Before You Ask #2 ~ Avoiding the Hazards of Ambiguity and Vagueness

Chapter 2 ~ Avoiding the Hazards of Ambiguity and Vagueness

Have you ever asked a question…and suddenly found yourself in a Semantic Jungle? Words can be tricky or wonderful, depending on how they are used, and how they are understood. Words can be used to persuade, manipulate and control us. The trick is not to fall for the pseudo-reasoning people engage in. There’s a world of difference between good, sound reasons, and reasons that sound good. Following are some common pitfalls to watch out for, and some basic recommendations to follow. Forewarned is forearmed!

Because many words have more than one definition, the English language is good at throwing a monkey wrench into communication. There is true communication only when both parties attach roughly the same meaning to the words used. The idiom comparing apples to oranges is sometimes applied when two individuals understand something spoken in totally different ways. Talk without mutual understanding is not communication — it is merely preventing silence. You may as well be talking French to an Englishman.

Don’t let anyone buffalo you! Have you ever asked a question, received a lengthy reply, and later realize, “I STILL didn’t get my question answered”? A question should be answered in clear, simple terms that you can easily understand and paraphrase in your own words. There is practically no subject in this world that cannot be explained so the average person will understand IF the person explaining it knows his subject well. Even so, some replies will be so complex or hard to understand that they cause you to feel the subject must be too deep for you to understand. Be on guard! A reply that makes you feel spiritually inadequate, ashamed or inferior is very likely a smokescreen or snow job — and not an answer at all.

An ambiguous word or phrase is one that can be understood in more than one sense in a given context. People use prestige jargon, cliches, fancy talk, gobbledygook and doublespeak frequently. Clarification is your best defense against these. You should NEVER feel the least bit reluctant or ashamed to ask for clarification. Questions are the way we learn. Learning is noble. Don’t allow any keywords, phrases or statements to remain ambiguous — ask for definitions or explanations. There is never anything wrong with making certain. The Bible encourages you to “Prove all things.” In fact, when a listener makes the effort to make certain, it actually honors the speaker. Clarification heads off misunderstandings before they happen. It’s good to make this platitude your Standard Operating Procedure (SOP): “A good understanding is the surest way to avoid a misunderstanding.” Examples of some ambiguous, vague replies which need clarification are:

“The New Testament teachings are our doctrine.”
“Our women have long hair because it’s scriptural.”
“Like the hymn says, ‘Suffering must precede the glory.'”
“If Jesus was a cult, then we’re a cult.”
“God’s Way is like a puzzle; we get it one piece at a time.”
“When we do our part, God will be faithful to do His part.”
“I would think 2 Peter 1:3 makes this clear.”
(last one by Dennis Einboden to Cindy Brown 10/95)

Most of us have been guilty of making assumptions at one time or another, and have experienced considerable confusion resulting from incorrect assumptions. Supposition makes a poor reason. Don’t assume YOUR definition for KEY or ambiguous words or phrases matches THEIR definition. Make SURE! When the subject under discussion is important to you, you should carefully review each of the speaker’s words or phrases, checking for any that might have double, ambiguous or hidden meanings.

Think of it like this. Imagine that you had dropped your valuable gold coin in your house and couldn’t find it. So you take a broom and carefully sweep, slowly in and out every corner, under every piece of furniture, along every wall, slowly sweeping everywhere, until you finally find your lost coin. Likewise, you need to take your broom and sweep in and around each of the speaker’s words, carefully checking for hidden or ambiguous meanings that might prevent your gaining a clear understanding. A wise maxim is: “Never Assume Nothing!” Possible lead-ins:

“By X, do you mean?”
“Just what exactly do you mean by X?”
“What is your definition for X?”
“Your explanation turns on the keyword X. What does X mean to you?”
“I’m not real clear as to what you mean by the term/phrase X.”
“Exactly what are you referring to when you use the word/term/phrase X?”

Examples of: Ambiguity & Vagueness

“When you refer to God, do you mean the Father only, or do you mean the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit?”

