Follies, Fallacies And Fabrications
By Steven Harper
Right off the bat, let’s make sure we clearly define the terms I am using in the title. By definition, folly is a lack of understanding. When defining fallacy, two meanings will be considered: (1) a false or mistaken idea, opinion, etc.; error, and (2) an error in reasoning; flaw or defect in argument. And a fabrication is a fabricated (invented) thing, esp. a falsehood, false excuse, etc. (All definitions are from Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Ed.) That now clarified, what do these things have to do with our discussions on marriage, divorce, and remarriage? More than some would want to admit, it seems.
The arguments of some who are now trying to defend an individual’s “God-given right” to put away their spouse after they themselves have already been put away demonstrate the folly of those who take such a position. Some of the arguments I have heard in defense of this are so unbelievable I am reminded of the words of Jesus to the Sadducees after they offered up a fantastic hypothetical situation to catch Him in His words: “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures…” (Matt. 22:29). To say that the actions of one person may not take away the “rights” of another shows a woeful lack of understanding of not only the Scriptures, but life itself! The Bible is full of examples of people who acted in transgression of the express will of God and, in so doing, prevented others from enjoying “liberties” God had granted them. Time after time, we see men acting sinfully and others suffering for their misdeeds. Just the one example of Achan shows this to be true, for his sin — unknown to any but himself — caused the death of 36 men in battle (Josh. 7:5), and it eventually cost him not only his own life, but the lives of all his family (7:24-26). Innocent people suffered because of the sinful acts of another. To say that there is not even a possibility of this happening is folly.
Further, because those who defend such a position can provide no Scripture for their position, some have resorted to attacking those who disagree, diverting attention away from the real issue, falsely assigning beliefs to those who disagree, continuously changing the point being discussed, trying to make it seem like we “can't really know” the exact point in time when someone is “really” divorced, arguing about irrelevant points that have nothing to do with the issue at hand, and offering up misleading ‘either-or’ situations to bait the opponent into defending the indefensible. (All of the above tactics are called logical fallacies.) Failing to make any progress, some have done everything but deny this erroneous doctrine and a few are now truly at their “argument of last resort,” using emotional arguments to plead their case.
Some are now pleading how “unfair” it would be if it was possible that a fornicator could actually “put away” an innocent spouse and thus “nullify” the innocent one’s right to remarry. Well, I (for one) will not argue about how “unfair” it would be, but does that mean it does not actually take place when it is done? Is it “not really a divorce” just because of the consequences? Please show me the Scripture that teaches the unfair actions of another does not sometimes “nullify” rights given to the innocent ones who are affected by such actions! If anything, we find that the actions of sinful individuals do take away rights granted to others by God (as we have already noted). The onus is on those who say such is true to provide the evidence, so where are the Scriptures?
The fallacy of this line of argument is that it seeks an emotional response to the unfair situation and does not accept the plain, simple teaching from Scripture. Instead of arguing with fact, they plead for mercy and compassion and are now camping on the situation itself and ignoring (or avoiding) the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, it is “unfair” to be in a situation in which an innocent party no longer has a right to remarry, but what does the Scripture say? Will our emotional arguments change what is written? The plain teaching of the Lord says one who is put away has no right to remarry. It doesn’t matter if she was put away with cause (sexual immorality) or no cause, she is prohibited from remarrying. Any such action will deem her an adulteress (Matt. 5:32b; 19:9b). All of the faulty reasoning in the world will not change the words of the Lord and, in the end, it is still faulty reasoning.
And, finally, some are resorting to pure fabrications. Some, failing to win with one method of fallacious reasoning, are fabricating situations to plead their case. Have you read about the one where a man goes away to Nevada and divorces his wife without her knowledge (some will say he committed sexual immorality prior to this and others do not)? They then plead that surely we would not claim that she could not now “put him away” because she did not have the opportunity to countersue or protest. What’s missing, though, is Scripture that teaches such is even possible.
It is sad that some are going to such great lengths in defense of the indefensible. These cases, and other heart-tugging examples that are used to bolster their otherwise weak positions, are pathetic. We should recognize that some of these situations they present in an effort to “win” the argument cannot even be possible! I challenge this hypothetical situation that has been offered up in the emotional plea for the woman who has been put away “against her will” or “without her knowledge.” I urge those of you who have Internet access to go to:
and search through each state's laws on divorce to find even one state that allows for such to happen. I’ll give you a hint: You won't find one. Not even the state of Nevada. The closest you will come to such a situation is divorcement when one has disappeared and hasn't been heard from for two years. (I believe it's in Ohio.)
My sincere plea to you when considering this issue — or any other — is that we consistently look to the Scripture for what we believe and practice. If we cannot find Scripture that illustrates what we believe and teach, we need to give it up. If we have to resort to emotional pleas and hypothetical situations that emphasize feelings over God’s revealed word, we need to give it up.
When searching for truth, let us keep the emotional pleas out of it and let the Scriptures be the final word.
From: The Burns
Park BEACON, a bulletin of the Burns Park church of Christ, North Little