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Slippery Slopes? (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

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It is common to hear Christians express concern about the slippery slope. The image is of a peak, or perhaps a plateau or mesa on which we are safe – but to step away is to risk all. In the discussion of science and faith there can be a fear that exploring the issues, asking questions, begins a slow or precipitous descent. This often comes up in the conversation on this blog – a real concern for where a line of thinking might lead. I have received a few e-mails from people who assure me that I am not challenging their faith, but that posting on science and faith, and insisting on taking science seriously, is a dangerous undertaking – they fear for others.

But perhaps we have the wrong image. Two comments from last week’s post on Genesis 1-11 as “just a collection of stories” addressed this issue.

First comment …(21)

To your point on using the word “just”. It reminds me of the slippery slope argument in that it seems that if you concede that they are stories then it is a short hop to just adding the word “just” and
then before you know it there is no god at all. I think that step from stories to “just” stories is not a small step but a very big one. They most definitely are not “just” stories, but they are stories.

We have to stop sliding all the way down the slope, perhaps get some cleats. Just acknowledging that they are not historical narrative does not mean they are meaningless and that argument has to prevail.

Does the fear of a slippery slope have merit? Do you view questions and ponderings as dangerous rambles around pitfalls, cliffs, and slopes, or as necessary part of the process of seeking God?

Justin Topp responded to this comment (22) (and elaborated on further in a blog post worth reading: Removing the fear of the slippery slope):

I
appreciate the danger of the “slippery slope”. But I do want to add a
paraphrased anecdote I heard at a recent conference. Slippery slopes
aren’t just encountered when we are going downhill; they’re also
encountered when we climb a mountain. So being afraid of the slippery
slope may actually prevent us from ascending towards the truth.
Something to think about…

Fear
of the slippery slope does not protect – it paralyzes.
And it prevents
us from moving forward in our understanding of God, his creation, his
redeeming work in creation, and our role and function. Truth is not something to be afraid of – but in order to move forward we must have our face turned in the right direction worrying more about the summit than the valley.

I have found that in the science and faith discussion fear of the slippery slope is far more damaging than facing problems and questions head on. Yes, sometimes our conclusions and understanding will change somewhat, will be refined. But is the goal preservation of the status quo or a search for God’s truth?

I have also found that the fear that is expressed in some church settings can keep people looking down rather than upward and onward – and for some provides no option other than a downward slide. After all, the fear appears to be rooted in a conviction that there are no satisfactory answers to our questions. 

It is far better to keep looking up toward the goal as we seek answers to our questions. Justin noted in his blog that while there are dangers along the way “the desire to reach the end of the hike or the top of the climb
overcomes the fear of slipping so that the hiker or climber proceeds on.

Does the slippery slope argument have merit? Do we focus too much on the problems and not enough on the goal – the summit?

If you wish you may contact me at rjs4mail[at]att.net



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Darren King

posted August 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm


First of all, I’d say that the *fear* that something *might* cause *some* people troubles – in terms of their faith-walk, is not a good argument for avoiding a sincere pursuit of truth.
Secondly, I think much of one’s feelings about this question come down to one’s view of God’s nature. If one thinks God frowns on (or worse, condemns) questioning, then one is unlikely to see such pursuits as worthwhile – or even permissible.
If, on the other hand, one sees God as the patient parent who is deliberately standing back as the beloved child explored his/her world – making mistakes and progress along the way, then we’re likely to see it not only as permissible, but desirable, to be encouraged, essential, etc…



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AHH

posted August 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm


The problem is that if you accept one slippery slope argument, pretty soon you’ll be accepting all of them :-)
[Can't remember who I stole that from]
One problem with the “slippery slope” metaphor is that it implies that there are only two stable positions to stand, at the top or the bottom of some metaphorical slope. In other words, that only the extreme positions of some dichotomy are viable (for example, hardline modernist inerrancy or a worthless Bible).
There may be a few things where such a dichotomy is true, but the trustworthiness of Scripture is not one of them. In most things, where the truth does not lie at an extreme, we have to dig in and find the right place to stand on the slope (and give grace to those who find their stable point at somewhat different places). Also, to borrow a Brian McLaren metaphor, in some cases we may recognize that the right place to stand is not even on the slope defined by the two extremes.