“Just exactly what do you mean by ‘Truth?’ “

“Your explanation turns on the word ‘gospel.’ What does ‘Gospel’ mean to you?”

“Do you mean ‘submission’ to God or ‘submission’ to the workers?”

“Would you please explain how the Scripture you quoted ties in with/applies to the belief/practice of X?”

“Would you please explain the connection between my question and what you just said?”

To clarify an ambiguous or vague reply, simply confess that you want to be sure you have a clear understanding of their meaning because the matter is important to you. Then ask the speaker to rephrase their reply in simpler terms for you. Possible lead-ins are:

“Could you summarize your answer for me — in a nutshell?”
“Could you run that by me again, please?”
“I’m not sure I followed you…would you mind rephrasing your reply?”
“Just so I’m perfectly clear about what you are saying…would you repeat…”
“I’m sorry, but I just didn’t understand/get your meaning. Could you explain it in some other words?”

If you are unable to get a vague reply clarified to your satisfaction, go ahead and take a stab at rephrasing it yourself. State your understanding as far as you can go with it and ask the speaker for verification. Some possible lead-ins are:

“Did I hear you right? Are you saying…”
“So you mean…?”
“What I hear you saying is…”
“Let’s see if I have this straight…”
“So, in a nutshell, are you saying…?”
“From your point of view then, the situation is…”
“Let’s see if I followed you correctly…are you saying…?”
“Let me see if I understand your meaning… In my own words, you are saying…”

Biblical Confirmation Principle

How can we be sure a scripture passage means what we think it means? Some Biblical words or terms can be interpreted one way or another. How do you know which is the right way? The way it was originally intended? The Bible provides a way to confirm its true meaning and original intent: The Bible confirms itself. The Biblical Principle of Confirmation is that: “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (Deut. 17:6, 2 Cor. 13:1, Matt. 18:16, Deut 19:15, Heb. 10:28, John 8:17, Gen 41:32, Ex 4:9, Judges 6:36-40). In other words, the Bible explains or interprets the Bible. The meaning of hard-to-understand or ambiguous scripture is verified by:

Locating other passages with the same teaching or intent; By confirming it with a principle of Jesus’ teachings. Taking into account ALL the Scripture has to say on a particular subject (not picking and choosing; not selecting one text while ignoring others; taking the “whole counsel of God.”) If other Scriptures contradict or do not support the meaning we are giving to the text, it is highly possible that our interpretation is at fault and needs revision. It’s very easy to read our own understanding, desires and preconceived ideas into Biblical passages. Whenever you receive a Scripture as a reply to your question with the explanation that “this stands for that,” make it a habit to find out where this simile is confirmed in the Bible. Biblical confirmation should be requested in the following examples:

“The workers are the Word made flesh in our day.”

“My hope of salvation is the blood of Christ. But I would like to explain to you what it means. The blood of Christ is the ministry and the church in the home. Without the New Testament ministry, you don’t have the blood of Christ which includes the church in the home. The forgiveness of sins is a fringe benefit.” (Leo Stancliff, 1981)

“To be born again means to receive Christ. Receiving Christ means receiving the messenger. In receiving the message, one receives the Spirit of God.” (Bob Dye)

“For the spirit and attitude you assume toward those that have made themselves poor, homeless, and strangers for the gospel’s sake will ultimately determine where you will be in eternity.” (Jack Carroll, Manhattan Conv 10/4/45)

“An unrighteous person is one who doesn’t worship God in the right way or think right thoughts.” (Howard Mooney, Walla Walla, WA 1959)

Slanting – Loaded Language!

Language can be loaded with either Positive or Negative connotations through the speaker or writer’s choice of words and/or tone of voice. But neither is evidence! Both are ways to avoid giving evidence and good reason!

Some attempt to manipulate others into accepting a conclusion by coming on STRONG and intense or by deliberately using loaded language, particularly when reasons are poor or nonexistent. Beware of anyone who plays on your emotions, instead of giving good sound reasons. An emotional appeal used as a substitute for truth is worthless, although it may suck in the gullible. Emotion is no substitute for reason.

