Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Slipping and Sliding...

The following rant brought to you courtesy of an unfortunate email exchange I recently endured. The subject matter of said email has been avoided in the rant below in order to avoid it being spilled out onto my blog…..

I absolutely abhor the “slippery slope” argument that some use to “prove” their point. The basic idea of the slippery slope argument is that if you take some liberty / engage in some activity, etc it will ultimately lead to something much more egregious and sinister. For instance, embracing certain music forms (such as Sovereign Grace Music) will eventually lead you to sympathizing with the most profane forms of music (just so long as the “message” is good) and ultimately to an complete abandonment of any discernable separation from worldliness. Obviously this form of argumentation is nuts. The inadvertent effect of one making the slippery slope argument is that the thing with which they disagree isn’t wrong, per se, it will just lead to some erroneous position down the road. Like I said…nuts!

While I fully support boundaries and rules, I think that often we attempt to make hard and fast rules where we don’t necessarily have to. I guess it’s easier to make a rule than it is to teach a biblical principle coupled with discernment in application. The application of the “slippery slope” argument caused my quite a bit of consternation during my childhood and young adult years: Listening to music with a pronounced beat would cause me to worship Satan. Holding hands with a girl would cause us to have sex. Wearing shorts would cause some innocent girl to lust after me – this would lead to premarital sex. A girl wearing pants would cause me to lust after her – this would lead to wicked thoughts and a broken relationship with God. Going to a “G” movie at the theatre would cause someone who saw me going in there to abandon Christianity. Not wearing a coat and tie to church would cause me to abandon all forms of separation from worldliness in my dress and conduct. One sip of wine would lead me to alcoholism. Missing one morning of personal devotions would cause all sorts of problems…God would punish me for it throughout the day until I got “back on track”…after all, if I didn’t have devotions this morning I was completely out of God’s will.

Not all of those examples necessarily fit the “slippery slope” mentality, but I was on a role! You get the point though….bizarre and unexplained leaps of logic to “prove” that you ought not do something that I don’t like. Recently I’ve heard more of these “slippery slope” arguments (although some are disguised). At times the argument is simply, “Embracing Calvinism is part of the slippery slope”. At times the argument goes more like, “The problem with Calvinism is that it eventually leads to a denial of the inerrancy of Scripture”. Either way, the slippery slope argument leaves out important details. In one form you aren’t told where the slippery slope lands you – you just know that you’re on it. In the other form you are told that “A” always leads to “B” without any explanation or proof….even if “A” and “B” seem to be completely incongruous!

In fundamentalism the slippery slope argument is almost always applied to matters of “personal liberty” or matters where the Bible is silent or vague. In most cases where the slippery slope card is tossed on the table a solid biblical principle will be the stake in the pot. Again, it’s the application (or misapplication) of said principle that is the issue.

To be completely honest, I’m willing to be corrected when I’m shown to be wrong. I’m willing to concede that my point of view might be incompatible with what the Bible has to say when I’m shown so. All I ask is that you demonstrate to me where I’m wrong. If you utter the words “slippery slope” you will lose me every time.


Doug Gallo said...

Well stated Ellis. Similar to losing every argument as soon as you bring Hitler into it to prove your point.

Don Johnson said...

You know, it was Hitler that first came up with the slippery slope argument...

Just kidding. Very weak joke.

I think there is some merit to the argument, but it isn't so much that any specific individual or individual church that is on it.

It is more of a "movement" kind of notion. The early new evangelicals were orthodox - very much so - in their theology. But they made philosophical compromises. It appears that the movement they spawned tolerates continuing compromises such that you have a worsening mess in evangelicalism these days. Yet the early leaders maintained their orthodoxy (for the most part) right to the end of their lives.

So while it is true that one individual decision or departure from a norm (real or perceived) is not necessarily going to mean that particular individual will decline into utter misery, it is also true that if a lot of people start making those kinds of decisions, some will go further than others and successors may also go much further than the first generation.


Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ellis Murphree said...


We both know that you brought an inner tube to the slippery slope ride so that you ride down it quicker.... :)

Ellis Murphree said...


Thanks for the comments (and the joke wasn't that bad!).

while there may be "some" merit to the argument, it just doesn't tend to hold water in most circumstances. Some groups that shifted from an acceptable, biblical, conservative ministry philosophy and embraced another biblical, less conservative ministry philosophy have certainly slid into theological compromise. But not all. In other words, action A doesn't always have to lead to action X.

Just because a certain group embraced a certain thing and ended up residing in full, liberal compromise doesn't mean that that "thing" leads there. What led there was sin coupled with a departure from clear biblical teaching.

Regarding the "subsequent generations go further than this one" statement, I think that underscores the importance of having a philosophy and approach that is firmly rooted in Scripture. It also underscores the importance of discernment....

Marty Colborn said...


Baby and bathwater again! There is such a thing as a slippery slope, is there not? and there are things that to do them would lead to, or at least put one in danger of, falling into sin, are there not? So, just because someone might say "You are on the slippery slope," does not necessarily mean that what follows is incorrect, does it?

There are a number of things that we warn young people about, that by beginning that activity in any form they are in danger of violating some direct Biblical command or principle.

I have heard the slippery slope argument used in a good way, as well as in ridiculous ways, but that doesn't mean that I won't countenance anyone who uses that phrase, which (though I might be mistaken) it seems you are intending.