I'm working on a short book right now that is designed to help non-philosophy people gain a basic understanding of postmodernism, how it differs from Biblical Christianity, how it has infiltrated the church, and what to do about it. The title of this post is, at least for now, the working title of the book. One chapter in this book is going to address how vastly different theologies can emerge from what seem to be relatively small shifts in our foundation. In other words, every logical progression has a starting point. When you make small changes in that starting point, then follow the logical trail where it leads you, you may just find that the paths start to diverge more and more the further you go. The particular context I will be addressing is the inerrancy verses non-inerrancy on the Bible and how this seemingly small change, when followed through to its logical conclusion, leads to drastically different theologies. But the general point certainly holds true in other contexts as well.
I thought I would give you a bit of a preview of the example I was thinking of using to illustrate this point, and invite anyone to comment if they think they have a better one (with the understanding that you would be giving me permission to use it in the book if I agree it is a better example). I was looking for something not too complex and that would be familiar to people who don’t spend every moment of every day discussing deep philosophical issues. Remember, this is supposed to be a book for laypeople.
The thought that occurred to me was the movie “Back to the Future.” Marty McFly’s parents, George and Lorraine, are not exactly the parents every child would dream of. George is extremely timid and allows himself to be bullied by his boss, Biff Tannen, who also happened to be the old high school bully. Lorraine lacks the passion to do much of anything and is hooked on alcohol. But at least they got married and had three kids.
Marty winds up traveling back in time and inadvertently prevents his parents from ever meeting. When Marty sees George about to get hit by a car in the street he pushes him out of the way. Unfortunately, it was Lorraine’s father driving the car. In the old timeline he hit George, George met Lorraine, they kissed each other at the school dance and fell in love. Now Lorraine’s father hit Marty instead, and that one small change made all the difference. Marty’s very existence was in jeopardy because his parents never met and Lorraine was falling for him! It may seem like a small change at first, but when one consequence builds on another, the end result down the line is drastically different.
Marty does end up getting his parents to kiss each other at the dance and get things “back on track”, but George had to stand up to Biff in the process. Even that small change has vast consequences down the line. Now, back in present day, George is much more authoritative, and Biff is the timid one. Lorraine has taken much better care of herself and has her own self-confidence.
What was true for Marty McFly is true for any logical argument as well. When we make a small shift in our starting point, our two positions may not seem too far apart. But when you start following the logical outworkings of those positions we get further and further away from each other.
If anyone feels like sharing how they would illustrate this point, please feel free to chime in. God bless.