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Ground Rules

A few principles we should keep in mind whenever discussing religion.

A Christian Attitude

Religious debate is inherently emotional and inflammatory. We each strive to do the right thing and we sometimes get frustrated when the other party doesn't see things our way. This is because we honestly believe the truth and we want to help others. This is a good thing.

But we are sometimes wrong. No single person who is a believer in their religion ever suspects for a moment, that they are wrong. Yet it's true! In a room with twenty people of different religions, at least nineteen of them are wrong. And an Athiest will argue all twenty are wrong!

Therefore we need a set of ground rules we can all agree on, from which we will move forward. This page details the ground rules we use here on noachide international.

General Beliefs

  1. The Doctrine of God's Omniscience, Omnipresence, Omnipotence and Benevolence (a)
  2. The Doctrine of Sola Scriptura. (b)
  3. Logical Honesty. (c)

A few notes on the above and what they imply.

Ecumenical Authority

The essential statement of (a) is that out of God's unity and perfection arises ultimate ecumenical authority.

Sola Scriptura

Based on the above, we hold that God's revealed word must always be true and accurate. Therefore, the simple meaning of a verse must be true. That is to say if God were to reveal his plan to us he would do so in a way we could easily understand.

Logical Honesty

By deferring to the word of God as stated by the plain meaning of the Bible, in context, we claim a logically honest approach to the word of God – and thus, ultimately, lay claim to God's ecumenical authority. In doing so we look for the plain meaning of the text and do not insert ideas that come from elsewhere unless they explicitly discuss the same situation. This is known as Exegesis.

The contrasting approach, Eisegesis, is when you take what you already believe and scour the text for something that sounds similar to what you believe – even if you have to take a verse out of context to claim so.

What about the Spirit of Truth?

The lines can sometimes become blurred when true believers claim that the verses are in context – in context with some spiritual revelation or holy spirit of truth. Unfortunately this is not what exegesis means vs. eisegesis. The meaning of exegesis is that God wants us to understand his word, which is why he preserved it in a book. Therefore exegesis is a statement against progressive revelation.


Eisegesis (/ˌaɪsəˈdʒiːsəs/; from the Greek preposition εἰς “into” and the ending from the English word exegesis, Greek ἐξήγησις, which in turn is derived from ἐξηγεῖσθαι “to lead out”) is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. This is commonly referred to as reading into the text. The act is often used to “prove” a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda.Wikipedia:Eisegesis (2017)

Exegesis (/ˌɛksəˈdʒiːsɪs/; from the Greek ἐξήγησις from ἐξηγεῖσθαι, “to lead out”) is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, particularly a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for work with the Bible; however, in modern usage “biblical exegesis” is used for greater specificity to distinguish it from any other broader critical text explanation.Wikipedia:Exegesis (2017)

Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis is the process of drawing out the meaning from a text in accordance with the context and discoverable meaning of its author, eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text. As a result, exegesis tends to be objective when employed effectively while eisegesis is regarded as highly subjective.Wikipedia:Eisegesis (2017)

One may ask, is there a formal outline of precisely how we can approach the bible via a process of logical honesty? Please see Exegesis and Jewish Exegesis for some approaches.

Debating the Existence of God

We avoid debating the existence of God because as it turns out the people who most enjoy debating the existence of God are rarely interested in debating anything at all. Someone who is antagonistic towards religion frames his debate in such a way as to sound like he is discussing a point of doctrine or belief; however the root of his argument will be that he does not believe in God. Additionally, any such proof that would convince him is stated outright to be impossible. I.E. it is not that he simply doesn't believe in God. He doesn't want to believe in God. Such an antagonist will gladly follow the lead of the religious person and attack the credibility of anything which is said. This is a such a dishonest debate tactic! And so, we tend to brush aside such discussions.

Personal Testimony

Arguing out of personal testimony is like telling someone an Angel appeared to you and told you the truth. It's your word against the world, or worse, your word against the Bible. As such personal testimony is not valid in a discussion over the meaning of the bible, nor could it be used to prove something in a logical sense.

Miracles Etc.

Miracles are completely invalid as proof of anything. Please refer to Miracles Do Not Prove Divinity).

Non-miraculous proofs

Non-miraculous proofs are just that, and therefore are dismissed by the prejudice of the antagonist. An example would be Pi in the bible. Despite the obvious presence of what should be an interesting “coincidence”, that's all it will ever be to the antagonist. This is a best case scenario; I have had long discussions with athiests where they still cannot seem to get past “Pi is 3”.

Antagonists in these kinds of debate are not really interested in proof. They just want to waste your time. See General Debate. Most often they are completely unschooled in the subject they choose to engage in and will lack even general knowledge of the subject matter in context.

