earned, deserved or doesn't belong. The meaning(s) of a word or term is an intrinsic possession of that word or term, and it cannot legitimately be transferred to another word or term on a whim, arbitrarily or at will. Even so, some equivocate -- both unintentionally and intentionally.

The meaning of the word "stall" shifts in the following pun: "I think he's stalling you. Stalls are for horses and other four-legged animals, not people. I'd say 'Nay!' " Equivocation has been taken to the extreme in the following ditty, author unknown. Notice how the meaning shifts the second time the words "ruler, fins, Queen Elizabeth and Russians" are used:

Why are Fire Trucks Red?
They have four wheels and eight men;
four plus eight is twelve;
twelve inches make a ruler;
a ruler is Queen Elizabeth;
the "Queen Elizabeth" sails the seven seas;
the seven seas have fish;
the fish have fins;
the Finns hate the Russians;
the Russians are red;
fire trucks are always rushin'
therefore they're red.

Have you and your friend ever heard the same statement and yet both of you interpreted it differently? It's not uncommon for you to think a speaker is talking about Apples, while your friend thinks he is talking about Oranges. Unless this difference is discovered and corrected, a mutual understanding is impossible. Which interpretation is correct? The one that agrees with the speaker's original intent. When statements are misunderstood, misinterpreted and distorted, objections are sometimes expressed as: "You're putting words in my mouth. I never said/meant that." Or: "You've taken what I said/wrote entirely out of context." It should be remembered: The original intent of a speaker or writer ALWAYS governs the meaning of a statement. Legitimately, we cannot make another person's statement, spoken or written, say anything other than what he originally intended it to mean. Likewise, the true meaning of Scripture is what was originally in the authors' minds when it was written, and Scripture cannot legitimately be forced to mean anything other than what the author originally intended for it to mean.

Testing for Equivocation

When you are reading, you may suspect the meaning of a key term has switched or shifted. To check and make sure, define the key term to yourself; then read the passage again, keeping the meaning of the suspect term the same each time it is used. If this doesn't make sense or causes the text to be absurd, the author has probably equivocated.

When you are in a conversation, and you suspect the meaning of a key term has shifted or switched, you can check it out by asking the speaker for clarification of his intended meaning. You might also point out alternative meanings. Then review his statement giving any recurring words or phrases the same uniform meaning each time they are used. Here is a well-known example of the fallacy of Equivocation:

Only man is rational.
No woman is a man.
Therefore, no woman is rational.

In the first line, man denotes a human being, while in the second line man denotes the male sex. The meaning has shifted. If you read through this argument using the term human being each time the word man occurs, it makes the second line false. When you read through the argument replacing man with a human being of the male sex each time it occurs, it makes the first line false. Insisting on uniformity proves or disproves Equivocation. The meaning of a key word should remain the same throughout the text or conversation. Does it make sense? If it doesn't, there is likely a misunderstanding or the meaning of a key term has shifted.

Intentional or Unintentional?

Just as you cannot legitimately plagiarize the ideas, writings, etc. of another and pass them off as your own, neither can you legitimately take the meaning of one word and pass it onto another, or infuse its meaning into another word where it doesn't belong. The meaning(s) of a word is an intrinsic possession of that word, and it cannot be transferred to another word on a whim, arbitrarily or at will. However, some people DO so -- both unintentionally and intentionally. Humpty Dumpty explained his rationale for doing so:

"But 'glory' doesn't mean a 'nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is", said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

(By Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass)

Equivocation may or may not be intentional. Sometimes the meaning of a word shifts or switches (Equivocation), and it's purely innocent -- unintentional, unthinking, accidental, inadvertent -- not calculated. We've all pretended at one time or another to misunderstand someone in fun; or made a pun. Intentional Equivocation in fun or puns bring smiles, and as such, are quite harmless: "I don't know why it's called an allowance -- it doesn't allow me to do much of anything."

On the other hand, Equivocation also provides a clever way to commit fraud, get out of trouble or dupe people. For example, suppose an advertisement makes an unbelievable promise about a product when the ad is read a certain way; but when it's read another way, it claims little to nothing. If the manufacturer gets charged with false advertising, he has a loophole. He can insist his intended meaning is the narrow interpretation that says little. (He can't help it if some people assume his advertisement meant the broad meaning, can he?)

Suppose you ask a worker, "Has this fellowship continued down from the apostles?" By "continued down," you mean has there been a continual continuation of the fellowship in an unbroken historical line starting with the apostles up until the present. If the worker replies, "Yes, it has," but his definition of "continued down" is totally different from yours, he has equivocated upon the meaning of the word "continued." The Equivocation is intentional IF HE KNOWS THIS, and/or IF HE PRETENDED to misunderstand your question. When his bluff was called, Everett Swanson rescued himself using the handy Equivocation loophole:

"I will tell you what I teach. I tell people that the Faith is a continuation of New Testament days. The word continuation means two things. It can mean there is no break and it also means a break in time no matter how long the break is, if you return to the same thing. We have what was in existence 2,000 years ago. I believe there was a break between N.T. times and today, but the same word and work has been revived." (Everett Swanson letter, Fall/1995)

Shifty Equivocation works pretty nifty for getting off the hook. Unfortunately, we aren't as likely to give or ask for the definition of a familiar word, like "continue," as we are an unfamiliar word. If the person had defined what she meant by "continued down" when she first asked her question, it would have confined the reply and generated less confusion. When questioning the workers, it's a good idea to define or get their definition of the words: "continue" "continuation and "continuity"; as well as any other words that convey the same idea (i.e. succession, succeeded, traced, etc.).

Letter vs. Spirit

Equivocation is intentional when someone honors the letter of a question or request, but ignores the spirit. The literal question is answered in the following examples, while the spirit of the question is disregarded:

Mother: "If you've finished your homework, then you can help me rake the leaves."
Johnny: "I haven't finished yet." (He has one more paragraph to read)

Sister: "Did you eat ALL the cookies?"
Brother: "No." (He gave a couple of cookies to his friend)

Both could honestly say that they didn't tell a lie -- they just didn't tell the whole truth. When Johnny finishes his paragraph, he stays in his room making no effort to help his mom. He rationalizes that he has obeyed Mom because she said: "IF you have..." She didn't make the standing order, "When you finish you homework, come and help me." Her request was phrased as a pleasant statement. By ignoring the spirit of his mother's request and taking her words literally, Johnny avoided doing something he didn't want to do, and didn't feel he was lying.

I remember using Equivocation to get out of hot water one time when I was a child. Wanting to know if I was the culprit who had opened a prized trunk and rifled through the contents, my grandparents asked me, "Did you get into Grandfather's trunk?" I deliberately misunderstood their meaning and replied to the literal meaning of their question. I denied the charge, "No, I didn't `get into' his trunk." Even though I assured myself that I had not lied because I had NOT literally crawled into his trunk with my whole body, the guilty feeling was a long time going away. I may not have lied in the literal sense, but my intent was to deceive, in order to get out of trouble. However, it was plain to my Grandparents that the trunk contents had been greatly disturbed; and also plain that I refused to own up to my part in it. Though I honestly believed I had not told a lie, my parents and grandparents were just as disappointed in me just as if I had outright lied, which they believed was the case.

Adults are not above using this same method to get out of answering hard questions. It has served many of them quite well. This example is from sister worker Elizabeth Jamieson's reminiscences, Hayward, CA 1969:

"In 1920, Mable Pryor and I went to Vancouver of the Plymouth Brethren sect...accused me of being a "Cooneyite." I pretended I didn't know what he meant, letting on that the only cooney I knew about was the little animal [coney] spoken about in the book of Proverbs."

Deliberately shifting off the subject of the question he had been asked about, brother worker Dan Hilton replied with a statement regarding "what the Bible teaches." Besides being totally irrelevant, his reply also included a verbally abusive attack on any and all who would dare to Question:

"However, regardless of a written record being preserved, truth is truth. For anyone to say that what the Bible teaches was started at some certain year since the first century is pitiful ignorance, and closing the eyes to established facts and truths." (Letter dated 11/21/89)

Intentional Equivocation allows one to practice deceiving without the usual risks that accompany deception, since it furnishes the perfect alibi, if discovered: the excuse of having or being "misunderstood." Proving fraud by Equivocation may be difficult since it depends on the speaker's intent. Honesty is a matter of intention. The Authority in the matter is the speaker -- only the speaker knows his intended meaning for certain. The purpose of this series is NOT to enable you to prove fraud, to pin blame, to condemn, to accuse, to catch someone in a lie or to get the upper hand in an argument. This series is to help you to get your questions answered; to help you recognize and overcome obstacles like Equivocation, so you won't be caught unaware and unprepared; to help you wade through explanations that don't explain very much.

There are serious repercussions when a person is caught intentionally using Equivocation. A reply is evaluated according to the degree of truthfulness expected from the speaker's rank and position. When judges, ministers or scientist are caught in a falsehood, fault or fraud, the sense of betrayal is great. Discovery brings about serious, often permanent, damage to the Equivocator's credibility and greatly reduces his power. The Equivocator also stands to lose face and status. The general levels of trust, respect and cooperation are greatly reduced, which are extremely hard to reverse. From that time forward, the Equivocator's words and overtures will likely be viewed with suspicion. He also may feel defensive, foolish and ashamed, most unpleasant emotions. Intentional Equivocation is serious, because " a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," (Heb. 4:12), and He judges men by their motives and intentions.

Equivocation: "From the Beginning"

Jesus' Way, Salvation, God's plan, truth and way is often claimed to be "from the beginning," or "before the world began" by which is meant that God planned it before He created the earth, before time began. etc. Ambiguous phrases such as "this way" or "the truth" or "what we have" can be understood to mean either:

1. "Jesus' Way/Truth of the Bible"
2. "This fellowship of which you are a part or a minister."

The hearer may interpret the speakers meaning to be that "this fellowship" is from the beginning (or of apostolic succession); or that the way commonly called the "truth" has existed since the beginning of time. Misunderstanding often results from assumptions. MANY in the 2x2 fellowship do not differentiate between (1) the way Jesus provided through His sinless life and His shed blood on the cross; and (2) the 2x2 fellowship some call "the way" or "the truth."