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Darren King

posted August 12, 2010 at 2:11 pm


To move in a slightly different direction, I’d say that if there is any concern here – around these kinds of issues – it’s that we begin to mistake this endless debating for the actual practice of the Christian way.
In other words, I think some of us – on either side of a hotly debated issue – can mistake backing an argument for following Christ.
Personally, I would like to see a few more threads about the actual practice of following Jesus in the 21st century, rather than constant debates about the role of the Bible. I’m not saying the two aren’t related in some way – they clearly are. But not to the extent that many seem to assume here.



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JoeyS

posted August 12, 2010 at 2:30 pm


Slippery slope has no merit under the authority of the Church. It may be a reality in certain circumstances in community slippery slope is not to be feared. If we can’t explore the very foundations of what we believe then our beliefs will remain superficial.
Was picking grain on Sabbath a slippery slope?
Was eating meat that was considered “unclean” by Jewish purity laws a slippery slope?
Was allowing Gentiles to be freed from the burden of circumcision a slippery slope?



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RD

posted August 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm


I don’t remember who actually said it but I think the maxim “Follow Truth wherever it may lead” is so true. If we fear a slippery slope then, to me, it implies that deep down we doubt the foundation of our beliefs.



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RJS

posted August 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm


RD,
I agree on truth. I think there is a real slippery slope. But it doesn’t relate to asking questions or thinking about Genesis. To find truth we have to be willing to think.
The slippery slope to worry about relates to community and practice. We need the church and the discipline of following, discipleship. Thinking we can stand alone or looking for (all) mentoring among those who are antagonistic to faith will lead to problems – making it hard to avoid the slope. I think this is part of the reason many students, especially graduate students, struggle. It is easy to get advice from those opposed and the church offers little to nothing.



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Rick

posted August 12, 2010 at 3:03 pm


AHH #2 (and everyone else)-
“One problem with the “slippery slope” metaphor is that it implies that there are only two stable positions to stand, at the top or the bottom of some metaphorical slope.”
A major concern is that two positions will get all the attention, and the more detailed explanation(s) will get lost in the crossfire. In the meantime, many will go astray because of the headlines.
I think many are not so concerned with their own faith, but the impact many positions (depending on how they are phrased) will have on others.
Ben Witherington recently mentioned such an example in examining a book on clergy who lost their faith:
“Dennett, Harris, Hitchens and Ehrman are wrestling with a straw man, a simplistic, twisted version of Christianity only fools would believe. David Bentley Hart (whose Atheist Delusions humorously dismantles the absurdities of Dennett, Harris, Hitchens and Ehrman) wishes Christianity’s detractors “had the good manners to despise Christianity for what it actually is” instead of a silly, trivialized, watered down version no one has ever espoused – and so do I. We do not mind hard questions, or sharp critique, or even disbelief – but at least make your assault on whom we really are, and refuse to believe in the Christianity that has withstood the test of centuries, for we want to know more, to have any and all illusions dispelled.”
http://blog.beliefnet.com/bibleandculture/2010/08/clergy-who-lose-their-faith—-james-howells-reflections.html
The slippery slope argument exists because their are those who abuse certain situations and take them on unsubstantiated trajectories.



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John W Frye

posted August 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm


RJS,
In my circles the “slippery slope” is always a stern warning to not pursue whatever issue you’re considering. For example, women in ministry will lead to homosexuals in ministry; The TNIV will lead to women in ministry and homosexuals in ministry, etc. What a pile of crock! The “slippery slope” concept is used to preserve the *status quo.* It is usually based in fear, not faith-energized inquiry. On the other hand, slippery slopes bring out the best thinking in the church. Thanks for all you do to make us THINK!



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JHM

posted August 12, 2010 at 3:18 pm


I’m not so critical of the slippery slope argument as many seem to be here. Picking on AHH for just a sec as an example:
“One problem with the “slippery slope” metaphor is that it implies that there are only two stable positions to stand, at the top or the bottom of some metaphorical slope.”
I don’t think many people who are honestly employing a slippery slope argument are saying that. To me it is much more about saying “let’s follow through with your argument, let’s see where it will take you”. It’s about getting people to think about the practical and logical consequences of their position. In that sense I think a slippery slope is useful. Perhaps that’s not what most people think of when they hear the phrase “slippery slope” but that’s what I think of anyway. “Slippery” to me implies caution, not a forbidding.
I like Justin’s comment about a slope also being a part of a climb, that’s a neat way of thinking about it.



