Poisoning the Wells

May 30, 2019 at 10:38 am | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails, Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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“Poisoning the well” is a term that refers to the attempt to strike first in an argument by creating a false dichotomy in which anyone who disagrees with a position has been labeled as having ill motives or some character defect by which they should be prejudged and should have their position disregarded. It is a type of logical fallacy – a sort of ad hominem attack-in-advance, and is often used – especially on social media – by those who are overly defensive and passive-aggressive. Here are some examples in the context of someone who is trying to start a new Christian ministry by attacking and dividing an existing one:

1. “We should pray for people, not criticize them.” This statement is intended to create the false and illogical assumption that anyone that criticizes anyone else’s ministry or ministry position can not be praying for them at the same time when, in fact, prayer, correction, and even rebuke, often go hand in hand in the Bible, and were often used by Jesus and the Apostles themselves (Luke 9:29, 55; Jude vv.17-20).

2. “I’m too busy praying about my sins to gossip about yours.” This piece of self-righteous drivel combines hypocrisy with virtue signaling. You are “too busy” to gossip, but not too busy to graphically design a sophisticated social media meme every day in order to proclaim your piety in comparison to your critics, who you’ve prejudged as idle gossips? This imaginary get-out-of-pride-free-card insults not only the motives, but the intelligence, of those with the ability to address division and false doctrine in a Biblical way. This is the equivalent of a spoiled elementary school brat folding his arms, pooching out his pouty lower lip, and saying, “If I criticize you it’s because I’m a humble and deeply repentant servant, but if you criticize me it’s because you’re just a mean old gossip-monger!” Double standard much?

3. “Some people just like to find fault!” Not the person who says this, though, right? Certainly this innocuous and bland statement of practical observation is not directed at those who are criticizing your methods and ministry, is it? Because if it were, then you would be quite the little fault-finder yourself, wouldn’t you? News flash: people who are serious about applying God’s Word in Christian ministry are capable of spotting, identifying, calling out, and warning against fault without “liking” it one bit. In fact, it grieves them to do so, although it is a clear Biblical calling for those with discernment (Matthew 16:22-23; II Timothy 2:14-19).

4. And, speaking of “calling,” a common tactic for those who are very selective in their use of “D words” while poisoning one ministry’s wells in the attempt to start a new ministry is to claim a divine mandate that overrides any opposing views. Among our Charismatic friends, this is called “having the anointing” or “getting a rhema word.” The Roman Catholic church calls it “papal infallibility” or “speaking ex cathedra.” Even the Blues Brothers adopted a form of it:

Blues Bros

But in Baptist and more conservative evangelical circles, those types of statements are deemed just a tad too outre’, so instead they are disguised under statements like: “God gave me this burden;” “God told me to start a new church;” “God laid it on my heart;” “God gave me this vision,” and so forth. Who are you to criticize God? This poisons the well of Biblical debate and criticism because it claims a special divine revelation to which only one party is conveniently privy. What if the Bible says you are disqualified from the title you’ve given yourself? Too bad, God told me it was okay. What if you are in rebellion against God’s visibly ordained pre-existing spiritual leaders? Too bad, God spoke to my heart, I’m just an aw-shucks country preacher trying to start a sketchy seeker-sensitive “temple,” “chapel,” or “worship center” (the best marketing studies show that flaky Christians absolutely hate the word “church”) in the local strip mall. How dare you question God’s anointed!

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  1. […] than where they are. As I mentioned in a previous post, it helps if the leaders can claim special private revelations from God authorizing their behavior. Next, they will pull out the old “dead religion” card. […]

  2. […] and applying the Word of God. It is not about feelings, fantasies, or fables. It is not about private personal promptings. The Holy Spirit inspired the same Scripture for everybody to read, and He illuminates it for each […]

  3. […] from Scripture – and especially not contrary to Scripture. It is not a synonym for imagination: Beware of these commonly espoused idioms: “God told me;” “God spoke to my heart;” “God […]

  4. […] Jeremiah had been told not to bother praying, so he responded to Zedekiah’s demands with more preaching. His point was that even if the Chaldeans were all wounded and bleeding out, they still defeat Zedekiah’s troops and burn the city, because, even though they didn’t know it, they were on a mission from God. […]


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