Equivocation Examples: "From the Beginning"

Explanations by workers using the "from the beginning" line of fallacious reasoning to lure converts:

  • "It's from the beginning, planned in God's mind before creation." (Walter Nelson, Post Falls, ID Conv., 1967)
  • "We go back to the beginning." (Calvin Casselman, Boring OR Convention, 1988)
  • "It started in Heaven." (Clarence Anderson, Pukekohe, NZ Convention, 1986)

"I consider that we are the most privileged people in all the world for the simple reason that what we believe and stand for and teach doesn't have its origin with man. You don't go back into the history of the world to find it. You have to go back to the beginning and to God. God had this plan in his heart and mind before the foundation of the world was laid. This way of service is from the beginning." (Arthur Boyce, Silverdale, B.C. Convention, 1961).

"The way is like a seed, like the wheat seed. It was created at the beginning of the world…I will tell you what I teach. I tell people that the Faith is a continuation of New Testament days. The word continuation means two things. It can mean there is no break and it also means a break in time no matter how long the break is, if you return to the same thing. We have what was in existence 2,000 years ago. I believe there was a break between New Testament times and today, but the same word and work has been revived." (Everett Swanson letter, Fall/1995)

"If we have a founder, then we don't go back to the beginning. If we teach that which is from the beginning, then what we have is from the beginning, and what we have is founded on what was from the beginning." (Leo Stancliff, 1/9/97 funeral for Ron Gustason, CA )

"For anyone to say that What The Bible Teaches was started at some certain year since the first century is pitiful ignorance, and closing the eyes to established facts and truths. The teachings of the New Testament were started in the first century when God's dear Son was here on earth; that is, those truths were established in a group of believers then. But that is not where it started. What was given by God through his Son was planned before the world began. See Matt 15:34-35, John 17:24, Acts 3:20-21, Rom. 16:25-26, 1 Cor 2:7, Eph 1:4-5, 2 Tim. 1:0, Titus 1:2, 1 Peter 1:18-21. These truths make very clear that what God...the Son of God...and the Holy Spirit believe in, and what God's true ministers and Christians believed in, was planned in the heart and mind of God before the world began, and we believe the same today. So it is 100% false for anyone to say that what we believe was started in some recent year." (Letter by Dan Hilton dated 11/21/89)

"I tell people that WHAT WE HAVE is 'from the beginning' ... because IT originated in the heart of God and was revealed by Jesus....not that we have record of ITS continuance all through the centuries." (letter by Muriel Hendrickson, 1997)

In the above example, the sister worker is basing her claim of "What we have is from the beginning" upon equivocation; by substituting the belief system Irvine started of the 2x2 ministers and church in the home (in which she is a minister) WITH the way to Heaven that Jesus provided through His blood and the cross. Could this be what Paul meant by "wresting" with the scriptures in 1 Peter 3:16?

She explains what she means by: "What we have is from the beginning." She also explains that she is aware it is possible to take/mistake her statement to mean that there is "a record of its continuance all through the centuries." She said she is not referring to when the 2x2 way began LITERALLY, but rather to their SPIRITUAL beginning. [Does she and others take care so that none will mistake their meaning? Do they make certain their hearers truly understand their precise meaning when they make this statement, so there will be no confusion?] She asserts as though it were a fact, when it is just her opinion, that "What We Have" or "IT" (meaning the method of 2x2 ministers and church in the home) is "from the beginning." The Bible mentions many things that God planned "from the beginning," but it is obvious from their context, that none of them could even remotely apply to the 2x2 ministry and church in the home.

"There are THOSE WHO WANT to go back and talk about the beginnings. Now, I can't stand here and give you names of each one who passed THIS GOSPEL down through the generations, but I am satisfied that God has had those in every generation that he has been able to deal with and REVEAL HIMSELF through. There are THOSE WHO WANT TO say THIS BEGAN at the turn of the century with TWO men. It doesn't matter one iota to MY FAITH whether this is true or not true. I say God is able to REVEAL HIMSELF to men in every generation. When you see a stalk of wheat -- you know if you plant the seed, you will have life and a new stalk of wheat. You don't have to see the lineage behind it. You know!" (Gaylen Van Loon, Iowa Sp. Mtg 1997)

Gaylen Van Loon's statement above has been broken down below and interspersed with suggested replies to various parts, offered by various individuals:

A. There are THOSE WHO WANT to go back and talk about the beginnings.

  • What's wrong with talking about the beginning? The tree grows from its root. Even God said a seed would produce fruit after its own kind. If we can't talk about the seed, there's something wrong.
  • And there are those who DON'T WANT TO GO BACK and talk about the beginnings because it will expose things they don't want exposed. Nice try.
  • Why shouldn't we WANT to talk about the beginnings? Isn’t a testimony speaking about “beginnings” ?
  • Who told us this way was from the beginning in the first place? Who made this belief such an important, fundamental, cornerstone to the whole group anyway? We've just taken something we learned from the workers and friends and asked for verification.
  • Oh, I see. You must be one of THOSE WHO DON'T WANT to talk about the true founder and genesis of the 2x2 group?

B. Now, I can't stand here and give you names of each one who passed THIS GOSPEL down through the generations. I can!

  • Why not? It's just four names! You can count them on one hand. Surely, you have heard of the names of each one who passed THIS GOSPEL down in the Eastern U.S.A. where you have labored: 1.) Wm Irvine, 2.) George Walker, 3.) Andrew Abernathy, and 4.) whoever your present Eastern Overseer is.
  • How do you define THIS GOSPEL?
  • Are you insinuating it IS possible then? Or avoiding the fact that you are covering up something?

C. …but I am satisfied that God has had those in every generation that he has been able to deal with and REVEAL HIMSELF through. So am I; however, they were not necessarily of THIS WAY. Can you show me a record of anyone in "the truth" whom God revealed himself through before 1897?

  • So am I, but if you REALLY believe this, why would most who hear your message believe that God is only revealed to those who accept your pattern of ministry. Do you limit God's revelation to one and only one pattern of ministry? What do you believe God reveals? The miracle of a risen Christ and salvation by grace? Or a pattern of ministry based on a particular set of works and practices.
  • I couldn't agree more. I wonder though if we are referring to the same thing. When you say that God has revealed HIMSELF, what exactly do you mean that He has shown to man? I see GOD -- HIMSELF and THIS GOSPEL as two entirely different things

D. There are THOSE WHO WANT TO say THIS began at the turn of the century with two men. Do they? Or are they saying that THIS began much later than the New Testament days. Why not refer to them as THOSE WHO SAY or BELIEVE -- rather than those who WANT to say -- since they DO SAY IT! They ARE concerned about the beginning of the 2x2 fellowship.

  • I don't WANT to say it. I DO SAY IT -- loud and clear because it is factually true.
  • And there are those who DON'T WANT to admit that it began at the turn of the century with just ONE man, William Irvine. Why is that do you suppose?

E. It doesn't matter one iota to MY FAITH whether this is true or not true. YOUR FAITH? I am not concerned with YOUR FAITH -- it matters to MY FAITH!

  • Attempting to justify a belief by an Appeal to Faith is fallacious reasoning. You choose to believe the method of the 2x2 ministry and church in the home began "in the beginning" and not just 100 years ago. You have no proof, and you disregard any evidence to the contrary on record. Why not state it as your choice and opinion rather than fact?
  • Are you implying that my faith is weak if I'm not satisfied without evidence to prove it is "from the beginning?"
  • In the face of documented evidence, your faith isn't convincing to me. No matter how firmly something is believed, it can still be false.

F. I say God is able to REVEAL HIMSELF to men in every generation. I couldn't agree more. However, applying the attributes of GOD -- HIMSELF to THIS GOSPEL (method William Irvine started less than 100 years ago) is Equivocation. What is true of God is not necessarily true of the belief system William Irvine founded; nor is it true of the 2x2 ministry and church in the home.

  • Exactly WHAT is God revealing?
  • Yes. So do I, and He has revealed himself to me!

G. When you see a stalk of wheat -- you know if you plant the seed, you will have life and a new stalk of wheat. You don't have to see the lineage behind it. You know! AND when you see a stalk of tare, you know if you plant a root of it, it will bring a new stalk of tare -- and you know the lineage behind it!

What is the point to your analogy? What does the wheat stalk represent? Is Wm Irvine the wheat seed? I hope we aren't all coming up like HIM! Why, the workers kicked him out for misbehavior. Figurative analogies do not prove anything -- they only illustrate what you choose for them to illustrate. Wheat is not in the same category as a belief system; therefore, nothing can be inferred anything from your comparison. Wheat stalks are irrelevant to when the 2x2 belief system began.

From verses stating God's glory, love, grace and purpose, plan of eternal life, redemption and kingdom existed before the world or man were ever created, the author of the following notes leaps to conclude (through equivocation) that an entirely different method and church "began in eternity."

"The Origin of God's Way" By Howard Mooney

"The following verses refer to the origin of God's way. They tell us how it began, and where it began, and when it began. It is comforting to know that God planned His way of salvation in Heaven, in every detail, before the world was created.

  • John 17:5 tells of the glory that Jesus had with the Father before the world was.
  • John 17:24 refers to the love that existed between God and his Son before the foundation of the world. 2 Tim. 1:9 tells of the purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. This purpose is defined in Rom. 8:28-29.
  • Titus 1:2 speaks of the hope of eternal life which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began. Jesus defines eternal life in John 17:3.
  • 1 Peter 1:18-20 portrays the wonderful picture of redemption, which was provided through the blood of Jesus, and which was foreordained before the foundation of the world.
  • Matt. 25:34 pictures the eternal side of the Kingdom which was prepared for us from the foundation of the world.

"The above verses assure us that salvation was not an after thought with God. Before man was ever created and placed on the earth, God had HIS WAY OF SALVATION in every detail. Our source of rejoicing today lies in the fact that GOD'S WAY is still working in our midst, in all of ITS entirety. How fortunate we are to be a part of A WAY [Note: Equivocation and unproven assertion that "A Way" referred to in this sentence is one and the same as God’s way] that began in eternity and that will continue on throughout all the countless ages of eternity."