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like a child

posted August 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm


RJS said “Do you view questions and ponderings as dangerous rambles around pitfalls, cliffs, and slopes, or as necessary part of the process of seeking God?”
My answer: Yes to both parts of the question. As I responded in Justin’s blog, I do see a slippery slope, albeit one that is necessary for some people to be intellectually honest with themselves. Just like we shouldn’t look down upon doubt, I don’t think we should claim that there is no slippery slope. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I think the issues we wrestle with are difficult. When I first started my search for answers, I was much more optimistic and would have agreed with you. But now, I’m not so sure, because there are many that end up turning away from Christianity due to intense intellectual doubts. I don’t have an answer, and I’m not about to give up myself, but I think we need to be completely honest about if and how there is a slippery slope, how you approach it, and what you do if you feel like you are going to hit bottom.
I’m sure you’ve seen this cartoon, but I’ll add a link just in case http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Descent_of_the_Modernists,_E._J._Pace,_Christian_Cartoons,_1922.jpg



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Nathan

posted August 12, 2010 at 3:51 pm


To fear the “slippery slope” is, to me, to fear the inherent ambiguity of human existence, knowing, etc. It’s an attempt to impose an order of our own liking on the inescapable reality that other people are free to hold a wide range of perspectives that are as nuanced or as obtuse as there are people…
One person’s “slippery slope” is anothers well considered position.
As it all relates to seeking God, it seems to me that we need to explore and discover language for the structures of “faith” as “risk”. Not just some existentialist “leap”, but how the questions and ponderings of faith, in themselves, entail a necessary risk that inheres in the meaning of “faith” itself.



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Timothy

posted August 12, 2010 at 3:53 pm


I found AHH’s remarks about the slippery slope most helpful. In particular it links into the tendency of modernism to deal in polarities and not to accept the real existence of spectrums. It likes to talk of the subjective/objective or the mind/body or the natural/supernatural and so on.
But there is one obvious context where the slippery slope argument holds and that is in the acceptance of going wrong, whether intellectually or morally. If one accepts thinking sloppily or slightly dishonestly, or if one accepts sinning a bit, then the tendency is always to slide down a slope towards thinking foolishly or truly dishonestly, or acting viciously. It is a tendency we all experience everyday as we find that we have taken that first step on the slippery slope and we need to recover ourselves. Leave it too long and it can be such hard work to retrieve the situation. I think that it is this very real version of the slippery slope argument that lends credibility to the actually very different slippery slope that is the subject of this post.



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Barb

posted August 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm


as a former mountaineer–I like the image that Whitworth pres: Bill Robinson took from Martin Buber–”we walk the NARROW RIDGE”
it takes effort and courage.



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Glen

posted August 12, 2010 at 4:17 pm


I think that the slippery slope most certainly exists – in fact, I think I’m on it. But I emphatically do not believe that the existence of the slippery slope should stop us from asking the questions. Denying the questions because we’re afraid of where they may lead us doesn’t bring about a faith worth having, IMO.
I’m wondering if anyone has any advice for getting your grip when you find yourself sliding. I like the suggestion that we need to “put on some cleats” – but how do we do that, exactly? My journey of intense questioning began about 4 years ago. I desire to live contentedly amidst the mystery and uncertainty, and to be okay with the fact that I don’t know all the answers, but my modern brain wants certainty. I don’t believe that faith is about having it all figured out, but deep inside I want to have everything figured out. I want to rest comfortably on the side of the hill – somewhere, anywhere – but one question just leads to the next. I don’t intend to just chuck the whole thing, but sometimes that seems easier than finding answers to a never ending string of questions. Living in the tensions is so much harder than knowing all the answers, but once you start asking the questions, the easy answers no longer satisfy.
Any suggestions?



