Monday, July 1, 2013

Creeds and Confessions, Objections Answered, Part 3

A 3rd objection often used against the subscription to creeds and confessions is that they are unfriendly and not conducive to free inquiry.

While this argument is as specious as the preceding two arguments, it strikes me as being more adolescent. This objection seems to suppose that a man who has taken on himself the solemn responsibility of being a public instructor of others, has not himself examined, with all due diligence and deliberation, the doctrinal standards of the church he proposes to lead. Is it not criminally weak on the part of this man to assume the role of instructor when he has no idea, or firm convictions regarding the substance of the faith he was hired to teach? Why is it desirable to suppose that he must remain in a suspended state of indecision? Is this not simply a denial of the knowability of truth? This is of course an absurd situation; and that for two reasons. (a) On the one hand, why teach at all if truth is unknowable? (b) And on the other hand, the statement that truth is unknowable, is itself a statement which professes to be true. Hence, if it is true, it is false!

This objection is sometimes proposed in a slightly different form. The objection is made against a man's making any public declaration of his views, either by preaching or in writing, lest he later obtain more light and yet be tempted to adhere, contrary to his conscience what he had previously espoused publicly. Does any preacher of the gospel, with any shred of honesty - or brains, think that it is his duty not to preach or express his opinions because he may afterwards change them? If a Mormon preacher changed his views and became orthodox, we would expect him to quit his job, to give up his salary, and seek employment with the church that holds his newfound views. We would expect the same of an evangelical who perverted to Rome. So what’s the big deal? Are we to assume that an honest man when he changes his mind on the subject of his religion will not also change his situation? Are we to assume that he must never make a public statement of what he believes, lest he should not always think as he presently does?

As I said earlier, I think this objection strikes at the very heart of the knowability of truth. As a former Arminian and Pentecostal I will be the last to deny that a man may change his views based on farther investigation of the contents of Scripture. But this is a far cry from saying that one should never publicly state his views lest he later receive new light and convert to views diametrically opposed to his former ones. To assert that it is desirable for any Christian, let alone a minister of the gospel, to remain in a state of perpetual indecision is tantamount to saying that the truth is subjective. As I have already asserted, for this to be true it must be false.

But there is a 2nd problem with this objection. It would appear that no advocate of this argument ever takes the trouble to see where his position will logically take him if consistently applied. If one were to remain logically consistent in the application of this principle he would have to hold that no parent should ever teach his children what he deems to be the most precious truths of the gospel, lest he fill the child's mind with prejudices and present an obstacle to free inquiry afterwards. There is no doubt that early parental instruction, more or less presents an obstacle in the way of a subsequent change of opinion on the subjects which that instruction embraced. 

Yet our Father in Heaven has expressly commanded us to instruct our children in everything that is excellent, both in principle and practice. So if this objection be valid, then no one should ever discharge any duty, for he may one day cease to think that it is a duty. Upon this principle, he ought to disobey God's plainest commands because he made someday entertain different views of those commands than he holds that the present. This form of argumentation not only applies to religious issues, but to practical secular issues as well. Should I cease from taking vitamins because I may one day come to believe that they are not as beneficial as I once assumed? Should I stop drinking water because dietitians haven't made up their minds how many glasses a day I should drink? Should all forms of education be abolished simply because we may come one day to hold views radically different than we do at present? As idiotic as all this sounds, this is where the force of this objection, if logically applied would take us.

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