The Fallacy of the Assumed Premise


(Spectrumbot) #1

Jesus did not let religious or secular cultural norms cloud what was truly worthwhile. He embodied an expansive gospel. Sometimes, this debunked what false conservatives idolized. Jesus made room for the meaningful new by sifting out the irrelevant dross. Conservatives, in the best sense, preserve the core. Perception, experience, science, and history all flow in a way that brings a person on a journey of truth that unfolds in the context of scripture and a faith community. Which parts should a conservative fight to conserve?

People familiar with the OJ Simpson criminal trial might remember a reasoning error called the fallacy of the assumed premise. In reference to the bloody leather gloves, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran said, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” The gloves didn’t, and the jury did. The asserted premise was incorrect — the gloves may have shrunk or OJ’s joints might have been swollen because he had skipped his arthritis medication. The jury, mesmerized by Cochran’s catchy phrase, likely made the wrong decision and allowed a murderer to be exonerated.

This essay examines the proposition that the key premise of Genesis 1 is that the creation of humanity was the pinnacle of creation. After all, the creation of man evoked God’s declaration that it was not merely good, but “very good.” Next, the story states that God created Sabbath as a sign of His commitment to humanity. An anthropological prioritizing view of Genesis 1 leads to a different vein than a Sabbath prioritizing view.

Recently, our church adopted a brand promise: “We can help you understand the Bible to find freedom, healing and hope in Jesus.

The Spectrum commenting community had a hearty discussion on the merits of the statement. One way to apply it would be as follows:

1. If, the main purpose of the SDA church is to be a community where humanity can flourish through discipleship and Bible study…

2. Then, by keeping Sabbath we emphasize the truth in Genesis 1 that tells of God’s joy and celebration in creating humanity in His image and we gratefully honor His promise of a weekly convocation…

3. And, as Revelation 14 implores us to honor the Creator at the end time, we fulfill the mandate by honoring and respecting the dignity of humans and nurturing this Jesus-infused quest for freedom, healing, and hope. This is true Creator worship. “Babylon has fallen” refers to a system which denigrates any person or persons. Seventh-day Sabbath observance is a witness against Constantinian coercion.

Here is another way to look at assumed premises in Genesis 1:

All humans, as creatures made in the image of God, are worthy of love and respect. This aligns with Jesus’ parable of sheep and goats in Matthew 25, which describes the activities of God’s people prior to the Second Coming. At the judgment, God knows the people who have cared for the forgotten.

Biologists, physicists, astronomers, and geneticists experience a cognitive dissonance that could be allayed if the church were to choose to emphasize a larger meaning of Sabbath. Some strands in the larger meaning could include Sabbath as freedom (Deuteronomy 5) or Sabbath as a sign of God’s commitment (see Sigve Tonstad’s book The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day) or Sabbath as a protest against Constantinian influence over Christianity. Will remnant group behavior be characterized by a propositional protest against a tide of evil (evolutionary theory) that threatens to wash over a literal, plain meaning of Genesis 1? Is this conservative stand against science grounded in the right space?

Focusing only on literal seven-day creation minimizes a broader application of Revelation 14. To ignore the task of nurturing humanity is to ignore the values of Creator God. This is breaking the third commandment since it, in effect, is taking the Lord’s name in vain. In addition, the Adventist community would be in a healthier state if we used Revelation 14 in the more expansive way that emphasizes honoring the Creator by nurturing dignity of those who He has created in His image.

The name “Seventh-day Adventist” implies a distinctive message. Members are willing to be part of a minority, counter-cultural group because of a belief that there is a wave of present truth and transformative capacity in the denomination. What is the essence of this mission? Let’s be honest. In the last 100 years, our tribe has been so engrossed in protesting evolution and tooting our own horn on the right day that we missed the opportunity to protest racism, gender injustice, child abuse, and genocides (over a dozen by some counts). Since Sister White passed away we have grown to a group of 20 million people, but might it be wise to erase any triumphalism? Perhaps, fear of “becoming political” stilted the church’s witness during the 20th century. When one considers the meaning of the creation story in Genesis, is it possible that Seventh-day Adventists are emphasizing the wrong part?

