Assertion or Argument?

Jason Dulle

How many times have you heard the statement, "I just know in my heart that what I believe is right, and that you are wrong." How can you answer someone whom you have clearly shown that they have no Biblical or rational grounds to stand on for a particular belief of theirs, and yet they insist on maintaining that belief because they feel in their heart that they are right and you are wrong, even though they cannot demonstrate it rationally? There are several ways to handle a person like this.

First, point out to them that they have only made an assertion, not an argument. The former is an opinion with no rational supporting evidence, while the latter is an opinion supported by reasonable evidence. The former cannot be demonstrated to be true while the latter can. The problem you encounter when someone makes such a statement as above is that the "I-feel" defense cannot itself be refuted, because something can only be refuted by evidence. Since no evidence is being offered, there is nothing to even examine. The defense sets itself above examination and refutation because you can't change what they think is happening in their heart. What needs to be pointed out to them is that by ignoring the evidence presented to them, and by offering no evidence for their position, it demonstrates the fact that they are not concerned with the evidence. What they are concerned with is protecting their own belief system, or the feeling in their heart. Such a response to anotherís argument is a crime of rationality. As Greg Koukl said, "If there are good arguments for something, and no arguments against it, then you have a rational obligation to believe it, at least until other evidence surfaces. That's the way clear thinking works."

Secondly, such a view demonstrates that they believe truth is communicated spiritually or subjectively, rather than objectively and rationally. But the Bible says that it is the Scripture itself which is God-breathed (II Tim 3:16), not an interpretation which we feel the Holy Spirit is giving to us, or one we feel in our heart. In other words, God has given us an objective basis for determining truth, not a subjective "how-do-I-feel-in-my-heart" method of testing truth. Getting a word or feeling we believe is from God is no substitute for studying the Scripture. The meaning of the words in their context (authorís intended meaning) should be our focus, not our feelings. God has chosen to communicate through language, not around it by giving us feelings about truth.

It is often argued that the Holy Spirit is our teacher. Although this is true, God only illuminates to us what is already there in the text. The body of revelation has already been set. The Holy Spirit does not give new information which is not in the inspired words. Every person has equal access to the meaning. There are no private messages in Scripture. God gave us an objective revelation in the words of the Bible to protect us from subjectivism. When Christians opt for a spiritual interpretation of the Bible (presumably given by God) instead of a sound exegesis of the text, it actually shows disrespect for God's objective revelationóthe Bible. God has given us minds to sort out truth from error.

Truth is not something we feel; truth is something we can demonstrate. God gave us rational minds to sort out the evidence in the physical world to determine friend from foe, healthy from unhealthy, right from wrong, etc. If our rational abilities are used to discern truth from error in the physical world, as opposed to how we feel about these things against all reason, what makes us believe that the rules change when dealing with doctrinal and moral issues? Rationality is the tool God has given us so that we can discern, understand, and transmit truth. To rely on our feelings to determine truth, rather than principles of interpretation and reason, is to set our beliefs above examination, and thus with no rational foundation. A faith that cannot be examined, or cannot be supported by rational arguments is a weak faith indeed.

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