Biblical basis for a "slippery slope"

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by ColdSilverMoon, Aug 12, 2009.

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  1. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    In several discussions lately, especially on the deaconess issue, the idea of avoiding a "slippery slope" from debatable behavior to clear sin has been advocated by multiple PBers. In the deaconess discussions, people have made the case that women should not be deaconesses in order to avoid going the way of the PCUSA and eventually ordaining women as elders and pastors. In the recent nudity thread, people said that if we accepted viewing nudity in an anthropological context, it could lead down a slippery slope to outright p0rnography.

    While I understand why these arguments are made, I'm not sure there is a clear biblical basis for shunning certain behaviors to avoid a slippery slope. Some might say Jesus hinted at a slippery slope in the Sermon on the Mount when He said to cut off your right hand or pluck out your eye to avoid sin, and Scriptures are filled with admonitions to avoid temptation at all cost. But I'm not sure this is a true slippery slope, and if it is, it certainly can't be generalized to everyone: what may be a temptation for one person may not be a temptation for his neighbor. Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners and did not sin, yet for others this might have proven to be a major temptation to sin and would have started a slippery slope to sinful actions with those people.

    In addition, one could argue that avoiding certain permissible behaviors to avoid a slippery slope is the start of a slippery slope in the opposite direction that leads to legalism. I have argued in the past (not on here - many years ago) that a single sip of alcohol could be the first step to a life of drunkenness, debauchery, and addiction. Yet few on the PB would argue that we should abstain from alcohol entirely to avoid a slippery slope to sin, and would likely accuse those who do advocate abstinence as legalistic or at least fundamentalist (in the BJU sense).

    So, I suppose the discussion topics of this thread are twofold:

    1. Is the idea of avoiding certain permissible actions in order to prevent a slippery slope to sin biblical? and,

    2. By avoiding a slippery slope to sin, don't we run the risk of starting down a slippery slope to legalism?
  2. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor


    Do you consider yourself a disinterested inquirer in the deaconsess debate? Honestly, I would like to know how you view yourself.

  3. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    A year ago I would have considered myself fairly ambivalent, but since I've learned more I think non-ordained deaconesses should be allowed if the practice is approved by the individual session, or at least the presbytery. I think deaconesses are allowed by Scripture and indirectly by the BCO, though I think there are sound arguments to the contrary.

    However, this thread isn't intended to discuss the deaconess issue specifically as much as slippery slope arguments in general for any position.
  4. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    Thanks Mason!

    I was merely interested in your understanding of your own position, as this would affect how I would respond to your original post.

  5. Idelette

    Idelette Puritan Board Graduate

    Hi Mason,

    I think you have a great question here, and I'm waiting to hear some of the responses.....I just wanted to clarify something since the above was a reference to a comment that I made. When I mentioned "slippery slope" it wasn't in the context that anthropology could possibly lead to prnography.....but it being a slippery slope in the sense that we as believers begin to measure our moral standards by the cultures and contexts around us rather than by God's Word! I'm not looking to bring this topic up again....I just didn't want to be misquoted, that's all!
  6. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I'd say that Proverbs is full of slippery-slope type of admonitions. For example:

    Prov. 5:8 "Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house."

    There is no particular law I know of that prohibits you from walking past the door of a strange woman, but you see it presented as good advice.
  7. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    To piggyback on Victor's excellent point, it should be pointed out that something may be wrongly labeled "slippery slope" when in reality it is merely recognizing the logical conclusion of a certain premise. The premises of Proverbs are 1. Man is a sinner, and 2. God's law is the only right way to live; therefore, if you consider yourself as less than a sinner, or that God's law is NOT the only right way to live, then you are a fool.

    Avoiding her doorway falls under recognition of your depravity.

  8. JennyG

    JennyG Puritan Board Graduate

    See 1 Tim 6 v11 "But thou, O man of God, flee these things..." [and]
    2Tim 2 v 22 "Flee also youthful lusts..."

    These both sound (in context) like exhortations to avoid slippery slopes.
  9. Zenas

    Zenas Snow Miser

    Can't go get passage right now but I'm fairly certain also of a verse which advises a man not to take in the smell of the perfume of a woman, presumably to avoid falling into lustful thoughts and subsequently into lustful actions. Otherwise, why the warning?

    Off the exact topic but still relevant to the subject, I've heard arguments made using the history of apostate denominations in favor of being wary of doctrinal shifts; that looking at the history of the PCUSA, et al., apostasy did not happen over night, but was a series of compromises that began with a small change in course and ended 150 years later with an apostate denomination. While this is not a Scriptural argument, it is a historical argument.
  10. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Contemporary examples:

    Did God surely say? = NPP
    Yea, and so much more. = FV
  11. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    If I understand correctly, a slippery slope argument holds that "if you do x, sooner or later y will inevitabye follow." It seems to me that distinctions must be made.

    If x is sinful, then Paul's principle that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Corinthians 5:6 and Galatians 5:9, interestingly in opposite contexts of libertinage and legalism; Paul plainly saw both as sin) governs the matter: we can't even have a little bit of x, because it is intrinsically wrong, and like all wrongs, will bring others along with it.

