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The Tactics of Rhetoric

March 21, 2018

“And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king,’” (Luke 23:2, ESV).

Here we find a couple of tactics used by the enemies of God in Christ’s trial before Pilate. First, we see the use of biased rhetoric in order to influence Pilate to their side, with no use of evidence whatsoever. They tell Pilate that Christ is, “misleading” the nation. This assumes, without argument, that their view of God and His will is correct, while Christ’s is wrong. They have been unable to answer many of Christ’s questions when He has pointed out their errors (Lk. 20:44), and have even found His answers staggering (Lk. 20:39-40). Yet, Christ must be wrong, because He is teaching something different than they are.

We see this same tactic used in our day. People will use rhetoric to influence people, while not being able to answer basic questions. People will call anyone who disagrees with them, “unloving,”, “greedy,”, or, “ignorant.” This week someone arguing for gun control said that anyone who was for anything other than comprehensive gun legislation was, “complicit in all the deaths to come,” (then yesterday in Maryland, something other than comprehensive gun legislation stopped a mass murder). This issue is the biased use of language. If we are not discerning we can be deceived simply by the rhetoric, and hold to views about God and the world, simply because of the biased language and not because of reason and evidence. Just think of how people frame the evolution and creation debate. It is, “Science vs. religion.” This supposes that religion cannot be scientific, which is an assertion that is untrue both on philosophical and religious grounds. It also could mislead someone into thinking that science and religion are always opposed to one another, which is of course historically false. We must not be deceived by rhetoric.

Second, the enemies of Christ explicitly lie to Pilate. Christ had told the people to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” (Lk. 20:25a). Yet, before Pilate they claim that Christ was, “forbidding [them] to give tribute to Caesar.” This is a straight up falsehood, being proclaimed to influence Pilate to their side. As Christians, as we walk through our lives in this world, we must remember something; people are liars. People will say anything in order to get you on their side. This is why we must be so diligent and patient in our beliefs. We must ensure that we are only holding to a view or opinion because of the best of reasons. We must look into claims being made and sift through lies. As Christians we are called to believe only that which is true.

May God bless His people to not believe lies. May we not be bullied by rhetoric, but only persuaded by Scripture and reason. May God grant us discernment and lead us into all truth (Jn. 16:13).

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