To communicate clearly, you need to choose words that convince your audience of your fairness. Using loaded words does NOT accomplish this! When you hold strong opinions, it is easy to slip into biased or emotionally-loaded language. Slanted language usually will not convince a careful person to agree with your point, and may cause them to doubt your ability to convey the facts fairly. Slanted or biased language often causes the hearer to feel manipulated, wary or hostile. While those who already agree with you may become more convinced of your point, those who disagree may become annoyed, and dig in harder against your position.

Negative Loaded Language – Taking Cheap Shots!

Language is sometimes loaded with Negative, emotionally-toned words which carry implied value judgments that arouse emotions and stir up feelings. Negative loaded language makes good or neutral things look bad. It may be deliberately used to produce a negative effect on a listener’s attitude toward something; or to tone down positive associations something may have. More examples of highly-charged terms loaded with Negative connotations are:

accost, accuse, admitted or claimed, agenda, apostate
biased, boycott, bribed, coerced, confiscate
deny, diatribe, dogmatic, exposed, fool, guilty of, gullible
heresy, heretic, illicit, infiltrated,
lambast, liar, lure, lurk, lying, mere,
perverted, prejudiced, propaganda, resorted,
slink, spy, tirade, vendetta

Examples of Negative Loaded Language

“Parents, don’t sacrifice your children on the altar of education.” (Dan Hilton 1979)
“The time has come to throw this do-nothing, corruption-riddled administration out of office.”
“You may hear religious words set to the tempo of uncivilized rhythm called “rock” and find the meaningful hymns being omitted in favor of repeating the same phrase over and over to a childish tune.”
“I am economical. You are a tightwad. He is a miser.”
“If you weren’t boycotting our gospel meetings, you would know the answer to that question…”
“Craig has always been very gullible…even when he was a little boy.”
“She’s spreading all that propaganda trying to tear down the truth!”
“He attempted to smuggle in pity to try and persuade us to do what he wanted.”
“I am firm. You are obstinate. He is pig-headed.” (Bertrand Russell).

Negative Leading Questions

Some questions or replies are framed to try and control your response. A strong opinion may be tucked into a question. Be alert to a possible attempt at manipulation when a speaker answers your question with a question, beginning with: “you do, don’t you, surely you,” or their equivalent. These phrases try to control your response before it is made. The questioner is counting on you not to disagree with his position or wishes. Some examples to be on guard for are:

You will – You won’t – Won’t you – You would – You wouldn’t – Wouldn’t you – You are – You aren’t – You’re not – You do – You don’t – Don’t you – You have – You haven’t – Haven’t you

Examples of Negative Leading Questions

You DO believe it’s the only way, don’t you?
Don’t you believe the workers are God’s mouthpieces?
You’re not planning to cut your hair, are you?
You aren’t thinking about quitting, are you?

Don’t you think that God could raise up a prophet today like he did in the Old Testament days?

You aren’t going to talk to other people about this or write any of those terrible letters, are you?

You haven’t been reading any of those books written by the Enemy, have you?

NOTE: When someone uses any of the above lead-ins and introduces them with the words, “SURELY, YOU…” know for CERTAIN, that they are attempting to manipulate your response. Examples:

SURELY, YOU believe this is God’s only right way!
SURELY, YOU don’t go for all that grace stuff!! Why that’s ridiculous!
SURELY, YOU haven’t been taken in by those books full of lies!!

Positive Assurances

Language loaded with Positive Assurances can also cause you to accept a point of view without proof. It is perfectly legitimate for a speaker to use assuring phrases like “obviously,” “it is common knowledge that,” and the like when the evidence is so overwhelming that most would agree that the matter is transparent or conclusive. However, assurances are empty words or phrases UNLESS there is proof to back them up. Positive Assurances often mask a weak explanation or disguise an unproven assertion. Positive assurances are sometimes used intentionally to gain your compliance; to stop you from questioning further; to manipulate you into silence. However, claiming something is true, doesn’t make it true. Neither does claiming that “everyone knows” something. Confident speculation is a far cry from proof. Some examples are:

