Over the last couple of years, those of us who live in the United States have gone through a painful and exhausting Presidential election cycle (regardless of who you supported, I think most would say it was exhausting) that, if nothing else, should have given you a great example of what is meant by the popular phrase, “straw man argument.” This is where in the course of a debate, public or otherwise, one side creates or raises up an image or an assumption about the other side (doesn’t have to be true and many times they are not) that is quite easy to attack and defeat. You know how it goes, “Oh, he’s a racist”or “Liar, liar, pantsuit on fire.” The evidence needed to prove these claims may be flimsy at best, but who cares? Once it is out there, it is part of the discussion and will be used over and over again because, as we have heard many times, if you hear something often enough you are more likely to believe it. And thanks to the media, nowadays, getting something heard or seen often enough is not a problem. It is what they do and they do it best….no doubt.
Sadly, politics is not the only area of discussion where this “straw-tegy” is being utilized. Maybe even more than in politics, at least for a much longer time, it has been used relating to matters of faith such as God, the Bible, Jesus Christ and religion in general.
Say “Hello” to an old friend (in more ways than one).
Jesus said, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many.” [Mark 13:6 NKJV]
When our Lord walked upon this Earth, some two thousand years ago, He talked a lot about the types of things that would happen after His death and resurrection, especially regarding the times leading up to His Second Coming, which many say could be nearer than we think. I do think it is worth noting that many of the things that He talked about in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, as “signs of the times,” that would indicate His Return may be coming soon…most of them are happening, in varying degrees, all around us right now. Not the least of which, to be honest, are efforts by people or powers who are not exactly anxiously awaiting His Return, to twist the truth or manipulate public opinion regarding who the God of the Bible and Jesus Christ are. By advancing misleading theories or perceptions that attempt to deceive or distract people from coming to a true and honest understanding of God, they attempt to chill or temper our desires to get to know Him or establish a relationship with Him, based on reasonable truths that have been widely accepted for centuries.
I am sure you have heard or read most of them…”There is no God” (see Psalm 53). “There is only one God, He is just called different names by different religions.” “The Bible is flawed and full of contradictions.” “Jesus was merely a good man.” “Jesus was a great teacher, nothing more.” “Jesus did not rise again, His disciples stole His body.” “Jesus was the Son of God, but not God, Himself,” and my personal favorite, “Jesus was really Adam and was reincarnated twelve different times before being good enough to become Christ.” The last one was put out there by Edgar Cayce, the famous seer from the early 20th century.
In short, what the enemies of God have done over and over again, from the serpent in the Garden of Eden to the false prophets of today that Jesus warned us about, is to raise up a “skewed or weakened image” (a straw man) that makes God easier to contend with, intellectually. And by doing so, they believe that gives them an excuse for not believing in a higher power and justifies the lifestyle choices they want to make, while attempting to dissuade others from believing, as well. That, of course, makes them feel all the more justified in resisting God’s love and mercy and saying things like, “I don’t need a God….I have a brain.” Yes, sometimes the straw man even speaks. My Dad used to say to me, “If there is a Hell, I’m fine with going there. That is where all my buddies are.” While that is a humorous comeback, for sure. It is very sad, because it raises another “straw man”….that Hell might just be a fun alternative to Heaven. And again, if the Bible is true as I believe it is, that “straw man” would burn away pretty quickly….leaving a very different eternal reality.
“Therefore I said to you….if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” [John 8:24 NKJV]
Why, one might ask, are there so many working so hard to tarnish the image and reputation of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ? For that answer, we need to zoom out and look at the bigger picture of why we are here, in the first place. When Satan and the fallen angels rebelled before mankind was created, it became their top priority to get as many of us to follow them, rather than God, because afterall “misery loves company”. They knew nothing would grieve God more than watching His children choose to reject His mercy, through His Son Jesus, and to be left to die in their sins. Seriously, the stakes in this battle could not be any higher…..eternal life is at stake. And those who have taken the bait (or a bite out of that forbidden apple), they not only become deceived regarding the truth, but become agents of disinformation themselves. It is exactly as Jesus said, “Those who are not for Me, are against Me.” Truly, there is no neutral ground.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” [John 8:58 NASB]
So how can we discern the truth from the lie, when they are cleverly made to look so similar, by a very crafty enemy that has already persuaded so many unsuspecting victims to do his bidding? I believe Jesus pointed to the ultimate test we should use, right in the verse above. Those who are preaching a “straw man Jesus” all make the same fatal mistake, they do not believe Jesus was God in the flesh and if that is true then He is not able to forgive sin and His blood is not sufficient to save us. When Jesus was pressed on this central issue, He simply said “I am”. Though that might seem a little flimsy as a central argument, it could not have been stronger, because those who heard Him say this knew exactly what He was saying. Back when Moses was talking with God, upon that holy mountain, he asked God what His name was. God replied, “I AM”. You see, when Jesus said those two little words, they all knew He was claiming to be God. It would have been blasphemous to say that, if He were not. And that is exactly what they thought. They considered Him a blasphemer..and thusly worthy of being put to death. And so it began. From that day forward, His days on Earth were numbered.
So there you have it, a simple test. If you are not sure if someone is speaking the truth concerning God or the Bible, simply ask them if they believe that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. If the say, “No”, run as far away from that “straw man” as you can, as fast as can unless choose to take your chances on burning up with them.
This much I know to be true….straw has little chance of escaping the flames.