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DRT

posted August 12, 2010 at 4:47 pm


#12 Timothy,
I have to challenge your assertion of the slippery slope being real. You couch your challenge to the SS being real in terms of going wrong, but doesn’t going wrong immediately assume that there is an absolute right? And the kicker in that is that you actually know that absolute right.
One of the things I am coming to grips with is the concept that people are truly wretched. I don’t believe people cannot be good, but when I really start to understand what total depravity was gesturing toward I start to understand how compromised our current positions are. While in a great many churches it is OK to not tell someone something that would be awkward for the teller, it is probably not Christian to tell people that everything is OK with them when in fact that is a lie.
I contend that we are all already on a slope. We have artificially made notches in the slope for “our” current position and that we each view those notches as being on the level part, not on the slope. But we are not on the level part.
It is difficult for us to realize that we are telling lies, some consciously and some unconsciously all the time. We are not precise creatures. We are creatures who look to feel around and establish a position and consider that position to have weight if others join us.
I really like slippery slope to a new higher level concept. I think that is a fantastic example of turning the world upside down in the way that Jesus would. Jesus was not about taking positions and then sticking to them, he was about establishing directions and then leave it up to the individual to see how far they can go. he wants us to slide…



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Art ND'76

posted August 12, 2010 at 4:49 pm


To Glen #14 about “cleats”:
I rely heavily on God’s promise when He said: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That is why, concerning faith and morals, I look to what the Popes, the successors of Peter, have said.
The Popes of this century that I have read have all been brilliant, well-educated men. I am college educated and I find some of their writing difficult to follow, with a broad vocabulary (and even with some of the words that seem familiar, their usage may not be familiar nor may those words connote their popular meaning in the U.S.).
Sometimes it has also helped me to question my questions: Why am I interested in this? Perhaps I am asking a particular question because I have a desire for something passing rather than eternal. As a limited being, which questions should I be seeking the answers to?



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm


I confess I’m on of those who has been concerned that “slippery slope” arguments get dismissed a little to quickly here. Usually, when I’m accused of being on a slippery slope, the person is saying the position I’ve taken will have unintended consequences (or possibly intended consequences I’m not owning up to) that need to be considered. Surely we can agree that decisions frequently do have unintended consequences and that sometimes people champion a position as an incremental step toward a grander agenda.
The challenge is to get the reticent person to articulate clearly how they see the position leading to the secondary and tertiary events they fear, and then reflect on the merit of such concerns. One may indeed come to see that the new position is actually the firmer ground and the old position was the one with many slippery unintended consequences.
So “slippery slope” may not be the best metaphor for the concern about unintended consequences but I don’t have the same level of negative response to it that many here do.
Nice thoughts from Justin.



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Scott Morizot

posted August 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm


I do agree that “slippery slope” arguments are inherently fear-based. And as I read your post, I thought of Shane Hipp’s sermon at Mars Hill last Sunday which wandered around but centered on “Perfect love drives out fear.” Fear is not inherently bad — it’s just not the end or the goal. He used a great example of instilling fear of the stove in his two year old daughter. I think we’ve all done things like that as a parent. It’s a gift to keep her safe at her age. But if she retained that fear of the stove as she grew up, it would become a debilitating phobia. She would be in bondage to the fear. I think the same sort of thing can happen in this arena. Instead of growing in the perfect love that drives out fear, perhaps people can become enslaved by fear instead.
Purely conjecture on my part, since I’ll freely admit I understand very little about that perspective on life. But it was something that came to my mind as I read your post.



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kevin s.

