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Noble Sense and Reformation
by Marcus Booker
Because history has repeatedly invalidated it, I have always despised appeals to the ever-mystical reality known as "common sense." Such appeals play off of the ignorance of the masses and trump up what is supposedly "obvious." Indeed, isn't it "common sense" that if you simulatenously dropped both a huge stone and a small pebble from the same height that the boulder would strike the ground first. Aristotle thought so, and "common sense" verified his claim. Common sense also said in the year 1900 that heavier-than-air manned flight was impossible. Yet again, "noble sense" defied it! Because history has repeatedly invalidated it, I have always despised appeals to the ever-mystical reality known as "common sense." Such appeals play off of the ignorance of the masses and trump up what is supposedly "obvious." Indeed, isn't it "common sense" that if you simulatenously dropped both a huge stone and a small pebble from the same height that the boulder would strike the ground first. Aristotle thought so, and "common sense" verified his claim. Common sense also said in the year 1900 that heavier-than-air manned flight was impossible. Yet again, "noble sense" defied it! Indeed, the sense of reformers (whether in science, government, religion, etc.) has always risen above the "common sense" prevalent in their day. Through trials and eventual vindication, the new sense rendered the old ignoble and obsolete. The civil rights movement is an excellent illustration of this outworking.
After that courageous movement, the "common sense" and prevailing white supremacist views of centuries past is now almost totally eradicated from the public sphere. The old view is now limited to small town holdovers who join their local chapters of the KKK. These men are popularly regarded as ignoble (whereas their views were predominate just decades earlier).
[Note: not all changes are progressions and advancements. Some changes and movements are regressions or movements in the wrong direction].
Appeals to "common sense" are merely appeals to reigning assumptions, which may be faulty assumptions based upon ignorance. So there really is no such thing as "common sense," except within a predominant system or school of thought. Indeed, "common sense" does not reach across differing schools. What is "obvious" within one school may be totally absurd within another. It's as Paul says: The things of the spirit are nonsense to the natural man. Those who compelled the nations to be circumcised in the flesh viewed Christ, the new covenant, and the [real] circumcision as bunk. Likewise, some subschools within dispensationalism may view bar codes "obviously" as the mark of the beast. They sit in wonderment at how it's not apparent to others. Their view makes sense to them but is nonsense to everyone else.
Within a school (or perspective or worldview) there may also be subschools. And even within subschools each individual may be a school unto himself (unless he is of one mind and purpose with others).
Yet what is most often forsaken in discussion and debating between schools is a real understanding of the other person's way of thinking. It is typical for two people from differing schools to argue at length with one another without making any progress whatsoever. The problem: they argue based upon their own assumptions. They assume that the other person shares a foundation with them which that person, in fact, may not share at all. Thus, they evade or fail to encounter the root of the disagreement. The result: nobody makes progress in the debate, and anger ensues.
The way to eliminate this pitfall is to utilize the other person's system and demonstrate its fatal flaws. To accomplish this demonstation, you must show their system to be inconsistent, inaccurate, incoherent, inadequate, or otherwise unacceptable for them. To this end, you might emphasize anomalies that defy their system. [Mercury, for instance, was an anomaly for Newtonian physics]. Sometimes a sudden single anomaly is powerfully detrimental, as was the Wright Brothers' first flight. Yet an anomaly is not usually enough, for people do not abandon their system until it becomes totally incredible or a laughingstock in the public forum. People will often acknowledge some acceptable imperfections in their system, but not complete failure and blatant disproof. They might admit the anomaly and trust that there must be a credible explanation within their system (that they simply have yet to discover). So, to be convincing, you must reveal within their system a crisis, or a series of crises, that eventually build up and becomes so detrimental to them as to require them to doubt their school (and maybe to abandon it altogether). Their system must fall under immense weight and break when it is unable to bear the load. This crisis must amount to consistent failure and disproof; one anomaly will rarely do it.
Yet it is nothing to overturn something without an alternative. And the alternative has to be something. Since people are rarely satisfied with having no theory whatsoever on a given subject, there can be no permanent vacuum. And it is best to fill this vacuum with a superior scheme that satisfactorily explains the anomalies and crises that were so problematic to their previous system. This new way of thinking must put an end to their unrest and confusion.
Your school must come to the rescue at the precise places where their previous system left them flat. It must solidly hold up to scrutiny and answer the same questions and solve the same problems that shattered their old system. The problem with the law of Moses was sin, death, and condemnation (from a broken covenant). In Christ was the solution to this dilemma.
Once their system betrays them, you should offer to them, in its stead, the superior system (as a whole). Once broken, they are finally in a position to forsake past assumptions and to be more receptive of new and compelling views. This breaking process may not occur all at once, yet the brokenness is necessary to some degree for you to be able to make any headway. You must break down to build up.
Pride, emotional attachments (and time investments), friendships, ignorance of the subject matter, and other baggage from their old system may hinder their progress. These you must undo. Yet, in so doing, you must offer a viable alternative. You answer pride with humility, emotional attachments with reason, friendships with true brotherhood, ignorance with knowledge. You may have to carry and nurture them, but with patience you can set them on the right path.
So, history has time and time again vindicated noble sense, while dashing common sense to the dirt. And knowledge of this outworking in history leads to perseverance and patience with those of common sense, who vigorously oppose reformation. For we know that the Jerusalem and Temple of opposing views will be brought down, even as it had in the first century. The night never remains forever. In the end, those who patiently wait will see the light of day. Upon this principle you can rely.