29 May 2014

Wrong premises lead to wrong questions

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in February 2012. Dan showed how the wrong premise unavoidably leads to asking the wrong question.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Often a lot of good folks' good time is wasted in responding to the wrong question, to no good result.

Among Christians, I see this most frequently and specifically when someone robustly affirms the sufficiency of Scripture with nary a squish. Few things flush out the false paradigms today more surely than really-really believing that God really-really has said all that needs saying for our day.

For instance, if you announce, "I believe Scripture tells us absolutely everything we need to know about the will of God," someone is going to retort "That sounds like deism," or "That leaves out the ministry of the Holy Spirit."

Or if you say, "Prayer is you talking to God. God talking to you is prophecy. Today, God talks to us in the Bible, period," you will hear "How is that a relationship? Where's the Holy Spirit in that?"

And usually, people who aren't me (and there are so many of them! bless their hearts!) will patiently try to respond at interminable length and — here's they key word — will defend the Biblical position, shore up and repair the damage done by the challenger's premise.

As you might have guessed, I have a different sort of response, and it goes something like this: Well, then...
  1. If the Bible teaches Deism, then by all means let's all of us be Deists!
  2. If the Bible leaves out the Holy Spirit, by all means let's all of us leave out the Holy Spirit!
  3. If the Bible tells us we don't have a relationship with God, then by all means let's all of us not have a relationship with God!
Shocking? If any of the questions above resonated with you, I sure hope so. See, in that case, here's your problem: you came up with a paradigm, you applied it to the Bible and to God, and then you demanded that God (and any who try to speak in His name) snap to your paradigm. You forgot who's the Master, and who's the slave.

So, when someone affirmed the Bible's teaching, and the Bible's teaching clashed with your paradigm (which you may or may not have cadged from the Bible), you smacked the Bible's teaching with the implications of your paradigm. It didn't fit your ideas, your model; so it had to change.

That's a serious problem. Don't you see that? No? Ask yourself: what does the Bible call it when we fashion an image of God (literal or conceptual) and worship that image? "Ohhh," you say. Yep: that's a step in the direction of idolatry.

Let me try to be even pointeder. You said, in effect, "I know what a relationship is: one person talks straight into the other person's ear, then the other person responds straight into the first person's ear. The other person doesn't just write stuff down and say 'There, look at that, it'll tell you what you need to know.' I know that is what a relationship is. Therefore, that must be what it's like to have a relationship with God!"

The problem here, then, is asking the wrong question because of a mistaken premise. So we answer the question, but do not address the premise — and we just end up playing Whack-a-Mole. What we need to do is to roll a grenade into one of those holes and bring the whole thing down, so God's truth can replace it...With all misbased, badly-premised challenges to Biblical faith and life, we should take the premise to the Bible and brutalize it (and its adherents) for non-compliance. Remember: faith is embracing God's Word (Gen. 15:16Rom. 10:17), lack of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23), and sin is to be put to howling, shrieking death (Rom. 8:13) — not negotiated with and treated as an honored guest.