Howard Mooney's reasoning presupposes it has been proven that the "way" (referring to the fellowship on earth commonly called "the truth") is same entity as "God's way." However, this has not been positively proven -- no connection or link has been shown. The beginning of God's way is recorded in the Scripture. The beginning of Irvine's 2x2 method is recorded in history. Where are the two linked? How and when did they become the same way? Where is Scripture that confirms they are the same entity?

Scripture that refers to God's way which existed "from the beginning" proves just that and nothing more -- THAT GOD'S WAY existed from the beginning. It cannot be used to prove Irvine's fellowship has existed from the beginning, without taking the Scripture out of context. Appropriating references to the beginning of GOD'S plan and way and applying them to Irvine's fellowship existing today is using word-play and a far cry from "rightly dividing the word of truth."

IF it is true that God’s plan of salvation (meaning the 2x2 method) is "from the beginning" or "before the world began," then the following conclusions could also be drawn:

IF God's plan of salvation goes back to the beginning, THEN it is not possible that:

1. God's way was started by a man/men;
2. A way started by man/men could be God's way (started before the beginning of the world).

So, it’s not hard to see why some favor this fallacious approach over some others. It circumvents the founder, which would open another can of worms that they prefer not to deal with.

The Gap Theory

When it can be shown that a similar system or format was started at two different times in history by two different sources, it's impossible for them to be the SAME identical system, way or format. One is the old, and one is the new. Irvine's way to fellowship and God's way from the beginning of time would have the same history, if they were one and the same way. Both ways would lead back "to the beginning." However, Irvine's fellowship can only be traced back to the turn of the 20th century, when he started his experiment; while God's way can be traced back "to the beginning," or to the heart and mind of God where it started. Between the two is a 1900 Year Gap. There are several explanations given for the gap that do not hold water

Roads can be traveled two ways: from beginning to end, and from end to beginning, and a journey can be started from either end. Using this reasoning, we should be able to start with the present end of this fellowship commonly called the "truth", and travel back in time and history about 2,000 years to Jesus; where we can rely upon Matthew and Luke's record of Jesus lineage to take us back to the beginning of humanity, Adam and Eve.

Beginning at THIS end of the road (the current year), and traveling back in time and history of the 2x2 fellowship, we come to an abrupt halt around 1897 to 1899 when an earthly founder turns up named William Irvine. On the other hand, if we start at the beginning of humanity, with Adam and Eve, and continue, we will wind up at the current year. The two roads do not meet. If the two were one and the same road/way, they would meet. But there is a GAP between the road of God's truth traced forward from "the beginning" and Irvine's fellowship traced back from the present. Since the gap exists and the two do not meet in the middle, it logically follows that God's way and Irvine's fellowship are not one and the same, but are two different "ways."

"His truth endures to all generations," Ps. 100:5. See also: Ps. 89:4, 29, 36; Luke 8:11; 1 Pet 1:24-25; Ps 117.2) That means it has been in continuous existence on this earth. It has no end. It also means that God's truth and way has ALWAYS been, is here today, and that it was here before Irvine ever thought about starting his 2x2 experiment. Why was it necessary for Irvine to "start again" what God indicated would never die out?

Since the fellowship or way we know as "the truth" can definitely be traced to a starting point, how can these two ways be the same way or the same "truth"?? One has a beginning, and the other is never ending and it isn't possible for a truth to hold opposing characteristics, at the same time. It is not possible for something that never dies out to be revived, restored or started over; nor for the "same thing" to start twice. Since the way Irvine or a group of men started is called "the truth" presently, and God's way traced from Adam to Jesus is also God's "truth" which endures forever, they cannot both be the same way or same "truth"? The only logical conclusion is that they are not, and are two separate ways or truths.

And since the facts don't fit, some fill in THE GAP with equivocation, fallacious reasoning and weak solutions for explanations.


There are other terms besides "continue," which furnish loopholes via Equivocation; in particular, the terms "truth" and "way." Many friends have come away from confrontations with workers absolutely shocked to their core because they believed workers had outright lied to them concerning the historical 2x2 origins. In reality, the workers' reply used a term(s) that had a double meanings; i.e. could be taken more than one way. When taken one way, the way the friends took it, the workers' reply came across as a most outrageous lie; taken another way, which the friends did not see at the time, the answer was fairly plausible, even though it did not really answer the question the friends asked. This occurs most often in replies using the words "truth" or "way." NEVER ASSUME you know the meaning a speaker attaches to the terms, "truth" or "way," or you leave yourself wide open to misunderstanding by Equivocation.

If you do not want to be mislead, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you realize that for most 2x2s, the words "truth" and "way" are infused with the 2x2 method of fellowship and ministry. In other words, most 2x2s view "God's Way" or "Jesus' Way" as including or encompassing the 2x2 method of the church meeting in the home and the preacher without a home. Most believe that the two "ways" are one and the same "way" or entity; that they are synonymous and refer to the same thing.

Therefore, if you are serious about getting your questions answered, it is very important that you define EXACTLY what you mean by "truth" and "way" whenever you must use these terms. Also, instead of asking questions about "this way," or "the truth," frame your questions similar to:

  • How old is the fellowship in which you are a worker?
  • When and where did this fellowship begin of which we are a part?
  • Who was the first worker in this fellowship in which you are a preacher?
  • How do you reconcile the fact that this fellowship Irvine originated is less than 100 years old, and yet the Bible says that God's Truth and Way shall endure forever?

Likewise, if "truth or way" or similar terms are used in a reply to a question you pose, you should make it a point to ask for a definition. You can avoid misunderstandings by differentiating between "truth" and "way" as:

1. The 2x2 belief system or method which includes the 2x2 ministry and church in the home; or
2. The Way to Heaven that Jesus opened through Calvary. For example:

  • "When you say 'God's way,' do you mean the fellowship in which you are a worker? Or God's plan of redemption through Jesus?"
  • "When you use the term 'the truth,' exactly what are you referring to?"
  • "By 'God's only true way,' were you referring to the way Jesus opened to heaven for mankind through His life and death, OR the fellowship in which you are a worker?"
  • "When I use the term 'Jesus' Way,' I am referring to the door Jesus opened to heaven for sinners through His sinless life and death on the cross. Is that what you meant when you used that term just now?"

The word "way": In the Bible, there are many "truths" and "ways," but rest assured none of them refers to the 2x2 method William Irvine started; or to the "way" in which the workers preach. The Bible mentions many "ways": the "way" of the righteous; the "way" of the Lord; the "way" of salvation; the "way" of God; the "way" of truth; the "way" of his saints; the "way" of wisdom; the "way" of life; the "way" of understanding; the "way" of holiness, etc. Obviously, these "ways" could not be addressing the fellowship with the church in the home and the preachers without homes, which would not get started for thousands of years after the Scripture was written. One must infuse Scripture with inferences its context does not contain, and authors never intended, if the "ways" of Scripture are applied to the 2x2 fellowship and ministry. Switching the 2x2 "way" or method for the "way" in the Scripture is Equivocation. If anyone challenges you, ask them to show you a Scripture that plainly says God has only one right "way," which Scripture doesn't refer to Jesus Himself.

So often it is repeated: "The truth as IT is in Jesus." There is no verse that uses these words--it is quoted incorrectly! Eph. 4:21 actually reads: "If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus." WHEN exactly did "the truth in Jesus" change into an "IT" (a procedure)? When did God's Way change from being the person, Jesus, into a 2x2 method of ministers and meetings? Are the two "ways" really one single entity? Is (A) "the way" of God, which is Jesus, AND (B) the way commonly called "the truth," which William Irvine started, one and the same way -- or are they two different "ways?" Where does the Scripture link or merge Way A with Way B? Where does the Bible say or imply the two are one and the same "way?" If it is true they are one and the same, why doesn't the Bible, our authority and guide for God's word, confirm this somewhere? I suggest ...because it isn't true.

The word "truth":
Although the Bible uses the word "truth" many times, it never once refers to a religious system, method, procedure, etc. When the Bible authors refer to the "truth," they did not have in mind a fellowship that meets in homes, commonly called "the truth." Scripture using the word "truth" does not rightfully belong to or describe the fellowship commonly called "the truth." To use Scripture to support something that was never the authors' original intent is forcing the Scriptures; "putting words in God's mouth;" abusing and misusing the Scripture -- and a far cry from "rightly dividing" the Scripture. "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever" Romans 1:25.


In Closing...
"A Rose is a Rose is a Rose"

Humpty Dumpty used words as if they were plastic. Some people do, too. The word "plastic" comes from the Greek term "feigned" (Strong's No. 4112: "plastos") which means artificial, fictitious or false. Plastic words are twisted to mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean, and often, they are not what they seem to be. Peter cautioned his readers to beware of the "feigned words" of "false teachers." 2 Pet 2:1-2: "But...there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies...And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you..." Words which are used to sell you on something that isn't all it's represented to be are "feigned words" that "make merchandise of you." No one wants to be taken in, ripped off, or played for a fool. The Scripture recommends that you study carefully so you can pick up on truth. Studying about Equivocation will help you to "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," 2 Tim 2:15; to "prove all things and hold fast that which is good," 1 Thes. 5:21; and to "know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed," Luke 1:4.

It's one thing to understand a claim -- it's quite another to accept it. You must use your critical thinking ability in deciding whether or not to accept a claim. Anyone can TRY to use a credit card to purchase something -- but a merchant doesn't have to take the card. (He can ask for identification -- even two ID's if he wants to. He can refuse to accept the card if it doesn't meet his tests.) Likewise, you have the same rights when you ask a question. Answers and claims are like credit cards. You are the receiver/merchant. You can apply certain tests or ask for further identification, definition, explanation, etc. You're the judge of credibility, because "...every one of us shall give account of himself to God," Romans 14:12. You can take or leave the reply.

Of course, we SHOULD accept premises as true which have adequate evidence to support them and reject those with inadequate evidence -- but not everyone does. You're the judge as to whether or not you accept a given definition. A claim is a far cry from proof and claiming something doesn't make it so. Some speakers ask you to assume that something is so merely because they assert it is the case. An unproven assertion is something that hasn't been proven true but is stated as though it were a fact. In reality, an assertion is merely an opinion, preference, supposition, or speculation. Not anything to bank on! How to weigh and prove explanations and evidence will be covered in a future column. See also the Confirmation Test (i.e. "in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established," Deut. 17:6) in Fall 1995 Forward Press: "Scaling the Language Barriers in Communication."

