Saturday, May 17, 2008

Alaynzer's The Theologian's Fallacy

A few modifications can help tailor this interesting blog entry to the specific case mentioned.

A variation on question 3:

Is it possible that you could be mistaken about your Trump, concerning its status as a source of absolute and infallible Truth?

The variation that I think is pertinent is "Is it possible that your Trump does not solve the problem you want it to solve simply by you invoking it?"

Christians can invoke the inerrancy of Scripture to solve a problem Scripture was not provided to solve. While Christians can surmise that abortion is bad and that rape is bad these are not so unequivocally spelled out in Scripture that Christians can use the Bible as a trump card on that point. The way stories of rape are presented in Scripture shows us that it's wrong but if we literally followed some of the legal parameters prescribed for rape in the Torah, for instance, we'd inevitably let rapists go free, and the Bible simply doesn't speak to child abuse at all, except to Western modern minds providing the rather grim assessment that if you beat your child he will not die and you will drive the evil from his heart!

Question 3 gets to an important point, which is "Why do you feel obliged to pull your Trump card here on this issue?" Why is it important to end discussion with your trump card right now?

For some people the Trump isn't going to be Scripture and its inerrancy, it might be some variation of interpretative tradition. I would submit that both have some significant problems in as much as we can verify simply from Augustine and Jude alone that in the earliest and most critical stages Christian tradition was still a bit malleable. We don't all subscribe to what Driscoll once dismissively called the "seed of Chucky" interpretation of Genesis 6.

Of course this gets to Driscoll's personal variation of the trump card, his interpretation of a biblical passage from the pulpit or public setting, which basically amounts to "This is what the text says so you can't argue with it." It's not that the biblical text really indisputably says that because here have been centuries of discussion and interpretation, but Driscoll has been able to read books and books by Wayne Grudem on spiritual gifts and still come down on the side of cessationism from the pulpit for reasons that (six years later I hasten to add) I still don't understand. Sometimes the trump card is not Scripture itself but what we are able to do with Scripture or what attitude we take toward it.

Other people read Scripture all their lives but ignore basic things like exegesis. If they feel that Scripture says that this or that will come to pass for them in their lives personally then that's exactly what Scripture is there for. That there is an element of sympathetic magic in treating Scripture like the world's best fortune cookie doesn't spring easily to mind for folks. It's something I've been tempted to do myself, to be honest, because it's one of those negative legacies from a Pentecostal background. Even Augustine himself had one or two moments where he did this so I suppose I should say that it's not ADVISABLE but God can providentially use it. :)

The essential gist of the Theologians Fallacy is that theologians of any stripe invoke their trump card to avoid having to squirm, which is precisely what God probably wants them to do. Invoking the Trump so you don't have to squirm in the face of an unpleasant reality God permits in His universe might mean that you want to trust in something besides God, whether it's traditions or words or evidences that aren't Him. Of course it's by faith that we trust that God even exists anyway, but we want more assurance than faith that our lives aren't meaningless. Hope does not disappoint, unless we've so downgraded our understanding of hope that it's more like a lucky guess.

Job's comforters invoked their trump card throughout the whole book, that Job had to be wrong, and God said that what they said about Him was not right. The whole book of Job seems to have been written to warn us that there are times when we are tempted to use the Trump card and discover that we're invoking our Trump, and not really the Lord.

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