Saturday, October 30, 2010

Suppose We Presuppose

Presupposeto suppose or assume beforehand; take for granted in advance.

Presuppositions are sticky, slimy little creatures that really serve no beneficial purpose for a person. They're the product of emotional investment in a belief system or way of life where no basis of fact exists to substantiate it, and, ironically, they serve as the basis of fact to point to in demonstrating an individual who has surrendered his or her mind and exercise of thinking into someone else's careless and agenda-driven hands. 

Like I said recently - When you let someone else speak for you, you put yourself at a measure of risk. When you let someone else think for you, you're toast, the party's over, and any hope of personal growth ended when the last light was cut at the party. Scripturally, the best marker of spiritual growth is the ability to discern. When someone else is thinking on your behalf, you aren't even in the same area code as discernment.

Lately I've heard the term "worldview" about as much as I care to. Even better when "biblical" gets sacrificed on the altar in front of it. A worldview is a system of beliefs and all of the corresponding and correlating presuppositions it's built on. A "biblical worldview" is when a movement gives you the deluxe package: all of your beliefs determined for you, the vast majority of them raging and ignorant presuppositions, rules and formulas to live by based on those presuppositions, and a generous dose of proof-texting, cultural fear, and paranoia to serve as motivation. It's tied up all nice and tidy just like the full-service bundles from AT&T or Directv. When you adopt the "biblical worldview" of patriocentrics and neo-conservatives, you've surrendered the thinking part of the brain, and filled the spot reserved for growth and discernment with presupposition. Long story short - you're toast. Wherever you are now is as far as you'll ever be.

A few days back, my friend Kristen submitted a list of general presuppositions of Patriarchy/Quiverfull/Dominionism in the comment thread of this post. Her excellent list was as follows...

  1. No uncertainty is allowed in my world. I can control the outcome by pushing the right buttons.
  2. Everything has a place within a hierarchical structure of greatest to least. Knowing my place in it tells me the right buttons to push to control the outcome. 
  3. The way they lived in Bible times (specifically in the New Testament Greco-Roman world) is God's divine plan for how to live.
  4. There is only one "right" way to do anything. Pushing the right buttons (see #1) is accomplished by finding out what that is and doing it perfectly. 
  5. I am capable of doing it perfectly. Therefore it's my fault, not the system's, when it all falls apart.

I want to get particularly specific with #5 and break it down just a bit, because I believe there are numerous specific (and dangerous - not to mention ignorant) presuppositions to be found within the greater presupposition in #5, and much of the belief system is built on the foolishness and commandments of men found therein. Everything about the presups that Kristen lists points to a formulaic system of living, so let's examine it just a little...

All of the presups listed build up to and supplement #5. For instance, in #2, you see the first traces of role-playing. "All men are natural leaders who ooze masculinity. All women are natural homemakers who ooze femininity. This is God's design, and anything less is sinful and worldly." This is a foundational presupposition of this belief system and "worldview" - and it's a repugnant, snake-eyed lie

My former future father-in-law believed that the government was manipulating weather through airline contrails, having stood in my yard pointing it out to me in the sky - "Did you see that, Lewis? He just turned it on". The man is an ignorant idiot (trust me, I'm showing restraint). I wouldn't trust him to feed the dogs while I'm away on vacation. A leader? Are you freakin' serious? He's damaged or destroyed just about everything of potential merit that's ever entered his life... all because he's trying to live up to a standard the system dictates, a standard he's woefully incapable of living up to because he doesn't have so much as a drip of leadership capability. The system dooms him, and more disturbingly, all who look to him for "leadership", to failure because it presupposes his ability to follow the system perfectly. There's no contingency plan, no grace, for failure. That's why when young adults leave the system being at odds with it, it's a trainwreck. You don't leave this system, independently, without having to go through hell - hell created by "leadership".

The presups of the system and agenda don't play to the personal strengths of those whom it's imposed upon. It has no regard for them. The person is irrelevant. The nourishment and practice of the system is paramount, your strengths and weaknesses, your personal giftings, be damned. It's like a parasite that consumes the ability to discern. IT, and the greater cultural plan behind it, must live.

Look at courtship. Do you really think for a second that I'd have let that dude have a say in my relationship with his daughter? Yet, despite his total ineptitude, her family was forcing itself into the ridiculous role-playing that the system demands and saw courtship as the way to go. Courtship is nothing BUT presupposition. All of these young girls in these movements fantasize on the presup that someday "Superman" is gonna come along and sweep them off their feet, delivered in all of his Man of Steel glory through the process of courtship under dear old dad's watchful eye. More likely than not, the best courtship will deliver you is the Green Hornet or some other second-tier superhero, that is, if you're lucky enough to do better than a pushover of Pauly Shore caliber. If daddy can't control him, daddy puts the lime in the Coke and drinks it all up. Superman gets banished back to what's left of Krypton. 