Of course…Certainly…Obviously…Surely…No doubt…Undoubtedly…Beyond the shadow of a doubt…Nothing could be clearer than…Unquestionably – It’s beyond question…It’s crystal clear that…Without controversy…It’s indisputable…In fact…It’s a known fact…It’s common knowledge…It’s obvious that…Studies show…Informed sources say…It goes without saying…These truths are self-evident…It is agreed…Everyone knows/ agrees…As we all know…I just know that…I am confident that…I’m sure that…I have every reason to believe that…No one would disagree if I said that…You know, as well as I do, that…You know full well that…

Rebutting Slanting

Whenever you hear someone use a loaded expression, just smile and punch it right out of the sentence! Act as if you didn’t even hear it. Refuse to let it arouse your emotions. Make up your own mind or opinion — don’t let someone else make it for you! One truly excellent way to defuse this type of situation is to restate or summarize the matter in neutral, non-emotional language, in a respectful tone, absolutely devoid of scorn or anger. Some suggested replies to slanting are:

“When you refer to God as a space monster who plans to barbecue men over an eternal grill, you are basically saying that God is a large, powerful, frightening being who has a place reserved for sinners involving everlasting punishment with heat. Is this right?”

“So essentially, you are saying that the answers are all found in gospel meetings, and that I should keep coming to gospel meetings where I’ll one day hear the answer to my question. Is this right? If you know the answer, I’d appreciate it if you would answer my question now. This is important to me.”

Another way is to disarm them and “agree with thine adversary,” and press on with your question.

“Did I sound angry? Thanks for telling me. I appreciate your feedback. Let me just calmly repeat my question…”

“Did I say “never?” Thanks for pointing that out. Never is too strong a word. What I should have said/wanted to say/meant to say was…”

“Maybe I AM being shortsighted here. I’ll give that some thought. In the meantime, how will you go about getting the answer to my question…”

Slanting With Generalities

Vague words are sometimes deliberately used so a conclusion will seem more reasonable than it really is. Be leery of an explanation that uses absolute terms; words such as “all, always, every, everyone, everything, immediately, no one, none, nothing, never, must.” It is extremely rare that EVERY member of a group will have identical characteristics, beliefs or attitudes. Rarely is the use of generalities or all-inclusive terms justified. Coming up with just one exception makes this type of statement false and the speaker appear foolish. Examples:

I NEVER see them at gospel meetings anymore.
EVERYBODY showed up! I can only think of six people who were missing!
ALL reasonable people believe that…
ALL the workers agree that…
Oh, she ALWAYS does that…
He NEVER tells the whole truth…

Unless it is absolutely true, get out of the habit of saying: “All A is B.” Rather say more accurately: “Some or many A are B.” Think about it. Isn’t it just as easy to use accurate words, as it is to exaggerate and be incorrect? Try to select your qualifiers with precision in mind, and watch out for overstatements and understatements of others. Question them or in your mind, zap and substitute a more accurate description.

For: always – Substitute: for the most part, usually, sometimes, often
For: certainly – Substitute: in all probability
For: never – Substitute: sometimes, rarely
For: probably – Substitute: possibly
For: all the time – Substitute: often, occasionally
For: occasionally – Substitute: frequently

Slanting With Holy-Sounding Language

Many replies contain innuendo, which is an indirect implication (often derogatory) about a person or thing. The innuendo may use Biblical jargon; take expressions from Hymns; or use Old English phraseology (considered by some to be “God’s Language;” i.e. thee, thou, dost, verily, etc.). Replies presented with holy-sounding terminology that give the impression that God confirms or authorizes the statement are often accepted without question. Holy jargon gives the illusion of adding extra clout to a reply. To use Scripture in this manner is to abuse it, rather than using it.

The technique of using holy-sounding language often acts as a good Question Terminator and causes the person to drop the question like a hot potato. Be careful that you don’t give a reply more importance than it deserves. Don’t stop looking for the answer to your question just because someone attempts to chastise, shame or awe you with holy-sounding language.

CAUTION: Whenever holy-sounding language crops up in a reply, watch out! More often than not, it is a diversion ploy to get you to stop Questioning and accept a weak position without good reason.