Explanations and definitions may include something to the effect that: "You have to understand that when the Bible refers to A, it means B." (or that A stands for B; or that A is B). You cannot be certain the given definition for a Biblical term is the original intention of the author UNLESS the Scripture plainly states this; i.e. the Bible explains or interprets the Bible. Otherwise, it's merely man's supposition or conjecture. Yes, that Scripture COULD prove their point, but DOES IT? Does it imply what they presume it does? Or are there other alternatives? Is it open to other interpretations? Has ALL the relevant Scripture on the subject been taken into consideration? In the Sower and the Seed Parable, we know for certain what the various objects represent because Jesus positively identified them for His disciples. Does it make sense that God, who is not the author of confusion, would hide the requirements for salvation in vague and ambiguous Scriptures that require "private interpretations" (2 Pet 1:20-21)? It's a good idea whenever you receive a reply to your question with the explanation that "this stands for that," to insist on learning where this is confirmed in the Bible.

If you go around asking others for their definitions, there is a good chance you will be asked for yours. You'd better be prepared! What is your definition of "God's Way?" Some have found it very helpful to study every occasion the word "way" and "truth" are used in the Bible, giving particular notice to the context. Is the author talking about a method, meeting in the home, a type of ministry, Jesus, or Absolute Truth? After you have studied ALL the Bible references on these words, you will be able to discuss with utmost assurance and confidence what you found, or didn't find.

Reviewing the following points concerning "God's way" may help you formulate your definition. For the Christian, Salvation has always come through Faith. In the New Covenant era, it is by Grace through Faith in SomeONE -- and that One is Jesus. The Only Way to God is through the PERSON, Jesus: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me," John 14:6. Jesus didn't say He KNEW the way, or that He TAUGHT the way, or that He would SHOW the way, or that He came to be an EXAMPLE or PATTERN of God's true servants. He didn't teach a particular belief system, procedure, method, fellowship, institution or organization for worshipping God. Jesus came down from heaven not to teach the gospel, but to BE the subject of the gospel (Good News). Jesus IS "God's Only Way." Jesus paid the redemption price that reconciled man to God and atoned for the sins of all mankind. That's why Jesus said HE was THE way to the Father and everyone must go through HIM. He is the Door that gives the sheep access to the Father, John 10:7. His life, death on Calvary, resurrection and ascension opened (or consecrated, Heb. 10:20) the only WAY possible whereby men might be saved. This is why Jesus came to earth -- to BE the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. God's Way -- His Only Way -- is Jesus.

Watch out for Shifts, Switches or Infusion in meanings of key terms. Clarification eliminates Equivocation! Ask for definitions of terms that can be taken more than one way. The words: "Truth, way, and continue" should wave Red Flags. Spell out your meaning whenever you use these or any other ambiguous terms. Keeping definitions uniform will prove or disprove Equivocation.

Go to Chapter 4



Chapter 2 - Ambiguity & Vagueness

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Revised August 15, 2014

Before You Ask - Chapter 2

Avoiding the Hazards of Ambiguity & Vagueness:

Have you ever asked a question...and suddenly found yourself in a Semantic Jungle? Words can be tricky or wonderful, depending on how they are used, and how they are understood. Words can be used to persuade, manipulate and control us. The trick is not to fall for the pseudo-reasoning people engage in. There's a world of difference between good, sound reasons, and reasons that sound good. Following are some common pitfalls to watch out for, and some basic recommendations to follow. Forewarned is forearmed!

Because many words have more than one definition, the English language is good at throwing a monkey wrench into communication. There is true communication only when both parties attach roughly the same meaning to the words used. The idiom comparing apples to oranges is sometimes applied when two individuals understand something spoken in totally different ways. Talk without mutual understanding is not communication -- it is merely preventing silence. You may as well be talking French to an Englishman.

Don't let anyone buffalo you! Have you ever asked a question, received a lengthy reply, and later realize, "I STILL didn't get my question answered"? A question should be answered in clear, simple terms that you can easily understand and paraphrase in your own words. There is practically no subject in this world that cannot be explained so the average person will understand, IF the person explaining it knows his subject well. Even so, some replies will be so complex or hard-to-understand that they cause you to feel the subject must be too deep for you to understand. Be on guard! A reply that makes you feel spiritually inadequate, ashamed or inferior is very likely a smoke screen or snow job -- and not an answer at all.

An ambiguous word or phrase is one that can be understood in more than one sense in a given context. People use prestige jargon, cliches, fancy-talk, gobbledygook and doublespeak frequently. Clarification is your best defense against these. You should NEVER feel the least bit reluctant or ashamed to ask for clarification. Questions are the way we learn. Learning is noble. Don't allow any key words, phrases or statements to remain ambiguous -- ask for definitions or explanations. There is never anything wrong with making certain. The Bible encourages you to "Prove all things." In fact, when a listener makes the effort to make certain, it actually honors the speaker. Clarification heads off misunderstandings before they happen. It's good to make this platitude your Standard Operating Procedure (SOP): "A good understanding is the surest way to avoid a misunderstanding." Examples of some ambiguous, vague replies which need clarification are:

"The New Testament teachings are our doctrine."
"Our women have long hair because it's scriptural."

"Like the hymn says, 'Suffering must precede the glory.'"
"If Jesus was a cult, then we're a cult."
"God's Way is like a puzzle; we get it one piece at a time."

"I would think 2 Peter 1:3 makes this clear."
(Dennis Einboden, written communication with Cindy Brown 10/95)

"When we do our part, God will be faithful to do His part."

Most of us have been guilty of making assumptions at one time or another, and have experienced considerable confusion resulting from incorrect assumptions. Supposition makes a poor reason. Don't assume YOUR definition for KEY or ambiguous words or phrases matches THEIR definition. Make SURE! When the subject under discussion is important to you, you should carefully review each of the speaker's words or phrases, checking for any that might have double, ambiguous or hidden meanings.

Think of it like this. Imagine that you had dropped your valuable gold coin in your house and couldn't find it. So you take a broom and carefully sweep, slowly in and out every corner, under every piece of furniture, along every wall, slowly sweeping every where, until you finally find your lost coin. Likewise, you need to take your broom and sweep in and around each of the speaker's words, carefully checking for hidden or ambiguous meanings that might prevent your gaining a clear understanding. A wise maxim is: "Never Assume Nothing!" Possible lead-ins:

"By X, do you mean?"
"Just what exactly do you mean by X?"
"What is your definition for X?"

"Your explanation turns on the key word X. What does X mean to you?"
"I'm not real clear as to what you mean by the term/phrase X."
"Exactly what are you referring to when you use the word/term/phrase X?"

Examples of: Ambiguity & Vagueness

"When you refer to God, do you mean the Father only, or do you mean the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit?"
"Just exactly what do you mean by 'Truth?' "
"Your explanation turns on the word 'gospel.' What does 'Gospel' mean to you?"
"Do you mean 'submission' to God or 'submission' to the workers?"
"Would you please explain how the Scripture you quoted ties in with/applies to the belief/practice of X?"
"Would you please explain the connection between my question and what you just said?"

To clarify an ambiguous or vague reply, simply confess that you want to be sure you have a clear understanding of their meaning, because the matter is important to you. Then ask the speaker to rephrase their reply in simpler terms for you. Possible lead-ins are:

"Could you summarize your answer for me -- in a nutshell?"
"Could you run that by me again, please?"
"I'm not sure I followed you...would you mind rephrasing your reply?"

"Just so I'm perfectly clear about what you are saying...would you repeat..."
"I'm sorry, but I just didn't understand/get your meaning. Could you explain it in some other words?"

If you are unable to get a vague reply clarified to your satisfaction, go ahead and make a stab at rephrasing it yourself. State your understanding as far as you can go with it and ask the speaker for verification. Some possible lead-ins are:

"Did I hear you right? Are you saying..."
"So you mean...?"
"What I hear you saying is..."

"Let's see if I have this straight..."
"So, in a nutshell, are you saying...?"
"From your point of view then, the situation is..."

"Let's see if I followed you correctly...are you saying...?"
"Let me see if I understand your meaning... In my own words, you are saying..."

Biblical Confirmation Principle

How can we be sure a scripture passage means what we think it means? Some Biblical words or terms can be interpreted one way or another. How do you know which is the right way? The way it was originally intended? The Bible provides a way to confirm its true meaning and original intent: The Bible confirms itself. The Biblical Principle of Confirmation is that: "in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (Deut. 17:6, 2 Cor. 13:1, Matt. 18:16, Deut 19:15, Heb. 10:28, John 8:17, Gen 41:32, Ex 4:9, Judges 6:36-40). In other words, the Bible explains or interprets the Bible. The meaning of hard-to-understand or ambiguous scripture is verified by:

  1. Locating other passages with the same teaching or intent;
  2. By confirming it with a principle of Jesus' teachings.
  3. Taking into account ALL the Scripture has to say on a particular subject (not picking and choosing; not selecting one text while ignoring others; taking the "whole counsel of God.")

If other Scriptures contradict or do not support the meaning we are giving to the text, it is highly possible that our interpretation is at fault and needs revision. It's very easy to read our own understanding, desires and preconceived ideas into Biblical passages. Whenever you receive a Scripture as a reply to your question with the explanation that "this stands for that," make it a habit to find out where this simile is confirmed in the Bible. Biblical confirmation should be requested in the following examples: "The workers are the Word made flesh in our day."

"My hope of salvation is the blood of Christ. But I would like to explain to you what it means. The blood of Christ is the ministry and the church in the home. Without the New Testament ministry, you don't have the blood of Christ which includes the church in the home. The forgiveness of sins is a fringe benefit." (Leo Stancliff, 1981)

"To be born again means to receive Christ. Receiving Christ means receiving the messenger. In receiving the message, one receives the Spirit of God." (Bob Dye)

"For the spirit and attitude you assume toward those that have made themselves poor, homeless, and strangers for the gospel's sake will ultimately determine where you will be in eternity." (Jack Carroll, Manhattan Conv 10/4/45)

"An unrighteous person is one who doesn't worship God in the right way or think right thoughts." (Howard Mooney, Walla Walla, WA 1959)

Slanting - Loaded Language!

