[This is a companion piece to a two-parter in Pyro begun here and continued here.]
Some denials are totally valuable and totally sufficient. A spouse asks, "Did you do X?" Other-spouse replies, "No" (or "Yes"). And that's the end of it.
Put marriage aside. Just ask any credible, honorable, faithful person: "Did you do X?" The response, once again, is sufficient.
But when it comes to doctrine and truth and conceptual issues, it isn't nearly so simple. It's sad that we have to keep this in mind, but we do. In such cases, a denial (or affirmation) may be of great psychological interest, but of zero contentful or evidentiary value.
For instance, suppose we asked even Rob Bell, "Did you mean to create the possibility of hundreds or thousands going off to a hopeless eternity, suffering the wrath of God in Hell, because of what you wrote in your book?" Any chance he'd answer "Yes"?
If you asked a Jehovah's Witness, "Do you mean to be perverting the Word of God so badly that you and anyone you persuade will be shut off from redemption in Christ and doomed to the wrath of God?", would any of them say "Yes"?
If you asked a Mormon, "By your display of good works and wholesomeness, do you mean to communicate that sinners do not need Christ's blood as all-sufficient for atonement, do not need the one and only true Gospel, and thus do you mean to divert them from Christ to damning error?", what are the odds of an affirmative?
If you asked a pastor who spends his pulpit time in stories and entertainment, "Do you mean to teach your people that you are smarter and more fascinating and wiser than God?", how many would return a "Yes"?
And if you asked anyone wobbly on God's sovereignty in salvation, "Do you mean to reserve some of the glory for salvation to man, instead of God? Is that your intent?", how many would say "Yes"?
In such cases, the person's answer may tell us about them emotionally or psychologically; it may reveal their intentions. And that is of some value. Knowing what someone does and doesn't mean to do or communicate by his system helps us know that person better.
But it is of zero value in evaluating the system itself.