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"Nothing Could Be Further from the Truth" . . . and Other Stupid Statements

For my Intro students…

As I have been reading and reviewing books and blogs over the years, my approach has changed. This was not an overnight change, but something that just happened the more involved I became in engaging those who were serious about teaching and learning with intellectual honesty and integrity (something that, I am sad to say, does not often characterize Christian leaders and teachers). There are certain characteristics that I have found in people’s teaching that immediately alert me to the realization that I am wasting my time (which I don’t a whole lot of!).

Here are some key issues that tap me on the shoulder and demand my attention be redirected:

  • Overstatement
  • Unqualified Superlatives
  • Non-Contingent Propositions

Hang with me. I will explain.

This is probably not the list you expected. Many of your lists would include clarity, systematic presentation, grammar and spelling, and reference support. Those things are important to me as well (although you may not have noticed from my writing!), but the above list is what I notice most, especially in presentations and arguments that are theological in nature.

Overstatement, unqualified superlatives, and non-contingent propositions, are related and can be thought of as different ways of saying the same thing. In fact, you might say that they all belong in the same semantic domain that we might call “imbalance.” Once I detect imbalance, I usually have a hard time going on. Think of phrases like these: 

“I am absolutely certain that . . .”

“There is not a doubt in my mind . . .”

“The church has always believed . . .”

Everyone knows that . . .”

“It is perfectly clear . . .”

No educated person believes . . .”

Nothing could be further from the truth.”

And the like.

It is the tendency to represent your case without what many people call “epistemic humility”—a real understanding that you could be wrong. We all have a problem saying “I could be wrong” or “in my opinion” because we feel as if in doing so we are making concessions that undermine our case. We like to give our readers and listeners continued and perpetual confidence in the argument of our presentation. We feel that if we don’t gain this confidence at every point and turn, we have poked holes in our own vessel and that by the end of the voyage, our ship will be sunk. Therefore, everything must be air-tight. There is no room for personal opinion since the subjectivity that it presents gives way to uncertainty. There is no room for contingency, no room for insufficient data, and no place for the legitimacy of the opposition, even to the slightest degree. If we believe what what we are saying, we must justify this belief beyond any possibility of a doubt.

But, ironically, especially in a hyper-critical postmodern world, we give credit to our case when we do represent the transparency that accompanies real contingency and the revelation of epistemic humility. We show that we have a broader understanding of the issues. It evidences an honest wrestling with the subject of the proposition. In the end, when we do come to a conclusion on the matter, even with all the contingencies that we have worn on our sleeve, readers become more confident in your ability to think with integrity and have a greater confidence in your conclusions.

Notice what Strunk and White have to say in their popular book on writing style. Also, notice that this is not a book about how to write theology, but how to communicate through writing. The wise and timeless principles expressed here can be applied to any communication venue (even an argument with your spouse!)

“When you overstate, readers will be instantly on guard and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in their minds because they have lost confidence in your judgment or your poise. Overstatement is one of the common faults. A single overstatement, wherever or however it occurs, diminishes the whole, and a single carefree superlative has the power to destroy, for readers, the object of your enthusiasm.” (Strunk and White. Elements of Style, Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 7).

Do you understand what they are saying? Once you characterize yourself with this type of imbalance, it is very rare that you will gain an audience. Well, let me say this another way: Once your arguments carry such imbalance, it is very rare that you will gain an audience except with those who already agree with you. The object of your enthusiasm becomes diminished, finding relative balance in the strengths of your other overstatements.

Here is where it gets very important: If Jesus Christ is the object of your enthusiasm, does his death, burial, and resurrection find equal qualification with your belief that your church is the one true church, that the world was created in six literal days, that the anti-Christ is Obama? Overstatement can destroy our testimony. With such a methodology the discharge of the Gospel becomes hamstrung.

Let me back up and say that if someone uses unqualified superlatives, overstatements, or non-contingent statements wisely and sparingly with intentionality, so long as their credibility has thus been established, I will not only tolerate them, but listen to them with a greater degree of interest and consideration. Why? Because they show themselves to be balanced and worthy of consideration.

Please note, this is not a postmodern concession to relativism, for I am not advocating that people hide convictions or not take stand for what they believe. Neither am I saying that you cannot have great degrees of certainty and assurance about many of your convictions. I am simply telling people that if you overstate your case, no matter what it is, I will have a hard time listening to what you have to say. And I think I speak for many.

