Today, we’re going to learn one tip for discovering inconsistent or contradictory views.
More than ever before, Christians need to be equipped to find views that aren’t true, to find views that can’t be consistently applied, and more importantly to find views that do not accord with what scripture teaches. There are many tips and techniques that one could look at to get better at this, but the one we’re going to look at today involves taking a position and seeing where it leads: How can this view be consistently applied, can I try and put this principle into practice in other areas? We’re going to look at several examples of this.
The first is that of abortion. Some people will say that if abortion were illegal, then there would be more and more unwanted children in the world. For instance: children that are treated very poorly perhaps in a foster care situation, there would be even more of those and surely we wouldn’t want more unfairly treated children. Here’s the question. They’re saying we could kill children who are unwanted. Does that view work if we apply it to the child currently in the foster care situation? Can we kill children who are currently in foster care because they are being treated poorly? I think the answer’s going to be no. Another question we could ask here is: is your worth dependent on how you’re treated? Are you less valuable, are you less of a valuable human being if you’re mistreated compared to if you are treated well? Once again, no.
The real question with abortion is what is the unborn? It is a human being that’s alive. It’s the product of a living sperm and a living egg that come together to make another cell that’s alive, that takes in nutrients and expels waste and adds to itself. It’s alive, and it’s also human. It’s nothing else. Genetically, it’s totally human. Since it’s a human that’s alive, we should treat it like any other human being when it comes to end-of-life issues. More than that, this reason given for abortion is inconsistent because it would actually support killing children currently in foster care.
Another thing we might say is, “Well, abortion should be legal in the case of rape.” As tough of a circumstance as this is, I can’t imagine what that’s like, but we can think through together how one could consistently act in this sort of circumstance. If the argument is, if a woman is raped then it’s permissible to kill her child, then how should we respond to the one year-olds who reminds a mother of rape? Can the mother kill that child too? Can she kill her at five or at 10 or at 20? I think the answer to all of those questions is going to be no. We see it’s inconsistent to say you can kill the unborn child because they remind you of rape but not the post-born child because there’s no substantive difference in being in the womb and out of the womb. It’s just a change in location, it’s not a change in anything else. That’s another reason for abortion that can’t be consistently applied. It would be in favor of killing toddlers. This is a tactic called “trotting out the toddler” where you say, “Well, is the reason that’s given, would it actually apply to a toddler too?” Many of the reasons given do. There are many other ways we could look at this, but I want to give you some other examples also.
“You can’t trust the Bible; it’s written by men.”
Some people will say, “You can’t trust the Bible, it’s written by men.” I might ask that person, “Where did you first learn of this line of argument?” “Well, I read it in a Richard Dawkins book,” they might say. “Okay.” Now, I’m going to see if their way of reasoning as to how they can trust something is being consistently applied. I’m going to ask, “Is Richard Dawkins a man who wrote this book you read?” They’re going to have to say yes. I’m going to say, “So, it seems like you’re trusting what one man wrote in a book to tell you you can’t trust what another book says that was written by men. That seems inconsistent.” People fall for this all of the time.
“We can’t trust the Bible, we only have copies.”
Another thing that might be said is, “We can’t trust the Bible, we only have copies. We don’t have the originals.” I’m again going to ask, “Where did you learn this line of argument?” It’s either going to be in some type of YouTube video or book they read by someone. I’m going to say, “Did you actually watch the original YouTube video? Were you there when it was filmed actually? Because what you’ve watched is a digital copy. It’s been encoded and transcoded and compressed.” “If you read it in a book, did you read the original that was penned by the authors hand himself?” If they say no, I’m going to say, “Then why do you believe those sources that are copies that tell you not to believe another source which is from copies?” Once again, that’s inconsistent. I’ve taken their reason for not trusting the Bible and tried to apply it to other sources of information. Just like we did with abortion, does this assertion actually prove too much, does it apply to other areas or other ages of life also? It does.
“I can’t believe in God, since I don’t totally understand him.”
Some people have also said that “we’re not justified believing in Christianity because we don’t understand every part of it. There are parts we don’t understand about God and I can’t believe in something I don’t fully understand.” Once again, you could ask this person, and I’ve given this example before, but I think it’s very helpful because this comes up all the time, but you could ask, “Do you believe in internal combustion engines?” They might say, “Well, yes.” I’m going to say, “In fact, one probably drove you to where you are right now didn’t it?” “Well, yeah.” “Do you understand how that works?” Most people are going to say no. Indeed, I would say no. I have a conceptual understanding, but I wouldn’t claim to really understand it. We believe that there’s an engine in our car that gets us around, when we push the gas it goes faster and those types of things, but we don’t know how that engine works.
What they’re saying is: I can’t believe in God or some other part of Christianity because I don’t understand it all, but I can believe in other things when I don’t understand them all. That’s inconsistent. We can point that out with a question, “Have you considered that you’re not using equal scales in how you’re evaluating information?” This question invites them to think about it and actually furthers the dialogue. What’s more, if this person is trying to figure out what is true in the world, which we should encourage people to do, “You want to know what’s true don’t you?”, then it should bother them that they’re being inconsistent.
Another example of this would be gravity. Everyone believes in gravity. We’re not floating off into space. It’s not just a figment of my imagination. I can try to imagine that gravity doesn’t exist, and low and behold I still don’t levitate away. No one understands for certain how gravity works. Scientists don’t have an explanation for it. They have some guesses, some educated guesses, but it doesn’t actually make sense how gravity is actually a force. It doesn’t match what our expectations would be. The average person on the street especially does not understand how gravity works. I don’t mean they can’t give you an equation for measuring the gravitational force between two masses. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about understanding how it works, why it works, why it’s here. We don’t understand that, but we certainly believe in gravity just like we believe in the engines in our car. If we’re going to reject the idea that God exists because we can’t understand him, that’s inconsistent.
What’s more, for the person who says “I can’t believe in a God I can’t fully understand”, why would they expect a being as grand as God is supposed to be, to be fully understood? If he actually exists, if there’s a power that could create the whole universe, why would we think we could understand him fully? We can obviously come to understand some things about him, he’s revealed a lot, but why would we think we could understand it all? That doesn’t actually make much sense.
In summary today, when someone makes an assertion, figure out the reasoning they’re using and see where it leads, see if you can apply it to other areas in their life, and see if they’re being consistent because most of the time people aren’t going to be consistent.
We can push on this inconsistency to show them our view is consistent, our view makes sense, our view’s not self-contradictory, I can use the same principles to learn about God that I can about science and every other thing in my life, but you can’t and doesn’t that make it seem like the way I’m viewing the world is at least worth considering?
I would encourage you to try that out this week in a conversation.