Truth and Slippery Slopes

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A recent discussion with a thoughtful Christian made me think about slippery slopes.  If you are a conservative or come from a conservative background, you know about slippery slopes.  In fact, you probably fear slippery slopes almost as much as you fear car accidents.

The slippery slope concept goes something like this.  If you start changing your mind (normally in a more liberal/progressive way), you will start down a road where you compromise a bit more and more until you are a flaming liberal.

Does this make sense? Yes.  Does it happen? Yes.  Everyone who reads this can tell a story about someone this happened to.  We see it happen to churches too.

But here is the problem.  Our goal should not be to avoid slippery slopes.  Our goal should be to seek truth–God’s truth.  And those two goals conflict with each other.

Think of it this way.  Imagine that we are all climbing a mountain seeking truth.  Truth is the pinnacle of the mountain and it takes work to get there.  People are trying to arrive at the pinnacle from all sides of the mountain because of different backgrounds, cultures, and biases. 

Unfortunately, few people reach the pinnacle.  Some people get to a certain level and then start down a slippery slope.  Others are scared that they will have the same fate so they decide it is better to dig in where they currently are rather than taking the risk of climbing all the way to the pinnacle.

Which is worse–digging in and sticking with a flawed position or falling down a slippery slope?  Well, neither is very good.  God wants us to know truth.  Finding truth takes work (Bible study, prayer, reason, and experience) and it involves risk.

Now, here is where things get sticky.  If you are dug into a certain position, can you assume that anyone moving away from you is on a slippery slope?  How do you know that they are not simply moving closer to truth while you stagnate in your flawed position?  In other words, if you have not arrived, how do you know if others are moving in the right direction or not?

I suspect that most of us conservatives feel comfortable digging in to avoid falling off the mountain.  Don’t be that way.  Seek truth even when it is uncomfortable, lonely and inconvenient (it will be all of these things).

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Latest Comments

  • Glenn

    Hey Greg –

    Agree with the last sentence completely, and will keep all comments about how different neoconservatism is from classic conservatism to myself.

    :)

  • Nathan Stecchi

    Hey Greg,

    I’ve grown to cringe whenever I hear the statment about “slippery slope.” Most often because it was mainly used in the direction of liberalism. I like your analogy to the mountain to where the pinnacle is truth to which we should never stop trying to attain. I believe that the slippery slope goes both ways – Conservative and liberal.

    I find the statment “If I’m going to err, I want to err on the side of conservative” to be quite contradictory to the purpose behind the statement. In the event that someone is trying to be conservative or “better” they don’t even realizing that they are still “erring!”…which no matter how you look at it, it’s still wrong. :)

    Kudos to your thoughts today. I think I’ll be checking in more.

  • Daniel Lamb

    I’m not sure anyone or any church ever reaches the true pinnacle of truth until we are united with Christ in person. The problem, then, is that most if not all chuches who have, as you describe, “dug in” to avoid slipping down slippery slopes think they have camped out at the pinnacle of truth, and do not see the need to change to be more Christlike. O that God would deliver us from our arrogance!

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