Contrary to what many have thought, the primary meaning of the word, “objective” in The Objective Believer, does not allude to being “fair” or “unbiased.”
While I do, of course, try to be evenhanded in my content (who doesn’t?), there are more implications to the word, objective.
Vocabulary.com defines it as “based on observable phenomena”
Dictionary.com says that to be objective is to deal with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings.
Collins dictionary puts it this way:
Of or having to do with a known or perceived object as distinguished from something existing only in the mind of the subject, or person thinking.
The Objective Believer, then, is a description of this kind of external, fact-based analysis. I appeal to authorities that can actually be witnessed by an audience. The conclusions arrived at are observations anyone can make.
Something you can see or hear.
Something more than just internal logic or reason.
In other words, things that can actually be shown to be true as opposed to merely argued as true.
Those familiar with the OB have heard me repeatedly use the term, “falsifiable.” That’s what this is. If a claim is falsifiable it means that it can be demonstrated as true or false through observation.
It’s the difference between----say---actually seeing a Bigfoot versus merely debating their existence. Sure, an argument based on third-party testimony, or alleged, “footprints” can be convincing and even possibly true, but if a tall, hairy, and bipedal hominid could actually be observed, that would end the dispute.
The Thing About Mere Debate
To clarify, I’m not saying arguing and reasoning for a certain position is not a valid way to arrive at truth. In fact, it’s often the only way. By engaging in a dialogue, using reason and logic, two opposing parties can end up agreeing on what the truth is even if it’s not demonstrable. However, there’s an elephant in the room when it comes to this method: not everybody thinks the same way. What seems reasonable to one person, may not seem reasonable to another. Likewise, what seems logical to you, may not seem logical to me. So even if we both were to agree that logic and reason are the standard, the problem is locating where the rules of that standard exist in an untouched, objective state. As a result, what you often end up with when it comes to these sorts of claims are unending arguments with no clear, demonstrable winner because there is no clear, demonstrable authority to make that call.
Imagine playing a sport where there is no authority that decides the rules. Everybody is just going with their best judgment of what those rules are, or should be.
And here’s the thing: I know how to play that game too. Really, we all do. If the abundance of philosophy, religion, and denominations in the world has taught us anything, it’s that people from all walks of life can make an argument that is, on some level, logical and compelling. In fact, I often do this in my content to demonstrate just how easy it can be done.
However, after engaging in this type of debate format for more than 20 years, I’ve realized it’s mostly useless because of the absence of an authority means never figuring out who is actually right.
Some still may not be sure what exactly I‘m talking about, so here are a few examples of accusations that are not falsifiable that have been made against me over the years:
“You’re taking that passage out of context!”
For starters, it depends on what you mean. If by, “out of context” you mean I quoted only a portion of Scripture, and not the entire chapter, book, or Bible—-yes, that’s demonstrable. I have indeed, been observed doing that (although the next step would be to prove that there is something wrong with doing it). But if you mean something more like, “that isn’t the intent of the passage”—-in most cases I’ve heard this, it isn’t a falsifiable claim.
Can anyone provide a Bible verse that says, “the intent of this passage is X and not Y”? If not, how can I tell if the accusation is true?
Seriously . . .
. . . How?
I mean, you can offer a supporting argument that you think is both obvious and compelling---Maybe even common sense. But if I don’t find it to be any of those—-now what?
Again, think of the analogy of playing a sport without rules. You can argue what you think the rules ought to be. But what if I don’t see it that way?
“You’re twisting that Scripture”
One would first have to provide a quote of something I said that they felt was being twisted, then provide a Bible verse that says something like, “if someone claims XYZ (my quote) about a passage of Scripture, then they are twisting it.”
That would be verifiable. It would be observable.
But we all know those types of verses aren’t in the Bible. So how am I supposed to know your accusation is true? How do I test it? Don’t get me wrong, it may be true, but if all you have is an argument, and I listen and try to understand, and still don’t agree—-there’s nothing to be done. I can’t do anything with your claim. It simply does not ring true for me, as it does for you.
“You lack basic understanding of proper hermeneutics”
Once again, how can this be demonstrated? Is there a Bible verse that states what, “proper hermeneutics” is? If there isn’t, how can I test your claim? How do I know you’re not just upset because I said something you disagreed with?
There are lots more examples of these sorts of accusations (with new ones arising almost daily)—-all of which share the same characteristic: appeals to a vague, or subjective standard of measurement that cannot be pinpointed or observed and thus are untestable.
Did I Lie?
Some of you may have witnessed that in my interactions with critics, my response to their claims—-regardless of what they are—- is often just ,“if you heard me say anything untrue, please provide a quote.” I do this when it doesn’t appear that the criticism is in a testable format. So I’m attempting to coax the person away from vague or subjective claims, into making a criticism that is more easily verified. That way, I can actually benefit and learn from the engagement instead of beating my head against a wall trying to get to the bottom of what they’re attempting to convey and then trying to verify it.
I seek out feedback on a regular basis. I want people to show me where I’m going wrong. But I need a clear pathway to that end. Copious amounts of accusations that lack a clear criteria to measure them against, only leaves me wondering just how much of what is being said is coming from personal bias and unfortunately, does little to no good.
So, to my critics: I love you. I appreciate you taking the time to provide me with feedback. Am I going to ignore anything you say unless it’s falsifiable? Of course not. As I said, many times truth can be arrived at by other means. But after having these discussions for more than 20 years, chances are pretty good that I’ve already heard your argument. And I need something more.
Separating the Emotion from the Analysis