Promoting People or Protesting Issues? A False Dichotomy

Posted: April 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 “Damn all false dichotomies to hell.”–D.A. Carson

The scuffle over the decision, and subsequent reversal of the decision, of WorldVision (their stance toward employment and homosexuality) has resulted in a number of written articles.  Kevin DeYoung has given us food-for-thought in more than one blog post (here and here); Trevin Wax has entered the fray (here); and the intellectual giant Albert Mohler has not been silent (read here). The issue seems to have blown over at this point, and I think I’m ready to note one issue that was debated during the heat of battle. There is plenty to read on this issue, I hope this short post offers yet another helpful dining option.

My reason for writing is simple. I was introduced to a post by Tony Campolo by a Facebook link and found what he said to be unhelpful in different respects. One “respect” is that Campolo understands the WorldVision decision to be analogous to the debates over mode of baptism (see here). I stated on Facebook that this was naive and pointed towards Kevin DeYoung’s article as a better way of thinking (here). The response from the person who posted the link is that they would rather be a “promoter of people instead of a protester of issues.” Admittedly, the line is catchy and contains some truth. Yet, it creates a false dichotomy by saying that protesting issues is inherently bad.

First, let us consider the dichotomy that is created with the phrase “promoter of people instead of a protester of issues.” The argument takes protesting issues as something that is automatically opposed to promoting people. In other words, if you want to promote people, you should not protest issues. It is certainly true that there are some issues that you can waste time debating (protest), and when taken to an extreme those issues do not “promote people.” So, for instance, you could debate whether or not one should read the NIV versus the ESV to such an extent that you actually end up hurting people. You could be so concerned with Christians reading the ESV that you end up wounding those who read, and have profited from, the NIV. Yet, just because there are some issues that are not worth debating, and in the end do not build up the body (promote people), it does not follow that there are no issues worth protesting! More on that last point in a bit.

Let’s look at the falsity of the dichotomy a bit more. It simply isn’t true that promoting people and protesting issues are antithetical. The one doesn’t automatically negate the other. For instance, I protest abortion precisely because I want to promote people. I believe life begins at conception. I believe that in the womb a human being exists. That “person” cannot speak for themselves and it is incumbent upon the rest of us to speak on their behalf. I will debate, protest, and argue against the practice of abortion because I want to promote the welfare of all people, even the unborn. I protest against drunkeness and other sinful behavior because I want people to live as God would have them live and enjoy the blessings that he would have them enjoy. Thus, to say that there is a clear dichotomy between “promoting people” and “protesting issues” is to set up a false dichotomy.

Therefore I do not believe that protesting an issue is inherently bad in all cases. There are certainly specific issues that we must “protest” if we are to “promote people.” Returning to the issue of abortion, for instance, I am sure (or I hope) the person who posted the phrase (“promoter of people and not a protester of issues”) would see the issue of abortion as something that we should protest. The divinity of Jesus, the gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone, the reality of hell, etc. are certainly “issues” that are being debated within the camp of so-called Christianity. Surely those issues are worth debating. And when erroneous views are advocated, protesting (even to the point of jail or death) is right, loving, and good!

The Bible clearly teaches that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9). Do we promote people when we let the issue of homosexuality fade into the background? Do we promote people when we cave to the spirit of the age and, in the name of “Christian unity,” adopt policies that suggest damning behavior is on the same plane as debates on mode of baptism? I think not. We do the opposite. Far from promoting people, we send them comfortably on their way to an eternal hell.

Above I stated that there was some truth in the clever line, “promoter of people instead of a protester of issues.” We can easily be dragged into every debate on the planet and miss caring for people. However, that does not mean that some debates are not worth getting into. Thankfully Athanasius considered the person of Jesus something to quibble over. We thank God that Martin Luther protested the Catholic understanding of justification. We stand in debt to those who fought for the inerrancy of the Bible and won the day. And I am thankful that men like Kevin DeYoung, Albert Mohler, and so many others have not been silent about the issues of homosexuality. The practice of homosexuality is a sin that damns. And those who do not repent of their sin, homosexuality included, will not inherit God’s kingdom. If we are to promote people, with any eternal significance, we must protest issues. Especially issues that have damning consequences.

 

1. The quote from D.A. Carson is taken from a message preached by Kevin DeYoung at Together for the Gospel 2014. You can read the quote at the T4G website here.

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