Saturday, April 11, 2009

Slippery Slope vs. House of Cards

I was talking with a fried the other day about the problem with the slippery slope argument (you know the one: if you question 1 thing the bible says, 6 day creation for example, then it's a short downhill trip to questioning everything and losing your faith) is that it's just too blunt. The way he put it was that it's like using a chainsaw to chop garlic. I agree, I think we must look carefully at every issue independently of where it leads. If I am convinced that evolution is true, then I am convinced it is true, and I need to deal with my understanding of Genesis 1 in light of that. But I don't need to worry about every other possible question that might come down the road. When those come, I will look at them carefully too.

So that's settled, but, I also have been thinking of an equally blunt argument that takes the slippery slope argument head on which is the house of cards argument.

The house of cards argument says that if your faith is so constructed that to challenge any one aspect (be it the Bible, or the virgin birth, or miracles, or the church, or whatever) shakes the foundation of everything you believe, then you don't have a very well built faith. What you have, in fact, is a house of cards. And what do you do with a house of cards? You protect it from anything that might blow it over – because it is so fragile.

However, if your faith is built so that every aspect is held independently (connected but not structurally dependent on each other) then it can stand the questions and challenges that are bound to come up if your life is going to be anything other than safe. Common images for this I have heard are like nodes in a web, or springs on a trampoline (thank you John Franke and Rob Bell, respectively).

The thing that connects these two arguments is that, at the end of the day, the concern of both of them is pastoral. The slippery slope argument fears that if you question any aspect of your faith you will lose it all, and the house of cards argument fears that if you don't question your faith then you aren't building it in a structurally sound way, and eventually the whole thing will come crashing down.

I suppose I am beginning to see my calling as someone who can help people reconstruct their faith in a not-house-of-cards way.


  1. Thanks Jason, this is a cool thought. In college I had to take a Freshman Writing Seminar class. Pretty much the only thing I remember learning is that the Slippery Slope argument is actually a fallacy. It is fear, but not reality and they tell you not to use it at all in writing. Anyway, just more food for thought

  2. I think the slippery slope argument is very unhelpful. I don't believe in a literal 6 day creation just as I don't believe a lot of the old testament, but that doesn't stop me believing in the important stuff...
    It's a bit like the guy who spent a year trying to live according to every rule in the bible - he found many rules to be completely unrealistic and mostly irrelevant in modern society.


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