Chapter 3 ~ Equivocation
Have you ever felt like: “Something isn’t quite right about that statement, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is.” Or “That explanation just doesn’t ring true, somehow.” Pay attention to your feelings! The speaker may have equivocated. If you’re really determined to get to the bottom of your questions, it is very important that you understand Equivocation thoroughly. This entire chapter will be devoted to explaining the subject and guiding you to recognize and overcome Equivocation. You don’t want to be caught unaware and unprepared to meet the semantic enemy, Equivocation.
I may sound like a broken record as I continue to emphasize the need to ask for clarification and definitions. Life would soon pass you by if you took the time to make certain every statement you heard was totally free of vagueness and ambiguity. However, it is a good idea to insist on precision concerning any key terms that are relative to what is important to you. It is far better to be more precise than necessary than to be too vague to be useful. This proverb is very true: A good understanding prevents a misunderstanding. Not only does asking for a definition increase your vocabulary, but it also erases Assumptions, which are discussed in “Scaling the Language Barriers in Communication.” Asking for clarification eliminates a multitude of problem areas.
If you adopt the habit of always asking for definitions of ambiguous or vague words before drawing conclusions, it will have a direct impact on your happiness and relationships. This practice will prevent you from needlessly feeling hurt, disappointed, worried or angry. Until you are sure the person intended to say what you think you understood him to say, why get disturbed? Why run to accuse, jump to unfounded conclusions or race to pin blame? Why not be sure before going off the deep end?! Isn’t it better to give someone the benefit of a doubt — and save yourself the unpleasantness of getting all upset over nothing and perhaps looking like a fool? Down with ambiguity!
As the Meaning Turns...
What is Equivocation? It is when a word or term shifts or switches meaning within a given context. The shift may be obvious or it may be very subtle and hardly noticeable. Ambiguous words or terms and those having double meanings are often responsible for Equivocation. Just as you cannot plagiarize the ideas, writings, etc. of another and pass them off as your own, neither can you legitimately (“rightly divide the word of truth”) take the meaning of a word/term and pass it on to another, or infuse its meaning into another word/term, where it isn’t earned, deserved or doesn’t belong. The meaning(s) of a word or term is an intrinsic possession of that word or term, and it cannot legitimately be transferred to another word or term on a whim, arbitrarily or at will. Even so, some equivocate — both unintentionally and intentionally.
The meaning of the word “stall” shifts in the following pun: “I think he’s stalling you. Stalls are for horses and other four-legged animals, not people. I’d say ‘Nay!’ ” Equivocation has been taken to the extreme in the following ditty, author unknown. Notice how the meaning shifts the second time the words “ruler, fins, Queen Elizabeth and Russians” are used:
Why Are Fire Trucks Red?
They have four wheels and eight men;
four plus eight is twelve;
twelve inches make a ruler;
a ruler is Queen Elizabeth;
the “Queen Elizabeth” sails the seven seas;
the seven seas have fish;
the fish have fins;
the Finns hate the Russians;
the Russians are red;
fire trucks are always rushin’
therefore they’re red.
Have you and your friend ever heard the same statement and yet both of you interpreted it differently? It’s not uncommon for you to think a speaker is talking about Apples, while your friend thinks he is talking about Oranges. Unless this difference is discovered and corrected, a mutual understanding is impossible. Which interpretation is correct? The one that agrees with the speaker’s original intent.
When statements are misunderstood, misinterpreted, and distorted, objections are sometimes expressed as: “You’re putting words in my mouth. I never said/meant that.” Or: “You’ve taken what I said/wrote entirely out of context.” It should be remembered: The original intent of a speaker or writer ALWAYS governs the meaning of a statement. Legitimately, we cannot make another person’s statement, spoken or written, say anything other than what he originally intended it to mean. Likewise, the true meaning of Scripture is what was originally in the authors’ minds when it was written, and Scripture cannot legitimately be forced to mean anything other than what the author originally intended for it to mean.
Testing for Equivocation
When you are reading, you may suspect the meaning of a key term has switched or shifted. To check and make sure, define the key term to yourself; then read the passage again, keeping the meaning of the suspect term the same each time it is used. If this doesn’t make sense or causes the text to be absurd, the author has probably equivocated.
When you are in a conversation, and you suspect the meaning of a key term has shifted or switched, you can check it out by asking the speaker for clarification of his intended meaning. You might also point out alternative meanings. Then review his statement giving any recurring words or phrases the same uniform meaning each time they are used. Here is a well-known example of the fallacy of Equivocation:
Only man is rational.
No woman is a man.