If Sabbath-Keeping Literal Seven-Day Creation Believers cannot stand against identity-based scapegoating and for human rights, this might reflect a failure to remember and keep the Sabbath. If Sabbath-Keeping Literal Seven-Day Creation Believers do not reject mimetic warfare and prideful tribalism, then it is a botched Sabbath keeping endeavor.

The gospel is more than an externalized and static notion of truth. There can be no pride in right knowledge. In the context of the premise that Adventists are “right” about the Bible, consider an old critique of Luther’s Sola Scriptura predicting that when people left the Roman Catholic Church, they would still have a pope — “A Paper Pope” — the Bible. This reflected a prescient notion of the coming difficulties of basing “truth” solely on a collection of words. The Bible contains propositions, words, sentences, edicts, poetry, and legend. Which parts will a conservative Adventist fight to conserve? A lot of the conflict in our denomination stems from how we have read the Bible. If the main missional reason for Adventism is having the correct view on the Bible, then our group is sadly deluded in light of current tensions we face about how to use the Bible to inform decisions about church polity, ordination, and individual conscience.

For me, as a student of anthropology, peace, and human rights, the most helpful premise in Genesis 1 is the part that implies participation in society as God’s image bearers, and as people who note the image of God in others. What if battling scientific evolutionary theory is the wrong hill to die on and is ignoring the present truth which entails worshipping God in ways more demanding than merely showing up on a designated day? (Isaiah 29:13, Isaiah 58:6, Matthew 15:9, for example.)

Christian Wiman muses that “faith itself sometimes needs to be stripped of its social and historical encrustations and returned to its first, churchless incarnation in the human heart.” Protecting every iteration of propositional truth will be an exhausting enterprise for a person or a group. I believe a faith that emphasizes protecting propositional truth typically becomes a misguided exercise. After all, how many true things have been said? Do we have to enact a battle on behalf of every assertion that we think is true? Has every true thing already been said? As the Alcoholics Anonymous slogan says: “Let go and let god.” Following the Holy Spirit will yield a fruitful, abundant journey, drenched with meaning for the time in which one lives. This will put one on a path of positive anthropology, not a moral worthiness contest or an apologetic propositional truth debate. That is to say a disciple will be on a path of embodying truth, not in a debate about assenting to it.

Anne of Green Gables spoke of her friend, Diana, as a “kindred spirit.” I think God’s end time remnant will recognize others in the tribe in a way sort of like that. We won’t recognize one another on the basis of who assents to a common core of 28, 29, or 30 beliefs. We can recognize others as part of God’s family when we see them reflecting His image and honoring the divine image in the least of these. This will honor creation and honor God’s Sabbath commitment to humanity. God’s image will not be found in the principalities and powers. Jesus urges us to consider the children, adulterous women, Samaritans, lilies of the field, yeast infused dough, and lepers.

For me, the prescriptive premise in Genesis comes subtly, yet once seen, cannot be forgotten. It comes when I remember humanity as a crowning creative accomplishment that is stamped with God’s image. It comes when I remember that on the sixth day after creating humanity, God said it was “very good.” It comes when I remember the Sabbath and seek to emphasize its lost meaning. For me, that is the foundational premise. They will know we are Christians by our love.

Notes & References:

Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: 2013), 92.

Carmen Lau is board chair of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum. She lives and writes in Birmingham, Alabama.

Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9340

(Robert Lindbeck) #2

The heart of the matter is not what we do, it is what He has done - He created, He redeemed. The Gospel (Good News) is that we CAN be part of it, if we choose.


#3

Carmen, thank you for a thought-provoking article. I often wonder about our readiness to receive present truth. There are more than enough “static notions” of truth out there. Oh for a greater capacity to recognize the image of God in fellow believers, even those who see things a little differently!


#4

“All humans, as creatures made in the image of God, are worthy of love and respect. This aligns with Jesus’ parable of sheep and goats in Matthew 25, which describes the activities of God’s people prior to the Second Coming. At the judgment, God knows the people who have cared for the forgotten.”

