Correcting a friend: On the approach

Any reflective person should be in the habit of looking inward (which is linguistically at the core of introspection), and I have done this at least enough to come to terms with the fact that I am a very analytical person. (Some day soon I may write about the foibles a naturally analytical person can fall victim to, as sort of a self-help posting for all of us analytics out there.) In turn, I am aware that this personality trait affects how I deal with situations and with others; a prime instance of this is my job, where analytical/logical skills are supremely helpful for the work I do (technical problem solving) but where the effects of my analytical personality can rub the wrong way on coworkers who are not so inclined (and one in particular likes to remind me regularly and with not a little bit of disdain how analytical I can be).

As with any traits that affect one’s daily life, I must choose how to deal with it. Being analytical is not something I feel about which I should be apologetic (in the original sense of the Greek apologia, that is: I feel no need to defend myself about it), and so I must make an effort in my interactions with people to be aware of how my analytical nature can be conducive to communication as well as detrimental. My purpose in writing this is to flesh out how I can use this to my advantage and avoid the obvious pitfalls – if only for my own sake, although I hope that someone else (even those who do not self-identify as “analytics”) will understand.

Recently, my wife Courtney and I have become closer friends with a couple a few years younger than ourselves who are planning on getting married in a year or so. There is an odd similarity in some ways between myself and the fiancé and between my wife and the fianceé, which ranges from eerie to just amusing. One such way between this fellow, Michael, and myself is an interest in theology, and so the discussion sometimes turns to matters of Scripture and – although it is never explicitly mentioned – the hermeneutical approach. Our better halves aren’t much for the conversation, for the most part, simply because that’s not where their interest lies.

In this discussions, I have become acutely aware of some poor logic in the reasoning Michael has presented to me. He’s four years my junior, so I’m not being overly critical about his intelligence in general (I was no better at his age, really), but I have held back from being completely honest about the downfalls in his reasoning. One such error is one that I see quite a deal in Christian circles, the no true Scotsman fallacy; this manifests itself primarily in soteriological discussions, where it is used to exclude self-professing Christians who abandon the faith or fail to do some seemingly vital aspect of the redemptive process (in this case, baptism) – thus, these people were not “true Christians” or “not really saved in the first place.” We have good reason to question this type of ad hoc reasoning, even though it is (as stated) a fairly pervasive fallacy.

After reflection, it occurred to me that this is a shirking of my responsibility, both as an older individual (if one still holds that age can bring wisdom) and as a friend, to keep him from going astray (as the original Latin root of error dictates). I am not doing so out of spite or neglect, though; I have been fighting the urge out of what seems to be tact and an urge not to offend. But as C.S. Lewis once noted, progress is not made by continuing down the wrong road; it is better to tell one’s friend that they are going the wrong direction so that they might turn from their errant ways and start down the correct road. I am doing my friend no great favor by letting him continue in propagating fallacious ways of reasoning, neither for his own personal knowledge nor for our mutual cause – the advancement of Christ on earth.

So I must strive to be more forthcoming with my friends, in love as the Scriptures dictate. How I will accomplish this (if I do) is unknown to me, but it is something for which we all must strive. We must be as Jesus said: shrewd as serpents, but gentle as doves.


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