Therefore, no woman is rational.
In the first line, man denotes a human being, while in the second line man denotes the male sex. The meaning has shifted. If you read through this argument using the term human being each time the word man occurs, it makes the second line false. When you read through the argument replacing man with a human being of the male sex each time it occurs, it makes the first line false. Insisting on uniformity proves or disproves Equivocation. The meaning of a keyword should remain the same throughout the text or conversation. Does it make sense? If it doesn’t, there is likely a misunderstanding or the meaning of a key term has shifted.
Intentional or Unintentional?
Just as you cannot legitimately plagiarize the ideas, writings, etc. of another and pass them off as your own, neither can you legitimately take the meaning of one word and pass it onto another, or infuse its meaning into another word where it doesn’t belong. The meaning(s) of a word is an intrinsic possession of that word, and it cannot be transferred to another word on a whim, arbitrarily or at will. However, some people DO so — both unintentionally and intentionally.
Humpty Dumpty explained his rationale for doing so:
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean a ‘nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is”, said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”
(By Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass)
Equivocation may or may not be intentional. Sometimes the meaning of a word shifts or switches (Equivocation), and it’s purely innocent — unintentional, unthinking, accidental, inadvertent — not calculated. We’ve all pretended at one time or another to misunderstand someone in fun; or made a pun. Intentional Equivocation in fun or puns bring smiles, and as such, are quite harmless: “I don’t know why it’s called an allowance — it doesn’t allow me to do much of anything.”
On the other hand, Equivocation also provides a clever way to commit fraud, get out of trouble or dupe people. For example, suppose an advertisement makes an unbelievable promise about a product when the ad is read a certain way; but when it’s read another way, it claims little to nothing. If the manufacturer gets charged with false advertising, he has a loophole. He can insist his intended meaning is the narrow interpretation that says little. (He can’t help it if some people assume his advertisement meant the broad meaning, can he?)
Suppose you ask a worker, “Has this fellowship continued down from the apostles?” By “continued down,” you mean has there been a continual continuation of the fellowship in an unbroken historical line starting with the apostles up until the present. If the worker replies, “Yes, it has,” but his definition of “continued down” is totally different from yours, he has equivocated upon the meaning of the word “continued.” The Equivocation is intentional IF HE KNOWS THIS, and/or IF HE PRETENDED to misunderstand your question. When his bluff was called, Everett Swanson rescued himself using the handy Equivocation loophole:
“I will tell you what I teach. I tell people that the Faith is a continuation of New Testament days. The word continuation means two things. It can mean there is no break and it also means a break in time no matter how long the break is, if you return to the same thing. We have what was in existence 2,000 years ago. I believe there was a break between N.T. times and today, but the same word and work has been revived.” (Everett Swanson letter, Fall/1995)
Shifty Equivocation works pretty nifty for getting off the hook. Unfortunately, we aren’t as likely to give or ask for the definition of a familiar word, like “continue,” as we are an unfamiliar word. If the person had defined what she meant by “continued down” when she first asked her question, it would have confined the reply and generated less confusion. When questioning the workers, it’s a good idea to define or get their definition of the words: “continue” “continuation and “continuity”; as well as any other words that convey the same idea (i.e. succession, succeeded, traced, etc.).
Letter vs. Spirit
Equivocation is intentional when someone honors the letter of a question or request, but ignores the spirit. The literal question is answered in the following examples, while the spirit of the question is disregarded:
Mother: “If you’ve finished your homework, then you can help me rake the leaves.”
Johnny: “I haven’t finished yet.” (He has one more paragraph to read)
Sister: “Did you eat ALL the cookies?”
Brother: “No.” (He gave a couple of cookies to his friend)
Both could honestly say that they didn’t tell a lie — they just didn’t tell the whole truth. When Johnny finishes his paragraph, he stays in his room making no effort to help his mom. He rationalizes that he has obeyed Mom because she said: “IF you have…” She didn’t make the standing order, “When you finish your homework, come and help me.” Her request was phrased as a pleasant statement. By ignoring the spirit of his mother’s request and taking her words literally, Johnny avoided doing something he didn’t want to do and didn’t feel he was lying.
I remember using Equivocation to get out of hot water one time when I was a child. Wanting to know if I was the culprit who had opened a prized trunk and rifled through the contents, my grandparents asked me, “Did you get into Grandfather’s trunk?” I deliberately misunderstood their meaning and replied to the literal meaning of their question. I denied the charge, “No, I didn’t `get into’ his trunk.” Even though I assured myself that I had not lied because I had NOT literally crawled into his trunk with my whole body, the guilty feeling was a long time going away. I may not have lied in the literal sense, but my intent was to deceive, in order to get out of trouble. However, it was plain to my Grandparents that the trunk contents had been greatly disturbed; and also plain that I refused to own up to my part in it. Though I honestly believed I had not told a lie, my parents and grandparents were just as disappointed in me just as if I had outright lied, which they believed was the case.