Examples of Slanting With Holy-Sounding Language

Phrases: “lost and perishing world;” “outside the camp;” “itching ears;” “honest heart”

“Your problem with women’s appearance is just your personal thorn in the flesh.” (The innuendo is that one should be like Paul and accept it as a privilege to bear their cross in this manner, and pass it off by saying `thy grace is sufficient for me,’ etc.)

“Be careful! Don’t remove the old landmarks!” (The innuendo is that the women’s appearance items are landmarks.)

“Don’t you believe the workers are God’s mouthpieces?”

“It was as if hundreds arose from the earth as one man” (using Judges 20:8: “And all the people arose as one man…”) in answer to: Who started the church? And not mention the founder Wm Irvine’s name.

Slanting with Scriptures

When questioned about the history of this fellowship, it is not uncommon for workers to take refuge behind Scripture passages pertaining to foolish questions, endless genealogies, striving about words, or pride, and things that do not edify. Following are verses that are sometimes used to evade Questions and to imply that inquiring into Irvine’s ancestry is of no value and a waste of time (unprofitable).

2 Tim. 2:14: “That they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.” (Paul was defending the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in that verse. Asking an honest question is not “striving about words.”)

Questions & Foolish Questions

2 Tim. 2:23: “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.”

Titus 3:9: “But avoid foolish questions and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.”

A reply pointing to verses about foolish actions is innuendo SUPREME! A more derogatory intimation about the person asking the Question would be hard to imagine. The implication cannot be mistaken! If you fall for it, you ARE foolish! Foolish questions are only ONE category of Questions — not ALL Questions are foolish.

Just WHY do they consider your Question foolish? On what basis? Why is your Question foolish? If the matter concerns your soul, salvation, or your service to God, then it’s NOT a foolish Question! It is vital for your spiritual well-being and growth. Genuine, valid, legitimate and sensible Questions are the responsibility of the experts/teachers to answer. “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves;” 2 Tim 2:24-25. Truthful answers with scriptural backing dissolve doubts and make convictions even firmer. It is usually ONLY the Questions for which they have no scriptural support (men’s traditions being enforced as God’s commandments) that are labeled foolish.

So you might agree with them that it certainly IS a good policy to avoid trick Questions — and most of us generally try to do so. It IS usually best to avoid those who just want to toy with us, make fun of our desires or actions, and/or put us down — but you’re not doing this. Your Question is not a trick Question, and is not in the category of foolish questions, so this objection does not apply. Press on for an answer to your Question. Some suggested replies are:

“I agree with you that controversy for the sake of controversy is wrong. Do you think God looks on all questions as “foolish” which should be avoided at all costs? Sometimes controversy is necessary in order to discover important truths vital to salvation. Would our most fair and just God condemn questions like this from an honest heart?”

“If you preach that something is ESSENTIAL to salvation or pertains to godliness, then it is hardly “foolish” to want to understand it better. It is understood that you have scriptures to support your position. What are they?”

“If you can’t prove it with the scriptures — why should I be required to believe/follow men’s traditions which are being enforced as though they were God’s commandments!”

“How can I understand it — except some man should guide me?” (the eunuch’s reply to Philip in Acts 8:31)

Appeal to Pride – Proud

2 Tim. 6:3-4: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words.”

If you ask if a particular scripture could mean something other than the way it has usually been interpreted, some insinuate that you are “proud” from 2 Tim. 6:3-4. Notice the context of this passage in the previous verses. Paul was telling Timothy what to teach concerning a servant’s relationship with his master. He was saying if the instructions in verses 1-2 are contested, then the contestor is proud, etc. To label a Questioner “proud” from this verse is taking the verse out of context, for it wasn’t dealing with asking a reasonable Question to verify the supporting scriptures for beliefs perpetuated by the fellowship.

