Blogging Controversy: A Triperspectival-Methodological Analysis

There is currently some controversy regarding certain blog posts floating around the “blogosphere” (when is this not the case?). As seems my fate, I wish to address not the content of this controversy but what I see as the way in which people have interacted in this and other such controversies. Attempting to hurt as few feelings as possible, I have presented this analysis in as general a manner as I can. And, since I’m somewhat of a Frame-fan, I’ve used his three perspectives: the normative, the existential, and the situational (this post contains a brief explanation, and here is Frame’s).

My generalized, boiled-down version of the blogging controversy goes as follows:

Given: P and Q are mutually exclusive positions about what the Bible normatively says.

Person 1: I think the Bible says P (for exegetical reasons W, X, Y). People who do not behave in accordance with the Bible are sinning.

Person 2: You’re wrong, because my experience and observations of the world lead me to believe Q is much more likely. Furthermore, claiming that the Bible says P is oppressive, because that means I’m wrong, and that would mean you think I’m sinning. Besides, you didn’t even appeal to experience and observations to make your argument.

Here is my analysis:

Person 1 makes a normative argument for P.

Person 2 responds with existential/situational arguments for Q. He then claims that normative arguments are not allowed. All claims must be established by existential/situational arguments.

Person 1 should always clearly present his exegetical reasons. If he doesn’t, he is at fault. He should do so with a sensitive eye toward the existential and situational.

Since the argument is over what the Bible normatively says, Person 2 should have responded with exegetical arguments instead of arguments from experience and observation. He has been offended by Person 1’s claim that one must behave in accordance with P in order to avoid sinning. Perhaps he does not realize that Person 1 is making a normative argument or even that normative arguments are important to make. However, this does not change the fact that the topic at hand is a normative one. Person 2’s critique of Person 1 is not valid, because Person 2 has made a category error; he has presented existential and situational arguments against a normative argument. His claim that Person 1 didn’t appeal to experience and observations is exactly right, because normative arguments are not based on experience and observations. This is the same category error that caused Person 2 to give the wrong kind of arguments in the first place.

I apologize if the over-generalized presentation of this situation made it difficult to follow, but I really don’t want to argue about the specific content of this present controversy, as it involves people accusing other people of holding positions that lead to horrific things. And, if you disagree with the way I’ve generalized the situation, it may be because we are starting from different assumptions (which is kind of the point of Vern Poythress’s new book, Inerrancy and Worldview, which the authors of Getting Legs and their friends will be reading and discussing in the coming weeks). In any case, it’s my conclusion that the “Person 2” side of this particular argument is arguing incorrectly. I also happen to think that, if they were to use a normative argument, they would be unsuccessful, but that’s beside the point of what I’m trying to say.

What I’m trying to say is that blog posts in general could use a bit more careful reasoning. But that much has been obvious all along.

  1. And, yes, I realize this whole thing’s a little passive-aggressive. Sorry about that.

    • Margaret
    • July 19th, 2012


  2. Thumbs up! I like me some Vern P.

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