The Tyranny of the Absolute

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Further musings on legalism, liberty, and the difference between the two

I am frustrated by people who paint me into a corner by forcing me to defend from Scripture my “right” to do something … instead of working within the boundaries of liberty set up by Scripture.

They ask the wrong question.

I’m frustrated because there’s just no winning that argument when they get to set it up.

I’ve been down this road many times now, from both directions. I understand the holiness/pietist arguments because I used to believe them. But it didn’t take long in college for the Scripture itself to start breaking those arguments apart.  Things aren’t as tidy as they seem. And if you accept that sin is “contamination” instead of the characteristic of a sinner, you’re gonna end up in all kinds of weird places

…. like BJU allowing students to listen to soundtracks from PG movies but not PG 13 …  I guess PG13 movies breach the “sin line” too often, and we all know that listening to music associated with a film that’s “bad” must be bad too …. *rolls eyes*

But the “absolutist” comes along…

Absolutist: That’s a horrible song! Why are you listening to that?!  The Bible says to avoid evil, and that’s evil! So stop!
Me: Um, well … First of all, I’m not convinced the song is “evil” . . .
Abs: Ack! How can you not label this song evil?! They’re singing about sex! And it’s clearly premarital … and we know that’s wrong! Young minds are going to be affected by this!
Me: But singing about sex isn’t wrong! In fact, sex isn’t wrong unless  … oh never mind…..

You see? You end up looking like a fool. Or an “antinomian” who “sins that grace may abound.”  Or (at the least) “unwise” … because the absolutist can always pull out the “unwise” argument:

Me: But I can show you from Scripture that my conscience is clear regarding this issue. A Blink 182 song isn’t sin for me. I listen in faith …

Abs: *scowls dramatically* But is it WISE?!!

Me: *sighs*

The question is all wrong. But it’s all wrong at the worldview level! And I can’t battle the worldview on my own.

Bill Davis talked a lot in my epistemology class this summer about how worldviews are changed:  the most effective shaper of underlying core beliefs is the Holy Spirit … but if we focus on human tools … our worldviews are shaped by the people we love and respect the most. That’s why it does matter to me that I have a real relationship with the students I teach. From an educator’s perspective, I’m not even going to get in the front door of their hearts if there’s not a relationship of love there first.

But that doesn’t help me much with disgruntled legalists.


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