One of the easiest cop-outs in any argument is “that’s your opinion.” Once you pull out this little gem, the opponent’s entire argument is invalidated based on the fact that you can think for yourself, thanks very much, and please stop pushing your personal views on the subject onto other people.
The problem is that opinions have very little to do with the truth. In fact, they have nothing do with truth or facts. An opinion is how you feel about the truth. An opinion can be based on something that is true, or it can be based on something that is false.
But, you say, doesn’t that have everything to do with what you believe to be the case about the given issue? To that I answer, “Greg Bahsen,” and retire for the evening. Merely believing that something is the truth does not mean it is the truth – there is only one Truth, and you are possibly (in fact likely) deceiving yourself about what it is you believe.
Pulling the opinion card usually happens because we don’t like to admit that the other person is right (or we’re just tired of arguing to begin with). If they’re right and I’m wrong, that at the very least indicates if not demands that I need to change the way I think about the world and the way I act.
Now, it is a certain sure thing that everyone disagrees on everything all the time. How do we sift through the opinions and find the truth?
- Stop using the word “opinion” and use the word “belief.” That’s what we really mean anyway, and a belief can be argued. An opinion is never true or false and thus it is useless. A belief is always true or false and thus is infinitely necessary in shaping how we view the world. This is the key distinction. Even a belief that seems trivial belies a deeper worldview that informs and determines our thoughts and actions. For example, my personal belief that God created the world ~6000 years ago is not an opinion (because it is either true or false). Furthermore, this belief is girded by my faith that the God who exists revealed Himself through His Word, and that in turn girds (or should gird) my every action and additional belief.
- Check all beliefs against Scripture. All of them. If you belief gravity is what holds us to the earth and keeps the planets in motion around the Sun, check it against Scripture. The Scripture bears up all that is true, and without the Word there can be no sure truth. To repeat my example, that belief is true because it is corroborated by all of Scripture. Arguments about “what Scripture really means” can always be resolved with enough study in the Word, submission to its Authority, and prayer that the Spirit would be sent to open our hearts.
None of this is to say that opinions do not exist. You might hold the opinion that setting the AC down is more personally preferable than setting it up. Arguments still arise from this (many times), but the fact of that opinion stands (because it is subjective and therefore unverifiable, which oddly enough means there is no necessary reason to doubt it). If you think that a cold environment leads to a hardier immune system, that’s a belief, and one that’s not necessarily true.
So do everyone a favor and stop saying “that’s your opinion.” Instead, offer to dive into the Scriptures alongside your disagreeing opponent and search out matters that God has hidden.
Like everything else, the introduction of Isaiah 1-12 follows a seven day Creation pattern:
Ch. 1:1-31 – heaven/earth
Ch. 2-4 – mediation (firmament)
Ch. 5 – vineyard
Ch. 6-9:7 – king (rulers are symbolized by heavenly lights and vice versa)
Ch. 9:8-10:4 – curses (the 5th day is the first to receive a blessing)
Ch. 10:5-32 – king of Assyria shown as new Adam
Ch. 10:33-12:6 – restoration
Chapter 5 contains what is known as the Vineyard Song. There’s a lot of symbolism in it, but what I found interesting was the pun in the last verse (Is. 5:7):
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help
This is not obvious unless you look at the Hebrew. The word for “justice” is mishpat, and “oppression” is mishpakh. “Righteousness” is tzedaqah, and “a cry for help” is tza’aqah. The words are very, very similar: it’s a pun. Sort of like: “Ohhhh. You wanted mishpat. We have all this mishpakh. Oops.” This also means that the vineyard Yahweh planted did not produce no fruit, but bad fruit. It’s not a passive sin (want of conformity unto the Law of God), but an active sin (transgression of the Law of God).
Isaiah’s commission in chapter 6 contains elements of a worship service. He sees the seraphim (burning ones) worshipping before the Throne, and is afraid, because he is sinful. He knows sin cannot survive before God, and he confesses his sin before the Lord. So one of the seraphim touches him with a coal from the altar. Notice that the seraphim, a being made of fire, has to use tongs because this coal is so hot. Isaiah is purified with a baptism of fire, as it were, and now is clean to worship and serve Yahweh. He has become a burning one: he was set on fire. We cannot and should not presume to enter the Holy Place in worship without being cleansed through verbal confession of sin.