I would be careful and consider whether or not you are wasting your own time in writing and teaching if these overstatements characterize your approach. We honor God when we stand up for the truth, but we don’t honor him when we misrepresent the truth to accomplish our presupposed agenda that has not been critically thought through. God help us all to use our words wisely, especially those of us who are teachers.

52 Responses to “"Nothing Could Be Further from the Truth" . . . and Other Stupid Statements”

  1. Great blog. I totally agree with you that overstatment can be one of the biggest hinderences to people trying to comunicate their case. In my experiences, if a person is presenting an idea that I am previously not persuaded on, and they present it like this, I am inclined to shut them out and start thinking and reviewing in my mind why I dont agree with them. Maybe that is a fault of mine as the listener but the speaker/communicater has to be aware of the tendencies of his audience and take the precautions to prevent this in his listeners/readers. I am also reminded of when I took a Biblical Research and Writing class. We were always told to properly present the other views. This to me is the true nature of having a irenic approach. By showing both cases, and not just solely presenting your view where you come off like your hiding something. If you show that you are aware of the other views, and persuasions, I think that it shows that you have thoroughly looked the issue over and with much thought came to your conclusions. In contrast to the overstatment way where you come off like you are just one-sided and hasty to only look to the strenghts of your view.

    CW

  2. Wow, I needed to hear this today. I certainly hope this sort of thing doesn’t characterize my writing and teaching, but I must say, you’ve helped put words to a struggles I’m having with some writers I read. I’ve lost confidence in several writers of late because of this sort of thing, but could not have put my finger on why, until now. I’ve also been very concerned about folks selling out their witness to the gospel through dogmatic statements over non-essentials. We Christians, I’m afraid, are becoming characterized by what appears to many as irrationality, panic, and hysteria.

    Thanks for giving a name to what’s been bothering me, and something to beware of in my own communications.

  3. “…if you overstate your case, no matter what it is, I will have a hard time listening to what you have to say”

    I have a hard time listening to what the authors of various books in the Bible have to say, for a similar reason.

  4. Huh…. That is exactly what the Young Earth Creationist evangelists and organizations do, and yet they still maintain a HUGE lock on the Church. Interestingly enough, it was exactly those symptoms that alarmed me about the YEC community.

  5. Ha! The “Official Disclaimer”on my blog says, “But Hey! I could be wrong.”

    :)

    dm

  6. I agree, but only to a point.

    “Please note, this is not a postmodern concession to relativism…”. I am not so sure about this Michael. Though I know that you are not doing this, there is a definite danger in pandering to the postmodern mode of thinking. The all too common “in my opinion” has become synonymous with “all opinions are equally valid” in modern parlance (a quick trip to any church youth group will confirm this). Even though there is a danger in overly assertive statements, I am not sure that the danger of postmodern interpretation is not worse.

    “I would be careful and consider whether or not you are wasting your own time in writing and teaching if these overstatements characterize your approach.” So, paraphrase, anyone who suspects that they might be putting the Lord’s case too assertively should give up teaching. This indulges in exactly the overstatement you are having problems with. If the preceding paragraphs are true, then you would have a problem with this, right?

    As evidence I submit a comment from another reader: “I have a hard time listening to what the authors of various books in the Bible have to say, for a similar reason.” In other words, the writers of Scripture are suspect because they are too assertive in their statements of biblical truth or prophesy. Now, bearing in mind the ultimate source of biblical prophesy and the clear statement that the Scripture is “truth”, the fear of ‘any’ solid assertive statement of the Gospel that is not couched in defensive and “well, maybe I am not correct” language makes all Scripture suspect. This undercuts Biblical truth and is as postmodern as one can get. The comment writer demonstrates this exact result.

    This is not to say that good writing should not be balanced in its arguments. However, there is equal if not greater danger of over-reaction in our predominantly postmodern world. Scripture does not state anywhere that truth should be couched carefully to so as not to confront or offend. Quite the opposite.

    Oops…maybe I stated that too assertively .

  7. Kip,

    Great to hear from you!

    I agree with what you said. That is why I put this in the post: “Let me back up and say that if someone uses unqualified superlatives, overstatements, or non-contingent statements wisely and sparingly with intentionality, so long as their credibility has thus been established, I will not only tolerate them, but listen to them with a greater degree of interest and consideration. Why? Because they show themselves to be balanced and worthy of consideration.”