Adults are not above using this same method to get out of answering hard questions. It has served many of them quite well. This example is from sister worker Elizabeth Jamieson’s Reminiscences, Hayward, CA 1969:
“In 1920, Mable Pryor and I went to Vancouver Island…man of the Plymouth Brethren sect…accused me of being a “Cooneyite.” I pretended I didn’t know what he meant, letting on that the only cooney I knew about was the little animal [coney] spoken about in the book of Proverbs.”
Deliberately shifting off the subject of the question he had been asked about, brother worker Dan Hilton replied with a statement regarding “what the Bible teaches.” Besides being totally irrelevant, his reply also included a verbally abusive attack on any and all who would dare to Question:
“However, regardless of a written record being preserved, truth is truth. For anyone to say that what the Bible teaches was started at some certain year since the first century is pitiful ignorance, and closing the eyes to established facts and truths.” (Letter dated Nov. 21, 1989)
Intentional Equivocation allows one to practice deceiving without the usual risks that accompany deception, since it furnishes the perfect alibi if discovered: the excuse of having or being “misunderstood.” Proving fraud by Equivocation may be difficult since it depends on the speaker’s intent. Honesty is a matter of intention. The Authority in the matter is the speaker — only the speaker knows his intended meaning for certain.
The purpose of this series is NOT to enable you to prove fraud, to pin blame, to condemn, to accuse, to catch someone in a lie or to get the upper hand in an argument. This series is to help you to get your questions answered; to help you recognize and overcome obstacles like Equivocation, so you won’t be caught unaware and unprepared; to help you wade through explanations that don’t explain very much.
There are serious repercussions when a person is caught intentionally using Equivocation. A reply is evaluated according to the degree of truthfulness expected from the speaker’s rank and position. When judges, ministers or scientist are caught in a falsehood, fault or fraud, the sense of betrayal is great. Discovery brings about serious, often permanent, damage to the Equivocator’s credibility and greatly reduces his power. The Equivocator also stands to lose face and status.
The general levels of trust, respect and cooperation are greatly reduced, which are extremely hard to reverse. From that time forward, the Equivocator’s words and overtures will likely be viewed with suspicion. He also may feel defensive, foolish and ashamed, most unpleasant emotions. Intentional Equivocation is serious, because “God…is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” (Heb. 4:12), and He judges men by their motives and intentions.
Equivocation: “From the Beginning”
Jesus’ Way, Salvation, God’s plan, truth and way is often claimed to be “from the beginning,” or “before the world began” by which is meant that God planned it before He created the earth, before time began. etc. Ambiguous phrases such as “this way” or “the truth” or “what we have” can be understood to mean either:
1. “Jesus’ Way/Truth of the Bible”
2. “This fellowship of which you are a part or a minister.”
The hearer may interpret the speakers meaning to be that “this fellowship” is from the beginning (or of apostolic succession); or that the way commonly called the “truth” has existed since the beginning of time. Misunderstanding often results from assumptions. MANY in the 2×2 fellowship do not differentiate between (1) the way Jesus provided through His sinless life and His shed blood on the cross; and (2) the 2×2 fellowship some call “the way” or “the truth.”
Equivocation Examples: “From the Beginning”
Explanations by workers using the “from the beginning” line of fallacious reasoning to lure converts:
“It’s from the beginning, planned in God’s mind before creation.” (Walter Nelson, Post Falls, ID Conv., 1967)
“We go back to the beginning.” (Calvin Casselman, Boring OR Convention, 1988)
“It started in Heaven.” (Clarence Anderson, Pukekohe, NZ Convention, 1986)
“I consider that we are the most privileged people in all the world for the simple reason that what we believe and stand for and teach doesn’t have its origin with man. You don’t go back into the history of the world to find it. You have to go back to the beginning and to God. God had this plan in his heart and mind before the foundation of the world was laid. This way of service is from the beginning.” (Arthur Boyce, Silverdale, B.C. Convention, 1961).
