Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Genetic fallacy

So the last blog post really got a lot of attention. Which was surprising because I tried not to let people either pro or anti tattoos get off the hook too easily. In my nerdy ways, it's weird for me that more Christians would want to read about tattoos than they would about an article on something like atonement theology. Nevertheless, it was great to get feedback and support from so many people.

There was something that I realized a few days later however which I failed to address in the original post, and that was the argument that people make regarding the pagan origin of tattoos. Actually, this goes way beyond tattoos. Many of my friends do not celebrate Christmas or Easter because of their pagan origins. The Pastor of a church I used to attend condemned Christian rock (or maybe he was just against heavy rock music?) because of it's pagan origins (though you could argue that rock music has it's roots in African American Gospel music but I'm getting off topic). The point I am making though is that we condemn many things because of their origins, regardless of who or how they are currently used or understood.

There is actually a name for this kind of reasoning and it is called the genetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy seeks to build a conclusion based solely on somethings origin. The big problem with this though is that we tend to use it only when it is convenient for us, ignoring how factors outside of its origin come in to play.

For example, and I am borrowing a quote from Robin Schumacher here. No Christian would say that it's wrong for woman to wear pantyhose. However, the history of pantyhose can be traced back to prostitutes in Italy hundreds of years ago. They were an identifying mark meant to tell others who these woman were and what they practiced. So to wear pantyhose a few hundred years ago in Italy was probably not something Christians would want to do lest they be misidentified and associated with immoral behavior.

A closer look at the origins of our modern church practices reveals several pagan influences have infiltrated our meetings (read Pagan Christianity for further investigation). Everything from pulpits, to religious attire, to buildings and on and on has roots outside of the early church. Yet I think the majority of the church today would argue that some of this "borrowing" has benefited our meetings regardless of those origins.

Now don't get me wrong, origins are important and can be a deciding factor in whether we do or do not do something. For example, swastikas still carry the same message today that they did in the last century. No sensible Christian would wear something with the symbol on, yet you are probably safe driving a VW Beetle around town which also has a Nazi heritage. So the rule of thumb here would be to exercise cultural sensitivity and common sense rather than make a blanket rule for everything. Sometimes it's tricky, do we lock our doors and stay home on Christmas or do we use the opportunity to hand out some sandwiches to the homeless and share Jesus with them while maybe avoiding certain elements of the holiday? Do we allow for certain variances in church meetings or do we discard anything that can't be traced back to the NT?These are things we should all prayerfully consider item by item and tradition by tradition.

In all things, be loving, be truthful, be edifying.

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