Monday, September 5, 2016

Rhetorical Tricks of the Enemy's Trade [Pt. 2]

by Hiram R. Diaz III
Be Wise As Serpents: An Abiding Command of God
God the Son tells us to be wise as serpents and meek as doves. This is not advice; it is a command. It is a command that places upon all of God’s saints the responsibility of being aware of how the devil and the unbelievers under his influence wage war against the church. We are commanded, in other words, to be prepared to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”[1] and “to make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [us].”[2]
The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, declares: out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.[3]
The devil aims to deceive the naive, to create and nurture divisiveness and stumbling blocks contrary to the sound doctrine once for all delivered to the saints. He aims to achieve this through “smooth talk” and “flattery.” And as it was in the time of Adam and Eve, so it has been with the enemies of God ever since.
It behooves us, therefore, to not be ignorant of the enemy’s trickery.[4]  The first part of this series dealt with broader rhetorical tricks. This second part will deal with the attacks of antitrinitarians in subtler detail. To do this, though, we must return to the beginning of Scripture and see how the devil operates.
§1. An Ambiguous Use of the Interrogative
In Genesis 3:1-5, we read the following:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The serpent does not begin his discourse with an assertion, but with a question. Questions do not imply anything. Therefore, Eve could not have validly inferred the serpent’s intended goal for using an interrogative. Asking a question does not imply that one is ignorant, after all.[5] Nor does it imply that one desires an answer.[6] The motives of a questioner are indecipherable apart from understanding either one’s context or the nature of the questioner. An unknown questioner who does not explain himself presents a problem to the uninformed.
For example, consider the following question:
What are you doing here?
Without a context restricting how we interpret its use, the question may be understood either as an indicative or an imperative. As an indicative, it would translate to: “You are not supposed to be here.” As an imperative, it would translate to: “Please tell me your purpose in being here.”
§ 2. Ambiguous Terms
Presumably because the context of Genesis 3 gives us the interpretive restraints we need in order to properly understand the devil’s use of an interrogative,[7] we sometimes do not see the problem facing Eve, who seemingly did not have these interpretive restraints. To his ambiguous intentions we may add the ambiguity of certain words in the question. Regarding Gen 3:1b, Calvin explains: