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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Missing the Point

News Flash! Are you ready? Here it is.
This is a blog
Okay, not as newsy as one might think, but I think I need to make that statement because it seems as if people -- not a small number -- miss the point. This is a blog. By definition a blog is "a website that contains online personal reflections, comments, etc." A blog is not "the definitive source", an authority on a subject, "that by which all truth may be obtained", or the pope of the people. By definition a blog is the opinion of the author or authors. You take it or you leave it. You agree with it or you don't. You can even argue with it if you like. But "You need to recognize that this is just your opinion!" is mindless because that's the definition of a blog -- "personal reflections, comments, etc."

Somehow, people often don't seem to see that. So they take offense that I say in my blog (see the previous definition) that "Scripture says 'X' so God says 'X' and we should listen." "That's just your opinion!" Umm, yes, it is. Your point? If you don't like what I said, it's easy. There are options. You have choices.

1. The easiest of all choices is turn it off. If you don't like a TV show, change the channel. If you don't like a radio station, turn it off. If you don't like what I've written, move on. Easy.

2. Tell me where I'm wrong. I'm always open to the idea that I could be wrong. I've been wrong in the past. I'll be wrong in the future. I am constantly honing, refining, and correcting my thinking ... kind of like Scripture says -- being renewed in my mind (Rom 12:2). So I'm open to a pleasant discussion that explains why I'm wrong on "X". Calling me names and telling me how disgusting I am for believing what I see in Scripture doesn't help. Explaining to me why I shouldn't believe Scripture doesn't help. Look, they always tell us, "If you want to engage someone, you need to do it on their level." If you want to show a scientist that he's wrong in his position on a science issue, you need to show him with science. If you want to explain to a child why you don't want them to do something, you have to do so at their level of understanding. It's just the way things are. If you want to tell me why I'm wrong in my conclusions about Scripture, you'll have to do it ... with Scripture. If I'm wrong in politics or social issues without reference to Scripture, feel free to tell me where I'm wrong and why without reference to Scripture, but most of my positions are taken from the Bible. Telling me I'm ludicrous for believing the Bible or understanding it in the way that the Church has understood it for 2000 years doesn't help.

3. Tell me how much you dislike me. Tell me how much I've misrepresented your position or how wrong I am in my worldview because, well, "Science" or "common sense" (something which is, at best, in very short supply and, I suspect, nearly non-existent today). Tell me how reprehensible you think I am. Tell me how I'm wrong in everything I believe by misrepresenting everything I believe. This is a possible option. I'll tell you up front, however, that it is not a useful option, a helpful option, an effective option, or a Christian option. I'm sure your mother told you, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything." Helping me see where I'm wrong from Scripture or evident reason might be "nice" in the sense of being helpful or effective. This last option is not. Choose your mother's second option and don't say anything.

You'd think that the very nature of a blog would make it clear that what I say here is my opinion. The sense I get from too many is that they seem to think my writings are definitive, that I am telling the world what is and is not true, and "you'd better follow what I say or suffer the consequences, likely from the hand of God!" This kind of thing falls entirely outside the definition or function of a blog. If you don't like what I say, see Option 1 or Option 2. Don't bother with Option 3. There are already enough of you using that one and it's not producing anything of any use to either of us. Now if you actually have some helpful input about how "You said that Scripture says this and means that, but here are some reasons from the Bible that you are wrong," not only would I allow it; I would embrace it.


Marshal Art said...

I wonder if you have someone specific in mind.

I've always had a problem with this "that's your opinion" response. One would think that an opinion means one is also not factual. While that may be true, the fact that one expresses and opinion about something presented as factual doesn't mean what was presented is not indeed a fact also. So the "opinion" point is a rather moot one.

This is worsened by the "...and you're welcome to it" addendum which is also a "no kidding" statement of the obvious. At the same time, I'm so very grateful I've been given permission to hold my "opinion". I could not be more thankful that my opponent tolerates my having an opposing "opinion". Thank you so very much! But how about something substantive rather than arrogant condescension. If I'm wrong, please enlighten me. And if your enlightenment doesn't quite enlighten, but instead provoke more questions, objections or criticisms, telling me I'm welcome to my opinion is no more than a cowardly dodge...a surrender without hoisting the white flag.

Some tell me, "You just have to be right, don't you?" Well, yes, but not in the manner you suggest. It's more like a plea. If I'm wrong, prove it so that I can be right. What profit is there in being wrong? I believe there is far more harm by being wrong, so please, why am I wrong and what then is the truth? I can take it. I want to take it. I so much care for truth that I am willing to suspend belief that what I now hold to be true might not be until you've failed to provide evidence that corrects my error. Instead, they quit the conversation. It's rather cowardly.

Stan said...

I actually have several people in mind who complain "That's just your opinion" and "Don't speak for God" and, like you say, appear to believe that if it's my opinion, it cannot be true. I'm also always fascinated that they feel free -- after assuring me I should admit that it's my opinion and not to suggest it's true -- to go on to tell me why their opinion is true and mine is despicable. Never with Scripture.

Craig said...

I’m sorry, I’ll stop now.

Anonymous said...

"Telling me I'm ludicrous for believing the ____ or understanding it in the way that _______ has understood it for ____ years doesn't help."

I smiled when I read that because I imagined you, Stan, trying to deconvert somebody who has been indoctrinated since childhood into making that claim for the Book of Mormon or The Communist Manifesto or The Qur'an. I think you're telling us you realize what a waste of time that is if treated as a means to the end of deconversion rather than an exercise in sharpening debating skills and learning about other people's worldviews and how they try to defend them.

Have your years of interactions with blog visitors modified your own views in any significant way? For instance, are you less insistent on Young Earthism than you were in your teens?

Stan said...

I've learned -- am always learning -- much from people. A well-considered "argument" (as in "a discussion about a point with evidence and reason" as opposed to "a verbal fight") has often proved very helpful. Some of what I've written on this blog (since 2006) is no longer what I believe. I think I was mistaken back then. More often it is clarified. I was hazy and people help me see things more clearly. I am actually much more insistent on some points because the position has been so well established and much looser on others because I'm no longer sure there is support for it. I, for instance, was raised a staunch Pre-millennial Pre-Trib Rapture kind of guy and no longer hold that position with firm insistence. Not that I've jettisoned it, but not something I'd duel over. Some beliefs I hold firmly and some with open hand. And, yes, I'm a firm believer in understanding other views. It's not fair to say "X is wrong!" without knowing what "X" actually is. (I once defended infant baptism, something I don't believe in, with such skill that a believer in infant baptism complimented me on it and was surprised to find I didn't agree with it.)

I'm actually always changing; just not as much as I did when I was younger. Lots more settled at this point.