Cunningly Devised Fables & Genealogies ~ Holy Slanted Language

Another refuge the workers hide behind when Questioned about the history of this fellowship, is the following Scripture pertaining to ‘cunningly devised fables, and genealogies’:

1 Tim. 1:3-4: “That thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.” 1 Tim 4:7: “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” 2 Tim 4:3-4: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Titus 1:14: “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” Titus 3:9: “But avoid foolish questions and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” Some definitions to review:

FABLE (Strong’s No. 3454) is a tale, fiction, a myth. For example, a fable presently being fostered is that the 2×2 ministry continued down from the apostles in an unbroken line of succession. William Irvine is not a fable — not a product of someone’s imagination.

GENEALOGY is a record of the descent of a person or family from an ancestor(s).

HISTORY is a record of past events; what has happened in the life or development of a people, country, institution, sect, etc. World War I is history — not a fable!

Example: “It’s wonderful to know, like Peter said, that we have not followed ‘cunningly devised fables’, but have tasted for ourselves of His majesty.” (The innuendo discounts the history as a fairy tale without a literal lie being made verbally — hoping attention will be diverted and the Question dropped.)

Replies To Slanting With Holy-Sounding Language

“History differs considerably from genealogy. GENEALOGY is a record of the descent of A PERSON or FAMILY from an ancestor or ancestors. HISTORY is a record of past events in the life or development of a people, country, sect, etc. What I’m concerned with is HISTORY — not with GENEALOGY. I understand that the workers have not kept written historical records, per se. However, if it is true that the sect existed before 1897, then there should be some tangible historical evidence, such as pictures, lists, letters, gravesites, etc. of workers and friends before 1897. What evidence have you seen with your own eyes?”

“You must have misunderstood my Question. I am not concerned with “fables” or “genealogies,” but rather with…”

“You misunderstood my Question; I have no interest in “fables” or “genealogies.” What I AM interested in learning is this: What Biblical basis do you have for believing this fellowship in which you are a minister is God’s only true way on earth?”

“A fable is a fairy tale — pure fiction! I’m not talking about a “fable!” I want to know what really took place historically. My Question is…?”

“I hardly think the history of a fellowship less than 100 years old qualifies as “endless genealogy.” (Then rephrase and ask your Question again)

“I assure you I have no bone of contention with “the law,” nor do I have any interest in genealogies. However, I would like to know…”

“Though you may consider this Question absurd or stupid (“foolish or unlearned”), I would still appreciate it if you, as a servant of the Lord, a teacher of the truth, would patiently instruct me by giving me an answer. As a teacher of God’s Word, does that verse not obligate you to teach and instruct? “And the servant of the Lord must…be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing them…to the acknowledging of the truth.” (This turns the tables on them, as you turn and use “holy language” back on them!)

The following letter was sent to a brother worker who had cautioned the writer not to get taken up with genealogies:


“I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly with your position towards natural genealogies and other endeavors mentioned in 1st Timothy which are counter-productive and wasteful to the preservation and growth of our fellowship and love for Truth. The workers preach that our lineage harkens from the beginning, and has been shaped by the sure and sovereign will of God. The workers also preach that out of humanity in general, God has been sifting and molding a particular and peculiar people who would embody and embrace His plan with whom He would give His special revelation and dispensation.

“The Old Testament authors, as well as Matthew and Luke, set forth genealogies with meticulous detail and accuracy. Apparently, God felt the lineage of Christ was important enough to document the Jewish descent to Abraham, which occupies the first 17 verses of Matthew. Luke was divinely inspired to trace the genealogy of Jesus to Adam, which represents a direct connection with not only the Jews but all mankind.

“Since the workers preach the sectarian doctrine of apostolic succession, whether explicitly or implicitly, they should be able to substantiate this factually, as God moved Matthew and Luke to do. If they can’t prove beyond all doubt that an unbroken connection with first century Christianity exists, then, obviously, this should not be preached as an indisputable fact.

“Conversely, if we lay no claim to unbroken succession, then we are, in effect, admitting to an earthly organizer; a person who, in our particular instance, began this movement of what he felt to be primitive Christianity through emphasis upon select and specific scriptural references.

