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Noble Sense and Reformation

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By large-hammer - Posted on 07 January 2003

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.

Marcus Booker

large-hammer's picture


I'll clarify for you.

The distinction between noble and common isn't between a select priestly few and vast ignorant multitudes. I'll explain further...

My argument against "common sense" is that there really is no such thing. What is "common sense" within one given paradigm is nonsense to another. "Common sense" shifts as paradigm shifts. If preterism were the reigning paradigm (as I suspect it will be), our conclusions would be obvious to even the most basic reader. Our understandings would be "common sense" even to those who glance casually at the Scriptures. Yet a distorted paradigm will make the Scriptures inaccessible even to brilliant minds. A smart Mormon approaching the text will be at a decided disadvantage (because of faulty paradigm). The terms and categories in which he has learned to think and operate are defective. He has inherited a dead-end system of thought. He must labor diligently to overcome it (finding sparks and clues along the way), and it is rare for even the most brilliant to do so.

Indeed, a person's paradigm will dictate what is "common sense" to them (and what is nonsense).

So...derivation of the truth isn't all about being "educated" or "smart." Plenty of dispensationalists and preterists know the biblical languages and have the Scriptures nearly memorized. Something else distinguishes between them, and that is paradigm. And paradigm is inherited; it is basically given to you.

You mentioned something about the bible being "designed" to be understood by the large masses of people. In a way, that is true. Yet in another way, it is untrue. I'll explain myself.

It is true that the writings were meant to be understandable within the language and historical context in which they were written. They were hardly cloaked messages for the original audiences, who would have thought in similar terms and shared the same experiences and heritage as the Scriptural writers. Some parables in their spoken form may be difficult, as delivered to the disobedient. Yet the parables as included in the highly revealing context of the gospels are not at all meant to be hidden from the audiences of Matt, Mark, Luke, and John. But Peter even acknowledges that some of Paul's writings were hard to understand. Even so, I will grant that the meaning would be natural to the original audience.

Yet because of different background, experiences, and history these same writings are not always as understandable for posterity. Even the once common biblical languages are inaccessible without a translator. So you are unable to understand the Scriptures in their original form without help. And some idioms and thought patterns might be foreign to modern audiences. It might take a scholarly investigation to bring those things out (and all Christians should endeavor, to whatever extent they are able, to be scholars in the Scriptures). Otherwise, when I see Peter's dissolution of the heavens and earth, I might not view his words in a Hebraic/covenantal context. I'd totally miss his meaning. There are countless similar examples. You might say that there is no such thing as "face value." It is a myth.

This meaning might have been easy and natural for the original audience, but foreign to us. We must delve into the language and thought patterns of the Scriptures. We must transport ourselves into their historical context and setting. Otherwise, we'll be lost.

Marcus Booker

large-hammer's picture

Preemptive Clarification:

I didn't mean for my article to be a response against Melanson's earlier article called "A Little Common Sense." I was looking at the sight and realized that it might be so construed. My argument was very general and widely applicable.

Also, I agree with Melanson that John 17 does not disprove or negate the preterist-rapture theory. While I vigorously disagree with that theory for many reasons, I wouldn't base my argument against it upon John 17.

Marcus Booker

Virgil's picture

Marcus, I understand your objection to "common sense" approach to Scripture, but I cautiously disagree. Would you say God "designed" the Bible to be understood by the large masses of people, or by a few people that would be educated enough to do so, and then they go out and explain the meaning of the Bible to the masses?

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