    So there…I am NOT caving to postmodernism. When your credibility is established, it makes your superlatives that much more sweet!

  8. Great piece. Something that I think we all need to be reminded of on a regular basis. It’s one of my pet peeves with the “creationist evangelists” and “end times experts”. They express interpretation/opinion in just as strong words as they do the gospel message. It creates a weak link. We seem committed to “weak link theology”.
    Daniel

  9. Well, let me say this another way: Once your arguments carry such imbalance, it is very rare that you will gain an audience except with those who already agree with you.

    Show me any evidence that waffling and wishy-washy, noncommittal language is more effective at gaining fruitful audience with those who do not already agree with you (yes, “wishy-washy” is a subjective and unfair term, just like “imbalance” is).

    I appreciate what you’re trying to say, but I think it’s wishful thinking. It’s easy, anecdotally, to imagine people agreeing with the sentiments expressed. But in practice, it’s easier to find counterexamples.

    Someone mentioned YEC and KJVOnly; another great example would be the “bad boy” Calvinist bloggers (not you, Michael; I’m sure you know the blogs I’m thinking about). The more strident the blog, the less likely it is to be dominated by agreement. They seem to attract people who disagree with them like a flame attracts moths.

    In fact, I don’t think it’s just combative sorts who are drawn to such blogs. When people want to get the bottom of an issue, there is a preference for getting both sides of the issue, and we are psychological biased toward polarized advocacy. We don’t want each of the lawyers in a trial to be even-handed and “balanced”. It’s called an “adversarial system” for a reason. We want each “side” (a word that implicitly suggests imbalance on the part of the advocates) to make the strongest possible case for their own position, so that we can make our own decision. Balance is not something we desire or even imagine possible from our advocates. Balance is the judgement that we make internally.

    It seems that humans are created to see “balance” as arriving through a process of internal judgment between two external extremes (not 3, not 4…). This fact is often exploited by demagogues and hucksters, but it’s a fact nevertheless. Working contrary to this fact may be the most moral thing to do, but I don’t think that you can argue (as you did above), that it’s the most effective thing to do in building an audience or getting people to consider your point.

  10. Josh, you seem to think I am saying something I am not. (Notice the word “seem”—very contingent statement).

    All I am saying is that we should not over state our case. I am saying that we should always communicate in ways that show balance. I don’t see how this is wishful thinking.

    This is not saying that you are to be wishy-washy at all. Speak with the degree of conviction that represents the truth as you are able to know it.

    “Show me any evidence that waffling and wishy-washy, noncommittal language is more effective at gaining fruitful audience with those who do not already agree with you (yes, “wishy-washy” is a subjective and unfair term, just like “imbalance” is).”

    The goal is not to gain an audience first, but to represent truth first. If this gains an audience, great. But overstatements, I contend, will limit yourself primarily to one type of audience.

  11. Yeah, I actually agree with the ethical bent of the post. The part I’m claiming is wishful thinking is your assertion that “Once your arguments carry such imbalance, it is very rare that you will gain an audience except with those who already agree with you.”

    I just don’t see much evidence for that, as much as we wish it were true.

  12. I thought Edward T. Babinski response was interesting, notice that he made the correlation between this post and his beliefs.

    Ed, you can list exaggerated verses from this end of the earth to the other, you can number them , bag them up and toss them in the river til it over flows it’s banks. You only would disperse and cast the word of God to the wind and use it for his purposes. You cannot ! over exaggerate ! when it comes to God…He is waaaay tooo biiiig! God’s word is truth!

    I tried not to overstate or over use superlatives but I was having a hard time writing…My little toe just wouldn’t shut up!

    Daniel # 8, I think your statement is an across the board , overstated generalization.

  13. Kim, those toes get to you, don’t they?

  14. Down to my very toes :)

  15. kwilson, you lost me right here:

    a quick trip to any church youth group will confirm this

    This statement is (in my opinion) the perfect illustration of what CMP is presenting. You have stated that every youth group, without exception, has fallen into relativism. Clearly, you cannot back that up with any evidence. Yet, you state it boldly, and to me, your credibility plunges like the stock market. Why should I pay attention to someone whose arguments rely on unverifible data – Michael’s “unqualified superlative.”