Language can be loaded with either Positive or Negative connotations through the speaker or writer's choice of words and/or tone of voice. But neither are evidence! Both are ways to avoid giving evidence and good reason! Some examples of loaded words are:

confiscate, vendetta, lurk, lure, lambast, tirade, diatribe

Some attempt to manipulate others into accepting a conclusion by coming on STRONG and intense or by deliberately using loaded language, particularly when reasons are poor or nonexistent. Beware of anyone who plays on your emotions, instead of giving good sound reasons. An emotional appeal used as a substitute for truth is worthless, although it may suck in the gullible. Emotion is no substitute for reason.

To communicate clearly, you need to choose words that convince your audience of your fairness. Using loaded words does NOT accomplish this! When you hold strong opinions, it is easy to slip into biased or emotionally-loaded language. Slanted language usually will not convince a careful person to agree with your point, and may cause them to doubt your ability to convey the facts fairly. Slanted or biased language often causes the hearer to feel manipulated, wary or hostile. While those who already agree with you may become more convinced of your point, those who disagree may become annoyed, and dig in harder against your position.

Negative Loaded Language - Taking Cheap Shots!

Language is sometimes loaded with Negative, emotionally-toned words which carry implied value judgments that arouse emotions and stir up feelings. Negative loaded language makes good or neutral things look bad. It may be deliberately used to produce a negative effect on a listener's attitude toward something; or to tone down positive associations something may have. More examples of highly-charged terms colored with Negative connotations are:

admitted or claimed
guilty of


Examples of Negative Loaded Language

  • "Parents, don't sacrifice your children on the altar of education." (Dan Hilton 1979)
  • "The time has come to throw this do-nothing, corruption-riddled administration out of office."
  • "You may hear religious words set to the tempo of uncivilized rhythm called "rock" and find the meaningful hymns being omitted in favor of repeating the same phrase over and over to a childish tune."
  • "I am economical. You are a tightwad. He is a miser."
  • "If you weren't boycotting our gospel meetings, you would know the answer to that question..."
  • "Craig has always been very gullible...even when he was a little boy."
  • "She's spreading all that propaganda trying to tear down the truth!"
  • "He attempted to smuggle in pity to try and persuade us to do what he wanted."
  • "I am firm. You are obstinate. He is pig-headed." (Bertrand Russell).

Negative Leading Questions

Some questions or replies are framed to try and control your response. A strong opinion may be tucked into a question. Be alert to a possible attempt at manipulation when a speaker answers your question with a question, beginning with: "you do, don't you, surely you," or their equivalent. These phrases try to control your response before it is made. The questioner is counting on you not to disagree with his position or wishes. Some examples to be on guard for are:

  • You will - You won't - Won't you
  • You would - You wouldn't - Wouldn't you
  • You are - You aren't - You're not
  • You do - You don't - Don't you
  • You have - You haven't - Haven't you

Examples of Negative Leading Questions

You DO believe it's the only way, don't you?

Don't you believe the workers are God's mouthpieces?
Don't you think that God could raise up a prophet today like he did in the Old Testament days?

You're not going to cut your hair, are you?
You aren't thinking about quitting, are you?

You aren't going to talk to other people about this or write any of those terrible letters, are you?
You haven't been reading any of those books written by the Enemy, have you?

NOTE: When someone uses any of the above lead-ins and introduces them with the words, "SURELY, YOU…" know for certain that they are attempting to manipulate your response.

SURELY, YOU believe this is God's only right way!

SURELY, YOU don't go for all that grace stuff!! Why that's ridiculous!

SURELY, YOU haven't been taken in by those books full of lies!!

Positive Assurances

Language loaded with Positive Assurances can also cause you to accept a point of view without proof. It is perfectly legitimate for a speaker to use assuring phrases like "obviously," "it is common knowledge that," and the like when the evidence is so overwhelming that most would agree that the matter is transparent or conclusive. However, assurances are empty words or phrases UNLESS there is proof to back them up. Positive Assurances often mask a weak explanation or disguise an unproven assertion. Positive assurances are sometimes used intentionally to gain your compliance; to stop you from questioning further; to manipulate you into silence. However, claiming something is true, doesn't make it true. Neither does claiming that "everyone knows" something. Confident speculation is a far cry from proof. Some examples are:

Of course...

No doubt - Undoubtedly...
Beyond the shadow of a doubt...
Nothing could be clearer than...

Unquestionably - It's beyond question...
It's crystal clear that...
Without controversy,

It's indisputable
In fact...
It's a known fact...

It's common knowledge...
It's obvious that...
Studies show...

Informed sources say...
It goes without saying...
These truths are self-evident...

It is agreed...
Everyone knows - agrees...
As we all know...

I just know that...
I am confident that...
I'm sure that...

I have every reason to believe that...
No one would disagree if I said that...
You know, as well as I do, that...
You know full well that.....

Rebutting Slanting

Whenever you hear someone use a loaded expression, just smile and punch it right out of the sentence! Act as if you didn't even hear it. Refuse to let it arouse your emotions. Make up your own mind or opinion -- don't let someone else make it for you! One truly excellent way to defuse this type situation is to restate or summarize the matter in neutral, non-emotional language, in a respectful tone, absolutely devoid of scorn or anger. Some suggested replies to slanting are:

"When you refer to God as a space monster who plans to barbecue men over an eternal grill, you are basically saying that God is a large, powerful, frightening being who has a place reserved for sinners involving everlasting punishment with heat. Is this right?"

"So essentially, you are saying that the answers are all found in gospel meetings, and that I should keep coming to gospel meetings where I'll one day hear the answer to my question. Is this right? If you know the answer, I'd appreciate it if you would answer my question now. This is important to me."

Another way is to disarm them and "agree with thine adversary," and press on with your question.

"Did I sound angry? Thanks for telling me. I appreciate your feedback. Let me just calmly repeat my question..."

"Did I say "never?" Thanks for pointing that out. Never is too strong a word. What I should have said/wanted to say/meant to say was..."

"Maybe I AM being shortsighted here. I'll give that some thought. In the meantime, how will you go about getting the answer to my question..."

Slanting With Generalities

Vague words are sometimes deliberately used so a conclusion will seem more reasonable than it really is. Be leery of an explanation that uses absolute terms; words such as "all, always, every, everyone, everything, immediately, no one, none, nothing, never, must." It is extremely rare that EVERY member of a group will have identical characteristics, beliefs or attitudes. Rarely is the use of generalities or all-inclusive terms justified. Coming up with just one exception makes this type statement false and the speaker appear foolish.

Unless it is absolutely true, get out of the habit of saying: "All A are B." Rather say more accurately: "Some or many A are B." Think about it. Isn't it just as easy to use accurate words, as it is to exaggerate and be incorrect? Try to select your qualifiers with precision in mind, and watch out for overstatements and understatements of others. Question them or punch them right out of the sentence in your mind and substitute a more accurate description.

For: always - Substitute: for the most part, usually, sometimes, often
For: certainly - Substitute: in all probability
For: never - Substitute: some times, rarely
For: probably - Substitute: possibly
For: all the time - Substitute: often, occasionally
For: occasionally - Substitute: frequently

I NEVER see them at gospel meetings any more.
EVERYBODY showed up! I can only think of six people who were missing!

ALL reasonable people believe that...
ALL the workers agree that...

Oh, she ALWAYS does that…
He NEVER tells the whole truth…

Slanting With Holy-Sounding Language

Many replies contain innuendo, which is an indirect implication (often derogatory) about a person or thing. The innuendo may use Biblical jargon; take expressions from Hymns; or use Old English phraseology (considered by some to be "God's Language;" i.e. thee, thou, dost, verily, etc.). Replies are often accepted without question that are presented with holy-sounding terminology which gives the impression that God confirms or authorizes the statement. Holy jargon gives the illusion of adding extra clout to a reply. To use Scripture in this manner is to abuse it, rather than using it.

The technique of using holy-sounding language often acts as a good Question Terminator and causes the person to drop the question like a hot potato. Be careful that you don't give a reply more importance than it deserves. Don't stop looking for the answer to your question just because someone attempts to chastise, shame or awe you with holy-sounding language.

CAUTION: Whenever holy-sounding language crops up in a reply, watch out! More often than not, it is a diversion ploy to get you to stop Questioning and accept a weak position without good reason.

Examples of Slanting With Holy-Sounding Language

Phrases: "lost and perishing world;" "outside the camp;" "itching ears;" "honest heart"

"Your problem with women's appearance is just your personal thorn in the flesh." (The innuendo is that one should be like Paul and accept it as a privilege to bear their cross in this manner, and pass it off by saying `thy grace is sufficient for me,' etc.)

"Be careful! Don't remove the old landmarks!" (The innuendo is that the women's appearance items are landmarks.)

"Don't you believe the workers are God's mouthpieces?"

"It was as if hundreds arose from the earth as one man" (using Judges 20:8: "And all the people arose as one man...") in answer to: Who started the church? And not mention the founder Wm Irvine's name.

Slanting with Scriptures

When questioned about the history of this fellowship, it is not uncommon for workers to take refuge behind Scripture passages pertaining to foolish questions, endless genealogies, striving about words, or pride, and things that do not edify. Following are verses that are sometimes used to evade Questions and to imply that inquiring into Irvine's ancestry is of no value and a waste of time (unprofitable).

2 Tim. 2:14: "That they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers." (Paul was defending the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in that verse. Asking an honest question is not "striving about words.")

Questions & Foolish Questions

2 Tim. 2:23: "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes."

Titus 3:9: "But avoid foolish questions and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain."

A reply pointing to verses about foolish actions is innuendo SUPREME! A more derogatory intimation about the person asking the Question would be hard to imagine. The implication cannot be mistaken! If you fall for it, you ARE foolish! Foolish questions are only ONE category of Questions -- not ALL Questions are foolish.

Just WHY do they consider your Question foolish? On what basis? Why is your Question foolish? If the matter concerns your soul, salvation, or your service to God, then it's NOT a foolish Question! It is vital for your spiritual well-being and growth. Genuine, valid, legitimate and sensible Questions are the responsibility of the experts/teachers to answer. "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves;" 2 Tim 2:24-25. Truthful answers with scriptural backing dissolve doubts, and make convictions even firmer. It is usually ONLY the Questions for which they have no scriptural support (men's traditions being enforced as God's commandments) that are labeled foolish.

