A couple of previous posts here and here I started to explore the issue of discernment and how we are to be biblically discerning. In this post I want to highlight one of the most common arguments that people use to isolate themselves – and others – away from the Body of Christ and that is something called the “association fallacy”. Before I get into it, here’s the Scripture that talks about it:
A man who bears false witness against his neighbour is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow
The association fallacy occurs when a person is misrepresented because of their relation to some other person. This is a form of false witness. A example of the association fallacy might go like this:
Jeremy believes in angels
Jeremy likes beer
Therefore, angels like beer
Ridiculous huh? And yet, when you hear some of the arguments that come from some online discernment “ministries” this is the kind of illogical arguments that are being made. Is guilt by association even biblical? I’d suggest no. Here’s why:
In the Old Testament Israel were told to kill those among them who worshipped idols or foreign deities. If they failed to do this, God said that He Himself would remove that man from the nation.
then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech.
Notice that God doesn’t say that the whole nation of Israel would become personally “guilty by association” because of the one man. God doesn’t whole the nation to account, but the one man who was idolatrous. God says, in effect, “I’ll deal with it. I’ll handle the one who is erring and not count his sin against you”. In the same way, the exiles like Daniel, Isaiah, and Ezra were not personally responsible for the sins of others or even the sins of their own people. Once again God didn’t count the sins of the wicked against the sins of the righteous just because of some association. Joseph worked in Potiphars house, indeed became important in Pharoah’s house, both of whom were idol worshipers and not followers of God, and far from God destroying Joseph, blessed him for his faithfulness to Him. Simply stated, we don’t see “guilt by association” as a pattern. What we do see however, is Jesus Christ who knew no sin, being reckoned as a sinner on the cross. He carried our sins by His association with us but He remained sinless. In other words, He didn’t become a sinner because He associated with us. The association of God’s Son with us just shows how totally untrue the “guilt by association” assumption is. Didn’t Jesus go out of His way to turn the theory on it’s head by associating with those who the Scribes and Pharisees separated themselves from? And wasn’t it those people, the Scribes and Pharisees, who Jesus reserved the most accusatory words for?
Guilt by association is a fallacy. To say this:
Calvary believes that spiritual gifts are for today
Benny Hinn believes that spiritual gifts are for today
Calvary and Benny Hinn are friends
Is wrong. It’s poor logic. Now, that’s not to say that just accept everything and anything. The point is, countless men and women throughout biblical history were able to be associated with some of the most terrible people and because they didn’t fall into the same sin as they did, it wasn’t counted against them. The issue here is simply: Did Daniel or Joseph, or Isaiah or Ezra, or Jesus ever fall into the same sin that the people they associated with fell into? The answer from Scripture is no. They were judged on their own faithfulness, not the faithfulness, or lack thereof, of others.
So how did we get to believe this idea? Well I think that most of what is taking place in these thing or arguments is a play on, or plea to our fears. Many times this kind of illogical assumption plays on what people fear. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that to make the argument work, to make it stick, there needs to be a reliance on fear. Fear that somehow, in someway, “angels will, possibly, in someway or another, actually like beer” so you, Jeremy, better stop liking beer just in case. You see how it’s based on fear?
Of course this isn’t about beer but I use it as a simple way to demonstrate the foolishness of this argument. Jesus would say to Peter:
Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
and that’s all we can do isn’t it? Don’t we have a hard enough time just doing that well?
” ….. the salvation of individuals is not predicated on the purity of their neighbour’s faith”
and I’d add, our salvation is predicated on the purity of Jesus!