This assertion maintains the premise that love & respect are given on the basis of worthiness. It universalizes the worthiness of all humans on the basis of God’s creative act of making Adam and Eve in Their image.

Not only is the premise of worthiness wrong but the Image of God has been marred - both personally and through the accumulated anthropological deformities. The active Agape Love we are to exhibit is not based upon merit, but upon emulating God’s ultimately overriding character trait of Love. None of us ‘deserve’ or are ‘worthy’ of God’s Love or that of each other.

God treats us with the same Love that he has for the unfallen, but we are not unfallen. His love is beyond all worthiness, even of the unfallen. We are to treat each other with Love and Care because we have been given the heart of God, not because we have found others are worthy, for any reason. We are not worthy and they are not worthy.

He cannot, that is, by His choice will not, override the choices that individuals make to either be in relationship with Him or not. Yet His love is showered on the wheat and the tares, not because they both are good and valuable, but because He IS Love - it’s His nature. He loves all his creation. But He has no illusion about the tares - they are not wheat. In the harvest, the tares will be gathered for destruction. The wheat will be brought into the storehouse.

God does not HATE the tares - He would love for the tares to become wheat before the harvest - but it’s not up to Him. He will mourn the loss of the tares, but they were already lost when they refused to be wheat.

The parable of the sheep and the goats demonstrates a judgment of the final results (although, except in parables, no animal or plant can choose). The judgment is based on God responding to the choices that individual persons have previously made regarding their lives and a relationship with him - one based on love for God and for others or one based on self-serving preoccupations. By the time the judgment takes place, their decisions have already been eternally made.

He has no illusion about the goats - they are not sheep. They both exist because of his original creation, but in the roundup, the goats are destined for ‘everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels’ and the sheep will ‘inherit the kingdom prepared for [them] from the foundation of the world.’

God would love for the goats to become sheep before they have totally abandoned Him - but it’s not His choice.

It is important that we not confuse God’s Love and Care for all mankind as acceptance or approval of the current condition of all people. His non-condemnation of the woman taken in adultery should never be taken as His non-condemnation of adultery. He, better than anyone, recognized sinful behavior. He exposed it beyond even the detailed Jewish laws. But His effort was in recovery of the lost from sin. He told her to ‘go and sin no more’ because He understood the ravages of sin and it’s ability to eternally destroy.

It is not His choice for anyone to be other than His Image, but He can only ‘create a clean heart’ in those who are willing. The parable of the wedding feast demonstrates that the wedding garments were supplied by the King, but there came one there who refused the offer of a wedding garment. He was confronted and removed. It was his choice to refuse the grament offered, despite God providing one for him.

God is not blind to the condition of man - His love is not extended based on merit, but rather from His own character. In the end, His actions will be based on the decision that individuals have made in response to His unmerited, everlasting, merciful Love.

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.” (John3:19 KJV)

I agree with the author’s premise that the creation of man(kind) in the Image of God was the crowning act of creation. Jesus agreed also, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” (Mark2:27 KJV) Our church should seek to enlighten all people about the Love of God, not allowing sin to prevent us from extending God’s Love, thru us, to them. Yet we should never minimize the ruinous nature of all sin. We may need to come in contact with sin in order to reach the sinner with the Good News, but we should never suggest we or they can continue to seek out sin with impunity.

As to Commandment Keeping - Such actions taken for any reason other than Love of God & Trust in Him is of no consequence in developing an eternal relationship fit for Heaven. “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew7:23 KJV)

We certainly should pay attention to the outward signs that Jesus mentions regarding his followers. It can alert us to our own failures and need for a closer connection with Him. But proper commandment actions must be based on the internal relationship that exists and done to honor & follow Him. Performing these actions does not create a follower, even though a true follower may exhibit exactly those actions.

Science can be a great asset to mankind when exercised relative to the laws of nature that God has created. But when it presumes to reach beyond it’s own limitations of testing & confirming, to speak to origins, it’s lack of humility causes it to speak non-sense. Whatever the reality of God’s original creative work, we as distorted and diminished human beings should be humble enough to recognize that our knowing will never equal the reality, this side of the New Earth. Dogmatism is incompatible with our vision ‘through a glass, darkly’.