So you might agree with them that it certainly IS a good policy to avoid trick Questions -- and most of us generally try to do so. It IS usually best to avoid those who just want to toy with us, make fun of our desires or actions, and/or put us down -- but you're not doing this. Your Question is not a trick Question, and is not in the category of foolish questions, so this objection does not apply. Press on for an answer to your Question. Some suggested replies are:

"I agree with you that controversy for the sake of controversy is wrong. Do you think God looks on all questions as "foolish" which should be avoided at all costs? Sometimes controversy is necessary in order to discover important truths vital to salvation. Would our most fair and just God condemn questions like this from an honest heart?"

"If you preach that something is ESSENTIAL to salvation or pertains to godliness, then it is hardly "foolish" to want to understand it better. It is understood that you have scriptures to support your position. What are they?"

"If you can't prove it with the scriptures -- why should I be required to believe/follow men's traditions which are being enforced as though they were God's commandments!"

"How can I understand it -- except some man should guide me?" (the eunuch's reply to Philip in Acts 8:31)

Pride - Proud

2 Tim. 6:3-4: "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words."

If you ask if a particular scripture could mean something other than the way it has usually been interpreted, some insinuate that you are "proud" from 2 Tim. 6:3-4. Notice the context of this passage in the previous verses. Paul was telling Timothy what to teach concerning a servants relationship with his master. He was saying if the instructions in verses 1-2 are contested, then the contestor is proud, etc. To label a Questioner "proud" from this verse is taking the verse out of context, for it wasn't dealing with asking a reasonable Question to verify the supporting scriptures for beliefs perpetuated by the fellowship.

Cunningly Devised Fables & Genealogies

Another refuge the workers hide behind when Questioned about the history of this fellowship, is the following Scripture pertaining to 'cunningly devised fables, and genealogies':

  • 1 Tim. 1:3-4: "That thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do."
  • 1 Tim 4:7: "But refuse profane and old wives' fables and exercise thyself rather unto godliness."
  • 2 Tim 4:3-4: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
  • Titus 1:14: "Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth."
  • Titus 3:9: "But avoid foolish questions and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain."

Some definitions to review:

FABLE (Strong’s No. 3454) is a tale, fiction, a myth. For example, a fable presently being fostered is that the 2x2 ministry continued down from the apostles in an unbroken line of succession. William Irvine is not a fable -- not a product of someone's imagination.

GENEALOGY is a record of the descent of a person or family from an ancestor(s).

HISTORY is a record of past events; what has happened in the life or development of a people, country, institution, sect, etc. World War I is history -- not a fable!

Example: "It's wonderful to know, like Peter said, that we have not followed 'cunningly devised fables', but have tasted for ourselves of His majesty." (The innuendo discounts the history as a fairy tale without a literal lie being made verbally -- hoping attention will be diverted and the Question dropped.)

Replies To: Slanting With Holy-Sounding Language

"History differs considerably from genealogy. GENEALOGY is a record of the descent of A PERSON or FAMILY from an ancestor or ancestors. HISTORY is a record of past events in the life or development of a people, country, sect, etc. What I'm concerned with is HISTORY -- not with GENEALOGY. I understand that the workers have not kept written historical records, per se. However, if it is true that the sect existed before 1897, then there should be some tangible historical evidence, such as pictures, lists, letters, grave sites, etc. of workers and friends before 1897. What evidence have you seen with your own eyes?"

"You must have misunderstood my Question. I am not concerned with "fables" or "genealogies," but rather with..."

"You misunderstood my Question; I have no interest in "fables" or "genealogies." What I AM interested in learning is this: What Biblical basis do you have for believing this fellowship in which you are a minister is God's only true way on earth?"

"A fable is a fairy tale -- pure fiction! I'm not talking about a "fable!" I want to know what really took place historically. My Question is...?"

"I hardly think the history of a fellowship less than 100 years old qualifies as "endless genealogy." (Then rephrase and ask your Question again)

"I assure you I have no bone of contention with "the law," nor do I have any interest in genealogies. However, I would like to know..."

"Though you may consider this Question absurd or stupid ("foolish or unlearned"), I would still appreciate it if you, as a servant of the Lord, a teacher of the truth, would patiently instruct me by giving me an answer. As a teacher of God's Word, does that verse not obligate you to teach and instruct? "And the servant of the Lord gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing the acknowledging of the truth." (This turns the tables on them, as you turn and use "holy language" back on them!)

The following letter was sent to a brother worker who had cautioned the writer not to get taken up with genealogies:


"I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly with your position towards natural genealogies and other endeavors mentioned in 1st Timothy which are counter-productive and wasteful to the preservation and growth of our fellowship and love for Truth. The workers preach that our lineage harkens from the beginning, and has been shaped by the sure and sovereign will of God. The workers also preach that out of humanity in general, God has been sifting and molding a particular and peculiar people who would embody and embrace His plan with whom He would give His special revelation and dispensation.

"The Old Testament authors, as well as Matthew and Luke, set forth genealogies with meticulous detail and accuracy. Apparently, God felt the lineage of Christ was important enough to document the Jewish descent to Abraham, which occupies the first 17 verses of Matthew. Luke was divinely inspired to trace the genealogy of Jesus to Adam, which represents a direct connection with not only the Jews, but all mankind.

"Since the workers preach the sectarian doctrine of apostolic succession, whether explicitly or implicitly, they should be able to substantiate this factually, as God moved Matthew and Luke to do. If they can't prove beyond all doubt that an unbroken connection with first century Christianity exists, then, obviously, this should not be preached as an indisputable fact.

"Conversely, if we lay no claim to unbroken succession, then we are, in effect, admitting to an earthly organizer; a person who, in our particular instance, began this movement of what he felt to be primitive Christianity through emphasis upon select and specific scriptural references.

"If this is so, let's honestly admit to it and remove the Questions and cloak of secrecy which have intentionally or unintentionally shrouded the origins of this fellowship. If the earthly foundation of our fellowship be based upon anything less than a full disclosure of the pure and honest truth, then the entire structure, no matter how closely it may be aligned with select scriptures, is in error, and in grave jeopardy as an instrument through which God would desire to work.

Your Brother in Christ,"

Signed: ____________

Some Scripture used to insinuate that you should be fearful or ashamed to even ask your Question:

Luke 9:45: "But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.

Mark 9:32: "But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him."

Suggested Reply: "This fellowship claims to follow the New Testament teachings ONLY. That means everything we need to know and do in order to receive eternal life is contained in the Bible. Right? Well, where does the Scripture say...

a. Women must/must not X in order to be saved?
b. God has only one way, that didn't mean Jesus?"Some replies use the following verse to imply that in your ignorance (which is obvious to the experts or teachers by your Questioning their interpretations) that you are TWISTING the Scriptures to suit yourself; or that questioning is destructive: "...speaking in them (Paul's epistles) of these things in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist), as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." 1 Peter 3:16

Apparently, even Peter found some of the things in Paul's letters "hard to understand." However, you're not Questioning Paul's letters, but rather men’s interpretations of some details in his letters. If it was hard for Peter to understand some of what Paul said, it stands to reason that you might also find them difficult to understand in this far removed day and age from the culture, history, government and times they were written in. When Peter was not even certain what Paul meant, how can we be dogmatic in our interpretation today of passages hard to understand??

You can also turn the tables and insinuate that perhaps they have been "unlearned and unstable" in their interpretations of various scriptures, and have instituted applications or practices that are destructive, since they can give you no scriptural basis for certain required behaviors and beliefs. That road works both ways.

Some use the Black or White fallacy and make a comparison between things that edify and things that do not. Your question is minimized and it is implied that your point is of no value just because it may have no eternal value. This technique is based on these verses:

1 Tim. 1:3-4: "That thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do."

Romans 14:19: "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."

1 Cor 10:23: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."

In the following replies, the speakers either (1) don't want to tell you the answer or (2) they don't know the answer.

"There are things that could be told, but they are not edifying."

"Any who would suggest a written genealogy record is necessary between the first and twentieth century would fall into the category of 1 Tim. 1:3-4: 'That thou might charge some that they teach no other doctrine. Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.' " (Dan Hilton 1/1/84 Burlington, WA Special Meeting.)

In essence, these are refusals to discuss the matter. They are Question Terminators!

Euphemisms - Doublespeak
It's ALL in the Name!

"And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies:
but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth;" Jer 9:3

In polite society, some words are unmentionable. Some subjects are just plain offensive or unpleasant to talk or think about: sex, death, torture, etc. So people often use words they carefully choose to avoid directly mentioning something sensitive or delicate. When we substitute a positive, pleasing or neutral association for one that is negative, disagreeable or offensive, that word is called a Euphemism. Euphemisms cause bad to seem good, negative to appear positive, and unpleasant to look attractive, or at least tolerable.

Because they repackage the negative in an acceptable format, Euphemisms are often used as a kindness, and their use is sometimes considered good manners. For instance, the term "passed away" is kinder than the word "dead," when talking to a recent widow. Referring to "a piece of misinformation," rather than "a bald-faced lie" may prevent hostility from occurring.

However, because the nature of a Euphemism is to disguise the negative, they can also be misused to mislead, distort and deceive. Euphemisms can be used to pull wool over people's eyes -- to cloud or limit thought; to prevent opposition or conflict; to mislead, distort, deceive or inflate. Just as a rose by any other name is still a rose, so a spade by any other name is still a spade. Changing the name does not change the fact. A lie can never become the truth -- no matter how the lie is dressed or packaged -- even if it's a 100-year old lie! Watch out for Word Benders!