Courtship, because of it's presuppositions, takes away the power of the Holy Spirit demonstrated in self-control and says, "According to the system, I will fail if you don't control this for me." You replace, entirely, the involvement of the Holy Spirit in the process of finding a mate with the involvement of mom and dad, because it presupposes, without any scriptural justification, that they're God's vassal of His Spirit in the process of finding you a mate. Stitches that veil right up, doesn't it?

By the logic and reasoning of neo-conservative Christian lifestyle and worldview, just because a quarterback takes the field for an NFL team he should be guaranteed to win the Super Bowl. I mean, he's a quarterback, right? I mean, by this logic, there's no difference in Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, right? (Those of you who follow the NFL probably just threw up a little bit in your mouths)

I know I may get angry emails and comments for saying this, but one presupposition that disturbs me is one I hear communicated by parents to children, in both secular society and the church community - "You can become anything you want to be and do anything you want to do if you try hard enough." To me, that's a cruel thing to tell a child, even though communicated by well-intentioned parents as encouragement. The simple fact of the matter is that a child, while ideally having the freedom, doesn't have the ability to become anything he or she might choose. I've always believed that genuine success was the result of ability and passion meeting opportunity. The fact is, there are very few instances in life where all three of those ingredients meet in a meaningful manner. Instinctive ability is something we have no control over. Instinctive passion is something we have no control over. Opportunity is something we have limited control over.

There are few people who can do my job. It takes instinctive ability. You can augment the instinct with formal training, but without the instinctive ability, the formal training is worthless. To presuppose that someone could become a studio musician with merely hard work and "want to" will in many/most cases end in disappointment for the person involved. Formulaic processes don't produce identical results.

In the recent link I posted to the valueofone blog, the poor young woman's father bases an argument on the total presupposition that the scriptures forbid a woman to leave the home. The scriptures are silent on the issue. By that same logic and presupposition, when I brush my teeth I'm doing something that the scriptures forbid, or when I wear a baseball cap I'm doing something that the scriptures forbid. He's letting the guy who invented his "worldview" think for him.

In the recent link I posted to the generation cedar blog, Kelly once again refers to marriage as being given to us as a picture of Christ's relationship with the church. While that's a nice thought, it's a total presupposition. When God instituted marriage, Adam and Eve were sinless. There was no relationship between Christ and the church then as there is now. Also, the husband is instructed to "leave and cleave". That's not a very good picture of Christ's relationship with His Father. They're one with each other. Always. No leaving. We have no record of God saying, "Hey Adam...buddy...You're gettin' ready to screw up bigtime, so, you know this woman I made? You and her are gonna be like My Son and you when He redeems you and some other stuff you'll never live to see. Understand? Clear as a bell?"

And people, please understand, I'm not devaluing marriage. I'm just not willing to worship it. I like to actually examine the substance of what people say before I jump on the bandwagon. I'd rather do my own supposing, pre or otherwise.

I could go on, but I've given you a lot to chew on and consider here already on the topic. I may write some more on this in the future. Lots of real estate to survey where presupposition is concerned.

Think about it. Whether you agree with me or conclude that I'm a flaming, blathering moron, use your mind to draw your conclusions. Please don't make me your presupposer.


  1. Once again, Lewis, you nailed it.

    I can't stand it when people make "biblical commands" out of something that's mentioned in the Bible when it's CLEARLY NOT a command, such as the whole malarky about a woman not leaving home simply because a girl was recorded in the Bible as living at home. *bangs head* These are the same kind of people that won't have a TV in their homes because they're staying away from the "appearance of evil" yet they'll use the internet. GAH!

    That's why when young adults leave the system being at odds with it, it's a trainwreck. You don't leave this system, independently, without having to go through hell - hell created by "leadership".

    This is SO true. I can attest to this from personal and very painful experience.

  2. omgolly gag!!

    "Courtship, because of it's presuppositions, takes away the power of the Holy Spirit demonstrated in self-control and says, "According to the system, I will fail if you don't control this for me." You replace, entirely, the involvement of the Holy Spirit in the process of finding a mate with the involvement of mom and dad, because it presupposes, without any scriptural justification, that they're God's vassal of His Spirit in the process of finding you a mate. Stitches that veil right up, doesn't it?"

    my dh was involved with the local church back in the day. one of his bestest guy friends lived this way with his folks and had a wedding where the father's spoke of how they found mates for their children. i cried thru most of the ceremony *tears* of sadness not of joy!

  3. I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy now because Lewis liked my analysis and also called me "friend."

    I think that the analogy Paul makes between Christ and the church and a husband and his wife is taken way too far. Where does the passage actually say marriage (and by that they mean husband in authority and wife following) is a "picture" of Christ's relationship with the church? Doesn't the passage say, rather, that if a husband will treat his wife like Christ did the church when He gave up His power and position and laid Himself down in humility, in order to raise her up -- then the marriage will realize just a little of what Christ feels and does for His bride?