“The way is like a seed, like the wheat seed. It was created at the beginning of the world…I will tell you what I teach. I tell people that the Faith is a continuation of New Testament days. The word continuation means two things. It can mean there is no break and it also means a break in time no matter how long the break is, if you return to the same thing. We have what was in existence 2,000 years ago. I believe there was a break between New Testament times and today, but the same word and work has been revived.” (Everett Swanson letter, Fall/1995)
“If we have a founder, then we don’t go back to the beginning. If we teach that which is from the beginning, then what we have is from the beginning, and what we have is founded on what was from the beginning.” (Leo Stancliff, 1/9/97 funeral for Ron Gustason, CA )
“For anyone to say that What The Bible Teaches was started at some certain year since the first century is pitiful ignorance, and closing the eyes to established facts and truths. The teachings of the New Testament were started in the first century when God’s dear Son was here on earth; that is, those truths were established in a group of believers then. But that is not where it started. What was given by God through his Son was planned before the world began. See Matt 15:34-35, John 17:24, Acts 3:20-21, Rom. 16:25-26, 1 Cor 2:7, Eph 1:4-5, 2 Tim. 1:0, Titus 1:2, 1 Peter 1:18-21. These truths make very clear that what God…the Son of God…and the Holy Spirit believe in, and what God’s true ministers and Christians believed in, was planned in the heart and mind of God before the world began, and we believe the same today. So it is 100% false for anyone to say that what we believe was started in some recent year.” (Letter by Dan Hilton dated Nov. 21, 1989)
“I tell people that WHAT WE HAVE is ‘from the beginning’ … because IT originated in the heart of God and was revealed by Jesus….not that we have a record of ITS continuance all through the centuries.” (letter by Muriel Hendrickson, 1997)
In the above example, the sister worker is basing her claim of “What we have is from the beginning” upon equivocation; by substituting the belief system Irvine started of the 2×2 ministers and church in the home (in which she is a minister) WITH the way to Heaven that Jesus provided through His blood and the cross. Could this be what Paul meant by “wresting” with the scriptures in 1 Peter 3:16?
She explains what she means by: “What we have is from the beginning.” She also explains that she is aware it is possible to take/mistake her statement to mean that there is “a record of its continuance all through the centuries.” She said she is not referring to when the 2×2 way began LITERALLY, but rather to their SPIRITUAL beginning. [Does she and others take care so that none will mistake their meaning? Do they make certain their hearers truly understand their precise meaning when they make this statement, so there will be no confusion?] She asserts as though it were a fact, when it is just her opinion, that “What We Have” or “IT” (meaning the method of 2×2 ministers and church in the home) is “from the beginning.” The Bible mentions many things that God planned “from the beginning,” but it is obvious from their context, that none of them could even remotely apply to the 2×2 ministry and church in the home.
Gaylen Van Loon, said at Iowa Sp. Mtg 1997: “There are THOSE WHO WANT to go back and talk about the beginnings. Now, I can’t stand here and give you names of each one who passed THIS GOSPEL down through the generations, but I am satisfied that God has had those in every generation that he has been able to deal with and REVEAL HIMSELF through. There are THOSE WHO WANT TO say THIS BEGAN at the turn of the century with TWO men. It doesn’t matter one iota to MY FAITH whether this is true or not true. I say God is able to REVEAL HIMSELF to men in every generation. When you see a stalk of wheat — you know if you plant the seed, you will have life and a new stalk of wheat. You don’t have to see the lineage behind it. You know!”
Gaylen Van Loon’s statement above has been broken down below and interspersed with suggested replies to various parts, offered by various individuals:
A. There are THOSE WHO WANT to go back and talk about the beginnings. What’s wrong with talking about the beginning? The tree grows from its root. Even God said a seed would produce fruit after its own kind. If we can’t talk about the seed, there’s something wrong. And there are those who DON’T WANT TO GO BACK and talk about the beginnings because it will expose things they don’t want exposed. Nice try. Why shouldn’t we WANT to talk about the beginnings? Isn’t a testimony speaking about “beginnings”? Who told us this way was from the beginning in the first place? Who made this belief such an important, fundamental, cornerstone to the whole group anyway? We’ve just taken something we learned from the workers and friends and asked for verification. Oh, I see. You must be one of THOSE WHO DON’T WANT to talk about the true founder and genesis of the 2×2 group? B. Now, I can’t stand here and give you names of each one who passed THIS GOSPEL down through the generations. I can!
B. Why not? It’s just four names! You can count them on one hand. Surely, you have heard of the names of each one who passed THIS GOSPEL down in the Eastern U.S.A. where you have labored: 1.) Wm Irvine, 2.) George Walker, 3.) Andrew Abernathy, and 4.) whoever your present Eastern Overseer is. How do you define THIS GOSPEL? Are you insinuating it IS possible then? Or avoiding the fact that you are covering up something?
