On Strawmanning

“And ye have not His word abiding in you: for Whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not. You search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me. And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that [cometh] from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is [one] that accuseth you, [even] Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?” (John 5:38-47; underlining mine)

Is Jesus misrepresenting or “strawmanning” the Jewish position? Did these particular Jews come right out and EXPRESSLY AVOW their disbelief of the writings of Moses? Did Jesus falsely ascribe (i.e., “strawman”) to these particular Jews a position they did not hold, and one which they (presumably) would vigorously deny?

Jesus represented them as NOT believing Moses. And presumably they would AFFIRM that they ACTUALLY DO believe Moses. In a similar instance Jesus said that certain ones had the Devil as father. Clearly and obviously, Jesus is NOT saying that certain Jews held the doctrinal positions of (1) Devil as father; and (2) disbelief of the writings of Moses. Jesus is saying that despite any strong avowals that God IS their Father or that they DO believe Moses, the reality is that the Devil IS their father and that they DO NOT believe Moses.

Consider the following well-known syllogism:

P1: All men are mortal.
P2: Socrates is a man.
C: Thus, Socrates is mortal.

Suppose Gordy says,

“I believe that all men are mortal, and I believe that Socrates is a man.”

I then tell Lester,

“Gordy believes that all men are mortal and that Socrates is a man. Thus, Gordy believes that Socrates is mortal.”

Lester then responds,

“While I agree that this is the logical implication or conclusion, Gordy does NOT believe that; Gordy says that Socrates is NOT mortal. You have erected a straw man. Only YOU are saying that Socrates is mortal.”

What does this say about the peculiar reasoning of Gordy and Lester?

Consider the Open Theist affirmation, avowal, or stated belief that “God is omniscient.” Is it a straw man for me to say that the Open Theist believes in divine ignorance? They SAY they believe that God is omniscient; I say that they DON’T believe this.

The Open Theist is NOT going to expressly avow or explicitly acknowledge his denial of the omniscience of God. Rather, he might say something like this:

“I do NOT believe in divine ignorance — that’s a straw man of my position — but rather, I believe in ‘dynamic omniscience.’ Only YOU are saying that I believe in divine ignorance.”

With regard to the Open Theists’ position. Of course (obviously) I am NOT saying that their explicitly expressed and held position is that of “divine ignorance” any more than the Jews’ explicitly held position in John 5:38-47 was “disbelief of Moses.” But the REALITY is that just as these Jews did NOT believe in Moses, so do these Open Theists NOT believe in Divine omniscience.

To accuse someone of “strawmanning” is to accuse someone of lying (and this strawmanning or form of lying is culpable even if done unwittingly or unintentionally). May God’s people endeavor to accurately represent friends and enemies alike and so glorify the One who is TRUTH INCARNATE.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6).