Examples of Euphemisms

Harsh Reality - Euphemism Substitute:

fat, overweight - husky, full figure
skinny - slim, slender
false teeth - dentures
sweat - perspiration
kickbacks - rebates
junkyard - auto recycler
employee - associate
in the red - negative cash flow
housewife - domestic engineer
stench - aroma
in the john - powdering her nose
rebel/guerrilla - freedom fighter
tax hike - revenue enhancement
potholes - pavement deficiencies
dump - recycling facility
sewer system - water waste management
jail - correctional facility
reform school - Youth Development Center
alcohol/drug addiction - chemical dependency; substance abuse

2x2 Harsh Reality - Euphemism Substitutes:

Some 2x2s have a tendency to use euphemisms to disguise what they mean. Here’s a few examples…

Disagrees with beliefs - lost his vision
Difference of opinion - wrong spirit
Doesn't buy everything - lack of faith, loves the world
Going to hell - lost eternity
Worker's Rules - standards of the kingdom
Rape - taking advantage of ;
groping a feel to rape - taking liberties
empty talk - good visit
inconvenience - privilege
doing it workers' way - for kingdom/gospel's sake;
worker taboos - things that aren't edifying
life dictated by workers - self-denial, suffering, persecution
sucker - convert, honest heart
light - their method; walk in "the light" as Jesus walked
advertising with outer appearance/actions, peculiar people, bearing marks of Christ
conformity - unity
poor - workers selling all and giving to the poor
their method - the truth as it is in Jesus
their method - God's plan
workers' rules - standards of the kingdom

More Examples of Euphemisms :

"Their (2x2) polity is episcopal." (means their organization is governed by bishops.)
From: Canadian Encyclopedia, 1988 Article on Assemblies of Christians, pg 424

The following euphemisms are from the February, 1995 Reader's Digest, Page 106, written by Steve Salerno in Los Angeles Times Magazine: Oh, Wheelie?"

"Southern California is home to many publications devoted to helping people sell their used cars. The listings have a vocabulary all their own; understanding it is essential to avoid getting lemonized. What it says - What it means:

  • Must sell - Before it blows up.
  • Runs fine - I was going to say "runs excellent," but I had a last-minute conscience attack.
  • Needs some body work - Was blindsided by a Winnebago.
  • Well-maintained - I changed the oil occasionally.
  • Looks like new - Just don't try to drive it anywhere.
  • All original - I never had anything fixed, adjusted or replaced.
  • Loaded with options - Each one more troublesome than the next.
  • Never smoked in - Unfortunately, that's the best thing I can say about it.
  • Project car - Doesn't run.
  • Lots of potential - Doesn't run.
  • Needs minor repair - Doesn't run."

Hedging - Weasel Words!

Don't expect straight-forward answers from the Hedger! Hedging protects the speaker from criticism by watering own his claim, and gives the speaker a way out should his claim be challenged. Hedgers avoid making direct accusations or statements, preferring to use indirect words or phrases such as "perhaps, possibly and maybe." These plant a suggestion without making an outright claim which the Hedger could be held accountable for. For example, it can be suggested that John Doe is a liar without directly stating so by saying:

Does John Doe have a past history of lying?
Is it POSSIBLE that John Doe could be lying?
PERHAPS John Doe isn't telling the whole truth...

What the Hedger presents may really be his point of view, but he gives it in an oblique, roundabout way. This enables the Hedger to weasel out of or shift responsibility. He can shirk the blame for the absurdity of the position he is holding and get out of having to defend his weak position. Some Weasel phrases are:

"Some would say that..."
"It may well be that..."
"It is arguable that..."

"It has been suggested that..."
"Management doesn't permit..."
"An older brother worker always said about that..."

"Some would say the reason women are to wear their long hair put up is because the scripture says long hair is to be a covering for the head -- not the back."
"Perhaps they never had a good understanding anyway..."
"I think most workers would agree that..."

"It is not impossible for God to raise up a prophet in our day like he did in generations past..."
"Well, I myself have never preached that..."
"I don't know of any of the friends who feel like that..."
"Some would say that X is the reason why Z."

"You will need to talk to one of the older brothers about that subject..."
"The Way is perfect, but the people aren't."
"George Walker used to say about that..."

The purpose of the Before You Ask series is not to destroy faith but that you may " fully persuaded in your own mind" (Rom 14:5) and "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" 1 Peter 3:15.

Go to Chapter 3





Chapter 1 - Unanswered Questions

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Revised February 23, 2017

Before You Ask

The purpose of this series is not to destroy faith, but that readers may be  "...fully persuaded in your own mind" (Rom 14:5) and be "ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" ( Peter 3:15).

NOTE: The goal of these articles is to assist individuals to develop Critical Thinking abilities; to ignore excess information, dismiss the useless frill, and uncover the heart of things. "To be fore-warned is to be fore-armed." And for the reason that "...I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe," (John 14:29). For additional information, books about the subjects of logic, debate, argumentation, rhetoric, critical thinking or speech usually contain sections on faulty reasoning. I have researched fallacies, logic and the art of asking questions, but I do not claim to be an expert. This is a review of my studies, conclusions, opinions and recommendations. Your comments, experiences, examples and recommendations are invited.


Before You Ask - Chapter 1

Unanswered Questions

Do you remember a time when you had a particular question that was bothering you? Perhaps you looked forward to an upcoming visit from workers and planned to ask your question then. You were confident they would be able to answer it to your satisfaction. Did you get your answer, or did you realize later that your question was STILL unanswered?! If so, you are not alone! What happened? Did the conversation get side-tracked onto another subject? Did you become even more confused? Did you come away feeling attacked, stung or stoned (Luke 11:11-12)? Were you made to feel somehow inferior, as though:

  • your spiritual life was lacking or defective
  • you weren't worthy to have your question answered
  • you were out of place for asking
  • you should be ashamed or feel guilty for asking
  • you were making a mountain out of a molehill
  • you were the problem for noticing a problem

A reply that sends you a deficiency message will not answer your question. All answers are replies...but not all replies are answers. YOU and your circumstances are irrelevant to the answer to your question. Although you may not be able to pinpoint exactly what's wrong, you somehow know when you're not given a straight-forward answer; and you know when you're not being leveled with. A reply that doesn't ring true, make sense, add up, sound right, or click probably didn't answer your question either. Quite simply stated, a question is a request for information; for supporting evidence and sound reasoning to accept a judgment, conclusion, practice or belief. When you ask a question, the other person has three choices:

  1. Answer the question
  2. Refuse to answer the question
  3. Evade the question

It stands to reason, if they know the answer, and they don't mind telling you the answer, that they will answer your question plainly. A simple answer is the easiest way out, right? On the other hand, if they don't know the answer, they will either refuse to answer or attempt to evade the question. REMEMBER: If someone attempts to evade your question or refuses to answer your question, that is a sure sign he either: (1) doesn't know the answer OR (2) doesn't want to tell you the answer.If your question has put them in the hot seat, backed them into a corner, pinned them against the wall, has them sweating; or if your question, for some reason, makes them feel threatened, defensive or attacked, an attempt may be made to divert the conversation into safer channels to save face and/or relieve the anxiety that they will be exposed. Some methods commonly used to evade questions are called fallacies. "Fallacies" are faulty reasoning, and not a recent invention -- some have even been recognized for so long they are commonly known by their original Latin titles. Since the varieties of faulty reasoning are practically infinite, this article will be limited to analyzing, blocking and countering only those fallacies frequently used by friends and workers.

Following are the definitions for three commonly used varieties of Fallacies of Irrelevance:

A. Diversion or Evasion
intentionally introduced to shift attention from the original issue to another subject (smoke-screen, red herring, strawman, figurative analogies, humor, sarcasm, innuendo, minimizing importance, asking a counter-question, passing the buck, feigning ignorance, answering ambiguously, procrastination).

B. Attacks, abusing or accusing the questioner's personal character, origins, circumstances, opinions, affiliations or behavior. Shifting the blame. Character assassination using shame, insult, guilt, embarrassment, scorn, ridicule, name-calling, criticism, put-downs, stereotyping, pigeon-holing, labeling.

C. Appeals to Accept a Conclusion
(special pleading), using irrelevant reasons or facts; attempt to persuade with inducement OTHER THAN the merits of the belief or conclusion:

1. Appeals to your Emotions; Play on your Sympathy, Pity; Appeals to your fears, pride, loyalty, guilt, hope, flattery, trust, love, friendship, sincerity 2. Appeals to an Inexpert Authority, to Special Revelation; to Results; to Force; to Consequences; to Tradition, to Quantity, to Status Quo; to What the Crowd Does; to the Benefits of Suffering; Pleas for Special Treatment

Fallacious Reasoning Quiz

Can you identify which of the three categories (diversions, attacks, or appeals) the following fallacious replies fall into? (Some fall into more than one category.) Of course, it's not nearly as important to be able to neatly classify replies that use fallacious reasoning, as it is to be able to recognize when they are being used!

1. ____"WHAT have you been reading!!"
2. ____"If you had the right spirit, you wouldn't even question that."
3. ____"It's like a seed that has been dormant..."
4. ____"Why, you ought to be ashamed for even asking that question -- after all Jesus has done for you!"
5. ____"Some things you just have to accept on faith."
6. ____"Your asking that question tells me that you have a much deeper problem...perhaps you never really had a good understanding."
7. ____"As the hymn says: 'We follow, with a faith that questions not.' "
8. ____"Well, I remember what Willie Jamieson/George Walker, etc. used to say about that..."
9. ____"You've been in this fellowship X years, and you don't know the answer to THAT question?"
10. ____"Our old friends and workers lived and died in it; that's good enough for me."
11. ____"There is nothing to discuss. Truth is Truth. It is just a matter of your not X (being willing, having enough faith, being rebellious, being vain, etc.)."
12. ____"It's a dangerous thing to question the workers -- Why, that's the same as questioning God!!"
13. ____"I know this is God's true way because, it feels right to me."
14. ____"Well, the way is perfect -- it's just the people that aren't perfect."
15. ____"After my parents professed, I never once saw my mother __X _ again."
16. ____"It sounds to me like you're doubting. Be careful! Some in Revelations could not enter in because of unbelief!"
17. ____"The history isn't really important. The important thing is when the gospel came to you, and began a work in YOUR life. Tell me, when was that?"
18. ____"You can tell a goat because he is always 'butting.' "
19. ____"Who have you been talking to?!! Sounds to me like you've been listening to some who have read "those books full of lies" who are "tearing down the truth!"
20. ____"I sure wouldn't want to be in your place on the judgment day!"

(Answers are at the end of this page)

Your Perfect Right --To Question

A claim or belief is a statement that is either true or false. A claim/belief stands or fall upon its own merits. Either there is or isn't adequate evidence and sound reasoning to support the claim/belief and prove it is true. "Truth is truth." The enclosed tract titled "What is Truth?" reviews the unique characteristics of Truth. Truth is the primary authority to which all things must conform.

