Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 26, 1959
NUMBER 46, PAGE 5,7b

The Sophistry Of Satan

Vaughn D. Shofner, Tucumcari, New Mexico

To understand more clearly the artifices of the wicked one, we have only to notice that while Jesus Christ was fulfilling the will of the Father on earth, and while God was giving the most glorious proofs of his approval of his Son, satan was continually using sly subterfuge and violent attacks against the "author and finisher of our faith". As we study the schemes we see them as patterns of conduct for all that fight under his banner in any age. In exactly the same way satan endeavored to thwart the design of salvation, by trying to produce rebellions sentiments in the mind of Christ, he today exerts great effort to obscure the evidence of our faith, and weaken our fidelity to Christ.

In metaphorical manner the apostle Paul represents the temptations of the followers of Christ by the image of a combat. In Eph. 6:11,12 he says, "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

And as Paul represents the temptations of a Christian under the symbol of war, so he represents the power necessary to overcome them under the symbol of armor. He gives the Christian a military belt, the shoes of a soldier, a warrior's shield, buckler, with which to resist all the fiery darts of the wicked. (Ibidem 14-17.) Here the metaphor is carried beyond the point the genius of our language will allow, but by laying aside the figurative language we can see in the teaching that the devil and his angels use sophism, deceptive argument, to seduce from the evidence of truth, and enticements to cause him to desert the dominion of virtue.

A sophism of satan used for the purpose of turning people from the truth, is the arraying of so called possible circumstances which may or may not be against the circumstances which are evident and sure. This is the use of uncertain conjectures, groundless suppositions, in order to try to turn people from the belief in a Creator. The idea that man came by evolution from inanimate matter; that the entire universe was established by accidental adhesion; that religion is but a figment of the realm of fancy, are used to cause infidelity and atheism. This is a strange way of reasoning against people who are armed with arguments which are taken from phenomena avowed and real. When we dispute with the atheist, we establish the existence of a Supreme Being; we affirm that the Creator of the universe is eternal in his duration, powerful in his executions, magnificent in his gifts; we point to beings who are made according to the procreative plan of God; we do not reason on probabilities. We do not say, perhaps there is a firmament over us; we do not say, perhaps there is a sun; perhaps there may be stars to burn their fires in the firmament; perhaps the earth may support us; perhaps we breathe; perhaps air may assist respiration; perhaps there may be symmetry in nature. We behold these phenomena, and we make them the basis of our reasoning, the basis of our faith.

Sophists in the brotherhood today are using deceptive arguments in their attempt to justify the organizations used in doing the work of the church. One of their sophistical tricks, which they have been forced to silently abandon as debaters have shown the absurdity of it, is the use of syllogisms "to prove the scripturalness" of their actions. This form of sophistry reached its acme as the brotherhood's champion of sophistry built it up as the greatest, strongest argument he had seen during his vast experience in "more than a hundred debates". Thus he defiantly injected it in to the debate, and to his chagrin had it and all its glory completely exploded in the very next speech of his opponent. Since then a sickly silence has overwhelmed the champion regarding his mighty argument, and I don't reckon it's possible to get him to "open his head" about it anymore. The reason: he and others were made to see that it could do no more than deceive many honest brethren who are not accustomed to the acts of the arena of argumentation. It is no more than the subterfuge of satan, and we pray that all men will soon leave it completely.

Another artifice of satan consists in weakening the evidence of known things by arguments taken from things unknown. His agents ask these questions to support atheism and infidelity: Why are there so many treasures concealed in the depths of the sea? Why are there so many uninhabited deserts? Why so many inaccessible mountains? Why so many insects which are a burden to nature, and which disfigure and destroy it? Why did God create men to suffer in the physical way? As they emphasize these questions, the atheists conclude, either there is no God, or he has not the perfections which Christians attribute to him.

Whether wittingly I know not, gentle reader, but my brethren of the group doing the work of the church through human organizations are using this stratagem of satan to justify their actions. It isn't revealed, isn't known, they say, just "how" the Lord intended the orphans to be cared for. They argue that he told us to care for them, but the "how" is "unknown", it's a secret. So, they argue, the "unknown" allows us to use our own will and way in creating human institutions to do this work of the church.

Fine finesse, eh, truth-seeker? Lord have mercy! so many honest souls are taken in by this trickery. God passed out his teaching on the "unknown" thousands of years ago, and a half-baked Israelite in the days of Moses knew better than that. Inspiration declared: "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Den. 29:29.) Now, good brother, if you have a pretty good supply of respect for God's word, you can learn a few things about the "unknown" here. If the "how" is "unknown", then I reckon it belongs to God, or Inspiration lied about the matter. And, if it belongs to God, you'd do a sight better if you'd just leave it alone. But, those things which are revealed, known, belong to us, and for a reason, good reader — that we may do all according to God's law!

Now if you don't want this age-lasting principle of the Old Testament, I'll just turn you over to inspired Paul who said about the same thing when he declared: "All scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3:16, 17.) You know, I have no reason on earth to deny that, so I believe with all my heart that a man can be a pretty good fellow, a man of God furnished with all that is needed to all good works without that "unknown" stuff the brethren are building their institutions on! Being completely furnished unto all good works, there just isn't a thing left to be allowed by the "unknown".

God's word may not tell us by name, place and time, "how" to care for the poor in "Podunk", but "that which is revealed" does tell us "how" the apostolic church by inspiration cared for the poor in Judea! Good friend, just follow the "revealed" way and you won't need "the secret things". You'll have no organizations and institutions but that which is revealed — the local churches. You'll have no conclaves and boards and sponsoring set-ups, but you will have all that is necessary to do "all good works" — the church of the Lord! All that "unknown" business can do for you is to blind you to the maneuvers of the monarch of darkness, as he overthrows the revealed way and sets up man-made organizations. For "all good works" which God wants done, he "thoroughly furnishes" the way! Or did Inspiration lie?

Contrary to satan's plan of weakening the evidence of known things by arguments of things unknown, Christianity is grounded on a system of principles which are evident and sure. Christianity derives its arguments, not from the unknown, but from what is known. As there is no reason for launching out into the unknown in order to show the atheist there is a God, so there is no reason to summons the silence of God's "secret things" in order to find a "how" to accomplish all good works. Organizationally, enough is supplied in the revealed patterns and commands to give the man of God the ability to do all good things expected of him without adding the tinsel of this world to satisfy worldlings. The world will always persecute those virtues it will not resolve to practice. By way of such persecution martyrs have died for the revealed way, deserts have been filled with exiles, and the pallor of prison has crossed the countenances of thousands. If such will be, let there be more martyrs, exiles and prisoners, but let us stand for that which has been brought to the realm of man's mind as all-sufficient.

All the wars which the world makes on our faith should prepare us for the most formidable attack of all — "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:26). The circumstances of death are called an agony, that is a wrestling, and is the mightiest effort of satan. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."