Friday, December 5, 2008

Giving the Appearance of Tolerance: Using Logical Fallacy and Political Expediency

As noted in a previous post, Voddie Baucham maintains that neither he nor his preferred paradigm of the Family Integrated Church (FIC) threatens other churches or their own preferences regarding their choices of how they approach the training of believers to live strong, effective Christian lives.

In an email, he writes:

This group seemed to think that age segregation was a biblical model never to be forsaken, and that our church was out of bounds for failing to employ this strategy. Even though I pointed out in Family Driven Faith, that I do not believe every church has to be structured this way (see p. 213).

From page 213 of “Family Driven Faith”:

Again, we probably can’t go out and transform our congregations into family-integrated churches. Nor do I think we need to. At Grace w have found a paradigm that answers most of the questions and concerns about multi-generational faithfulness and, more importantly, is closely aligned with the biblical model. However, our church is not perfect. We discover new weaknesses each day. And I am sure that we will discover still more tomorrow.

Thus I did not write this chapter as a blueprint to be followed to the letter. I simply wanted to raise the relevant issues and offer some solutions that have proven effective. I also wanted to offer some answers to the questions I have received over the past few years as I have preached and lectured on the topic. Therefore, while most people will not share the distinctives of a family-integrated church, we can agree on the guiding principles. We can and we must promote a biblical view of marriage and family, family worship and discipleship, Christian education and biblically qualified leadership.

The harsh reality is that unless we radically change the way we view the church and the family, we will not see an end to the decimation of both institutions in our culture. However, I believe that the tide is turning.

Certainly in print, when the reader or the observer’s perspective remains limited to only these sources, I anticipate that they would believe without reservation that Voddie Baucham approaches the subject of the means by which the church (and individual churches) chooses to convey the Gospel and sound Christian doctrine with tolerance and respect. I like the choice of the phrasing here, indicating that for those who are not in agreement regarding the methods and means of what he describes as the FIC, Baucham notes that “we can agree on guiding principles.” This has a ring of Augustine’s familiar statement in it, suggesting that we should have unity in the essentials of the faith, and both liberty and charity towards our brethren concerning the doubtful. And what God-honoring Christian who is committed to Biblical Authority, sola scriptura, could have any cause to reject the promotion of the “Biblical view” of any of the virtuous aspects of the faith that Baucham notes on the heels of his statement of liberty and charitable Christian tolerance? Committed Christians strive above all things to attain God’s highest standard, just as the Psalmist did when he said “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in my sight, Oh Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.” All these things are to be desired far above gold and are sweeter to the believer than honey and the honey comb.

Unfortunately, though there is little fault that can be noted in this statement, I believe that the full scope of the message that Voddie Baucham preaches mitigates these principles, and I do not find this contradiction to be innocent at all. How could I dare state such a thing, after the lovely images of graciousness promoted by Dr. Baucham himself as I’ve quoted them here?

In most Christian homeschooling communities and in most conservative, evangelical Christian churches, today those believers embrace a theory of special creation concerning the origins of the heavens and the earth. I delight at how the order of the creation denies the idea of God’s creation by means of the process of a gradual evolution, for there were many animals that would have had to survive for “millions” of years with no food, if Moses had truly written the account accurately without errors in the chain of events. For this simple reason and for many other scientific reasons, the primary target audience of Baucham’s message includes those who primarily profess a theory of the young earth idea of special creation. This audience generally disdains anything that counters special creation in any way. Anyone remotely familiar with evangelical Christians who homeschool readily recognize this bedrock of beliefs and the great significance special creation holds for this community. It’s one of the well-understood “universal constants” within Christian homeschooling today.

I find it quite telling to note that in Baucham’s zeal as he advocates for the FIC interest in keeping the family unit together during worship and spiritual instruction, his advocacy does not remain limited with the description of the virtues of his view. Baucham and those at Vision Forum vilify other standards of practice as unbiblical by employing several different logical fallacies in order to do so. Like Vision Forum, he maintains that age-appropriate and targeted instruction of those within the church setting is not only not in the church’s best interest, but he states with all authority and with no equivocation of doubt that the rationale behind Sunday School arose from and should be considered consistent with “Social Darwinism.”