    The longer I study, the more I realize that positions held by other believers often have pretty good scriptual foundations, even if they disagree with whatever position I may be holding, so, except for core theological truths, I have backed away from adamant assertions, and when I hear them from others, it just makes me wonder whether the source has really thought through, or wrestled with, the matter at hand. Things are seldom as simple as some would have us believe. The recent threads on the age of the earth/evolution are perfect examples.

  16. Kip, I actually just read your entire comments. I thought that most of them were quotes from me only so I missed it.

    You said:
    ““I would be careful and consider whether or not you are wasting your own time in writing and teaching if these overstatements characterize your approach.” So, paraphrase, anyone who suspects that they might be putting the Lord’s case too assertively should give up teaching. This indulges in exactly the overstatement you are having problems with. If the preceding paragraphs are true, then you would have a problem with this, right?”

    Don’t you think that paraphrase commits the very problems that I talked about in the post? I said “I would be careful and consider whether or not you are wasting your own time…” “Careful” and “Consider” keep one from thinking I am saying what you think. Both are contingent statements, not absolute propositions. Yet I am a bit confused as you paraphrase me as saying that these should “give up teaching.” This is a definite statement. Therefore you have overstated what I was saying. In this, if I did not know you, I would lose a lot of confidence in your ability to represent the truth.

    Ironically, you are accusing me of committing the fallacy that I warn about and in your (what I believe to be) wrong accusation, you do commit the fallacy.

    By saying that this is not a postmodern concession, I am saying that this is not promoting relativism, but simply a recognition of our own limitation through epistemic humility.

    In the end, those things that we are sure about become much more relevant.

  17. Who the heck knows words like Unqualified Superlatives or
    Non-Contingent Propositions? You must read the dictionary
    every single day. Just kidding with you.

  18. It’s a big difference between:

    A. I am absolutely certain/There is not a doubt in my mind

    and

    B. Everyone knows that/No educated person believes.

    To lump them all together as a ‘stupid statement’ is murky at best and blogatistic sensationalism at worst. How it is over the top to state that you hold a belief to a degree of certainty?

    When one speaks for a class of people and insist that “All Presbyterians obviously love blue” or somesuch nonsense, one is guilty of that which you’re illustrating here. But I am absolutely certain, without a doubt in my mind, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

    It’s about authorial intent. If you intend to be craven in your confession of Christ, “it’s my opinion” and “perhaps” and “it may we be”s leave just enough wriggle room to say nothing or everything. If it’s your intention to push your theological barrow, be that KJVonlyism or the Doctrine of the Trinity, with no recourse to Scripture, lazy scholastics, and a degree of both arrogance and inferiority, “Anyone with half an eye can see” statements are naturally ways to silence opposition with a sort of prejudicial, pre-emptive ad hominem attack.

    As an argument for your ism, “The church has always believed” is out of place. As a basic statement of fact about the historical beliefs of the Church, those words before “in the historicity of Christ” are just fine.

    Perhaps it’s just the Australian in me, but I would vastly prefer to deal with someone who with forceful argument and well stated hyperbole leaves me in no doubt of that which they think than the mealy-mouthed mush talkers who qualify every word with half a dozen more so to as have said nothing at all.

  19. erm “no doubt” in the last paragraph.
    — corrected (ed.)

  20. David, I think you have missed the point. All of these phrases have their proper place. But when they are used unwisely as a normal part of one’s argumentative vocab, then they make you lose credibility. I don’t know if people use these often in your part of the woods, but around here, unqualified superlative abound among those who are emotionally astute, without having an intellectual astuteness to match. In other word, when they are used too often, they act as a stand-in for valid arguments.

  21. @DaveZ: exactly right.

    @Duane: what Michael is describing in this post are some well-known mental errors that people make, and he seems to be using the language of logic or philosophy to identify the specific errors.

    It’s an incredibly interesting topic, IMO, and tightly intertwined with “epistemic humility”, as Michael says, and by extension, Christianity.

    I first learned about these using the terminology of psychotherapy’s “meta-model”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta-model_(NLP).

    For example, what Michael calls “non-contingent proposition”, and what Dave Z calls out kwilson for doing, looks like what would be called “universal quantification”, a form of “generalization” in the meta-model. Likewise, “unqualified superlative” looks like a form of what would be called “deletion” in the meta-model.

