Tag Archives: Nominal Christians

When is a ‘fallacy’ not a fallacy?

26 Apr

“Just because it’s ALWAYS been that way doesn’t mean it HAS to be!”

Have you ever heard that remark?  Likely it comes from a person who doesn’t approve of a current rule or practice.  And it’s a true statement.

The ‘is/ought’ fallacy teaches us to watch out for people or books that assert something like:

  • This square baking dish is what Grandma used to bake her prize-winning meatloaves
  • Your meatloaf is too long for the dish
  • Therefore, you had better cut off one end of it to fit the pan.

But is that the only option for the next generation of meatloaf makers?  Since this pan IS the tool Grandma used in the past, does it follow that we OUGHT to use it today, in all circumstances?

No!  That is a perfect illustration of the ‘is/ought’ fallacy.  Just because something IS a certain way, doesn’t mean it OUGHT to be.  The ‘duh’ solution to the meatloaf is to find a larger pan!

But sometimes the truth requires an OUGHT to flow from an IS

I thought about this yesterday, reading about today’s ‘nones’, those nominal church-attenders who might have identified at one time as Christians.  Given the rapid upheavals in western society, they no longer see a benefit to attending church.  Yet some of them claim to be spiritual.  What they mean is that they don’t discount the immaterial. They just prefer to choose and select their own beliefs and practices.

What they DON’T subscribe to is a God:

  • who is personal
  • who requires His followers to submit to His authority

According to these ‘pickers and choosers of the spiritual’ the way God IS does NOT impose an OUGHT.  They would cry, “Fallacy!”

Why object to any ‘oughts’ flowing from a reality?  That’s easy!  Who wants a God who requires SOMETHING from you? The only way to reconcile a demanding God with one’s autonomous wishes is to deny such a God exists.  Voilà!  then no obligation remains. It can be inconvenient to believe in a personal God who:

  • creates and sustains EVERYTHING that exists and therefore is the rightful ‘owner’ of all
  • makes human beings in His image with the capacity for a personal relationship with him
  • as originator, has the RIGHT to require certain responses from his creation

Americans, of all ‘1st world’ people, are a peculiar bunch.  Their nation was birthed in rebellion.  They see themselves as a people who exercise self-government and ones who cherish individual rights.  Their national DNA pulses with that 18th century symbol of an angry snake ready to strike:

dont-tread-on-me-meaning

So what do we logical Janes and Joes do with this assessment?  Just keep the distinction handy in your toolkit.  What people criticize as a fallacy might not be. We’re called to pause and think and question whomever makes a claim.  And if you are a Christian logical Joe or Jane, more is expected of you.  God, through the apostle Peter, calls His children always to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in them, but to do so with GENTLENESS and RESPECT for the other person (1 Peter 3:15).

Question: What other ‘fallacy’ out there might not always be a fallacy? 

 

When is an Evangelical Christian a Christian? – terms matter!

2 Mar

Define your terms

I’ve been stymied at the increasing reports of those ‘Evangelical Christians‘ who support Donald Trump.  How can that be?  Trump doesn’t represent anything Christian, whether beliefs or actions. How can I say that? Here’s one reason:  from what I’ve READ (I don’t watch TV so I am assuming the accuracy of the reports), Donald Trump has claimed never to have asked God to forgive him.  CNN article  He explains that when he has done something wrong, he has sought to make it right.

Being right with God is a different matter.  There is objective guilt against God when we sin.  Someone has to pay, either Donald Trump or Jesus.  Christians are those who (for one thing) have turned to Jesus and accepted him as the atoning sacrifice for their sins against God.  If Donald Trump has yet to do that, then he is not a Christian by definition.

Yesterday, Al Mohler, brought up and offered a fascinating reason that had a lot of explanatory power when it comes to describing Evangelical Christians.  He shared an important distinction within the broad category of Americans who either label themselves or are called ‘Evangelical Christian’ by pollsters, media and other institutions.

If we don’t begin by clarifying the explicit meaning of a concept (a term) then confusion ensues.  No need to proceed with a discussion if there is not a ‘coming to terms’ with what something means!

So here goes:

According to Mohler’s analysis, the pure sense of the term ‘Evangelical Christian’ revolves around:

  • doctrines (beliefs) held about the Bible  (evangelical has to do with the ‘eu-angelos’ which is Greek for ‘good message’. What is the good news?  the message that Jesus has borne FOR US our deserved punishment for crimes against God AND lived a perfect life, compliant with God’s Law).
  • values held and lived out
  • participation in a church community

Evangelical Christians are those who accept the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, who hold pro-life views and are active members of a body of Christian believers.

Those outside of those boundary lines but  who have been labeled or call themselves Evangelical seem to be loosely affiliated with a church that is:

  • NEITHER Catholic NOR mainline liberal
  • are culturally Christian, but not regularly practicing
  • self-identify as believing in God

Essentially, this finer distinction falls between authentic Christians and nominal Christians, those in name only.

When Mohler described these two groups, I understand better why Trump had so many supporters among this much larger group –  those labeled ‘Evangelical Christians’, but are so in name only.

What puzzles me, now, are those who truly ARE Evangelical Christians and yet still support Donald Trump, like Jerry Falwell, Jr – president of Liberty University.  What accounts for his choice? Any thoughts?