From the opening clip of a popular series that even today is presented on television, but decades ago was presented in public schools and colleges:
“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”
Now, from II Timothy 2: 24-26, the Bible gives us as Christians some instruction as to how we should approach those we wish to introduce to God:
“24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
Basically, it tells us to be gentle and careful in presenting a concept that is perhaps totally different than out acquaintance’s beliefs. But, another scriptural reference is directed at us, the Christians, to be careful of “gentle presentations of concepts” different from ours.
Colossians 2:8 reads: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”
The power and danger of assumptive language leads to a dangerous form of knowledge. Assumptions are received and believed without an open, conscious dialogue and if one accepts a statement, one accepts its assumptions as well.
In honesty, a lot of what you read above is almost directly from Chapter Two of The Truth Project. I cannot claim any of this as original thought on my own. But, we as humans readily accept ideas and use them later, many times without giving credit to our sources. Again in honesty, I must state that some of us may have issues with even remembering the original sources.
In our day, we see the reporting of different polls that have been taken. While they serve to give us an idea of the percentages of those polled who believe a particular concept, they also lead us down a dangerous path. We tend to search for a truth in regards to a moral or ethical belief.
One must be careful with that search for truth, and we must know the difference between morals and ethics. As R. C. Sproul explained in The Truth Project, morals are those beliefs that are “normal” as based upon how a society or culture conducts themselves. In America, a large number of people accept abortion as normal. Thus, it becomes “moral” because it is accepted because of what that situation “is.” By contrast, ethics looks at the same given situation with an eye towards discerning what “ought” to be, not what that situation “is.”
Therefore, polls are sometimes conducted with the intent of determining what is normal, not what ought to be. If we accept that “the majority” believes in abortion, it becomes normal, but not ethical. What is normal can be determined by might, either in one’s physical strength, one’s weapons, or even, what 51% believe.
Now, going back to Colossians, we are warned against being taken captive by philosophy, empty deception, traditions, and the “principles” of the world. That takes me back to the quote from the series, Cosmos.
That statement that the Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or will ever be is a good example of assumptive language. By making that statement, Carl Sagan was basically telling Americans and others that “there is no God.” As a humanist, he knew that if he were to make the statement in his opening dialogue that God did not exist, his series would never have been accepted. That is because at that time, there was a lot higher percentage of Americans (and other country’s citizens) that held religious beliefs.
We, as intelligent individuals, must be careful that what we hear is truth. With so many false messages from the news media, the liberal entertainment world, and even our schools and colleges, it makes it even more essential that we not accept a statement as a fact.
Thomas Jefferson gave us a quote that fits this topic. He said: “Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
I have long believed that when God created the world, He very well could have created man so as to blindly worship Him as He wished. However, He created man to have the ability to reason and to choose to worship Him freely and without force. Wouldn’t we all rather be surrounded by people who wanted to be with us, rather than have to be with us? We are made in God’s image, so it is not surprising that we feel that way.
So, in being careful as to believing what we see and hear, we are also to conduct ourselves so that others have the same opportunity to question what they hear. That is why gentleness and reason will have better results in seeking to further God’s kingdom than browbeating our subjects. And our caution in what we believe will prompt us to present God and His salvation to others in a way where they have the fuller understanding of what is offered.