How to Argue Like a Christian: The Last-Verse-Read Argument

Perhaps the biggest failing of believers of all kinds is our persistent use of the last-verse-read argument.

For example, in the Churches of Christ, we deny once saved, always saved (the perserverance of the saints), as we are Arminian in theology. And so in our Sunday school classes we read the once saved, always saved verses first. We then read the yes-you-can-fall-away verses last. We tell our students that the yes-you-can-fall-away verses explain the once-saved-always-saved verses. The class goes home feeling affirmed in their beliefs.

Across the street a Baptist Sunday school teacher reads the yes-you-can-fall-away verses first. He then reads the once-saved-always-saved verses last, telling his class that the last-read verses explain the first-read verses. His class goes home feeling affirmed in their beliefs.

We do this all the time — all of us. And it’s wrong. It’s really hard to actually wrestle with the Baptist verses and teach a theology that’s built on the all the verses. But until we do that, we’re just pretending to be following the Bible. What we’re really doing is starting with our preferred conclusion and then picking the verses that support what we want to say and ignoring the contrary verses.

Worse yet, this how we often argue with one another. I cite  my verses to my opponent. My opponent ignores my verses and cites his verses to me. It’s as though we think the verses that really count are the ones last mentioned. It’s really quite frivolous.

It does, however, lead to a simple way to tell which debater is a serious student of the Bible and which one is not. The one who attempts to reconcile both sets of verses and find a truth that’s built on all of scripture is a serious student — and very likely right. The one who just dumps his preferred verses into the argument without coping with the other guy’s verses is not serious. He’s just a propangandist for his side.

Now, I can be right about my position and argue it frivolously. This use of bad arguments does not invalidate the point. It just invalidates the argument.

But it tells you who is worth listening to. Don’t waste your time with those who refuse to consider the scriptures that the other side argues.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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10 Responses to How to Argue Like a Christian: The Last-Verse-Read Argument

  1. Tim Archer says:

    It is frustrating to discuss with someone who merely listens to a verse you quote, then says, "Yeah, but such-and-such verse says…" Hardly a productive way to study, picking and choosing which verses to believe.

    Some find an easy way around that problem by questioning the canonicity of the verses that don't fit their argument.

  2. Matthew Robert says:

    Thanks for pointing this out. I imagine I am guilty of this, and never realized what I was doing.

  3. Matthew says:

    Yep, me too. Guilty.

  4. Royce says:

    Excellent Jay, as ususal. I will only add that there are no contridictions in the Bible. There are things that "seem" to be contridictions. It is time consuming, and and not easy to find and explore "all" of the passages that speak to a given subject, and than in light of the weight of Scripture try to find the truth.

    For some long held coC teaching to be true many, many verses must either be explained so that they mean something different than what they plainly say, or simply ignored. Ignoring seems to largely be the preferred strategy.

    Royce

  5. Robert Baty says:

    Too often the equation looks like this:

    > plainly says = my interpretation

    At times, "we" cannot even agree on what the scriptures "plainly say".

    That being the case, it should be no surprise that an agreement on what the scriptures mean is rather elusive.

    Following is a recent "plainly says" claim from some preachers which I dared to take exception to:

    > It is very clearly stated in Acts 11:15-17
    > that Cornelius was baptised in the Holy
    > Spirit.

    As might be expected, I was subject to quite a bit of criticism for suggesting that such is not "clearly stated" in that passage.

    I suspect we will hear much more of such things as the "grace conversation" develops.

    I am looking forward to that conversation from the four principal participants.

    I do hope the participants do not attempt to resolve disputed points by trying to declare their interpretation is what the scriptures "plainly say".

    Sincerely,
    Robert Baty

  6. Royce says:

    Robert,

    Actually the verse I had in mind when I used the "plainly say" language was this one.

    John 10:28
    I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

    Or this one

    John 6:40
    "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

    Lo and behold they are just as "plainly" stated in the original languages.

    Royce

  7. Well stated. I have found this to be the worst and most often used practice in "discussing" an issue.

    The second person talking changes the subject by ignoring the passages read by the first person. The two persons basically discuss two different subjects and few if anyone learns anything – they just reaffirm what they first thought they believed.

    For the second person to address the passages read by the first person would "allow the other fellow to define the agenda" and since "the other fellow is wrong, I will not go down that path of unrighteousness. Instead, I will let the scriptures speak plainly."

    It is all quite arrogant because if you cannot read what the scriptures speak plainly, you must be stupid.

  8. Excellent, I had never considered this thought. I stand guilty as charged! May God have mercy on me…..

  9. Robert Baty says:

    Royce's examples are, I suppose, as good as any to identify the nature of disputes about the meaning of scripture compared to what the scriptures "plainly say".

    For the most part, there may be no disagreement about what John 10:28 "plainly says" as quoted above; even though it is taken out of context. It "plainly says" what it "plainly says" in or out of context.

    What it means, and whether it means anything to "us" is quite something else.

    My example above relates to a somewhat different problem.

    Sincerely,
    Robert Baty

  10. Pingback: How to Argue Like a Christian: The Last-Verse-Read Argument, Part 2 | One In Jesus

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