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Sloganeering

February 23, 2015

“If you don’t believe Genesis 1:1, you can’t believe John 3:16.”

That quote is from a good friend of mine who is an ardent young-earth creationist.  I really like the guy and can respect that he has spent 40+ years of his life fighting for widespread Christian acceptance of his views.  Yet it always bothers me when I hear him say that, which I have dozens of times.

One reason is that what he says is never what people hear.  When I hear him say “If you don’t believe Genesis 1:1, you can’t believe John 3:16.” It sounds to me as if he is really saying “If you don’t believe exactly as I do on Genesis 1:1 then you are not a real, true Christian.”   This is simply not true.   This article from The Gospel Coalition, hardly a group of liberal apologists, makes it clear that it is quite possible to differ with my friend and not lose your salvation.

In addition, this is an example of the slippery slope argument.  While well-meaning, it argues a fallacy that if you take one step away from what he views as orthodoxy than all subsequent steps are inevitable.  Not only does it ignore the thousands of dedicated Christians who have been standing on that slope without slipping for years, it is an argument of desperation.  It advances a theory, the inevitability of the slide, without an iota of evidence to support it; it says, in essence, “I know my belief is true because it has to be true or else catastrophe strikes.”  This is hardly a winning apologetic.

Third, it shifts the foundation of the Gospel away from Jesus.

But my core reason for not liking it is that it is yet another example of sloganeering, the act of reducing complex subjects down to a catchy little phrases that could fit on a bumper sticker.  To be sure, we do this across the political and religious spectrum.  It is a sign of our times that we strive for sound bites.  Yet, for me, theology by sound bite seems beyond absurd.  But we do it all the time.  Here are a few more evangelical favorites:

“Choose life.  (Your mom did.)”

“God created Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve.”

“The Rapture is coming.  Are you ready?”

Lest we feel alone in sloganeering let me share a few from the other side.

“Evolution is just a theory – kind of like gravity.”

“Who would Jesus Bomb?”

That last is a take-off on the all-time favorite slogan, beloved by evangelicals and mainstream Christians alike – “What would Jesus Do?”  Of course, they are well able to agree on the sentiment and come to wildly different conclusions on what Jesus would actually do.

Slogans may be good for making those agree with you smile but they are worse than ineffective with those who differ; it will drive them further from the faith.  They are also prone to being understood, as I understand my friend’s slogan, in ways you least want.   It isn’t only gays who read that Adam & Steve comment as “I hate gays.”

It is probably a forlorn hope that evangelicals avoid slogans.  The pressure for us to make short, memorable, summaries of our beliefs is always going to be there.  But can we agree on two things?

  1. They are never evangelistic and often are anti-evangelistic; antagonizing far more people then they win.
  2. They are the worst form of apologetics going. If we are going to convince anyone that our faith is reasonable it is going to take actual dialogue and communication, not simply shouting our views in the smallest phrase possible.

 

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From → Christianity

6 Comments
  1. That was an excellent post! That is something i dont say often.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. Those willing to spout slogans without allowing the love of God to transform their hearts and minds simply rip, tear, and create anger and division.

    I feel badly for your friend, the young earth creationist. He has found a hill to fight and die on. The sad part is that this walk with Christ isnt about who has the “rightest” doctrine. It is about having our heart right.

    i enjoyed reading wisdom.

  2. TCC member permalink

    His statement begs for a “, because…” to come after it. Is there one? Standing alone, it doesn’t hold up, but I’d like to hear the logic that leads to that “thesis statement”.

    • I’d like to hear that logic too but, it tends to be more of a slogan than a conversation starter. His premise is that the moment you say that one Bible verse(And it is really the whole of Genesis 1 he is speaking about, not just the first verse.) may not be true then nothing can be true. He is sadly impervious to the idea that it may be his (or my) understanding that is the issue, not the Bible itself.

  3. “You can’t be _______ and be a Christian!” I’ve heard that so many times. The last time I read Scripture, there was only one criterion for being a Christian. I’ve done plenty of things in my life (and possibly still do) that would disqualify me if this kind of logic were truth. Oh, and, I confess . . . I had an “I Found It” bumper sticker on my car in the seventies. *sheepish grin*

  4. I try my best to not think of all the “Christian” things I did and said back in the 70s.

  5. Naturally if there was no Creator there could not have been created anything and as such the son of God Jeshua (Jesus Christ) like any other son of god or daughter of God would not be created.

    When there is no Creator He cannot give anything.

    Evolution has nothing to do with Jesus, is it? Though many do believe Jesus to have been present at the creation, which he was not. He came into being many years later, at his birth in Bethlehem. God Created the world and Genesis does not say anything against the evolution of things.

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