    Of course, the terminology of logic or philosophy works fine. People have used terminology like that to call out others’ argument flaws since at least Cicero. However, the meta-model had a huge impact on me for three reasons:

    1) it provides strategies for responding to a person who exhibits any of these flaws, to help them arrive at a richer mental model. some of the strategies are pretty sophisticated.

    2) you can work the mental model in reverse; by strategically communicating using an “impoverished” mental model, you are basically using hypnosis as a tool

    3) the meta-model, and my readings of the people who inspired, created, and used it (like Satir, Erickson, etc.), led me to discover Owen Barfield, who in turn helped me rediscover Christianity.

  22. Michael, you convict me! I have a life long tendency to exaggerate or overstate. I came to realise early on in my Christian life that exaggeration was just another way of lying and so I tried to catch myself and correct my statements in mid-argument. But overstatement, in my experience, is harder to correct (perhaps because its cause is more complex: the influence of being brought up in an overstating culture, strong emotion, misguided enthusiasm, etc).
    I would make a plea on behalf of overstaters: don’t take us literally! Give us a little slack as we try to correct a lifetime of bad habits. If, however, you find us incorrigible, then you have every reason to erect your mental block!

  23. Hey OK – there are times when we should readily admit we don’t know the answer or have worked through a passage of Scripture etc, however sometimes so called epistemic humility is a cop out. For elders are to teach and be able to refute error – this implies a knowledge of truth. That one can be certain.
    Our present generation have bought the spirit of the age that truth is unknowable. Perhaps for many Biblically illiterate Christians it’s because teachers have failed their calling.
    Maybe Michael you could do a helpful blog on that?

    in Christ,
    Gary

  24. So these are “stupid” statements? Have you overstated your case? :)

    I do know what you’re saying, and actually do feel the same way in discussions I have with people.

  25. Dave Z wrote
    “This statement is (in my opinion) the perfect illustration of what CMP is presenting. You have stated that every youth group, without exception, has fallen into relativism. Clearly, you cannot back that up with any evidence”

    Quite the contrary, actually, but this not the forum for that.

    What I should (from a post-modern point of view) have said instead of ‘any youth group’ was ‘many youth groups that I have personally interacted with’. That would have avoided the impression of being sure.

  26. Michael wrote
    “By saying that this is not a postmodern concession, I am saying that this is not promoting relativism, but simply a recognition of our own limitation through epistemic humility.

    In the end, those things that we are sure about become much more relevant.”

    I agree completely. My comments were to express concern that in a very relativistic society (often even within the church) there is also a danger that our communications will be interpreted in a postmodern way. We can easily be speaking at cross-purposes with the world.

    In the end, we must live with that tension but in no way diminish the verasity of our statement of the Gospel.

  27. Michael et al,

    I do struggle with the notion that we water down our assertions, but I see where you are going.

    The point is humility.

    On the other side of the coin, people who are guilty of overstating things and making naked assertions *pointing thumb at self* find themselves in very deep water when someone asks them to back up their claim.

    Any thoughtful person can do this.

    So, the point as a teacher, blogger, whatever is to learn that when you make assertions, make sure you’ve got the information to back it up.

    In other words, know what you’re talking about. And be able to defend it.

    Often, overstatement or superlatives will force you to defend more territory than you are capable of defending.

    In the end, make only strong statements [even if they’re controversial] you can defend, with a pinch of humility.

    good post.

  28. Dave Z wrote
    “This statement is (in my opinion) the perfect illustration of what CMP is presenting. You have stated that every youth group, without exception, has fallen into relativism. Clearly, you cannot back that up with any evidence”

    Quite the contrary, actually, but this not the forum for that.

    What I should (from a post-modern point of view) have said instead of ‘any youth group’ was ‘many youth groups that I have personally interacted with’. That would have avoided the impression of being sure.

    Postmodernism has nothing to do with it. It’s simply truth and credibility. I do not believe you have researched every youth group to determine their levels of relativism, let alone whether your research would be accurate or biased. Therefore, I view your statement with great skepticism.

    To say “many youth groups that I have personally interacted with” would not be “avoiding the impression of being sure.” It would be revealing simple honesty, which builds trust. I wouldn’t think that you’re lying, more that you’re completely unrealistic in your assessment of your own understanding. But the end result is the same.