    If x is not intrinsically sinful, then it is a matter of wisdom whether it will constitute a temptation to y or not.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2009
  12. CalvinandHodges

    CalvinandHodges Puritan Board Junior


    I wondered about the verse in Scripture, "A little leven leveneth the whol lump." The slippery slope fallacy seems included in there.


  13. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor


    Are you stating that Holy Scripture contains a logical fallacy? I think I am probably misunderstanding you.

  14. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    I'd say it's probably Scriptural as well. How many zillion admonitions are there to study and apply and love and enforce the statues, judgments and laws? That terminology seems to cover all the bases, so one should ask "why?"

    I had lunch with an elder emeritus in the PCA who'd come from the PCUSA the other day, and he told a friend and I about why he left the PCUSA. They'd allowed a gay to be a member, and someone brought a church case against the leadership, but the Presbytery just ignored the case.

    They'd ignored their constitution (at the time, a gay couldn't be a communicant member) for so long that no one cared about the church constitution. This is precisely what is happening in the PCA today.

    I've posted before that just this last Father's Day a Pastor from another NorCal PCA church told the congregation of Trinity Presbyterian in San Luis Obispo that they had been disappointed in the one conservative elder there, and read a whole list of why he was/had been a problem in NorCal. The charges were basically that he wasn't a liberal, and he wanted the church to follow the Book of Church Order. And no one did anything. Many of the young men were vaguely mad, but none lifted a finger. One simple letter would have put that interfering Pastor in his place (eventually) but no one did anything.

    So there's a living, breathing example of the slippery slope being practiced right now, right in your own denomination. "If you ignore the BCO on one issue, then you'll ignore it on another, and it won't stop until your church constitution means nothing at all". (Tim's quote that he just made up, but feels is on topic).

    You may very well be right in that Scripture allows women deacons, but rightly or wrongly, today in the PCA all deacons have to be ordained, and only men can be ordained. If this is to be changed, well and good. But do it decently and in order otherwise, well, it's a slippery slope out there.
  15. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    I was confused by this as well, but I think he is arguing against the idea of a slippery slope argument. Rob, help us out here...

    -----Added 8/12/2009 at 07:50:41 EST-----

    I agree, Ruben.

    I suppose my next question would be, does the slippery slope argument not hold if it is a matter of wisdom? Should we always avoid x if there is any possibility whatsoever it can lead to y?
  16. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    If it's a matter of wisdom it seems that it will vary from situation to situation. An overused example is that in one case it is the only sane and prudent thing for a person to completely abstain from intoxicating beverages: in another instance, not so much.

    But with "possibility" I think you have to distinguish again. There is a possibility that someone who understands Italian and has a chequered past will come into my home, hear a snatch of opera, and be tempted to petty larceny because he always listened to Rossini while driving the get-away car for a team of international jewel thieves. But opera doesn't directly incite to larceny (though it may incite fast driving, as a study of Wagner aficionados found).

    That's where Tim's valuable post comes in: we have seen neglect or distortion of the BCO before, and that hasn't turned out well. The connection is clear, and the history is easily accessible. The BCO may well admit of change, but there is a process to that change, and that process does not include neglecting or reinterpreting the BCO while waiting for the desired change to occur. In other words, the fact that this slope is slippery is empirically verifiable.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2009
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If drinking leads to drunkenness then, why is there a PB pub?

    If smoking leads to addiction and ungodly abuse of health if over-indulged in anything more than very minute quantities, why are there many posts on cigars here on the PB.

    I bet many who are advocating the slipper slope are also smokers and drinkers.

    When Eve was decieved, the first thing she did was distort God's Word. She replied that she was not to eat NOR even touch the additional sageguard due to the slippery slope argument.

    We are not to be more lax than Scripture, neither are we to be more scrupulous than Scripture.

    Slippery Slope argumentation is not the same as nuance regarding hard issues.

    For instance, in several churches that I know, in reaction to the issue of many churches ordaining women as pastors/deacons, these particular churches hold over-restrictive positions regarding woman. Pretty much, women are not to utter a peep. This is due to a fear of modern trends in egalitarianizing the genders, but it is a reaction...and most reactions occur due to fear of the slippery slope, and so ignore nuance and try to make things artificially black-and-white, even in the face of nuance.
  18. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Some scriptural references:

    Psalm 73

    v. 2,3--"But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."

    v. 18: "Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin."

    Deuteronomy 32

    v. 35--"Their foot shall slide in due time." {the text for "Sinners in the hands of an angry God"}.

    The lesson is that due to our sinful nature, we can tread in slippery places, sometimes unwittingly. As God's children, we pray for insight and discernment, i.e., that His Word be a light upon our path so that we not stumble down the slope to destruction, as will the unbeliever. Further, what may not be sinful in itself, could very well cause another to stumble, as Paul wrote.

    So to directly answer Mason's question, I believe the idea of "slippery slopes" is grounded in Scripture.
  19. JohnOwen007

    JohnOwen007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Two things we must watch about using the slippery slope argument:

    [1] We are attempting to predict that something may occur, which can be very difficult to do given it hasn't happened. Hence, it's important to look for precedents elsewhere before being too confident.

    [2] More importantly, if we OVER-react to something, it's highly likely that there will be an equal and opposite reaction. The end point is then two extreme positions that are unduly polarized that doesn't do anyone any good.
  20. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

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