posted August 12, 2010 at 5:20 pm


From a logical perspective, a slippery slope argument is often fallacious, for the reason that the logic applied to one argument does not necessarily apply to the position at the bottom of the hill.
For example, one might argue that, since alcohol is legal, cocaine should be as well, or that if marijuana is legal, we should legalize cocaine.
Both are inversions of the same fallacy, insofar as the pro-alcohol and pro-marijuana sides have already made arguments that both drugs generally allow people to maintain a certain social equilibrium not found in cocaine users.
In other words, the slippery slope argument is fallacy when different logical paradigms are employed.
However, the slippery slope argument can be used to demonstrate the inherent weakness of an argument. In hopes of avoiding an ideological avalanche, I’ll use balancing examples.
A gun advocate will argue that the constitution allows us to arm ourselves. A slippery slope argument would question whether we might allow citizens to own bazookas or bombs. Where is your constitution now, gun boy?
Gun boy needn’t cede his position, but must engage the argument at this point. If he cannot, the slippery slope line of argumentation has succeeded, and gun boy must change his mind.
An abortion rights advocate might argue that women have an inherent right to do what is best for both her and baby. If abortion is the right answer, women are well equipped to make that decision.
A slippery sloper would ask why a similar logic would not apply to infanticide. If mother knows best, why is a six-month-old protected from her wisdom.
The abortion rights advocate must respond to this argument, or cede the point.
Neither gun boy nor abortion gal can simply hop up and down and shout “slippery slope!” Neither can their opponents immediately declare victory.
Perhaps, gun boy or abortion gal want to trudge further downward. Gun boy might cede the point, and say that Americans ought to be able to arm themselves with nuclear bazookas. Abortion gal might argue that women ought to have autonomy over their children, to the extent that she may choose to end their lives after they are born.
Alternately, they can nuance their positions, incorporating the slippery slope objections.
As such, slippery slope arguments should never define a debate. They are useful for cutting through the clutter, and defining the debate in more honest terms.
I would think these parameters should apply to Christian debates as well, yes?
I apologize in advance if I offended any gun/abortion advocates.
My Captcha is backwards diagonal. They don’t even allow that in word finds.



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Bob Porter

posted August 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm


Sometimes I feel like RJS is thinking my thoughts. This topic has been on my mind recently.
I appreciate many of the comments in this stream. Special thanks to Michael @ 17, Barb @ 13 and Nathan @ 11
Glen @ 14 ? I hope you see some answers in the overall thread. One thought I had is that for me wanting to have everything figured out is a pride issue and pride is one of the main roots of sin. For me that means I need to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty.
One of my favorite sayings *I do not know if I stole it from somebody* is you can fall in the ditch on both sides of the road. *there is danger on both sides of most issues*
As others have mentioned, Slippery Slope is probably applied to many things inappropriately. One area where it definitely applies is rationalizing something that we believe to be sin (Jas. 4:17).



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DRT

posted August 12, 2010 at 6:03 pm


A philosophy professor I had said that it is a line drawing problem. I don’t know if this is well established territory or not, but I like the concept.
In regards to abortion, if you are to concede that there is no life prior to conception, and concede that there is life at birth, then there is a line drawing problem in that you cannot determine where life begins in any unambiguous way.
I think this is characteristically different that the SS. The SS is upon accepting one premise it leads one to believe that it would
(or actually could in the SS case) be reasonable to accept the basis for the next STEP.
So I propose that there is a difference in degree versus step function. The SS is actually a step function in most cases and not an actual continuous slope.



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MARTIN S.

posted August 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm


I have found that my faith sometimes
seems to defy logic and reason. I
hunger for a great faith in a great
GOD who is the Blessed and Only
Sovereign; King of Kings and Lord
of Lords!!



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Glen

posted August 12, 2010 at 6:35 pm


Bob @20 – Thanks for the comment. I think I’m learning to be comfortable with uncertainty; my struggle is with reading the Bible in light of that uncertainty.
Reading the Bible was “easy” when I believed in rigid inerrancy – I just stuffed everything into my black and white paradigm, though I often had to do some bending and twisting to get everything to fit. Now, as my understanding of the Bible has evolved, I’ve come to the conclusion that inerrancy needs to be nuanced (at minimum – more accurately, I would no longer use the word inerrant to describe my approach to Scripture). I still believe it is the inspired word of God, and important and useful for my life.
I agree that a dichotomy between inerrant Scripture and worthless Scripture is a false one, but as I’ve left behind extreme inerrancy, I find it very hard to get past questions like, “Did it really happen this way?” to just focus on “What is God saying to me here?” I get so bogged down in questions of accuracy that I completely miss the point of studying in the first place. That’s what I’m trying to get beyond, but I can’t seem to get past the questions.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 12, 2010 at 6:59 pm


