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Limited exceptions do not invalidate a general truth

By Scott Tibbs, September 29, 2008

One of the ways that modern society denies truth that is uncomfortable, especially a moral truth, is to focus on exceptions to that truth. These exceptions might be statistically insignificant, but they are used as a "foot in the door" to fight against a truth that we do not like.

This phenomenon also leads many Christians to surrender to a culture that hates truth. When we make a statement of truth (especially as it relates to Biblical doctrine and sin) we are often compelled to include multiple caveats to show we recognize where the exceptions are so they we are not seen as overly dogmatic. In this way, we water down the truth we are trying to proclaim. As followers of Jesus Christ, we should examine our hearts and discern whether we are bowing the knee to the god of this world. We should recognize that where our rebellion lies is not in over-application of doctrine beyond Biblically-recognized exceptions, but against the doctrine itself.

For example, it is a general Biblical truth that God despises divorce. God made marriage to be a lifelong, monogamous union between one man and one woman. Marriage represents Christ's love for the Church and as such we are to treat it as sacred. Men are called upon to love their wives as Christ loved the church: sacrificially and unconditionally. As Christians, we are to oppose divorce. Christians have been very weak as the culture of "no fault" divorce has eroded the family and damaged our society. We see far too many marriages end in divorce in our country, and far too many pulpits are silent about what God's Word has to say about divorce.

"But Scott, Jesus said divorce is OK when... blah blah blah."

Yes. That's true. But the very specific exceptions that our Lord allows (such as sexual immorality committed by one spouse) does not invalidate the general principle that God hates divorce.

I saw this phenomenon in the comments to my post on sexual immorality at Hoosier Access.

In response to my point about STD's being behaviorally spread, commenter Harl Delos brought up the story of his sister, who allegedly was injured by a syringe because it was not disposed of properly and is now concerned about testing positive for an STD. But, as I said on HA, statistically insignificant exceptions do not invalidate the general truth. STD's are, for the most part, behaviorally spread diseases. It is true that some people may be infected through contact with improperly disposed medical waste or through a medical accident. There have been cases of people infected with AIDS through a blood transfusion. Thankfully, the blood supply is much safer now.

But those exceptions, heartbreaking as they may be for those infected and their families, are statistically insignificant to the general truth that STD's such as AIDS or HPV are behaviorally spread diseases. That a statement of truth does not apply in every single case does not invalidate the truth - it only demonstrates that the general statement of truth does not apply in each and every conceivable scenario.

Christians should not be afraid to pronounce the truth that sexual immorality can be and often is destructive to one's body. We should not fear the inevitable objections that there are statistically insignificant exceptions to that general truth. When the Apostle Paul wrote that "he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body" (1 Corinthians 6:18) he could not have more accurately described the dangers of sexual immorality, the disease that sexual immorality spreads and the lives sexual immorality destroys. Proclaiming the truth as written in the Bible is a loving warning against a particularly destructive sin.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and 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. - II Timothy 3:16-17