    Let me be blunt – your sweeping statement tells me you care more about making your point than you do about truth – truth can fall by the wayside if it suits your argument. Again, why should I believe you?

    From my pespective, it is you that have abandoned truth.

    (Please don’t take any of this personally, I’m just trying to make a point by dissecting your post. I’m not trying to say that you personally have abandoned truth. Absolutely no offence intended)

  29. K Wilson:

    The Bible itself, actually often urged epistemic humility. And warned, that we should not speak too assertively or selfconfidently about God:

    1) “For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few”

    2) “Not all of you should be teachers; for we all make many mistakes.”

    Etc..

  30. One of my favorite warnings against certitude was issued by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem, “The Ancient Sage”. It was the subject of a post at OutsideTheBox from earlier this year.

  31. How comfortable can we be with an attack on “relativism”?

    The Bible itself is relativistic: we have the a) old “laws” for Jews, but b) the Gentiles and Christians get a “new covenant.”

    Different people, different eras, different rules from God.

    It’s all relative, to where and when you live. According to the BIble.

  32. I enjoyed your article. I know I fall into this trap often. It usually happens when I get on the defensive. It becomes especially problematic in discussions like creation vs. evolution, for instance, where the other side does it so easily by seperating science and the super-natural.
    It does show me something though. There is no substitute for humility and sharing one’s beliefs with fear and trembling.

  33. A timely piece that arrived in my inbox just when I needed. God’s providence is awe inspiring!

    Thank you!

  34. Epistemological humility in it’s true essence is simply recognizing the limits of your knowledge and keeping your arguments within those limits. There are many things that we know with less than absolute certainty, and we should speak accordingly. Epistemological humility also involves being willing to stand corrected rather than saying something asinine when proven wrong.

    Too often nowadays, epistemological humility is simply a cover for post modernism. When we have certainty on our side, we should be very bold in our speech and writings. Some will love you message and some will hate the message. Both are better than your message being ignored.

  35. So when we tell the lost that “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and there is no way to know the Father except through him” this is an overstatement?

    How about the following statements:
    “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.”
    “Anyone who denies Jesus is the Messiah is a liar.”
    “All have sinned and come short of God’s glory.”

    I read the magazine “Voice of the Martyr” and I am curious if my brothers and sisters around the world would have avoided imprisonment, torture and death if they had only been less declarative with their statements and worried a little more that what they said was going to turn their listeners off.

  36. John T III,

    I think CMP’s article is saying, “don’t say things you can’t back up.” All of your examples are easily backed up by scripture – in fact they are scripture. By your examples, I’d say you missed CMP’s point completely.

    A better example would be “There is no question whatever that the sign gifts ceased by the end of the first century.”

  37. When Jesus dying on the cross asked “My God, why have you abandoned me?” that was Jesus in at least, a moment of epistemic humility. Jesus himself not claiming to have all the answers; and not claiming to be God, either. For a moment.

  38. Well, I’ve NEVER heard anything MORE . . . oops!
    Perhaps also we, as macerated in daily video doublespeak, can sometimes value form over function – that persuasion per se is as valid as speaking the truth.
    Also, Jesus said (my paraphrase) if you can’t say yes and mean it, then all the emphatic language (promises, oaths, etc.) won’t matter. In like fashion, if we do not know our material and how to substantiate it, then all of the strong rhetoric and emphases will not make it better. Is this zeal without knowledge??

  39. Just a quick comment to Renton in post No. 33:
    The Law was given to Israel but applies to everyone, per the words of Jesus, “. . . shall never pass away . . .”. Jesus came to fulfill the Law, in that the requirements of the Law were satisfied when He died on the cross – but the Law still stands today to illuminate good and evil from God’s perspective. Now that we are released from the “death grip” the Law used to have, we can enjoy the New Covenant in His Blood, just as He described it at the last supper!
    Amen!

  40. I liked the post. Keep up the good work.

    There is another way to look at this and still keep the point of the post. When I present a project to my senior managers, they want to know what I have done to research the solution. What they are asking for is credibility in my argument to spend thousands of dollars. I cannot tell them that all of the others options are terrible and my solutions will save billions. I have to honestly present them the pros and cons of several options and then the reasoning behind my selection and backup the numbers.