When someone goes on record stating they know/believe something to be true, it is presumed they can justify their belief/claim with adequate evidence and/or sound reasoning. FURTHERMORE, when a belief/claim is publicly stated, YOU have the automatic right to ask for the evidence and reasons supporting the claim or belief. In other words, if someone asserts that X is bad, you have the right to ask why is X bad, or what makes X bad? If someone asserts that you have violated certain rights or standards, and to request you have the right to ask how, evidence of the alleged standard in force. For instance, if someone claims you violated their constitutional right as an American citizen, they should be able to clearly refer to the precise law or right they allege you broke, and also be able to show proof of how you violated the standard. A child of God has certain rights, privileges and duties under their constitution, the Bible. If someone claims you have violated a Biblical standard, they should be able to clearly point to the exact standard you breached, and give proof of how you did so. An unproven claim is merely an allegation, assertion, accusation, opinion, theory; some can be construed as slander, maligning and false witness. When someone asserts a claim or belief, you have three choices:

  1. You can accept and believe it.
  2. You can reject or believe that it is false.
  3. You can suspend judgment about it.

Critical Thinking is the careful and deliberate determination of whether to accept, reject or suspend judgment about a claim. The ability to Think Critically is vitally important since your decisions are based on what you believe and have accepted as true. Your life may depend upon it. Critical Thinking involves many skills, including the ability to listen and read carefully, to evaluate arguments, to look for and check out assumptions, and to trace the consequences of a claim. A Critical Thinker knows fallacious reasoning can be highly persuasive psychologically, so he doesn't take everything at face value. He doesn't assume -- he proves for himself whether a claim is true, questionable, dubious, or false. A Critical Thinker is a skeptic -- he won't buy just anything! He doesn't let others make up his mind for him. he doesn't allow his "...liberty (to be) judged of another man's conscience" 1 Cor 10:29. For a Critical Thinker, all things must conform to Truth. "God, who has given the Bible, has also given us our reason with which to examine and understand it; and we are guilty before Him if we bury this talent in the earth and hide our Lord's money" (by J. F. Clarke).

Learning to recognize, block and counter faulty reasoning techniques will help you in a number of areas. Being able to explain why a conclusion, belief or claim is faulty will gain you the respect of others, and help you present your own beliefs and ideas more effectively. It will also help you to evaluate information and make better, informed decisions, as well as prevent you from being manipulated.

A Critical Thinker must ask questions, even though it is sometimes like pulling teeth to get straight answers. All answers are replies...but not all replies are answers! Some replies do not even address your question(s). The most common method used to check out a claim or belief is to ask questions. God fully expects you to use your reasoning powers and intelligence. There is nothing shameful in asking an honest, sincere question with the purpose and motive to learn. It has been said: "Only a fool thinks he knows everything." You have absolute freedom to inquire; to search for truth. One must ask questions to discover information; to be able to "rightly divide" truth from error; to be able to "know whom I have believed." A significant number of Scriptures, when taken in context, highly recommend proving, testing, searching, studying, being FULLY persuaded of, FULLY comprehending, and increasing in knowledge, wisdom and understanding.

Scriptures Approving of Questioning

  • Luke 1:4: "know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed"
  • Acts 17:11: Paul praised the Bereans because they "searched the Scriptures daily to make certain whether things were so..."
  • Romans 14:5: " fully persuaded in your own mind"
  • Eph. 3:18: " able to comprehend...what is the breadth and length and depth and height" of it all
  • Col. 1:9: " filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding"
  • Col. 1:28-2:2: "have the full assurance of understanding" (meaning certainty, full assurance, complete conviction.)
  • 2 Tim. 2:15: "study to show thyself approved unto God...rightly dividing the word of truth."
  • 1 Thes. 5:21: "prove all things and hold fast that which is good"
  • 1 Peter 3:15: "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear."
  • 2 Peter 1:5: "...add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue KNOWLEDGE,"
  • James 1:5: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him."
  • Ps 90:12: "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
  • Isaiah 1:18: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD"

Jesus often used the question method in His teaching.
Questions arouse attention and provoke thought.

By what authority doest thou these things? Matt 21:23
How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Matt 18:21
Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not? Matt 22:17

Lord, is it I? Matt 26:22
What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? Matt 27:22
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things? Luke 24:26

What doth hinder me to be baptized? Acts 8:36
What must I do to be saved? Acts 16:30
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Rom 8:35

Is Christ divided? 1 Cor 1:13
Wherefore, then serveth the law? Gal 3:19
Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? Gal 4:16

How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? Heb 2:3
Who is a wise man? James 3:13
For what is your life? James 4:14
What manner of persons ought ye to be? 2 Peter 3:11

Rebutting "We're Not to Question" Replies

Sometimes, the reply will evade the subject entirely and instead it will be implied that the question should not have been asked. This usually happens when Biblical support is weak, inadequate or insufficient to warrant the practice or belief enforced, such as with questions involving William Irvine, or women's appearance. Some "hide behind the Scripture" and cite certain passages out of context to imply you shouldn't be questioning. For example:

"We are sometimes asked about the period between...the first century and the present twentieth century. We have no written records on earth of God's work in the world during this period. God's records are written in heaven," Mal. 3:16, Luke 10:20, Rev. 20:12. Any who would suggest a written genealogy record is necessary between the first and twentieth century would fall into the category of 1 Tim. 1:3-4: `That thou might charge some that they teach no other doctrine. Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.'" (Dan Hilton 1/1/84 Burlington, WA Special. Meeting.)

"Personally, I have never been taken up with "endless genealogies," or other things that Paul warned against in 1 Tim. 1:3-4. My satisfaction is in the fact that the Lord has given to me all that he has promised." (Howard Mooney) While you are not to question God, the Scripture definitely recommends questioning MEN, and the Bible makes no exceptions for certain men or groups. There is no Scripture recommending that a child of God refuse to answer an honest question; nor any Scripture prohibiting or discouraging questions. There is much to the contrary. Jesus answered His disciples' questions, but evaded some of the Pharisees' trick questions. You are not asking a trick question. Paul wrote long letters to answer questions of his converts. How can you "be careful" or "beware" without asking questions? What are you going to do? Follow men who say you should not question them or their beliefs and practices; or follow the Scripture that says "prove all things?"

REMEMBER THIS: ANY TIME Scripture is used to imply you shouldn't question MEN, you can KNOW FOR SURE that an "Evasion Attempt" is in process; and that Scripture is being misused, misinterpreted or taken out of context.

It's quite simple to prove this statement for yourself. Try this assignment. Take the following list of Scriptures commonly given to indicate you should not be asking questions (1 Tim. 1:3-4, 4:7; 2 Tim 2:14, 2:23-25, 4:3-4, 6:3-4; Titus 1:14, 3:9; Luke 9:45), and check them out. Are they being used in context? What is the author's real meaning and intent? Answering to the following questions for each passage will help you determine this:

  1. To whom was the particular Scripture passage addressed? This can make a BIG difference. Was it addressed to Christians? Jews? Sinners?
  2. Was the Scripture a part of the New or Old covenant?
  3. Where does Bible indicate this is the ONLY acceptable practice or method of doing X?
  4. Was it Jesus' intent for this practice to be continued by ALL believers or ministers for ALL times? Which verse indicates this? Was the message intended for a specific purpose or universal?
  5. What was the principle behind the practice, instruction or application?
  6. The Bible is a record of humans who made mistakes as well as victories. Be sure the Scripture passage supporting a practice or belief was not recording a mistake that should be learned from, rather than a practice to be imitated.
  7. Are key words being defined by their meaning at the time the passage was written? (A word used by an author in the first century in Greek may or may not be the same as our 20th century definition for the same word. For example, the word "conversation" today does not mean "conduct," as the word meant in the first century)
  8. Where else in the Bible does the Bible confirm this definition, belief, practice?
  9. Who was speaking? Is the person a credible representative of God's will/word?
  10. What time period did the message pertain to? Did it involve a specific time period? (i.e. "while praying," "until I come" etc.)

Suggested Replies to "We're Not to Question"

You have a perfect Right to question men. However, you may have to defend your right. Some basic defenses you might use are:

You need to know the answer to Question X...

(A) In order to obey X Scripture
(B) In order to heed X Scriptural warning
(C) In order to follow X Scriptural example

Suggested Replies to "We're Not to Question"

(A) In order to obey X Scripture, you need to know the answer to X: The Bible says to: "Give an answer to every man that asketh"1 Peter 3:15. So will you please give me the answer to my question why X?"

The reason I ask is because I take my responsibility very seriously to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" 1 Pet 3:15. So, what is your answer to my question? [NOTE regarding above: 1 Peter 3:8 shows Peter was addressing "all"; therefore, the workers are to give an answer to "all" who ask them a question.]

If I am to "acquire wisdom and understanding," which Solomon highly recommends in Proverbs, I must ask questions. My question is...

Since we are directed to "prove all things", I would like to ask what is the proof for the belief/practice of X?

(B) In order to heed X Scriptural warning, you need to know the answer to X:

Let me clarify the reason I am asking you this question. It is because I don't want to "...err (by) not knowing the Scriptures...." (Matt 22:29) as some did. What can you tell me about the reason they do/believe X in this fellowship?

I ask this because the workers are men, and as men, they are not infallible. Therefore, it is possible that the workers could be teaching for doctrine their own commandments, like the Pharisees did, Mark 7:7. Where is X commanded in the Scripture?

(C) In order to follow X Scriptural example, you are asking X:

I'm merely asking you to do what the disciples did to convince the Jews -- show by the Scriptures that the belief/practice of X is commanded. "For he mightily convinced the Jews...shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ" Acts 18:28.

It's interesting that you do not think I should question something I do not understand. How am I going to defend my faith as the Scripture commands, if don't know why I "believe" something? My question is simple; I just want to know what Scripture supports the practice/belief of X?"

Is it Really Wrong to Question?

Answers to Fallacious Reasoning Quiz:

A = 1, 3, 7, 14, 17, 18, 19

B = 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 18

C = 5, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 20

Return to Quiz

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