(Sirje) #5

With the second premise in mind:

When God “rested” on the seventh day of creation week, He handed over the world He had just made to His crowning accomplishment, and blessed that “day” - He blessed all the days that followed. All time, granted us, is holy time - none of it ours apart from that blessing. But, as Adam recognized his personhood when he saw his reflection in a pool of water, he began to grow his intellect, and wanted more. The quest for knowledge, that has launched ships and rockets, was also born in that garden; but like any infant, Adam wanted to run, before he walked - walked with God. The knowledge he gained, he hasn’t been able to bear, and has carried its consequences with him as he left God’s side to strike out on his own - the promised blessing was yet to come as we find it in the Son of Man, the true Son of God. The Sabbath thus fashioned, became a realized rest - in Christ; and the resumption of that walk, interrupted, was to be continued.


#6

You have described an additional Sabbath meaning that I could have added to the essay. I believe we can reflect on God and His way and gifts (like Sabbath) and we will discern many benefits. Thank you for adding to the discussion.


(Sirje) #7

It needs to be added since the natural extension for Sabbath has to culminate with Christ - our true rest and “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (paraphrased). I don’t think Christ was an afterthought.


(Alice C ) #8

Thank-you, Carmen, for expressing my incoherent thoughts so eloquently. I believe that those who “fully reflect the character of Christ” will be those who are unaware that they are doing so. They will be too busy serving people to be aware of character development. Yes, they will also study the Word, but they won’t obsess about whether they are ready for translation.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #9

An excellent argument for the gifts God has given us. but let us not forget Christ departing description of dividing the sheep from the goats…The Sabbath is not mentioned. The key points were how those who have responded to the Gospel serve their fellow humans in need. The point seems to me that having been set free by the Cross one out of gratitude sets about freely supporting and comforting those in his or her community in need. Freely we have received freely give. Worship must be accompanied by. Generosity. Adventist Health Care is as dollar conscience as it is health conscience if not more so.


#10

Succinctly stated, Carmen! May we recognize Sabbath as a personal Gift. Seize the Day!


(Elmer Cupino) #11

Jesus was a radical rabbi who used parables to afflict the comfortable, not to comfort the afflicted. Thus if the parable of the sheep and goats makes us comfortable because when “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” then perhaps we have missed the point of the parable. Conceivably, the lesson of the parable within our “present truth” is to address the sense of entitlement entrenched in every religion, that only we know the truth and no one else. And so for our corporate church and our leaders, with their “brand new” SDA promise of “We can help you understand the Bible to find freedom, healing and hope in Jesus,” we may be found wanting for not “feeding and clothing” our very own members, such as women folks as well as those with gender dysphoria, who are suffering and being marginalized because of their certainty that what they know is exactly what God means.


#12

Well-stated, Elmer! Yes, the parables were provided to challenge, not soothe, the listener/reader.


(Leandro) #13

For me, as a student of anthropology, peace, and human rights, the most helpful premise in Genesis 1 is the part that implies participation in society as God’s image bearers, and as people who note the image of God in others. What if battling scientific evolutionary theory is the wrong hill to die on and is ignoring the present truth which entails worshipping God in ways more demanding than merely showing up on a designated day? (Isaiah 29:13, Isaiah 58:6, Matthew 15:9, for example.)

I am sorry to tell you that I strongly believe that the study of anthropology is also based on a wrong assumption. For example, radiocarbon dating was based on the assumption that the amount of carbon 14 on the body of a living organism is the same amount as that of its environment. I am not an expert on this subject, you and your professors are. Let us read this from Microsoft Incarta:
Radiocarbon dating was developed by American chemist Willard Libby and his colleagues in 1949, and it quickly became one of the most widely used tools in archaeology. Radiation from space produces neutrons that enter the earth’s atmosphere and react with nitrogen to produce the carbon isotope C-14 (carbon 14). All living organisms accumulate this isotope through their metabolism until it is in balance with levels in the atmosphere, but when they die they absorb no more. Because the nucleus of C-14 decays at a known rate, scientists can determine the age of organic substances such as bones, plant matter, shells, and charcoal by measuring the amount on C-14 that remains in them. See also Dating Methods: Carbon-14 Method