“If this is so, let’s honestly admit to it and remove the Questions and cloak of secrecy that have intentionally or unintentionally shrouded the origins of this fellowship. If the earthly foundation of our fellowship be based upon anything less than a full disclosure of the pure and honest truth, then the entire structure, no matter how closely it may be aligned with select scriptures, is in error, and in grave jeopardy as an instrument through which God would desire to work.

Your Brother in Christ,”

Jim Vail

Shame & Guilt

Some Scripture used to insinuate that you should be fearful or ashamed to even ask your Question:

Luke 9:45: “But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.

Mark 9:32: “But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.”

Suggested Reply: “This fellowship claims to follow the New Testament teachings ONLY. That means everything we need to know and do in order to receive eternal life is contained in the Bible. Right? Well, where does the Scripture say…

a. Women must/must not X in order to be saved?

b. God has only one way, that didn’t mean Jesus?” Some replies use the following verse to imply that in your ignorance (which is obvious to the experts or teachers by your Questioning their interpretations) that you are TWISTING the Scriptures to suit yourself; or that questioning is destructive: “…speaking in them (Paul’s epistles) of these things in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist), as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” 1 Peter 3:16

Apparently, even Peter found some of the things in Paul’s letters “hard to understand.” However, you’re not Questioning Paul’s letters, but rather men’s interpretations of some details in his letters. If it was hard for Peter to understand some of what Paul said, it stands to reason that you might also find them difficult to understand in this far removed day and age from the culture, history, government and times they were written in. When Peter was not even certain what Paul meant, how can we be dogmatic in our interpretation today of passages hard to understand??

You can also turn the tables and insinuate that perhaps they have been “unlearned and unstable” in their interpretations of various scriptures, and have instituted applications or practices that are destructive since they can give you no scriptural basis for certain required behaviors and beliefs. That road works both ways.

Some use the Black or White fallacy and make a comparison between things that edify and things that do not. Your question is minimized and it is implied that your point is of no value just because it may have no eternal value. This technique is based on these verses:

1 Tim. 1:3-4: “That thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

Romans 14:19: “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

1 Cor 10:23: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”

In the following replies, the speakers either (1) don’t want to tell the answer or (2) they don’t know the answer.

“There are things that could be told, but they are not edifying.”

“Any who would suggest a written genealogy record is necessary between the first and twentieth century would fall into the category of 1 Tim. 1:3-4: ‘That thou might charge some that they teach no other doctrine. Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.’ ” (Dan Hilton Jan 1, 1984 Burlington, WA Special Meeting.)

In essence, these are refusals to discuss the matter. They are Question Terminators!

Euphemisms – Doublespeak ~ It’s ALL in the Name!

“And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth” Jer. 9:3

In polite society, some words are unmentionable. Some subjects are just plain offensive or unpleasant to talk or think about: sex, death, torture, etc. So people often use words they carefully choose to avoid directly mentioning something sensitive or delicate. When we substitute a positive, pleasing or neutral association for one that is negative, disagreeable or offensive, that word is called a Euphemism. Euphemisms cause bad to seem good, negative to appear positive, and unpleasant to look attractive, or at least tolerable.

Because they repackage the negative in an acceptable format, Euphemisms are often used as a kindness, and their use is sometimes considered good manners. For instance, the term “passed away” is kinder than the word “dead,” when talking to a recent widow. Referring to “a piece of misinformation,” rather than “a bald-faced lie” may prevent hostility from occurring.

However, because the nature of a Euphemism is to disguise the negative, it can also be misused to mislead, distort and deceive. Euphemisms can be used to pull wool over people’s eyes — to cloud or limit thought; to prevent opposition or conflict; to mislead, distort, deceive or inflate. Just as a rose by any other name is still a rose, so a spade by any other name is still a spade. Changing the name does not change the fact. A lie can never become the truth — no matter how the lie is dressed or packaged — even if it’s a 100-year old lie! Watch out for Word Benders!

