It’s biblical!

23 Sep

“Unlike the welfare state, prostitution is biblical!” –

 

This final jab by a local newspaper reader’s letter to the editor was meant to snarkily shut down a Republican columnist.  The government minimalist had explained that many conservatives advocate the Bible’s pattern of family and faith communities support for the poor rather than depending on the state to provide benefits.  

The premise ‘prostitution is biblical’ is actually an enthymeme. Remember them?  Those are informal arguments that are missing one or two premises. Usually the parties to a conversation know the missing claims, so the proponent feels that to articulate the obvious would be a waste of breath or ink.

 One sibling to another:  What’s for dinner? 

The response:  It’s Tuesday!   

 What goes unsaid is the following:  ‘Mom always serves meatloaf on Tuesdays, so if today is Tuesday, then we’re having meatloaf!”

In the case of the premise:  “It’s biblical” we can’t be sure of the rest of the argument.  It would be helpful to actually engage with the one who advanced the statement.  But if the proponent is not around to enlighten you, you have to consider what he or she might have meant.

Here’s how one context could be construed:

 All practices in the Bible are commendable behaviors

“Prostitution is a biblical practice” (the comment by the letter writer)

Tf, prostitution is a commendable behavior

The above syllogism IS valid.  But is it true?   

Not at all!  Just because something is in the Bible, does NOT mean that God endorses it.  David committed adultery and arranged a murder.  Abraham passed his wife off as his sister – twice!! – to save his skin.  Jewish religious leaders manipulated the Roman officials to eliminate by execution a problem teacher – Jesus!  Peter turned coward and denied Jesus!  A Jewish man throws his concubine to a frenzied crowd who rapes & kills her; the man then callously cuts her into 12 pieces and sends a piece to each of the 12 tribes of Jacob.  The Bible is, in large part, the history of humankind’s sinful mistakes and the account of how a loving God planned and executed our rescue!  So just because accounts of dishonesty, rape, murder and pillage are biblical, i.e. IN THE BIBLE, that does NOT mean God condones them.  Au contraire!  (They actually offer credibility to this holy book – if YOU were going to make up a religion and its teachings, would you show the seamy side of your followers?)

Here’s the takeaway: when you are ‘bestowed’ an enthymeme, simply ask politely for clarification.  Just what does the argument-advancer have in mind when he or she pronounces what turns out to be an argument only partially articulated?  Make them turn that enthymeme into an explicit argument.

 

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