Think, Reason, Examine: Proverbs 18:17

The deluge of opinion in the modern era means that we need to be as careful as ever to weigh everything in the balance of justice and righteousness.

John 7:24  Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

As we all have at least the potential to be instinctive and emotional, we should be careful in not being persuaded too early by this or that point of view.

Remember the excellent proverb:

17 The first one to plead his cause seems right,
Until his neighbor comes and examines him.

Proverbs 18:17 New King James Version (NKJV)

The most persuasive kinds of opinions and points of view are not necessarily so on account superior argumentations. Very often we mere humans are persuaded by the sentimental or emotional tint that is cast over a position.

Having made that observation, I realise of course that we aren’t all nearly so gullible as to take in any old tale merely because it contains the ingredients of emotion and sentimentality, it takes more than that. What really gives these two ingredients their digestability is the add-mixture of plausibilty.

The plausibility of any position is like the finger that hits the button on the elevator of our minds, the bell dings, followed by the smooth sliding of doors opening up access to the mind.

Now, all of the above is to be considered when evaluating what we receive by way of news or opinion, but we must also evaluate the opinions and positions that we ourselves form and wish to be receieved.

We ought to be aware of the danger’s of not scrutinising what we deem to be a helpful contribution, especially when that opinion will be used to reflect someone we disagree with.

When it comes to issues in the church today (during the Covid-19 pandemic wherein conversation is rapidly turning vitriolic) this is especially concerning. And I suspect will do much damage, but with prayer, care, respect along with a spirit of fairness I’m sure we could minimise the casualties.

James 1:19  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

Notwithstanding the expected damage to be done on account of these collisions of opinion, we are still free (where we see it necessary) to make clear our position when it is being misconstrued or even innocently misunderstood.

In the following letter, printed in the Evangelical Times – UK, I am reading what I suspect is a general point of view of a great many Christians at this moment.

I make no accusation concerning this individual’s spirit of sincerity and their desire to honour the Lord. But I am not persuaded by the scenario posited in it:

I now take the author’s invitation to “imagine a situation“; and I imagine the news coming to the author that a dear sister in Christ has indeed died. I imagine her personal regret and sorrow that she has “in all probability been the cause of her infection and is therefore responsible for her death“. I imagine her Christian friends (which take her position on Covid-19) agreeing with her assessment, “that in all probability she caused her friends death by recklessly singing praise to God at the advised distance“.

But then I see another group of dear brethren, stirred with compassion that a sister is dreadfully tormented because she has convinced herself that in “all probability she caused her friends death“, these friends reach out as good servants of Christ desiring to weep with those who weep. Out of love they send a letter of truthful consolations, wherein they lay out some objective points intended to balance her self accusing notions and dispel at least some of her tormentuous self afflictions:

  1. It is not axiomatic that singing nearby would have been the actual cause of transmitting the virus. How many interactions with other’s could also have been the cause? Someone they spoke to or brushed past, shared a car with or train with (including family). Perhaps they were sneezed on, coughed on. Somebody shouted, laughed nearby. What did they touch? Books, sermon sheets, door handles? Did they use the same bathroom? There are countless interaction’s with the physcial world which could have transmitted the virus on that day or even prior days. How do you know it was you?
  2. The science is not clear at all on this so your level of surety that you are responsible is humble but not justified: This point was also stressed by Professor Adam Finn of Bristol University. “The evidence for a link with singing and spreading the virus may look compelling but is still anecdotal,” he said. “Without data from comparably large groups who interacted in the same way but didn’t sing, it’s hard to be certain that the singing was responsible“. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/17/did-singing-together-spread-coronavirus-to-four-choirs
  3. Coronavirus has been with us now for a long enough time for everyone to understand the risks involved in travelling, moving around society and interacting with people. Each person evaluates the risk on their own terms and they either opt to particpate or not participate in any given activity. If we believe the risk involved in attendance of worship or singing in worship to be too high, we would not be there – and everyone including the deceased knows this well in advance. The eldery ought to approach these matters much more sensitively, and those with underlying conditions are at much higher risk.
  4. Even in times were Covid-19 was not a factor, the deceased could have died through contracting Flu (proper flu that is). If a person dies from Covid-19 it is highly likely they were elderly or had underlying conditions, and we must be careful to distinguish between those who die with it and those who die of it. The survival rate in healthy people is between 99.5-99.9%.
  5. It is quite possible from the way it was described, that you both caught the virus on the same day from somebody else, therefore your certainty is unsubstantiated.

And thus we demonstrate how a plausible and emotionally inciting scenario does not necessarily consitutue a realistic one.

Christian’s are better served by a slower, methodical and realistic approach in working through objections and differences in the current climate.

May God help us remain patient and charitable, for Christ and His Church.

Pastor Philip Mallon

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