C. …but I am satisfied that God has had those in every generation that he has been able to deal with and REVEAL HIMSELF through. So am I; however, they were not necessarily of THIS WAY. Can you show me a record of anyone in “the truth” whom God revealed himself through before 1897?
So am I, but if you REALLY believe this, why would most who hear your message believe that God is only revealed to those who accept your pattern of ministry. Do you limit God’s revelation to one and only one pattern of ministry? What do you believe God reveals? The miracle of a risen Christ and salvation by grace? Or a pattern of ministry based on a particular set of works and practices. I couldn’t agree more. I wonder though if we are referring to the same thing. When you say that God has revealed HIMSELF, what exactly do you mean that He has shown to man? I see GOD — HIMSELF and THIS GOSPEL as two entirely different things D. There are THOSE WHO WANT TO say THIS began at the turn of the century with two men. Do they? Or are they saying that THIS began much later than the New Testament days? Why not refer to them as THOSE WHO SAY or BELIEVE — rather than those who WANT to say — since they DO SAY IT! They ARE concerned about the beginning of the 2×2 fellowship.
D. I don’t WANT to say it. I DO SAY IT — loud and clear because it is factually true. And there are those who DON’T WANT to admit that it began at the turn of the century with just ONE man, William Irvine. Why is that do you suppose? E. It doesn’t matter one iota to MY FAITH whether this is true or not true. YOUR FAITH? I am not concerned with YOUR FAITH — it matters to MY FAITH!
E. Attempting to justify a belief by an Appeal to Faith is fallacious reasoning. You choose to believe the method of the 2×2 ministry and church in the home began “in the beginning” and not just 100 years ago. You have no proof, and you disregard any evidence to the contrary on record. Why not state it as your choice and opinion rather than fact? Are you implying that my faith is weak if I’m not satisfied without evidence to prove it is “from the beginning?” In the face of documented evidence, your faith isn’t convincing to me. No matter how firmly something is believed, it can still be false. F. I say God is able to REVEAL HIMSELF to men in every generation. I couldn’t agree more. However, applying the attributes of GOD — HIMSELF to THIS GOSPEL (method William Irvine started less than 100 years ago) is Equivocation. What is true of God is not necessarily true of the belief system William Irvine founded; nor is it true of the 2×2 ministry and church in the home.
F. Exactly WHAT is God revealing? Yes. So do I, and He has revealed himself to me! G. When you see a stalk of wheat — you know if you plant the seed, you will have life and a new stalk of wheat. You don’t have to see the lineage behind it. You know! AND when you see a stalk of tare, you know if you plant a root of it, it will bring a new stalk of tare — and you know the lineage behind it!
G. What is the point to your analogy? What does the wheat stalk represent? Is Wm Irvine the wheat seed? I hope we aren’t all coming up like HIM! Why, the workers kicked him out for misbehavior. Figurative analogies do not prove anything — they only illustrate what you choose for them to illustrate. Wheat is not in the same category as a belief system; therefore, nothing can be inferred anything from your comparison. Wheat stalks are irrelevant to when the 2×2 belief system began.
Following is a copy of “The Origin of God’s Way” by Howard Mooney. From verses stating God’s glory, love, grace and purpose, plan of eternal life, redemption and kingdom existed before the world or man were ever created, the author of the following notes leaps to conclude (through equivocation) that an entirely different method and church “began in eternity.”
“The following verses refer to the origin of God’s way. They tell us how it began, and where it began, and when it began. It is comforting to know that God planned His way of salvation in Heaven, in every detail, before the world was created.
John 17:5 tells of the glory that Jesus had with the Father before the world was. John 17:24 refers to the love that existed between God and his Son before the foundation of the world. 2 Tim. 1:9 tells of the purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. This purpose is defined in Rom. 8:28-29. Titus 1:2 speaks of the hope of eternal life which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began. Jesus defines eternal life in John 17:3. 1 Peter 1:18-20 portrays the wonderful picture of redemption, which was provided through the blood of Jesus, and which was foreordained before the foundation of the world. Matt. 25:34 pictures the eternal side of the Kingdom which was prepared for us from the foundation of the world. “The above verses assure us that salvation was not an after thought with God. Before man was ever created and placed on the earth, God had HIS WAY OF SALVATION in every detail. Our source of rejoicing today lies in the fact that GOD’S WAY is still working in our midst, in all of ITS entirety. How fortunate we are to be a part of A WAY that began in eternity and that will continue on throughout all the countless ages of eternity.” [Note: Equivocation and unproven assertion that “A Way” referred to in this sentence is one and the same as God’s way] that began in eternity and that will continue on throughout all the countless ages of eternity.”