  41. So the law of the Old Testament still stands … but say, we are free to disobey the law of God found there, that told us not to eat pork and shellfish? The Old Testament God told us not to eat pork or shellfish; but in the New Testament, Peter seeing a dream, in which God told us to take all kinds of things and eat them.

    What not just say the Bible is relativistic?

    Personally, I’d like to practice a Christianity that talks a little straighter. Not with a forked tongue, saying two things at once.

    For example: didn’t you just describe relativism, in effect? If you said that a) the old law still stands as an example; but b) having been fulfilled, is no longer in force. So c) that today, what was once the law of God, has been effectively, dropped. The old law of the Jews, not being totally appropriate to Christianity.

    Why not just honestly, simply say, that? WHy not just say that Christianity has been relativistic, from the days of the Bible itself?

    Why not just say that part of what was once firmly the law of God, a law that all real followers must obey, was simply dropped; it not being so relevant to Gentiles and Christians.

    What’s wrong with being a relativist? The Bible itself does it.

    Even Jesus himself was apparently not all that sure of even himself, in that final moment on the cross.

    Granted, these seem like unconventional readings. But … after all, the Bible is not simple. Let’s try some different readings from what we are used to.

  42. To Renton: many thinking Christians desire to resolve these very issues. Perhaps Michael will start a new blog on this? We, as Gentiles, are not bound under the Mosaic Law, because we are not Jews, but we are condemned under God’s Law (of human conduct), thereby necessitating Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, having died for all, making all one in the newe Body of believers, and as it says, “Nailing the writings contrary to our nature to the cross . . .”. This is a critical point of theology, whether or not you are Dispensationalist in belief.
    I firmly believe and can show, thanks to the Theology Program, that there is no hypocrisy or moral relativism in reconciliation of the Old and New Testaments.

  43. Dan Powers writes:

    I have to honestly present them the pros and cons of several options and then the reasoning behind my selection and backup the numbers.

    Good thought. That’s the reason I like Millard Erickson’s Systematic Theology book so much. He goes into depth on various points of view, then presents why he holds the position he does. Other theologians sometimes seem to say, “Some people believe this or that, but they’re wrong, here’s the correct position.” With Erickson, I feel like he’s really done his homework and he has more credibility to me because of that.

  44. Dave Z
    I did not miss Michael’s point. The point I was trying to make is that we, as Christians, have to make declarative statements.

    Renton
    In your comment (#39) about Jesus’ question on the cross, how does all His statements about his death prior to the crucifixion fit within your statement? He just the night before, at the last supper, mentions his death as a ransom for many so at what point did He lose his memory and forget who he was?

  45. I did not miss Michael’s point. The point I was trying to make is that we, as Christians, have to make declarative statements.

    As I read CMP’s original post, I can’t find where he said all declarative statements are imbalanced. It’d probably help me to understand if you’d point out where he described scripture as an overstatement.

  46. John T iii

    So how do YOU explain the last statement by Jesus in the Bible? Where he clearly seems puzzled by his crucifixion; and clearly believes he that he has been abandoned by God.

    Thereby, doubting his own, earlier, very positive, declarative assertions.

  47. Was wondering why you never answer any of my questions… I know I have this disorder as well…mainly because I need to stop and think out what I am trying to state or even ask. Thanks!

  48. re 48 and Jesus last words.

    I agree with those interpreters who take Jesus’ brief words as a reference to the entire 22nd Psalm (one of many that Jesus would have memorized). The entire Psalm is not one of despair, but one of hope, in which the Psalmist believes that God will rescue him in the midst of all the trials that assail him. So too Jesus, who by referencing the very first words was indicating his belief that he would be rescued by God in the midst of all that was happening.

    Thus, Jesus words are not an indicating of loss of hope or that he has been abandoned, but rather his words are full of hope and an indication of expectation of rescue.

    regards,
    #John

  49. Also, Jesus’ last words indicate His divine perseverance. I can’t think of any more beautiful words from the cross than, “It is finished”; I believe the word in the Greek is TELE’OS, which was used in financial or legal language as well – my understanding is that is is like a man paying my debt of a billion dollars, turning to the witnesses, and saying, “It is settled – permanently!”
    And His final words, “Father, into your hands . . .”, certainly leave no doubt that the passion on the cross was not a product of shortsightedness or doubt.

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