Wrong Arguments on the Right Side

“I strongly object to wrong arguments on the right side. I think I object to them more than to the wrong arguments on the wrong side.” 

- G. K. Chesterton

 

In an observation that surprises no one who is paying attention, it turns out that today's Evangelical Christianity not only tolerates many wrong arguments, but often embraces and celebrates them. Yet, the one who dares to point them out risks the intense enmenty of members of the Evangelical/Conservative tribe. I will save you the particulars of the incident that most recently and painfully reemphasized this truth in my own life, but it is a problem that threatens to undermine the integrity of any ideology or movement. 

As Christians, we should select our arguments with the discriminating taste of a fine chef choosing ingredients for her signature dish. We don't choose ones that are "probably okay" or "good enough." We ought to choose only the best and reject the others, while abandoning any previously held argument the moment we realize that it has become untenable. No, it's not easy, but it's what honesty and integrity demand of us. There is a painful humility that comes with realizing that something I believed or used as justification for my belief has turned out to be an error. Our instinct is to protect and defend long after we should. But, it happens to everyone, especially to those of us that aren't professional philosophers.

As painful as it is to discover my own error, that doesn't come close to what awaits those bold enough to point out an error someone else has closely embraced. We do so risking all of the same old accusations of betrayal, and questions of loyalty from members of our own side. But it must be done. We desperately need members of our own side who are willing to become canon fodder in the name of addressing these errors. Because we can be sure that our opponents will, and when they do point out our bad arguments, who can blame them for concluding that ours is an unreasonable perspective of the world?

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