Before reading anyone else comments, I wanted to respond about my own experiences.
I’m a natural skeptic and doubter. It’s in my blood. I came to the faith with doubts and they remain 10 years later. I often feel that the more I learn the bigger my doubts grow in the short term, but usually in the long run my faith is strengthened. I’m currently in a bit of a valley because I’ve been thinking about a lot of this kind of stuff lately. Just the other day I was reading an NPR article on the Big Bang and how more and more scientists are moving away from the view of a single big bang event. This is not new. I know that scientists have argued for different types of “eternal” universes for a long time. But it struck me when I read it — what if it’s true? What does that mean for God as a creator?
But is it really a slippery slope when I think about these things? Wouldn’t blindly insisting on a literal historical understanding of the Bible, for example, also put in my danger if those beliefs are ever seriously challenged (providing I rest my faith on those things instead of Christ)?
I think for every Evangelical that has slid into liberalism, deism, or agnosticism and atheist because of these types of questions, there are Christians who lose their faith because they never thought about these issues and they were sprung on them by a skeptical friend or hostile college professor and they didn’t know how to handle it.



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nathan

posted August 12, 2010 at 7:17 pm


@Kevin (19)
“nuclear bazookas”….
oh. if only. ;)



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 12, 2010 at 7:22 pm


@Glen
It’s not a great answer and one I usually (even now probably) despise, but I think you just need to have faith. I’m not talking about irrational faith. I’m not talking about unsubstantiated faith. But I’m just talking about making the decision to believe and trust. And, I know this is difficult. I struggle with this myself.
In fact, I often hated the suggestion. I thought, my faith is based on evidence! And I think it still is, but I see that evidence differently now than I did before. Faith, in the sense of “just accepting and believing” seemed bad to me.
But the fact is, everything we do requires faith. We make choices and decision all day, every day without certainty. I like to think about the love of my wife as an example. I can’t prove my wife loves me, but I accept it as fact. I think there is good evidence to suggest she does love me, but I could probably point to things that suggests she doesn’t as well. But in the end, I really just choose to accept and believe that she loves me.
I’m in the middle of reading Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” and he talks about how rationality and skepticism taken to their extreme lead to absurdity — even lunacy. I guess that’s a slippery slope argument too, but I get his point. An atheist, following his own rationalism should end up on a path to either nihilism or insanity. Why? Because you simply can’t prove everything with certainty, not even your own existence.
So, the place I’ve come to is Christ. Can I believe in Christ? Can I trust Christ? And then place my faith primarily there.



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Glen

posted August 12, 2010 at 8:35 pm


Kenny @26 – You’re right, that’s a terrible answer… but a good one all the same. :-) Means a lot more coming from someone who knows how hard it is to “just believe.”



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm


I don’t know if you’ve read it, but I really liked Ortberg’s “Know Doubt.”



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Terry

posted August 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm


Glen @ 23, I could have written your comment myself. Thanks for being puzzled for us both.



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RJS

posted August 12, 2010 at 9:34 pm


Like a child (#10),
Nice cartoon … it reminded me of a book. C. S. Lewis “The Pilgrim’s Regress,” an allegory obviously in the mold of Bunyan’s classic.
I found Lewis’s book fascinating when I read it a couple of years ago (with now enough background to understand it). He was satirizing and tearing apart many different popular rational or modernist philosophies involved in the “descent”. I found it useful – not just for the specific examples Lewis thought through in the book but as something of a guide into how to cast problems and think about the challenges we can face today (some the same as Lewis faced, some new).



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like a child

posted August 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm


Glen – I agree with you completely when you say “I desire to live contentedly amidst the mystery and uncertainty, and to be okay with the fact that I don’t know all the answers, but my modern brain wants certainty”
I often wish I could just sedate my brain and be content with living with the questions. Someone made a comment about pride causing people to stumble, but I don’t really see it like that for myself. I’m not wishing for certainty, as being trained as a scientist, I know complete certainty is an illusion. But some Christian uncertainty and deep doubt are two different things, and I often fall in the latter category. If I was prideful, I would just give in and give up Christianity. Rather, as a mom who wants to be able to share her faith with her kids, I continue to press on. As I said, I don’t think we should be fearful of the slippery slope. But when it seems like I’m the only one stumbling down the slope, I definitely wonder what is wrong with my thinking and how I can find some “cleats” as Glen referred to. From reading the comments in this blog, it seems like I’m in the minority – everyone else seems to be able to reconcile all the issues and retain faith..I’m frustrated with myself.



