A “straw man,” by definition, is “a sham argument set up to be defeated.” If the term needs further defined, some examples should help. Consider a few common, recognizable “strew men.”
- “…Even in the case of rape and incest.” This is a straw man used by proponents of abortion on demand, a practice that will incur the wrath of God in keeping with His timeless, sovereign nature and character (Prov. 6:16-17; Ezek. 16:21). Beyond that, consider the hard facts. It is impossible to find any credible reporting agency that would assert a number higher than one percent of all abortions being for these reasons (between 1987-2004, the Alan Guttmacher Institute never found a statistic above one percent). On the other hand, Dr. David C. Reardon writes that “in the only major study of pregnant rape victims ever done, Dr. Sandra Mahkorn found that 75 to 85 percent chose against abortion” (“Pregnancy and Sexual Assault,” 55-69, as quoted on abortionfacts.com). A sinful practice, most often exercised for socio-economic and birth-control reasons, is shielded behind a straw man.
- “…But there are hypocrites in that church.” This is a straw man used by some who have abandoned the assemblies. They muster up examples of shallow or hollow Christianity to justify their own forsaking. Their argument is that they are no worse off staying away than some who faithfully attend, but whose examples nullify any good in their attending. Hypocrisy is an ancient evil (Mat. 23:28; 1 Pet. 2:1). Preachers, elders, and deacons can even be guilty. Yet, to cite such to justify rebelling against God’s will (Heb. 10:25), to defend that which jeopardizes our own soul, and to practice something that will have eternal consequences for ourselves and those we influence is incredibly weak and flimsy. There are hypocrites among co-workers, fellow parents on our kids’ teams and activities, civic organizations, and anywhere else there is group dynamics. Yet, we stick with those. One’s own disobedience cannot be hidden behind this straw man.
- “…Serving God is about love, not law.” This is a straw man usually pulled out when obedience to God’s commands is stressed, even in uncomfortable, trying circumstances. It is trotted out to oppose lessons with doctrinal “teeth,” that take a stand and come to an absolute conclusion. With it, the idea is espoused that commands that might offend, disturb, and challenge (like church discipline, God’s law for marriage, divorce, and remarriage, the essentiality of baptism, or the singular nature of the church) should be avoided, that love and grace should be promoted instead. Such a fallacy fails to see the biblical connection between love and obedience (John 14:15,21; Rom. 13:10).
May we reason well the foundation of our faith. May we stand upon the rock solid foundation of Scripture. It is unstable to lean upon a straw man.