Ad hominem, or an attack on an opponent’s character rather than an answer to the contentions he has made, is categorically considered a fallacy by the world and categorically a sin by many Christians. But when we study the Scriptures, we find that this thinking does not agree with God’s Word. We need to understand the place of ad hominem in the Christian warfare.
A few quick examples from Scripture will help us.
The Apostle Paul:
“…for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” – 2 Timothy 4:10 NASB
If it weren’t Paul, wouldn’t we say it’s slander for anyone to say it is because Demas loves this present world?
“Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to the LORD God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ households, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God; and we have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.” But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers’ households of Israel said to them, “You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us.”” – Ezra 4:1-3
If it weren’t Ezra, wouldn’t we say how dare the leaders say “You have nothing in common with us” to people who wanted to help, and that’s probably why they encountered such opposition from them?
The Apostle John:
“Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”
– John 12:42-43
If it weren’t John, wouldn’t we say how dare he impugn their motives–that they might have had perfectly good and wise and prudent reasons not to confess Him at that particular moment?
“I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.”
– John 8:38-41
If it weren’t Jesus, wouldn’t we say that it was slander to accuse particular people of doing the evil things they do for a particular reason?
The Apostle Peter:
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
– 2 Peter 2:1-3
If it weren’t Peter, wouldn’t we say it was slander to accuse them of doing these things “in their greed”?
These are just a few examples of many in the pages of Scripture. If we are humble and willing to learn from the Word of God, we will see that making judgments about others’ motives is often necessary and profitable in the life of the Christian. We must be ready and willing to use ad hominem, as faithful men always have—for the glory of God, for the protection of His people, and for the silencing of wicked men.