Last week I had a heady discussion/debate with a friend of mine at the home-school cooperative my children attend. Beginning with some marginally interesting/relevant social issues, in particular the NFL kneeling-for-the-anthem controversy, and then proceeding in due course to the meatier topics of Christian theology and doctrine, it went on for well-over an hour. Happily, we found ourselves in agreement about a great many things. It was turning out to be quite the satisfying and encouraging yarn.
Or so it seemed.
In reality, I suppose it was no real shock to discover that we actually had nothing in common, theologically speaking. Since my full-on commitment to heterodoxy seven years ago, I have had these sorts of conversations with Christians—99% of whom are orthodox—many, many times. And they ALWAYS end the same way. Always, always, always. Without fail; without distinction; without caveat; without ambiguity; without doubt.
Any theology/doctrine discussion, given enough time, will eventually terminate at metaphysics: the nature of reality; the nature of man. And once we get down to metaphysics, there are really only two directions you can go: Reason or Mystery. That is, do we define man according to an innate existential ability to apprehend Truth, make moral distinctions, and then choose good over evil (or vice versa); or do we define him as merely an epiphenomenon…his consciousness and his will merely an illusion, purely a function of some great, transcendent determinative Force, which we may define as God (or the gods, or the Universal Mind, or Natural Law/Evolution, and so on)? In other words, can man truly KNOW by what means and to what measure he exists, and can he be certain of what is true and what is not, and from that what is good and what is not, and from that CHOOSE on his own behalf to manifest his existence in a way that is utterly and objectively REAL? Or is Truth infinitely beyond him, because he is not, at essence, himself, but a direct function of some Ultimate Power which controls all things, as all things are, in fact, an absolute function of this Power, Itself.
I don’t expect it will come as any surprise to learn that my friend ultimately appeals to mystery metaphysics. He is, after all, a consummately orthodox Christian, whereas I have rejected orthodoxy on the grounds that it indeed projects this very brand of metaphysics. I have rejected the idea that real knowledge is the knowledge that one cannot ever actually know. And any definition of God which makes everything fundamentally an extension of Himself by hermeneutically wrecking the distinctions between Him and the iterations of His creation, is at root an appeal to Nothing as the root of Truth. Because if everything IS God, then we cannot ever actually know what God is…because we cannot tell what He is not. It’s like when we are told that nothing happens which God does not allow. If this is true, then human choice is impossible for obvious reasons. And if human choice is impossible, then knowledge is meaningless, which makes “knowledge” itself a contradiction in terms, and thus makes it impossible to KNOW God. Which means you cannot declare that nothing happens which God does not allow. Because…who is God? Shrug. That’s a mystery.
Now, this is all interesting and is all well and good, but it’s not really the point of this article. The point of the article is to examine the way in which my friend defended a particular metaphysical assertion towards the end of our discussion. I questioned the veracity of his claim that man was “fallen” and that God did not consider any “unregenerate” person’s actions to be moral, regardless of whether or not they WERE, in fact, moral. In other words, my friend conceded that man is born with the innate capacity to apprehend Truth and is therefore capable of making moral choices, but that as far as God is concerned, ALL the choices of those who have not confessed Christ as Savior are evil choices.
I demured, saying that if God decides that what is moral is in fact immoral, then he has contradicted Himself by contradicting reason. How can God value Himself as Good whilst at the same time denouncing man’s good choices—whether he is “unregenerate” or not—as being fundamentally evil? No God worth his name would conflate evil with good and then have the audacity and lack of self-awareness enough to simultaneously proclaim Himself a MORAL being, Furthermore, if ALL of man’s choices are evil, then man can never be in a position to accept Christ as Savior, because THAT choice is, to Christians, the apogee of moral action. God must choose FOR man.
So…let me get this straight. God must choose Himself, BY (or OF) Himself (that is, from His own will), and somehow this means that man, who has absolutely nothing to do with THAT Choice can now make choices that God now considers to be moral?
I’m sorry, but this kind of theology is madness, and doesn’t come within a thousand miles of reasonable. It’s magical thinking…the stuff of children’s fairy tales and old wives tales and superstition.
And yet, what did my friend say in reply?
Exactly what you’d expect.
”But, that’s Bible.”
And that, my friends, is called an argument from authority. And it is the Christian’s go-to move whenever they find themselves backed into a theological corner. Always.
You see, it doesn’t matter that the idea is completely devoid of reason, and that it is impossible to explain because how do explain a square circle? How do you convince someone with words that black is simultaneously white or that up is down or that a bird is a cloud? You don’t. Because there are no words for such a task. Words are the audible expression of ideas, which can only exist if contradiction is excluded from the process of formulating the concepts which are connected together to form those ideas. If A is NOT distinct from B then neither can be said to exist. Man cannot express “tree” if “tree” also means “shoe”.
Once Authority has been injected into the discussion, then there IS NO LONGER any discussion because words have become entirely meaningless. You accept what the Bible says because it’s the Bible and because it’s the Bible you accept what it says. This is a tautology, and it specifically falls under the category of “argument from authority”.
You see, the argument from authority removes any “why?” from the equation. There is NO “WHY?” because Authority is FORCE, absolutely, and therefore becomes its own “why?”. To ask why is to assume you have the right to have something explained to you…but that explanation has been punted entirely out of the realm of Truth. You OBEY, you don’t ask questions.
So what my friend did, and I like to think unwittingly, is completely nullify the hour of discussion that preceded his declaration that what is an utterly ridiculous, impossible, and intellectually treasonous description of man’s metaphysical state is nevertheless true because the Bible says it.
Well, A, no the Bible doesn’t say it…YOU say it. I know the Bible, and I can assure you that it makes no such assertion, period. Full stop. THAT foolish and evil metaphysic has been smuggled into the pages of the Bible by the gnostic paganist roots of the Augustine/Luther/Calvin theological death cult. And B, according to your very own admission, the Bible cannot actually say anything because clearly words don’t matter. The Bible is force, and therefore is not obligated to EXPLAIN a damn thing to you or me or anyone else. The Bible is nothing more than an idol or a talisman which demands your categorical obedience under threat of terrible punishment. So how dare you deign to attempt to explain it to me. How dare you decide that it SAYS something…as if the Sword “says” anything other than “obey or die”. As if meaning matters.
And this…was sad. The whole conversation was a bust, I believe. His declaration was a tacit admission that he has no real interest in what he says he believes, let alone in convincing me of its rational and intellectual integrity. The point of Christianity is to force the world to obey, nothing more. Which in actual fact makes its theological apologetics of no more relevance nor interest than any old random jumble of words. The entirety of Christian orthodoxy has been reduced to mere mouth noises.
So the next time someone says “But, it’s Bible”, take a glance upwards. See up there? That’s where you’ll find the guillotine dangling when the political conclusions of that statement are finally realized.
4 thoughts on “Argument From Authority: the Christian’s go-to move”
There seems to be a growing number of Christians who view reason as being as the enemy of faith. Reasoning has no place in theological discussions because “man’s reasoning is flawed”. They never seem to realize that rejecting flawed reason requires reason.
Any worldview that isn’t grounded in reason will ultimately lead to chaos.
Exactly right and well said.
Add to this the culture’s view of emotion as the authority totally eschewing reason. We are surrounded!