Howard Mooney’s reasoning presupposes it has been proven that the “way” (referring to the fellowship on earth commonly called “the truth”) is same entity as “God’s way.” However, this has not been positively proven — no connection or link has been shown. The beginning of God’s way is recorded in the Scripture. The beginning of Irvine’s 2×2 method is recorded in history. Where are the two linked? How and when did they become the same way? Where is Scripture that confirms they are the same entity?
Scripture that refers to God’s way which existed “from the beginning” proves just that and nothing more — THAT GOD’S WAY existed from the beginning. It cannot be used to prove Irvine’s fellowship has existed from the beginning, without taking the Scripture out of context. Appropriating references to the beginning of GOD’S plan and way and applying them to Irvine’s fellowship existing today is using word-play and a far cry from “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
IF it is true that God’s plan of salvation (meaning the 2×2 method) is “from the beginning” or “before the world began,” then the following conclusions could also be drawn:
IF God’s plan of salvation goes back to the beginning, THEN it is not possible that:
1. God’s way was started by a man/men;
2. A way started by man/men could be God’s way (started before the beginning of the world).
So, it’s not hard to see why some favor this fallacious approach over some others. It circumvents the founder, which would open another can of worms that they prefer not to deal with.
The Gap Theory
When it can be shown that a similar system or format was started at two different times in history by two different sources, it’s impossible for them to be the SAME identical system, way or format. One is the old, and one is the new. Irvine’s way to fellowship and God’s way from the beginning of time would have the same history, if they were one and the same way. Both ways would lead back “to the beginning.” However, Irvine’s fellowship can only be traced back to the turn of the 20th century, when he started his experiment; while God’s way can be traced back “to the beginning,” or to the heart and mind of God where it started. Between the two is a 1900 Year Gap. There are several explanations given for the gap that do not hold water
Roads can be traveled two ways: from beginning to end, and from end to beginning, and a journey can be started from either end. Using this reasoning, we should be able to start with the present end of this fellowship commonly called the “truth”, and travel back in time and history about 2,000 years to Jesus; where we can rely upon Matthew and Luke’s record of Jesus lineage to take us back to the beginning of humanity, Adam and Eve.
Beginning at THIS end of the road (the current year), and traveling back in time and history of the 2×2 fellowship, we come to an abrupt halt around 1897 to 1899 when an earthly founder turns up named William Irvine. On the other hand, if we start at the beginning of humanity, with Adam and Eve, and continue, we will wind up at the current year. The two roads do not meet. If the two were one and the same road/way, they would meet. But there is a GAP between the road of God’s truth traced forward from “the beginning” and Irvine’s fellowship traced back from the present. Since the gap exists and the two do not meet in the middle, it logically follows that God’s way and Irvine’s fellowship are not one and the same, but are two different “ways.”
“His truth endures to all generations,” Ps. 100:5. See also: Ps. 89:4, 29, 36; Luke 8:11; 1 Pet 1:24-25; Ps 117.2) That means it has been in continuous existence on this earth. It has no end. It also means that God’s truth and way has ALWAYS been, is here today, and that it was here before Irvine ever thought about starting his 2×2 experiment. Why was it necessary for Irvine to “start again” what God indicated would never die out?
Since the fellowship or way we know as “the truth” can definitely be traced to a starting point, how can these two ways be the same way or the same “truth”?? One has a beginning, and the other is never ending and it isn’t possible for a truth to hold opposing characteristics, at the same time. It is not possible for something that never dies out to be revived, restored or started over; nor for the “same thing” to start twice. Since the way Irvine or a group of men started is called “the truth” presently, and God’s way traced from Adam to Jesus is also God’s “truth” which endures forever, they cannot both be the same way or same “truth”? The only logical conclusion is that they are not, and are two separate ways or truths.
And since the facts don’t fit, some fill in THE GAP with equivocation, fallacious reasoning and weak solutions for explanations.
There are other terms besides “continue,” which furnish loopholes via Equivocation; in particular, the terms “truth” and “way.” Many friends have come away from confrontations with workers absolutely shocked to their core because they believed workers had outright lied to them concerning the historical 2×2 origins. In reality, the workers’ reply used a term(s) that had a double meaning; i.e. could be taken more than one way. When taken one way, the way the friends took it, the workers’ reply came across as a most outrageous lie; taken another way, which the friends did not see at the time, the answer was fairly plausible, even though it did not really answer the question the friends asked. This occurs most often in replies using the words “truth” or “way.” NEVER ASSUME you know the meaning a speaker attaches to the terms, “truth” or “way,” or you leave yourself wide open to misunderstanding by Equivocation.
