Friday, February 03, 2012

Let me show you what I mean...

An opinion in search of a text

Trying to think through the whole question of 'sola scriptura' as it applies to Christian behaviour, I posted yesterday an attempt to show that football was sinful.  (Which I don't believe - see yesterday).

And I ended by saying 'Nobody argues like that, do they?'  - and implying that, actually, lots of Christians argue just like that.  Here's what I mean.

I’ve recently been challenged by some folks over a passing comment I made, in private, that I would not tell new Christians that it was a sin to smoke.  Now, let me be upfront here.  I have never taken a single draw on a cigarette in my life.  As a child, I was subjected to the most effective aversion therapy imaginable by two heavily-smoking parents.  I hate the habit.  

But I know Spurgeon smoked.  (‘Different era; they didn’t know how harmful it was.’)  

Doctor Lloyd-Jones smoked in the early part of his ministry.  (‘Still a different era…’  No, really - it's not!)  

And I know, too, that even today some ministers (particularly, it seems, of the heavily Presbyterian kind) smoke.  ('Different e- oh...')  It doesn’t make them right, of course; but is it a sin?

‘Surely,’ said one good and godly friend, a retired pastor with many years experience, ‘Surely you would point out to them that their body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?  And that they are wasting an awful lot of money?’

Do you know, I don’t think I would?  Let me ask you, my friendly Retired Pastor, how many seriously obese people did you take on one side during your ministry, and tell them that their bodies were temples of the Holy Spirit?  And that the money they were spending on too much food and sweets and the like could be much better used in the Kingdom?  None?  Really? No, I’m not surprised.

Why am I not surprised?  Because what you have is an opinion in search of a text.  ‘I know smoking is wrong; let me find a text to prove it.’  And you’ve lighted on a text  (1 Cor. 6.19) that’s actually about sexual immorality.  It isn’t even about keeping our bodies healthy at all!

Allow me, will you, to give another example.  I was once very rude to a good brother who didn't deserve it, and I am genuinely sorry.  But the point was a valid one.

It happened in this wise.  A ministers' fraternal was talking about Christians and alcohol, and this GB said 'I recognise that alcohol is a gift from God.  But I know that many young people abuse it, and therefore I gave up drinking a long time ago and think that all pastors should.'

To which I responded, without thinking, 'Did you give up having sex with your wife, too?'

Why ask such a shocking thing?  Well, look:

'I recognise that x is a gift from God.  But I know that many young people abuse it, and therefore I gave up x a long time ago and think that all pastors should.'  

Now, if that is a logically valid argument, it is valid for whatever you put as 'x'.  Put 'alcohol' in, and many Christians nod and smile.  Put 'sex with your wife' in and you get an awkward silence before someone changes the subject.

Well, I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have been rude to an older, godlier and often wiser brother.  But what he had, I'm afraid, was an opinion in search of an argument.

If we continue to do that, when others (professing Christians or out and out worldlings) see through our arguments, we do immense damage to our claim that we base everything on Scripture.  How can they believe that our refusal to let women preach is based on Scripture - when we claim that other things are, that plainly aren't?  How can they believe that we stand against homosexual acts because Scripture insists on it, if we stand against alcohol with the same 'reason' - that turns out, on the easiest of examinations, to be false?

Do I have to say that I'm not, really not, suggesting that Christians should be encouraged to smoke or drink?  I am, though, trying to apply the principle of sola scriptura - of 'good and necessary consequence'.

Comments are welcome, but - as other bloggers sometimes put it - the usuals will be observed.

1 comment:

Si Hollett said...

I've seen 1Cor 6:19 be used in an debate between Christians as to whether cycle helmets are worth wearing, or dangerous.

The debate was all based on statistics about the relative dangers (increased risk taking by, and around, cyclists with helmets plus making the head a lot bigger meaning more minor head and neck injuries were the arguments against helmet wearing), and then someone supporting cycle helmets said "Your body is a temple, you need to protect it by wearing a helmet!".

Not only is it an attempt to kill the debate by disagreeing with that statement being considered tantamount to disagreeing with God, but if cycle helmets do increase risk of injury then the best thing to protect the temple of God is to not wear one, so a 2-for-1 on fallacies.

I've heard some incredibly bad proof-texting for speaking in tongues. And done some incredibly bad proof-texting myself - to my shame.

Si Hollett - Buckinghamshire