Proverbs 18:2 – Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. (NIV 2011)
1 Corinthians 8:2 – Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. (NIV 2011)
The above texts remind me of The Three Little Pigs story, specifically the foolish piggy who built his house with straw. The big, bad wolf easily toppled his house — all because of faulty building material. That's essentially the outcome of building our viewpoints with faulty reasoning: We construct "houses of straw" in our minds. None of us is immune to the propensity, and so, this topic deserves our notice.
Continuing with the imagery of straw, let's consider the "straw man" argument. In constructing such an argument, we distort the words of another person and then argue against it. We put forth this "straw man" because it's easy to knock down or discredit. We use it to justify our own position. Here's one example:
- Mom to her teen son: "We need to do yard work today."
Teen: "You just want me to work all the time. You never want me to have fun."
This teen has misrepresented his mother's position to justify his reluctance. Of course, she could react with a straw man fallacy of her own: "You're just lazy!" Later, she tells her friends how rebellious her son is, and how terrible teenagers are these days. … and on it goes. Truth becomes lost under a heap of straw.
No doubt, you have been misunderstood through the use of straw-man fallacies. I have. But I'm also guilty of constructing them — as I did even yesterday. So, I can't condemn others for it, including media folk and political leaders who are relentlessly tempted to use straw-man fallacies to put forth a slant or a faulty viewpoint and to discredit an "opponent".
Straw-man fallacies lurk everywhere. They are divisive; they polarize people into opposing positions. They are so pervasive that our entire society risks becoming a humongous "house of straw". This will not withstand destructive forces. No political leader, no law, and no army can save such a "house", because it is built on falsehoods.
In 2 Corinthians 3:14, we read that "their minds were made dull". This refers to the people of ancient Israel who, in rejecting God, lost the ability to think effectively. Paul says the same thing about other civilizations:
Romans 1:21 – For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (NIV 2011)
Surely this spiritual diagnosis applies today. Simply put: We cannot thrive without God. We cannot ever be fully honest without God.
1 Corinthians 14:20 – Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. (NIV 2011)
Prayer: Lord of all truthfulness, sensitize us to the distortions of truth in and around us. Equip us to think clearly and truthfully about ourselves, others, our world, and You, with the "mind of Christ" — that we may effectively serve You in building Your enduring, eternal "House" — even as we witness the man-made "houses of straw" toppling around us. Amen.