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AHH

posted August 12, 2010 at 10:32 pm


For the people here who seem to be looking for such things, a very helpful book about learning to live on the slope, without everything being black/white certainty, is Daniel Taylor’s The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment.
And probably Rachel Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town would be worth reading also; haven’t gotten to it yet myself.



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Justin Topp

posted August 12, 2010 at 10:47 pm


Glen,
I’ll tell you where I anchor and see if that provides any help for you. It may not, but hopefully…
1. The experiences that I have felt God to be so close and so personal to me… I know those to be real. They’re an anchor that reminds me that God is present and God is personal.
2. The people that directly experienced the life of Jesus Christ… their lives were completely transformed. Whether they got all the details and recollections 100% accurate I’m not sure, but they were changed and willing to die for their newfound faith in Jesus as Lord. This is not something that is solely sourced by the Bible. Again, they may have made mistakes as they were attempting to put in human terms their experience with Jesus. But boy were they changed.
3. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.
4. The Creeds and tradition of the Church. Not simply that these exist, but that they are items that others have held on to. It reminds me that I am not the sole member of this faith and that others, many others, have gone through this before me and have attempted to work out their faith to the best of their abilities and with God’s Spirit in direction. I feel that there is a progression here. Again, not the details, but the overall body and progression.
This list is minimal and was generated fairly quickly, I know, but in my deepest times of doubt, they are some of the anchors that have gotten me through.
I hope this is helpful,
Justin
scienceandtheology.wordpress.com



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Dn4sty

posted August 13, 2010 at 12:10 am


@31 like a child
Trust me you are not alone in your thinking. Also the more you stick around, you find that many are dealing with, struggling with, thinking through many of the same things you have expressed.



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James F. McGrath

posted August 13, 2010 at 12:11 am


In a recent Sunday school class in which we were studying The Blue Parakeet, I found myself thinking that the slippery slope may indeed exist. But it is an uphill slope that lies ahead of us, representing the challenging path of pursuing education and understanding, and our tendency to slide back down and revert to older habits of thought and action if we stop investing the effort necessary to learn and grow.
(Before that, I had tried to recast the slippery slope metaphor in another way, and had at one point set it aside entirely.)



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Glen

posted August 13, 2010 at 1:21 am


Thanks everyone for the thoughtful advice. It really is a big help. AHH, thanks for the recommendation – The Myth of Certainty is now at the top of my must read list. I read Monkeytown a few weeks ago, and highly recommend it. Didn’t get a ton of answers from it, but lots of affirmation that it’s good to ask questions, and I’m not the only one. Like a Child – I think it would be a great read for you too.



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AHH

posted August 13, 2010 at 10:40 am


Glen (and others),
Another book probably worth reading is Lesslie Newbigen’s Proper Confidence. It is more academic than the other books mentioned, but still reasonably accessible to a layman like myself (and fairly brief). It is largely about how we can move forward and trust and have faith even after realizing that the Enlightenment dreams of absolute certainty and 100% objective knowledge don’t hold up.
[Good grief, the first word of my captcha looks like Arabic script. Refreshing gives "monisky (1990):" It's like Beliefnet knows we are leaving it and is trying to make our last few weeks more difficult.]



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JoeyS

posted August 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm


Slightly off topic but I found it curious that this book was the subject of the expanding advertisement when I clicked on Jesus Creed this morning:
http://www.amazon.com/Death-Evolution-Restoring-Faith-Wonder/dp/0310327458/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279141445&sr=8-11



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AHH

posted August 13, 2010 at 2:21 pm


JoeyS #38,
I have noticed that ad today also. From what I can see about this book on Amazon, it looks like (referencing another recent thread) another indication that The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind is still pretty scandalous. When the front cover of a book features a statement that is at best highly misleading, not a good sign.
Maybe putting that icky ad up for our blog is another part of the vengeance of Beliefnet — my captcha this time appears to be a Spanish word followed by a non-word.



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