The disjunctive who? The Disjunctive Fallacy! Come on, that word is fun. Say it ten times… own it… say it with meaning! You’ll have a lot of fun, I promise!

We live in a world where truth is under assault. Issues that used to be right or wrong or black and white are now categorized under the obscure concept of “grey.” There are many who reject absolute truth (absolutely, I might add!) in the quest for a sense of alleged humility. Unfortunately, many Christians have responded to this way of thinking by presenting everything in terms such as “either/or.” You have pick this or that. You can’t have it both ways. Everything is a mutually exclusive situation requiring that you pick one to the complete exclusion of the other. To even mention a “both/and” way of thinking is considered “liberal” or “selling-out.”

And this issue enters into the realm of… hermeneutics. How so? Grant Osborne defines and explains by writing:

“Often two options are presented as either-or, forcing the reader to make a choice when one is not necessitated. Carson connects this with “a prejudicial use of evidence,” which presents the data in such a way that the reader is influenced in a direction not actually demanded by the evidence.”  (Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, 92)


Hermeneutical honesty demands that we follow the evidence. That is what true exegesis is concerned with – the original author’s intention and purpose! Not what we want him to say. That’s eisogesis, right? And anyone who is interested in hermeneutics knows that is a naughty word. Don’t do it. It’s bad. People will punch you in the face… literally or literary.

I’ve seen this type of “research” presented in a lot of sermons. Pastors will stack the deck with lots of “evidence” that leads to a certain conclusion. Yet upon further examination, that “evidence” is quite empty, and the house of cards falls. If a pastor wants to make a case for Credo-baptism or Cessationism, the “evidence” is presented in one specific way and a lot of misrepresentation and misinformation can take place.

Make no mistake, we do a great disservice to those we are speaking to or teaching if we have to misrepresent people or only present half of the evidence. Later, when they discover the truth, a lot of negative consequences can occur.

This happens a lot with word studies. Osborne gives us an example:

“One example is the use of institutional language by proponents of Early Catholicism, which assumes that the early church was charismatic and free and only at the last part of the first century developed church government. Therefore, all mention of “elders” or “bishops” (such as Acts 14:23; Phil 1:1) had to be late, while language of Spirit-led activity (e.g., 1 Cor 14:26–28) stems from the primitive church. This is an unwarranted disjunction, however, for charismatic freedom and institutionalism are not dichotomous. A good parallel was the Jewish synagogue, which had freedom and yet regimen within its programs.” (Ibid.)

So make sure that something is an “either/or” before you make it one!

 

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