Notice also that the angels are crying “one to another” the Sanctus: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Yahweh of Hosts, the heavens are full of His glory.” It’s an antiphonal response: something that was utilized in the early church, seems to be suggested by the regulative principle, and has largely been lost in our modern worship, although it is making a slight revival among *cough* select churches.
Acts 2 does not give a model for the Church to follow. The church described there is a small band of people living in a new and exciting world. They are an immature church. Following this model is a refusal to progress, as well as longing for an abstract ideal. It’s primitivism, a flight from maturity, and a refusal to do battle. The real Church, with millions of people across the globe, just doesn’t work out that way. And in fact, all of the things described there quickly break down, even in the book of Acts in the next couple of chapters.
There are many, many, heated debates within the Church. And these are not viewed as bad things. Rather, it seems that arguments are evidences of the Spirit’s working in us to discern the truth. Everyone has an opinion, but only one of them is right. When we argue, that’s the Spirit working in us to debate and weigh these things: the right one comes out on top.
Paul and Barnabas have an argument so sharp that they completely part ways: we assume that they argued in love, in a spirit of working to find the best way, and that no bad blood remained between them, but that doesn’t change the fact that this argument (about Mark’s commitment and maturity) was a big deal. And keep in mind that up until this point, Barnabas is called the “Peacemaker,” because he has mediated all the other arguments we know of in Acts so far.
Arguments happen. They have to happen for the truth to come out on top.
The comments about the House of Yahweh in Zechariah indicate that it is the false worship of the people that has brought calamity upon them. As we’ve also been seeing in Isaiah, true faithful worship brings God’s protection (Hezekiah). If you’re worshipping the right way, your enemies can’t touch you. But when false worship occurs (Ahaz), judgment will come, and swiftly. Worship is not something you do if there’s no game on Sunday. Worship is warfare and it is far more important than we often realize. When we worship correctly, Satan trembles, because he knows he’s about to be judged. When we don’t worship faithfully and truly, he’s happy, because he’s not being attacked and in fact we have left ourselves open to his onslaught.
The new idol is humanity itself; we will worship our own brain.
The ancient pagans were tempted to idolatry because of sensory input, which is a basic brain function. The temples were beautiful, the gold of the idols was breath-taking, etc. They would not see this kind of awe inspiring beauty but once or twice in a lifetime.
We are not tempted to this ancient idolatry today because we are surrounded by more beauty and craftsmanship than ancient man could even comprehend. It’s simply decadent.
However, this constant bombardment of our sensory input has completely filled up our brains: we have left no room for higher order thought (the soul, the Spirit, philosophy). Our minds are full, as it were. That’s why the challenge today is not those who worship physical idols (in a sense), but those who deny the existence of God altogether: their minds have been molded because there’s just no more room in there.
Some questions still remain about what kinds of sensory input are good and which are bad. Some, like psalm singing, are obviously good. This requires more thought, but it’s a track we need to explore. We live in a world of constant sensory bombardment, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (modern technology is an incredible blessing from God), but we need to think about what we’re putting into our minds, and if it’s going to push those higher order thought processes into a tiny corner.
Because of this, those of us “modern men” who have not been trained to think about matters of dogma (through strengthening by the Spirit) are completely incapable of thinking about God in any context. God just doesn’t make sense to their lower order function brains (this has nothing to do with intellect, by the way: there are less intelligent people who know much about Scripture and love, and intellectual elite who are dead in sins and trespasses).
The problem with ancient man was not that he believed in a god: it was that he believed in the wrong one. The pagan world knew about Yahweh (see the sailors’ comments to Jonah as well as other places in the Scripture); He had a reputation as the baddest dude in town. People trembled when they learned that this prophet or king came in the name of Yahweh. “Not Yahweh! We must be in deep trouble, if that God is coming upon us,” and very often it leads directly to repentance (again, Jonah and Ninevah; when they learn that Yahweh is angry, they immediately repent).
This is not the case today. Today, man is incapable of comprehending any god at all, much less a God like Yahweh (who is a God like our God, indeed!).
Note that this problem of molding our minds to not accept God is a problem we have brought upon ourselves: it is not demonic activity per se. Man now has far more power than the angelic host, demons included. We are the ones who tempt each other away from God now. Our snares recoil upon our own heads.