Examples of Euphemisms

Harsh Reality: Euphemism Substitute
fat, overweight: husky, full figure, stocky
skinny, scrawny: slim, slender
false teeth:  dentures
sweat: perspiration
kickbacks: rebates
junkyard: auto recycler
employee: associate, colleague
housewife: domestic engineer
stench: aroma
dump: recycling facility
sewer system: water waste management
jail, prison: correctional facility
alcohol/drug addiction:  chemical dependency; substance abuse

2×2 Harsh Reality – Euphemism Substitutes:

Some 2x2s have a tendency to use euphemisms to disguise what they mean. Here are a few examples…

Disagrees with beliefs: lost his vision
Difference of opinion:  wrong spirit
Doesn’t buy everything: lack of faith, loves the world
Going to hell: lost eternity
Worker’s Rules: standards of the kingdom
Rape: taking advantage of
groping a feel to rape: taking liberties
empty talk: good visit
inconvenience: privilege
doing it workers’ way: for kingdom/gospel’s sake
worker taboos: things that aren’t edifying
life dictated by workers: self-denial, suffering, persecution
sucker: convert, honest heart
light: their method; walk in “the light” as Jesus walked; advertising with outer appearance/actions, peculiar people, bearing marks of Christ
conformity: unity
poor: workers selling all and giving to the poor
their method: the truth as it is in Jesus
their method: God’s plan
workers’ rules: standards of the kingdom

More Examples of Euphemisms :

“Their (2×2) polity is episcopal.” (means their organization is governed by bishops.) Source: Canadian Encyclopedia, 1988 Article on Assemblies of Christians, pg 424

The following euphemisms are from the February 1995 Reader’s Digest, Page 106, written by Steve Salerno in Los Angeles Times Magazine: “Oh, Wheelie?”

“Southern California is home to many publications devoted to helping people sell their used cars. The listings have a vocabulary all their own; understanding it is essential to avoid getting lemonized. What it says – What it means:

Must sell – Before it blows up. Runs fine – I was going to say “runs excellent,” but I had a last-minute conscience attack. Needs some body work – Was blindsided by a Winnebago. Well-maintained – I changed the oil occasionally. Looks like new – Just don’t try to drive it anywhere. All original – I never had anything fixed, adjusted or replaced. Loaded with options – Each one more troublesome than the next. Never smoked in – Unfortunately, that’s the best thing I can say about it. Project car – Doesn’t run. Lots of potential – Doesn’t run. Needs minor repair – Doesn’t run.”

Hedging – Weasel Words!

Don’t expect straightforward answers from the Hedger! Hedging protects the speaker from criticism by watering own his claim, and gives the speaker a way out should his claim be challenged. Hedgers avoid making direct accusations or statements, preferring to use indirect words or phrases such as “perhaps, possibly, and maybe.” These plant a suggestion without making an outright claim which the Hedger could be held accountable for. For example, it can be suggested that John Doe is a liar without directly stating so by saying:

Does John Doe have a past history of lying?
Is it POSSIBLE that John Doe could be lying?
PERHAPS John Doe isn’t telling the whole truth…

What the Hedger presents may really be his point of view, but he gives it in an oblique, roundabout way. This enables the Hedger to weasel out of or shifts responsibility. He can shirk the blame for the absurdity of the position he is holding and get out of having to defend his weak position. Some Weasel phrases are:

“Some would say that…”
“It may well be that…”
“It is arguable that…”
“It has been suggested that…”
“Management doesn’t permit…”
“An older brother worker always said about that…”
“Perhaps they never had a good understanding anyway…”
“I think most workers would agree that…”
“Well, I myself have never preached that…”
“I don’t know of any of the friends who feel like that…”
“Some would say that X is the reason why Z.”
“You will need to talk to one of the older brothers about that subject…”
“The Way is perfect, but the people aren’t.”
“George Walker used to say about that…”

“Some would say the reason women are to wear their long hair put up is because the scripture says long hair is to be a covering for the head — not the back.”

“It is not impossible for God to raise up a prophet in our day like he did in generations past…”

The purpose of the Before You Ask series is not to destroy faith but that you may “…be fully persuaded in your own mind” (Rom 14:5) and “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” 1 Peter 3:15.

Go to Chapter 3

Revised August 15, 2014