If you do not want to be misled, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you realize that for most 2x2s, the words “truth” and “way” are infused with the 2×2 method of fellowship and ministry. In other words, most 2x2s view “God’s Way” or “Jesus’ Way” as including or encompassing the 2×2 method of the church meeting in the home and the preacher without a home. Most believe that the two “ways” are one and the same “way” or entity; that they are synonymous and refer to the same thing.
Therefore, if you are serious about getting your questions answered, it is very important that you define EXACTLY what you mean by “truth” and “way” whenever you must use these terms. Also, instead of asking questions about “this way,” or “the truth,” frame your questions similar to:
How old is the fellowship in which you are a worker? When and where did this fellowship begin of which we are a part? Who was the first worker in this fellowship in which you are a preacher? How do you reconcile the fact that this fellowship Irvine originated is less than 100 years old, and yet the Bible says that God’s Truth and Way shall endure forever? Likewise, if “truth or way” or similar terms are used in a reply to a question you pose, you should make it a point to ask for a definition. You can avoid misunderstandings by differentiating between “truth” and “way” as:
1. The 2×2 belief system or method which includes the 2×2 ministry and church in the home; or
2. The Way to Heaven that Jesus opened through Calvary. For example:
“When you say ‘God’s way,’ do you mean the fellowship in which you are a worker? Or God’s plan of redemption through Jesus?” “When you use the term ‘the truth,’ exactly what are you referring to?” “By ‘God’s only true way,’ were you referring to the way Jesus opened to heaven for mankind through His life and death, OR the fellowship in which you are a worker?” “When I use the term ‘Jesus’ Way,’ I am referring to the door Jesus opened to heaven for sinners through His sinless life and death on the cross. Is that what you meant when you used that term just now?” The word “way”: In the Bible, there are many “truths” and “ways,” but rest assured none of them refers to the 2×2 method William Irvine started; or to the “way” in which the workers preach. The Bible mentions many “ways”: the “way” of the righteous; the “way” of the Lord; the “way” of salvation; the “way” of God; the “way” of truth; the “way” of his saints; the “way” of wisdom; the “way” of life; the “way” of understanding; the “way” of holiness, etc.
Obviously, these “ways” could not be addressing the fellowship with the church in the home and the preachers without homes, which would not get started for thousands of years after the Scripture was written. One must infuse Scripture with inferences its context does not contain, and authors never intended, if the “ways” of Scripture are applied to the 2×2 fellowship and ministry. Switching the 2×2 “way” or method for the “way” in the Scripture is Equivocation. If anyone challenges you, ask them to show you a Scripture that plainly says God has only one right “way,” which Scripture doesn’t refer to Jesus Himself.
So often it is repeated: “The truth as IT is in Jesus.” There is no verse that uses these words–it is quoted incorrectly! Eph. 4:21 actually reads: “If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.” WHEN exactly did “the truth in Jesus” change into an “IT” (a procedure)? When did God’s Way change from being the person, Jesus, into a 2×2 method of ministers and meetings? Are the two “ways” really one single entity? Is (A) “the way” of God, which is Jesus, AND (B) the way commonly called “the truth,” which William Irvine started, one and the same way — or are they two different “ways?” Where does the Scripture link or merge Way A with Way B? Where does the Bible say or imply the two are one and the same “way?” If it is true they are one and the same, why doesn’t the Bible, our authority and guide for God’s word, confirm this somewhere? I suggest …because it isn’t true.
The word “truth”: Although the Bible uses the word “truth” many times, it never once refers to a religious system, method, procedure, etc. When the Bible authors refer to the “truth,” they did not have in mind a fellowship that meets in homes, commonly called “the truth.” Scripture using the word “truth” does not rightfully belong to or describe the fellowship commonly called “the truth.” To use Scripture to support something that was never the authors’ original intent is forcing the Scriptures; “putting words in God’s mouth;” abusing and misusing the Scripture — and a far cry from “rightly dividing” the Scripture. “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever” Romans 1:25.
A Rose is a Rose is a Rose
Humpty Dumpty used words as if they were plastic. Some people do, too. The word “plastic” comes from the Greek term “feigned” (Strong’s No. 4112: plastos) which means artificial, fictitious or false. Plastic words are twisted to mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean, and often, they are not what they seem to be. Peter cautioned his readers to beware of the “feigned words” of “false teachers.” 2 Pet 2:1-2: “But…there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies…And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…”
Words that are used to sell you on something that isn’t all it’s represented to be are “feigned words” that “make merchandise of you.” No one wants to be taken in, ripped off, or played for a fool. The Scripture recommends that you study carefully so you can pick up on truth. Studying about Equivocation will help you to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” 2 Tim 2:15; to “prove all things and hold fast that which is good,” 1 Thes. 5:21; and to “know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed,” Luke 1:4.
