Scriptures about “Back up what you say”.
Our example is Jesus, at the age of 12. Before he went public with his positions, he sought out the brightest experts in the whole world on the subject of the theologies he was born to correct. He tested His understanding against theirs, and he passed that severest of tests, and then just thought about it for almost 20 more years, and then He was ready to go into their courts and win every time.
Not even Jesus backed up his statements with “because I said so”. Neither should we expect to persuade anyone that some disputed fact is true, without backing it up – citing some authority that is trusted by those who dispute it. It is hard enough to get people who disagree to look at your evidence even when you offer it, but some will. No one will, if you offer none. If you can’t figure out what authorities your adversary trusts, you have the opportunity, here, to ask.
John 10:34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? (Jesus and New Testament writers cited the Old Testament for authority 63 times, beginning “It is written”: Matthew 2:5; 4:4,6,7,10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24,31; Mark 1:2; 7:6; 9:12,13; 14:21,27; Luke 2:23; 3:4; 4:4,8,10; 7:27; 19:46; 24:46; John 6:31,45; 12:14; Acts 1:20; 7:42; 15:15; 23:5; Romans 1:17; 2:24; 3:4,10; 4:17; 8:36; 9:13,33; 10:15; 11:8,26; 12:19; 14:11; 15:3,9,21; 1 Corinthians 1:19,31; 2:9; 3:19; 9:9; 10:7; 14:21; 15:45; 2 Corinthians 4:13; 8:15; 9:9; Galatians 3:10,13; 4:22,27; Hebrews 10:7; 1 Peter 1:16)
If not even Jesus relied on his own Words for authority, but quoted “YOUR law” to back up what He said, who are we to rely for authority only on what makes perfect sense to ourselves, and expect to persuade anybody?
Consider Jesus’ emphasis: he didn’t just quote “God’s law” to back Himself up. He said in essence, “your own law backs me up. The law you claim gives you your authority to question Me. The law whose every word you believe is true.” In other words, Jesus, though He is God, did not rely on his own words to back up His argument to them, because they did not receive Him as God. He did not even say he was quoting the Bible because it is the Word of God, but, he said, because it was “your law”. It was what they regarded as their supreme authority.
If we apply that principle, we won’t quote the New York Times to prove a point to a conservative, and we won’t quote Rush Limbaugh to back up our argument to a liberal. We need to learn what the person we are addressing accepts as authority. When we can’t back up our points very well from them, we need to be aware of the weakness of our argument and keep searching for evidence which will be respected.
Likewise, we can quote the Bible to back up our argument to a Christian, but not to an atheist who insists he doesn’t believe the Bible. The relevant reason to quote the Bible to an atheist might be to show how some principle or fact he believes, like for example freedom of speech and religion or a vote for all, is pioneered in the Bible, but not as authority to back up a point.
(If you are an atheist, reading this, don’t be afraid that you will be required to follow these principles because they are in the Bible. These are not rules, but tips. We recommend you follow these principles because they make sense, and will benefit your efforts to persuade. Christian readers will benefit more from these verses than you will. If you can find some authority to back up your arguments better than the Bible, go for it. You won’t be censored. Likewise you won’t be allowed to censor quotes from the Bible to back up relevant points.)
The New Testament was written mostly to people who accepted the Bible as authority. But there was one audience which did not. When Paul addressed that audience, He did not quote the Bible, but authorities they respected. However, after pointing out inconsistency in their own authorities, Paul went on to point out the resolution offered by Jesus:
Acts 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
Corollary: Don’t allege what you can’t back up, and that no one could do anything about even if it were true.
Titus 1:7 For a bishop must be... 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able BY SOUND DOCTRINE both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. [Gr: his critics or theological opponents; or, those who argue for argument’s sake] 10 For there are many unruly and vain [Gr: senseless, or mischievous] talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's [Gr: money] sake. 12 One of themselves, [even] a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians [are] alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. 15 Unto the pure all things [are] pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving [is] nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny [him], being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (KJV)
The targets of “sound doctrine” are:
(1) ideological opponents, vs. 9;
(2) discussion participants lacking in orderly discussion skills (unruly talkers), v. 10;
(3) those who don’t make sense, or are using words to harass (vain talkers), v. 10;
(4) “deceivers”, v. 10, such as those who “talk the talk but do not walk the walk”, v. 16;
(5) those who appear to have a financial motivation for their doctrine (such as those who criticize any controversial action or witness because their association with a church which the world might decide to criticize might hurt their own business, or assets should a lawsuit result, or resume should action result in their own arrests), v. 11.
(6) Those who preach “fables”: ideas and accusations for which they have no evidence, v. 14; and
(7) Those who draw their moral principles not from Scripture, but from “commandments of men”. The spirit of this warning, in a secular political discussion, applies to politicians and voters who afraid of any fact or conclusion that is “politically unrealistic”, no matter how true it is, how irrefutable it is, how strong the evidence for it is. It describes all of us to the extent we are able to regard what is obvious as “unacceptable”, needing no more reason to reject it than our memory of how much it will cost us to acknowledge it. v. 14.