From "Biblical Womanhood, Part 1 of 8"
(a YouTube video – displays a photo with audio only):

Yesterday evening Paul talked about this idea of Sunday School ministry and youth group ministry and some of these things that we do in our church that are actually, absolutely not from Scripture, but they are from the culture...And actually in England, Sunday School ministry started not just to minister and disciple, you know, to lost kids. But remember, this was before child labor laws, so small children were working in factories because they had smaller hands and could do things with, you know, smaller pieces of material...

And so what we now know as youth ministry does not at all come from Scripture. It does not at all come from the life of Christ at all, does not at all come from the Epistles, does not at all come from the teaching of the early church. Um, it is a modern American construct... By the way, the idea of segregating people by age – again – not a Biblical construct. The idea that you have a class for people of this age and a class for people of that age that we do now in our Sunday School movement? Not a Biblical construct at all. Well where does it come from? Well, that comes from the modern education movement. Well, where does the modern education movement get it from? Darwinian evolution. Yes. The idea of age segregation has its roots in Darwinian evolution. So the fact that we have age graded ministries in our churches not only is not Biblical, it’s actually Darwinian. Now, you go run and tell that. It’s Darwinian, okay?
A transcription full statement can be read HERE.

I suppose that you could make an argument that following any pragmatic considerations like age segregation could be a type of collectivism, and that could be related to Social Darwinism. But I could easily argue that the hierarchical structure of society followed by the FIC as it’s own type of Social Darwinism as well, and I believe that my own argument would have far more veracity. I also believe in the use of and am intimately familiar with the industrialized world’s luxury of indoor plumbing, however, this is not a Biblical construct either. I don’t draw water from a well and carry it into my home, and that practice is well noted in the Word. However, that is not my main concern. I would like to draw attention to the connotation of the words used in this discourse and how their use works against the argument Baucham makes when he promotes himself as a man of Christian liberty and tolerance.

The target audience to whom Baucham generally speaks clearly believes in belief in special creation concerning the origins of all that exists, the antithesis of which is well known to be Darwinism. All rational Christians will quickly identify this as true, and Baucham does not need to explain himself in any way to direct the thoughts of his audience to observe that anything Darwinian rejects not only their theories about the origins of existence, but the concept rejects God Himself. For the sake of illustrating this point, lets say that this argument is represented by the variable “A.” Everyone recognizes the value of “A” and what it represents within our society, and the concept FAR from ethically or functionally benign for the evangelical Christian. If you believe “A,” you reject creation, you reject sola scriptura, you reject God’s sovereignty and you imply that God is a deceiver for telling us a tale that a poetic lie for creating by means of evolution but presenting it as a fable of creation. From the worldview perspective of most of those people within his target audience, belief in “A” the believer as non-Christian. Baucham reinforces this idea with statements about that which is Biblical, reminding the audience, again and again, that if you are Christian, you only embrace that which is Biblical.

For whatever reasons that could well include true belief, Baucham rejects what he describes as age segregation in association with church activities. I don’t share his belief or his rationale at all, though I do agree with the observations regarding Biblically illiteracy in the church. I just reject Baucham’s description, something I find to be an oversimplified or faulty causality that fails to consider many factors. But for whatever reason, he rejects Sunday School and he claims that it is not Biblical. Let us represent Sunday School with the variable of “B.” Whether we accept or reject “B,” all parties understand what is meant by “B.” Everyone in society has a consistent understanding of what “B” represents. Let us call that which is Biblical “C” for the sake of our argument.

Baucham has done an interesting thing. He chose “A” and has said that “B” is consistent with “A.” He knows his target audience shows disdain for “A” without any work on his part. He states that “B” has roots in “A,” but he does not come out openly and directly with any statement that the consequences of “B” will result in the same consequences of “A.” He’s lead his audience down the primrose path so that any rational person will arrive at this conclusion, and he can claim that he’s not said anything distasteful. Baucham has not ever directly said “Anyone who embraces Sunday School is a Darwinist.” But he’s done absolutely everything he can to define the landscape so that the listener can do little else but understand, if they accept his premise as valid without question, that Sunday School is evil. He has also reinforced both factors (of “A” and “B”) by mentioning each of their relationships to “C,” all with the understanding that to be a Christian is to be Biblical.