It’s one thing to understand a claim — it’s quite another to accept it. You must use your critical thinking ability in deciding whether or not to accept a claim. Anyone can TRY to use a credit card to purchase something — but a merchant doesn’t have to take the card. (He can ask for identification — even two ID’s if he wants to. He can refuse to accept the card if it doesn’t meet his tests.) Likewise, you have the same rights when you ask a question. Answers and claims are like credit cards. You are the receiver/merchant. You can apply certain tests or ask for further identification, definition, explanation, etc. You’re the judge of credibility, because “…every one of us shall give account of himself to God,” Romans 14:12. You can take or leave the reply.
Of course, we SHOULD accept premises as true which have adequate evidence to support them and reject those with inadequate evidence — but not everyone does. You’re the judge as to whether or not you accept a given definition. A claim is a far cry from proof and claiming something doesn’t make it so. Some speakers ask you to assume that something is so merely because they assert it is the case.
An unproven assertion is something that hasn’t been proven true but is stated as though it were a fact. In reality, an assertion is merely an opinion, preference, supposition, or speculation. Not anything to bank on! How to weigh and prove explanations and evidence will be covered in a future column. See also the Confirmation Test (i.e. “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established,” Deut. 17:6) in Fall 1995 Forward Press: “Scaling the Language Barriers in Communication.”
Explanations and definitions may include something to the effect that: “You have to understand that when the Bible refers to A, it means B.” (or that A stands for B; or that A is B). You cannot be certain the given definition for a Biblical term is the original intention of the author UNLESS the Scripture plainly states this; i.e. the Bible explains or interprets the Bible. Otherwise, it’s merely man’s supposition or conjecture. Yes, that Scripture COULD prove their point, but DOES IT? Does it imply what they presume it does? Or are there other alternatives? Is it open to other interpretations? Has ALL the relevant Scripture on the subject been taken into consideration?
In the Sower and the Seed Parable, we know for certain what the various objects represent because Jesus positively identified them for His disciples. Does it make sense that God, who is not the author of confusion, would hide the requirements for salvation in vague and ambiguous Scriptures that require “private interpretations” (2 Pet 1:20-21)? It’s a good idea whenever you receive a reply to your question with the explanation that “this stands for that,” to insist on learning where this is confirmed in the Bible.
If you go around asking others for their definitions, there is a good chance you will be asked for yours. You’d better be prepared! What is your definition of “God’s Way?” Some have found it very helpful to study every occasion the word “way” and “truth” are used in the Bible, giving particular notice to the context. Is the author talking about a method, meeting in the home, a type of ministry, Jesus, or Absolute Truth? After you have studied ALL the Bible references on these words, you will be able to discuss with utmost assurance and confidence what you found, or didn’t find.
Reviewing the following points concerning “God’s way” may help you formulate your definition. For the Christian, Salvation has always come through Faith. In the New Covenant era, it is by Grace through Faith in SomeONE — and that One is Jesus. The Only Way to God is through the PERSON, Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me,” John 14:6. Jesus didn’t say He KNEW the way, or that He TAUGHT the way, or that He would SHOW the way, or that He came to be an EXAMPLE or PATTERN of God’s true servants.
He didn’t teach a particular belief system, procedure, method, fellowship, institution or organization for worshipping God. Jesus came down from heaven not to teach the gospel, but to BE the subject of the gospel (Good News). Jesus IS “God’s Only Way.” Jesus paid the redemption price that reconciled man to God and atoned for the sins of all mankind. That’s why Jesus said HE was THE way to the Father and everyone must go through HIM. He is the Door that gives the sheep access to the Father, John 10:7. His life, death on Calvary, resurrection and ascension opened (or consecrated, Heb. 10:20) the only WAY possible whereby men might be saved. This is why Jesus came to earth — to BE the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. God’s Way — His Only Way — is Jesus.
Watch out for Shifts, Switches or Infusion in meanings of key terms. Clarification eliminates Equivocation! Ask for definitions of terms that can be taken more than one way. The words: “Truth, way, and continue” should wave Red Flags. Spell out your meaning whenever you use these or any other ambiguous terms. Keeping definitions uniform will prove or disprove Equivocation.