Friday, July 11, 2008

A Touch of Logic

Way back here, in a debate on whether Scripture supports infant Baptism - a debate that inspired me to write a blog thread on hermeneutics - I noted that a key part of the argument against infant Baptism is an argument from the silence of Scripture. Once more quoting the opponent of infant Baptism whose essay I tore apart:
I have read my Bible carefully, and still do not find any case where babies were ever baptized. It does not contain one command to any preacher to baptize infants. Are we to base our faith (and practice) on what the Bible does NOT say, or what it says?
At the time, I replied something to the effect that this "argument from silence" does not support the conclusion that infants are not to be baptized. I beg pardon if this response was not as clear or as bracing as it should have been. It is, after all, an abstract, conceptual argument.

I am now ready to try another approach: an analogy. Besides Baptism, Scripture records how Christ instituted another sacrament: the Lord's Supper. Jesus' words of institution conclude: "Do this in remembrance of Me." Christians have more or less universally accepted these words as an authorization, indeed a command, to celebrate the Lord's Supper repeatedly and continually - though there is a wide range of opinion on how often we should "do this." There are also many different interpretations of exactly what "this" means, and what details of the original Lord's Supper are essential to rightly celebrating it. Is or isn't it necessary to physically break the bread? Do we or don't we have to share out of one cup? Does or doesn't the bread need to be unleavened? Can the wine be non-alcoholic? Etc.

There is one question I don't recall that anyone has ever raised. It is the question: Should women commune? Most of us would say it's a silly question; of course they should commune. But where in Christ's words of institution, or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter, do we find an explicit command to commune women? To paraphrase my straw man from Versailles MO, I don't find anything like that in my Bible. Plus, no women were present when Jesus instituted the Supper. It was just Him and His disciples, right? And no matter how girly you make John look in your artist's conception of the Upper Room, the fact remains that he had one X and one Y chromosome, and all the paraphernalia that come with them.

So, if Scripture's lack of a specific command to Baptize infants, and its lack of specific evidence that infants were baptized, militates against infant baptism, why doesn't the same lack of evidence against women taking communion restrict the Lord's Supper to men? If the latter argument is absurd, so is the former. And if enemies of infant Baptism assert the former, but are ashamed to suggest the latter, they show their lack of consistent, objective Biblical hermeneutics. To be blunt, they only care about what the Bible says when it suits them; and when they choose to use the Bible, they use it without scruple or principle.

I admit this form of argument (reduction to the absurd) works more for its emotional effects (e.g. embarrassment) than for any real logical value. But I'm not above enjoying an opponent's poleaxed stare and confused stammer. Besides, when you're up against a belief system founded on subjective experience and emotional manipulation, arguing by valid logic is a waste of time. Rather than talk past them, why not stun their religious feelings with a powerful analogy? Perhaps, once their house on sand has been blown down and washed away, they will consider rebuilding on the solid rock of Christ's teaching.

No comments: