Skip to comments.Why Dialogue with Revisionists is Impossible
Posted on 03/14/2006 12:33:43 PM PST by sionnsar
Christians who profess the historic Faith find it nearly impossible to dialogue with those who hold revisionist views. For some time I thought this was because modernism has eroded the foundations upon which the Faith rests. Empiricism excises the soul from the mind-body-soul question. Relativism poses Christian creedal faith as just another religion among many world religions, and individualism values self-gratification over a relationship with God. These trends erode and threaten to eviscerate the core of true Christian catechisms, but is modernism the real problem?
Were modernist trends the primary cause of ECUSAs radical revision of Christianity then dialogue would be possible, at least on intellectual or philosophical grounds. That there is no longer thoughtful discussion of issues suggests that the real cause of revisionism isnt ultimately philosophical, theological or even intellectual. It must be something else.
I conducted an experiment with Sewanee faculty and advance degree students to test why dialogue with revisionists is impossible. Here is the experiment, limited in scope, but still revealing.
Imagine a medium slightly curved yellow banana and a yellow Magic Marker. One end of the banana has been removed, revealing a circle of white fruit. The Magic Marker has a yellow cap and on the opposite end there is a round white bottom. In the experiment, I presented these objects to 5 men and 5 women and asked them to respond to 6 imperatives. The banana and marker were placed side by side on a table with the white ends toward the person interviewed. Each person was asked in private to do the following:
1. Pick up the yellow thing.
2. Pick up the long yellow thing.
3. Pick up the thing that is like the moon.
4. Pick up the thing that is like a sword.
5. Pick up the thing that is to be eaten.
6. Pick up the thing that is used to write.
The first two, though descriptive, are ambiguous. Of the 10 participants only one person declined to act on the basis that she needed more information. Three people picked the banana, arguing ontologically that the banana is naturally yellow and therefore the true yellow thing. One picked the highlighter because it is manufactured and therefore more of a thing. One picked the highlighter because it is always yellow whereas the banana changes from green to yellow to brown. One picked the banana on the basis of her interpolation of the suffix er and concluded that the banana was a little bit longer than the highlighter. Three people, not able to decide between the objects, picked up both.
Revisionists love ambiguity because it allows for many diverse responses to Gods imperatives. The greater the ambiguity the easier it is to fudge.
Coming next to imperatives 3 and 4, we find associations. All ten participants selected the banana as being like the moon. When I asked how each came to this conclusion, eight answered that the bananas curve reminded them of a crescent moon. Two further noted the white circular end of the banana as being like a full moon. One also noted the white circular end of the Magic Marker and thought it looked like a full moon, but decided that the banana was still more like the moon.
When asked to pick up the thing that is like a sword, eight selected the banana and two selected the marker. The eight that picked the banana said that it reminded them of a curved sword. One who selected the marker had imagined a straight sword. The student who selected the marker had associated it with a straight sword and the adage the pen is mightier than the sword. (A+ for imagination!)
Revisionists enjoy the association game because it allows for a range of opinion based on subjective associations. For example, if the majority of people can be influenced to associate a monogamous homosexual lifestyle with Christian holiness, then the majority opinion will carry the vote.
Imperatives 5 and 6 are: Pick up what is to be eaten. Pick up what is used to write. Here there was universal agreement and no time taken to mentally process. For all 10 participants the choice was unambiguous and the selection was made immediately.
God created humans with a male and female complementary teleological distinction. It is obvious that God did not create gay and lesbian, as there is no language in Scripture and Tradition defining the purpose of gayness and lesbianism. In a fit of childish willfulness (disguised as modernism) the revisionist is likely to insist that the banana is for writing and the marker is to be eaten. A typical revisionists response to orthodox teaching is: I see it differently, but this doesnt fly when everyone, except the revisionist, recognizes that the banana is food and the marker is an implement.
So it is that natural and intended purposes cannot be discussed intelligently with revisionists.
This is one of the most creative illustrations I have seen of why communication breaks down, but it seems to me that one of the major reasons is that one side is arguing from a position of intellectual honesty and good will, while the other is not but only to seem reasonable and fair while using whatever tactic is necessary to "win" and get what they want. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a pro-life speaker who related an experience he had at a college. He was of the opinion that if he could just prove to the students that life began at conception, he could change their opinion about abortion. However, at the end of his very effective lecture one student stood up and said "I don't CARE if it's human, if I were pregnant I would KILL it anyway, because I HATE it and because I can do it. And I will fight to the death anyone who tries to force me to do anything I don't want to do." Very revealing, and in my view the reason "dialogue" breaks down.
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