Friday, April 11, 2008

On avoiding collateral damage

Andrew Fuller made a very insightful observation on the difference between the logical consequences of an opponent's position, and whether those consequences are perceived and embraced. The two may not coincide. The great danger, as he saw it, was in allowing these inferences to shape our estimate of the person we are in disagreement with. Fuller is dealing with two opponents clashing over a particular point. Here's how he put it:
The greater part of those things wherein you seem to differ may be owing either to a difference in the manner of expressing yourselves, or to the affixing of consequences to a principle which are yet unperceived by him that holds it.

I do not accuse either of you with doing so intentionally; but principles and their consequences are so suddenly associated in the mind, that when we hear a person avow the former, we can scarcely forbear immediately attributing to him the latter.

If a principle be proposed to us for acceptance, it is right to weigh the consequences; but when forming our judgement of the person who holds it, we should attach nothing to him but when he perceives and avows.
Quoted in the introduction to The Atonement Controversy, p. xxiv

Or as Scott Clark once put it:
My teacher Derke Bergsma always says, "Gentleman, when you go heresy hunting, be sure to use a rifle, not a shotgun."


Anonymous said...

And I would add, "Make sure that your 'group' is smaller and tighter than on the target on this post! Obviously, it must have been a Brit shooting. American conservative Presbyterians would have all rounds in the black!

Martin Downes said...

That's why I chose this picture.

As we Brits know, gun control over on your side of the pond means "being able to shoot with both hands."