Think about this, what if the environment we have today is different from the environment before the Great Flood? Remember that C-14, if the scientists are right, is produced only by the reaction between nitrogen and cosmic radiation. Now let us go back to Genesis 1. There is one major thing that most people, even bible scholars take lightly, and that is the creation of the Firmament in the second day of creation. The water above the firmament is not water vapor as many assumed. It was real water. The big part of our oceans today were once above that firmament and it never rained before the flood so it acted as a real force field that shielded the earth against the harmful effect of the sun and other cosmic radiations. Thanks to GOD it will be back again in the future for there will be no more seas (I think oceans) in the new earth.
Notice that before GOD permitted the flood (Gen. 6), HE said “man’s days shall be an hundred and twenty years”. So where antediluvians have ages of about 900 years, people’s ages after the flood gradually decreased:
SHEM = 600
ARPHAXAD = 438
SALAH = 433
EBER = 464
PELEG = 239
REU = 237
SERUG = 230
NAHUR = 148
TERAH = 205
ABRAHAM = 175
ISAAC = 180
JACOB = 147
My theory is that our exposure to the sun cause genetic mutations. Mutation for plants and animals and causing different races for mankind. I also believe that the vegetarians’ claim that the longevity of the antediluvian people can be attributed to the “original” genesis diet is wrong. I don’t believe those people were vegetarians. They would not be as disciplined as that. It was the shielded environment that does the trick.
Scientists were always wrong. Before, they believe the earth was flat, then the earth was the center of the solar system, then the solar system was the center of the universe ( this I am not sure if I am right:sweat_smile:). And soon parallel universe, etc? :rofl::joy:


#14

Yes, challenges to the 1949 radiocarbon dating theory continue to inspire:

2012 - Carbon Dating Gets a Reset
2016 - Thanks to Fossil Fuels, Carbon Dating is in Jeopardy


(Leandro) #15

The tell-tale sign that our answer to a problem we solved is wrong is when we get an absurdly big number. The millions of years that they came up as age of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals are absurd.


#16

Others agree with you, Leandro. See:

2018 - Gene survey indicates animals emerged at same time as people


(Lynden Williams) #17

Leandro,
In current science, carbon dating is no longer the gold standard. But, I don’t intend on getting into an argument about applying a date to some of the prehistoric creatures bones.
What I do know, as an amateur astronomer, is that the distance to stars is quite accurate. Even using parallex measurements, it can be determined out to about 200,000 light-years with an accuracy of 90% or greater. And we now can use red-shift with even greater accuracy. You can conclude what you want with carbon dating but you are going to find it impossible to prove that the stars were all created on the 4th day. And impossible for it all to have happened about 6000 years ago.

Only an infinitesimally small number of the stars (suns) light left that sun within the 6000 years that most creationists believe is the age of the earth. The light we see today from almost all the suns in our own galaxy left over 6000 years ago. Our own galaxy is over 200,000 light years across. Most of the stars you can see with your naked eye are over 6000 light years away.

If the 4 commandment is an allegory, then Genesis 1 is an allegory. Creation was by God, but trying to define dates to creation in biblical terms is very problematic.


#18

This is so humbling and amazing that our eyes see light that left thousands, hundreds of thousands of years ago.


(David R Larson) #19

Thank you! I believe that we should take the creation stories in Genesis literally which means that we should read them as they were intended to be read. This was not to settle disputes about the age of the earth or life on it and so forth. Having said that, I believe that I know what interpretations those who proposed the rewording of Fundamental Belief #6 had in mind and I reject them as well because they are even more farfetched. One of these is that each day was an eon. Another is that there were huge gaps between the days. These are also attempts to read the text in reference to issues that it was not addressing. Its better in such lists of our beliefs to stick as closely as possible to the language Scrioture itself uses.


(Alice C ) #20

I will admit that I find it odd that some believe God created the entire universe all at once and then stopped creating entirely. He/They gave us the gift of creativity and we are created in His image. We don’t stop creating; why would He?