Tuesday, December 03, 2019

On Incoherence

Ideological incoherence is the hallmark of the political Left.

The Right has its own problems with consistency, of course, and they are not trivial, but it is getting increasingly difficult to keep pace with people who maintain the right to life for murderers and roast beef sandwiches while upholding the right to kill human babies in the womb. What can one say about folks who maintain diversity is strength ... except when it is ideological diversity, of course. What can we say about people who argue for the supremacy of science ... except when genetics plainly tells us a man is a man and a woman is a woman. Then science is right out to lunch.

Well, we can say Christians are probably way too much like them for our own good.

Progressives are a soft target, and it is all too easy to write about how they need to get that dust speck off their eyeball while we are trying to get a better look at it around an inconveniently placed 2x4. That’s not to suggest the dangers of leftist incoherence are small and the dangers of Christian incoherence colossal; neither statement holds true in every case.

Reasons to Prize Coherence

But what is obvious is that Christians have reasons to prize coherence which leftists don’t. We have a coherent God. We have a coherent scripture and a coherent faith, and many of us even have a coherent worldview. Moreover, we have a Savior who values coherence and expects it to characterize anyone who claims to belong to him. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” “If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” Given the information we possess which the world does not, it is only logical that we make the effort to live consistently with it.

But consistency of thought and life are meaningless affectations for men and women who believe we are all products of time and chance. Why should they lay down perfectly useful weapons like deceit, shame, manipulation, moving the goalposts, redefining words, sophistry, threats, intimidation or even violence, if in fact they are all slightly-smarter animals and power is the only game that matters? To whom are they accountable other than themselves?

An Obligation to be Coherent

This is why I find it a bit of a time-waster when pedantic conservatives insist on repeatedly pointing out leftist inconsistencies to one another — or, worse, to leftists, who already know all about their own incoherence and don’t care one whit. Of course their philosophy doesn’t make any sense. It isn’t intended to. In their very inconsistency about details, they are actually being quite consistent with their worldview, if only inadvertently.

And yet coherence and consistency with what we profess to believe are obligations for believers. We are twice-created beings in service to our faithful Creator, obligated to operate the same way he does and held to a higher standard than those around us.

Thus it is appropriate to turn our beady little eyeballs on ourselves from time to time and ask exactly how well we, who so prize coherence, are doing in the coherency department.

Incoherence as a Virtue

That said, there are times when incoherence becomes a sort of virtue for Christians, or at least preferable to rigid consistency down a wrong path. Not all incoherence is deliberate or hypocritical. I am thinking of doctrinal error here. The Christian determinist, thanks be to God, rarely follows through on the conclusions that issue from his beliefs. Most neo-Calvinists still evangelize, though they claim to believe the fate of those to whom they take the gospel is already sealed. Perhaps that is incoherent, but it is definitely preferable to the alternative.

Likewise, there are self-styled egalitarians who occasionally submit to their husbands. Equally, there are professing complementarians who don’t. Then there are Christians who insist drizzling water on a baby has ensured his entry into the kingdom of heaven, and yet faithfully raise that child in the training and instruction of the Lord as if they are concerned that his soul might still be in peril. Good for them.

Doctrine and Practice

There are Christians who absolutely agree with what their statement of faith says about the priesthood of all believers, but their contribution to their local church involves nothing more sacred than regularly occupying a pew or chair. Then again, we come across Christians in institutional churches who serve Christ non-stop and receive little or no credit for it, despite having never been taught that their service is priestly in character.

There are churches which adamantly reject the doctrine of transubstantiation. They can tell you exactly why it’s anti-scriptural, and what the bread and wine really signify, and yet they celebrate the Lord’s Supper monthly, annually or not at all. Worse, there are churches that celebrate it weekly, but their congregants have for the most part forgotten who it is they are supposed to be remembering.

These are things we need to keep in mind when we find ourselves speaking of Calvinists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics or other sectarian Christians as if they comprise a monolithic bloc of systematized belief. Most times, the teaching of a denomination is not reflected with complete consistency in its churches, and the teaching of a church is rarely reflected with complete consistency in the lives of those who fellowship there. This is not coherent, to be sure, but it is certainly preferable to entire denominations cleaving consistently to a specific slate of false doctrines.

Doing the Right Thing

We give thanks for all believers who somehow end up instinctively doing the right thing, all the while mouthing bad doctrine they don’t actually follow. They are rather like the son in the parable who said to his father, “I will not go,” and afterward went.

Better him than the other guy.

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