Thursday, February 14, 2008

Because I said so, that's why.

I'm a mother, so I've used that line plenty of times. At first glance it appears to be the tiniest possible specimen of circular logic, but there's a little more to it. The conversation goes like this:

"But WHY do I have to clean my room?"
"Because I said so, that's why."

The same conversation, with subtitles:

"I don't want to clean my room. I kind of like it messy, and my little brother dumped out all my doll's clothes and I don't think I should have to clean that up. I'm reading a really good Magic Treehouse book right now and I'd rather do that instead. The stuff on the floor has to go in too many different places, and I don't know where to start."

"I know, honey. I don't like cleaning any more than you do. But I've got the advantage of 25 years of experience on you, and I know that you'll have a lot more fun in there if you can actually find your toys instead of having a chaotic whirl of junk covering every flat surface. Besides, I gave birth to you, I feed you, I clothe you, and I paid for pretty much everything in this room, so that by itself is good enough reason to do what I asked you to do."

Usually, we do the short version of this conversation. But sometimes if she is more frustrated than usual, I will sit down on her rumpled bed, take her in my arms, and explain the long version with even more love and care than I expressed above. She doesn't always get it, but at least she knows that I love her. And in another 25 years or so, she'll very likely be having the same conversation with another little girl that she loves as much I love her, and she'll figure out what I was talking about.

Like every Christian, I grew up hearing about God as our Father, and all of the inevitable applications to our daily life. He loves us just the way we love our own children. He knows things that we don't know, just like a parent knows more than the child does. We'll understand it better bye and bye. When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory. Et cetera.

The parallels are obvious, but I question how valid they are. Human parents seem to be a little more compassionate in the short run, not just the long run. Human parents talk to their children. Human parents "have skin on", as the much-repeated (and probably apocryphal) tale says. We are here, up close and personal, talking and living and failing and succeeding in front of our children. We communicate with them more than once every two thousand years. When they cry, we hold them with real arms made of muscle and bone. They don't need to use their imaginations to find us.

And so, I return to the issue of circular logic. "Because I said so", with no further analysis, seems to be a fundamental characteristic of Christian reasoning, and it worries me.

If we question the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, we start down a slippery slope. If you question one part of it, you have to question all of it.

And this is a valid reason not to question it?

We can't question the deity of Christ, because if we do, it puts everything we believe about salvation into question. All cults start out by questioning the deity of Christ.

Well ... but what if he isn't 100% God and 100% man, like I learned in youth group? Isn't it worth at least asking the question?

I Corinthians 15:19 -- "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied."


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