March 29, 2006

Slippery Slope

Here is a good article on the problems with using the slippery slope argument against something: Real Live Preacher

Here is the slippery slope as quoted from the article:
"Let’s take a look at the idea of the slippery slope. It goes something like this: One person makes a case for doing or thinking something we shall call A. Another person, one who is against A for one reason or another, argues that once you allow A, it is either inevitable or likely that you will also allow B, C, D, and E. And since any or all of B through E are wrong or unwise or dangerous, it is best to avoid A as a precaution. It’s basically the story of Pandora’s Box repackaged and offered to the discussion at hand.

The reason that A leads to B and so on is usually not mentioned, which disappoints me. If you use the slippery slope argument, I feel you should also be ready to explain why it is a valid concern in a given situation."

Christians use this all the time. "If you say the Creation story isn't literal what is to stop you from saying that everything in the Bible is not literal?" "If you say that drinking an alcoholic beverage is not a sin, what is to stop a person from becoming an alcoholic?"

Another variation, that is equally unpopular to me, is the "logical conclusion" argument. It is usually always begins with the statement, "If you take that to its logical conclusion, though,..."

Here are the problematic assumption:
1. People have no self-control. True, some do not. But one or two people who lack self-control does not make it a sin for everyone else.

2. People are unfit to make their own decisions. Yes, there needs to be counsel and submission to the Scripture, but that submission should take place in community. There are too many people setting themselves up as Scriptural Interpretation Police.

3. Not everything goes to its "logical" conclusion. I think there is a big difference between reason and logic (at least as I define it). Reason is the ability to think things through, explore the options, and take counsel in the process of making a decision. Human beings have reason, but they are not purely logical.

Logic is always moving from A to B to C. The movement is necessary and required.

Here is an example of the difference. Computers are logical. They always do things in the way of logic. If they are looking for a specific file, they start from the top and search through every file and folder looking for the item. This becomes times consuming. In fact, it is the logic of the computer that makes them infuriating to their human users.

Humans have reason. If they are looking for something, they think about the last place they had it, what color was it, and they ask (accuse?) their spouse of moving it. They do not start in the attic and open every door and closet searching for it. They begin where they believe it most likely to be.

As humans we can read one part of the Bible as literal and another part of the Bible as a theologically-informative story and never contradict ourselves. That is reason as opposed to logic.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thoughts. The denomination I belong to is one that is opposed to social drinking. I think you can make a case on both sides but at some point, standards have to take root and expectations begin to form. True one beer does not make an alcoholic but why risk being the statistic? Most studies point to even "social" alcohol use as stemming from the need to either appear "social" or to ease tensions. And since scripture tells us to avoid things that would cause a brother to stumble, I think a good case can be made for abstention since it does impact folks who see you drinking when they are looking to you as the pastor for leadership.

    This isn't to cause division or to begin an ages old argument. Just simply to think about the other side. As the apostle Paul said:

    Just because something is technically legal doesn't mean that it's spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I'd be a slave to my whims.
    (1 Corinthians 6:12 MSG)

    I think there is much we could learn from that passage

    Blessings Brother!