  • To be acceptable and good, you must be consistent with “C.”
  • “A” is evil and is completely inconsistent with “C.”
  • “B” is consistent with “A.”
  • “B” is not found in “C.”
Anyone with any sense of reason and who is sensitive to the offensiveness of “A” must reject “B” if they are going to keep identifying themselves and that which is good with “C.”

What happens if you are not confident in your understanding of these matters, you desire to be consistent with/accepted as part of your group, and you are not paying attention to subtly here? If you do not make an immediate judgement call on what’s been stated (something everyone around you seems to accept without objection), you will experience a great deal of psychological stress because things don’t add up. To be consistent, because Baucham has forced a moral and ethical choice that is quite significant for the Christian, the listener will have to make a choice as to whether they will reject Sunday School or whether they will reject the likable Baucham’s crafted and highly emotionally arousing argument. He enjoys all the benefits of denouncing Sunday School and classifying it in the worst possible terms. At the same time, he expects to be able to deny that he’s not done any of these things, because he’s not directly stated them.

He’s used all sorts of propaganda techniques here. (Note additional information and links in the sidebar.) First, he uses Appeal to Authority, the highest authority that a Christian should hold, by claiming that things certain things are either Biblical or not. He definitely uses Appeal to Prejudice (or Reductio ad Hitlerum) by evoking the emotions and connotations concerning Darwin and evolution, attaching moral evil to the concept he rejects and attaching goodness and moral benefit to his own concept. He uses an interesting twist of Argumentum ad Populum here, as he calls all Christians to get on the bandwagon with all of the true Christians by drawing the contrasts against the popular culture within the church that embraces Sunday School. There may be a more accurate fallacy to site in this regard, as it appeals to the rebel who sticks to his convictions at all costs. It is a calling out of the faithful to get on the bandwagon of the faithful, rejecting the lesser subcultures. He uses a False Dilemma (the Black and White Fallacy) to push the listener into choosing either the option that he’s painted as highly desirable or shamefully choosing the repulsive option. Some of this is promoted by his use of oversimplification of his argument and the factors that he maintains to define Sunday School as Darwinian. But primarily, Unstated Assumption (the understanding is implied and never directly stated, but the audience understands the implications well) and Intentional Vagueness (the audience is left to draw their own conclusions because they are never directly stated) convey the meaning that Sunday School and the practice of it are non-Christian and a moral evil that differs little from Darwinism which blatantly rejects God.

So with this consideration, how am I to believe, on one hand, that Baucham offers liberty and acceptance of those who do not follow his paradigm, while on the other hand, he believes that those who do not accept his paradigm are following evil? Am I to reckon him as a man who tolerates the evils of Social Darwinism in God’s Church? If Baucham claims that he does not wish to transform all churches into family integrated ones, why then does he state that Sunday School derives from Social Darwinism and claims that it is unbiblical, essentially declaring it to be a moral evil? So in respect to this example, I believe that it is highly disingenuous and deceptive for Baucham to claim that he has no agenda to leave those who do not conform to his model alone in a spirit of liberty. As the cliche’ goes, he wants to have his cake and eat it, too – seeming like one who is focused on guiding principles in reference to other believers, but he does not want to be associated with any negative responses to the“fire-breathing” accusations he’s made against those who reject his preferences.

So I am concerned for those who are unaware of his views and those who are disarmed by his likeable manner. I’m concerned for those people who listen to the very many good things he has to say, many things I completely agree with, but then uses logical fallacy to force poorly supported conclusions in favor of his aberrant doctrines. Those who are unprepared for these types of situations and do not suspect these statements will be easily swayed by the false dichotomies he presents because he sounds so congenial and is perceived as ebullient. It will take more than a paragraph or two in a book to persuade me to accept that Baucham does not have an issue with intolerance. Too many factors and presuppositions that support the FIC concepts reject tolerance and cooperation, even those concepts embraced specifically by Voddie Baucham himself.