Responding to Sublime Absurdity

"Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright." Proverbs 14:9 "The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly." Proverbs 15:14

I recently observed a discussion on Facebook in which one person asked a group of others to provide him with "an original and non-dogmatic thought about their religion." Though the discussion that ensued was heated at times, it was equally interesting. Unfortunately, I struggled to follow what was being said, not only because of words were being exchanged so quickly, but also because, I was stuck at the beginning. While everyone else moved on with his or her thoughts, I could not get past the initial question that created all the fervor.

What exactly is an "original and non-dogmatic thought,” and does any such thing really exist? Does the question even make sense, or is it just semantic nonsense, as so many questions posed by those with disagree with others?

From the onset, it seemed clear that his question was nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to trip up those with whom he disagreed. Since no satisfactory answer could have been given, the question itself was fatally flawed. To be sure, it was not really a question at all, but rather, an unoriginal, dogmatic statement about what the inquisitor in this case, already believed.

As far as he was concerned, "religious" people (which in this case, meant Christians) had no original, non-dogmatic thoughts about their faith, and ultimately, he was right. By definition, to be a Christian is to have faith in Christ—faith in the forgiveness of sins he provides by grace through faith in him—and not in oneself.

In contrast, the concept of originality, by definition, requires a person to have faith in oneself, because being original means being the source or cause from which something new arises. Originality, at its root, is the ability to think independently of anything else. Therefore, asking a Christian to have an “original thought” about their faith, is ultimately asking them to be the source of some new revelation or information about Jesus, and that, needless to say, is contrary to what it means to have faith in Christ.

Similarly, asking a Christian to have a “non-dogmatic” thought about their faith is equally problematic. By definition, to the Christian, faith is the belief and trust in Christ, and all that is taught about him in his word. Likewise, to be “dogmatic” about something is to express it in a way that communicates one believes it is true and factual. As a result, asking a Christian for a “non-dogmatic thought” about their faith is, in essence, asking them to lie. It’s asking them to say something they believe to be true without actually indicating they believe it is so.

This being said, asking a Christian to provide "an original, non-dogmatic thought" about their faith, is like asking an atheist to provide irrefutable proof that God exists. Both are absurd questions because the first is contrary to what it means to be a Christian, as the second is contrary to what it means to be an atheist.

Of course, I don't suspect the questioner actually understood his own inconsistency, but I can't be certain, for one never knows why others ask such questions. Perhaps they really want to know the answers. Perhaps they don’t fully understand the meanings of the words they’re using. Perhaps they’re simply trying to trip others up. Or perhaps they’re just regurgitating a question they’ve heard someone else ask. I suspect the last three are true in this particular case.

In fact, as a side note, it turns out the questioner’s question was indeed dogmatic and unoriginal, in that it was not only a statement of what he believed about Christians, but it was one that someone else had already asked almost ten years ago (blog).

Of course, the real question for Christians is how we should response in such situations. While I chose to say nothing in the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:22-26 and Titus 3:9-11, it’s important to remember, that if we decided to speak we must always do so with the same grace and love that Christ demonstrated to us. Though we cannot change the hard hearts of those who oppose him, He can and will, through us.