The Riot in Ephesus

Thursday: Appealing to Emotions

Acts 19:23-41 In this study we see how the Lord protected Paul and his companions from idolaters who wished to harm them.
Appealing to Emotions

As we have seen, the appeal to numbers was the argument used at Ephesus. Demetrius said, “Everybody worships Artemis.” Not everybody did, of course. Paul and the other Christians did not. But even if everybody else did, that alone did not make Artemis a true goddess nor her worshipers right. Just because you are told, “Nobody believes that anymore” (or the reverse, “Everybody does it”) doesn’t mean you should be part of the majority. 

Sometimes the argument is put like this: “I know you want to have standards, but you have to recognize that everything is relative. There is no such thing as truth today. You have your truth; I have my truth.” 

Sometimes the argument goes: “Science has proved that men and women are just slightly advanced animals. What they do, we do. And that’s alright, because we are all evolving upward anyway.” 

Or there is this argument: “Right now is all there is. Don’t think about tomorrow. Above all, don’t think about a life to come. Enjoy yourself now.” 

The other argument advanced by Demetrius and his friends was a defense by emotion. If you can’t carry the day by argument, at least you can call the people together, stir them up and get them to repeat for two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” We have that kind of argument in our day, too. It is what most modern advertising does. It does not give us reasons. It appeals to our emotions, and by a similar process of repetition. If you listen to it critically the reasoning is absurd. 

I think of an example from the past. When marketers sold Ivory soap, they used to sell it with this slogan: “99 and 44/100 percent pure; it floats.” That suggested to almost everyone that Ivory soap floated because it is purer than other soaps. The slogan did not say that, of course, but it implied it. The problem was that the implication was not true. Ivory soap did not float because it was pure; it floated because it was filled with air bubbles. It was lighter than the water it displaced. That’s why it floated. It was big, of course, but that was because it was puffed up with bubbles. You actually got less soap. 

Many of today’s commercials are like that, except that they are even more emotional. Sex is the chief tool, but images of success are used, too. They tell us that people will think well of us if we have certain necessary possessions. What they are really saying is: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is the American economy! Great is materialism! Look at her benefits. Look at her pleasures. Worship at this shrine.” 

It takes a lot of courage (and sound thinking) to stand against that when the majority are going the other way. But in the final analysis, it is only the people who stand up against it who make a difference. The world is never changed by the majority; the world is changed by a minority who have, as we sometimes say, “heard a different drummer.” Christians listen to a different Spirit and go in the Holy Spirit’s way.

Study Questions
  1. What is wrong with the appeal to numbers?
  2. How is advertising like defense by emotion? What are some harmful effects of not thinking critically about appeals based on emotion?

Application: How can you sharpen your mind and increase your ability to recognize error and refute its arguments?

Prayer: Pray that you will be among those who stand up for Christ and make a difference around you. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and courage to live a Spirit-filled life in the midst of deceptive philosophies and temptations to compromise.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “The Bible’s Power to Change Lives.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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