A great example is Chafer's argument for omnipresnce. In his classic seven-volume Systematic Theology, Lewis Sperry Chafer advanced the following argument. He said in essence that God’s perfection demands it. If we could conceive of even a tiny portion of the universe where God is not present, then we might conceive of a being in that locality who is greater than God himself. Is this the best argument Christians could come up with after several thousands of years? It shows a lack of knowledge, a lack of study, and a lack of understanding of the issue at hand. In contrast, The Psalmist simply asks God,

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.Psalms 139:7-8 (NRSV)

It is therefore important to escape this kind of circular argument by realizing and stating that belief in the existence of God is also “just that” – a decision we have made, despite available evidence and not in conjunction with or against it. We do not seek justification for our belief in God because we do not need to. We simply state our belief as a statement of our faith, whatever our personal reason for that faith may be, justified or not.

Of course, more evidence is great, and if it's credible, we welcome any evidence to the contrary of our positions.

This will underline the crux of the issue; if an antagonist states no such evidence can exist, then this applies both to our statement that God exists and also to his statement that God does not exist. Thus 95% of the time the Athiest's position will be reduced to personal testimony and ruled inadmissible. Please also refer to Lack of Miracles Does Not Prove Atheism.

Sola Scriptura Demands Exegesis

(therefore) The text is always given an exegesic, vs. eisegesic reading. A short example is in order. Many Christians are taught that in Genesis 18, “And the Lord appeared to him …” refers to Jesus.

And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant.Genesis 18:1-5

According to an Eisegetic reading considering Christian theology, these three men were the Lord, and one of these three men was Jesus (Thus 'proving' the doctrine of the Trinity). However, that is the point – it's “according to Christian theology” – not a plain reading of the text. It is an eisegetic reading which relies on existing beliefs. It does not a proof but merely a statement of Christian beliefs. The Exegetic reading challenges it on many fronts:

  • in 1 and 2, the appearance of The Lord to Abraham is separate from the appearance of three men both in time and in place; The Lord appears first to Abraham by the tent door, then the three men appear in another place and Abraham runs from the tent door to greet them.
  • in 9 and 10, the three men and The Lord are referred to separately as they and He.
  • verse 13-15 show that the three men and the Lord are in different positions; the three men are with Abraham, who does not hear Sarah laugh, but only hears of it from the Lord (thus giving Sarah license to deny she laughed–as she would not know the Lord revealed it to Abraham)
  • Most curiously in 22, although all three men leave Abraham to go to Sodom, the Abraham remains in the presence of the Lord.

The exegetic reading challenges the eisegetic reading least of all by asking the question of verse 23, to whom does Abraham draw near? It is said to be the Lord; but the three men have all already left Abraham's presence. From these versesit should be clear that these three men are not angels, nor the Lord, nor Jesus.

It is also important to note that the exegesic reading does not disprove the doctrine of the Trinity. It does not even claim to be about the Trinity at all. If there is proof for the Trinity elsewhere, Genesis 18 does not say.

In summary then, Sola Scriptura is not an attack against Christianity. On the contrary it is Christianity's greatest strength. Acts 18:28 states, “For he (Paul) mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” It is these simple and clear passages which one should focus on when espousing doctrine, not making an attempt to crowbar Jesus (or some other doctrine) into a passage where it does not belong.

What's the point of being so picky?

We're not. Even 2 Timothy 2:15 commands all Christians to use exegetical methods: “Present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

The fact is, you may believe something strongly, but that does not mean any bible passage is proof of your beliefs. Even one which may vaguely sound like it is talking about what you want to believe. If it's not, it's not.

An honest student of the Bible will be an exegete, allowing the text to speak for itself. Eisegesis easily lends itself to error, as the would-be interpreter attempts to align the text with his own preconceived notions. Exegesis allows us to agree with the Bible; eisegesis seeks to force the Bible to agree with us.

People with Veils over their eyes

If a theology is logically sound via Sola Scrpitura, it will stand! Please see Spiritual Blindness.

Paul was able to use scripture to convince Jews (who apparently have a veil over their eyes, according to 2Cor 3:14) – ex. Acts 18:28. Therefore, it is vital for everyone to hold their case with scripture and not use a cop-out such as 'spiritually blind', 'veils over their eyes', etc. If this cannot be done, the accuser must admit he cannot stand on those issues. It is never acceptable to make a statement which cannot be backed up by scripture, doubly so when it is in contrast to scripture. If one's opponent does this you may safely end the debate.

A Christian Attitude (Reprise)

We're friendly! We can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.

Consider the following passages for the suggested attitude when engaging in difficult debate:

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.2 Timothy 4:5

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.2 Timothy 2 24-25

Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.2 Thessalonians 5:20-21

It is my fervent hope that this site will be useful to both missionaries and counter-missionaries. No one is right all the time about everything. But rather, let the truth prevail.

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;Zechariah 8:16

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.Ephesians 4:25

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.Ephesians 4:32 (KJV)

ground_rules.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/13 05:40 by serena