    The real problem is that these people have authority-on-the-brain, and they see everything through those lenses. It's all about who's in charge and who isn't. Presupposition #2, in other words.

  4. Hi Lewis,
    I just wanted to add to your comment on that faulty parental presupposition (You can become anything you want to be...). Patriarchy won't allow this presupposition to be applied to their girls or women- only perhaps their males. Females are generally at a disadvantage emotionally. It assures dependence- physical, emotional & spiritual on men who are not necessarily able to even grow into such a huge responsibility (especially considering how fast a family can grow in size).
    I'd be interested to know the collapse rate of these women. I know I was pretty close to a complete breakdown.
    My presupposition for the day? A lot of people buried their faith in the graveyard of presupposition.

  5. This is fantastic. Fantastic.

    So my brother (the VF lover) was here when i read this and I asked him if he liked courtship and he goes "Yeah, I DO!" So I read him what you said about courtship. He goes "Well, I guess you could attempt to make a case for that in certain circumstances." He went on to basically say that when your child is a child you need to make the decisions FOR them and when I asked him "what about when they are adults" he just sort of waffled.

    At the end he goes "Well, you just raise your kids however you want and we'll just see how they turn out."

    I don't know whether to cry at him or laugh so I just told him "And I'll be mailing your kids books about spiritual abuse." Not my best moment. :P

    ANYWAY, the things he brought up are things all parents struggle with, that's why they are so susceptible to this courtship thing. The other day my brother mentioned how he never "wanted anything bad to happen to his children/whoever."

    I didn't say anything but inside i was disagreeing. Of course, my instinct is to protect and I know I will to a certain extent, but as my children grow I know they WILL experience pain and I am okay with that - my focus is not on protecting them from pain but preparing them to deal with it. I've had a terrible breakup and plenty of hurts but the person who has caused me the most pain is the wonderful human I married. :)

    I hate the unrealistic expectations the whole courtship thing promotes.

    I could say more about the rest of the post - it was all fantastic - but this is a book already. :)

  6. I am curious what you would replace telling a child that "you can be anything you want to be if you try hard enough" with? It has never occured to me that that could be potentially damaging. I was raised with no options or encouragment to be anything other than a "stay at home daughter until my parents died or I got married." Any hopes, dreams or inclinations of mine that didn't fit in with this were sinful and wrong. I have always sworn that if I have children, I will let them know and enourage them that they can become anything that they wish to become.
    I'm wondering if what you are really saying is that parents shouldn't project what they want on a child and tell them they can become it if they try hard enough...

  7. Kateri...Maybe a better way for me to say it is this...

    I think it's wonderful for parents to provide the freedom for children to discover, nurture, and pursue their personal giftings, but I think it's misleading for a parent to suggest to a child that they have the instinctive ability and giftings to become anything they wish.

    For instance, telling a child who has an IQ of 85 that he (or she) can become a rocket scientist for NASA is equally as cruel as telling him (or her) that he's not allowed to. Both lead to disappointment.

    I'd think the wise thing for a parent would be to assure children that they have the parent's full support and encouragement in discovering their giftings and pursuing their individual path, that the parent doesn't expect or require them to fit into a certain mold, and that the love, support, and encouragement of the parent isn't, and never will be, based on success or failure.

  8. Lewis,

    I may toss some ideas here on presuppositions later, but had one right now for marriage being a picture of Christ and the church. We need to be extremely careful when we deal with analogies that are given to us in the bible. The reason is that there are so many pictures, analogies, metaphors, that describe the relationship between God (and Christ is God) and his people. Analogies break down at some point. Taking any one of them and running with it can cause some serious problems.

    For example, just off the top of my head, I can think of the following such relationships: Christ is bridegroom, church is bride; Christ is head, church is body; Christ is Lord, we are servants; Christ is vine, we are branches; Christ is master, we are slaves; Christ is teacher, we are disciples; God is God, we are his people; Christ is shepherd, we are sheep (individual); Christ is shepherd, we are flock (community); God is father, we are children; Christ is elder brother, we are adopted brothers; Christ is temple, we are stones; WE are temple, apostles are foundation, Christ is cornerstone; Christ is hen, Jews are chicks; Christ is heir, we are co-heirs; Christ is body, we are members...

    I'm sure I'm leaving a few out. But one of the main points of the whole thing is that husbands are supposed to love their wives like Christ loved the church. Taking every thing out of a metaphor you can, and applying it to one situation is dangerous. The reason there are so many pictures of the relationship between God/Christ and his people is that it really can't be defined in its entirety. The pictures have limits. They are only "like" the reality. They should all be taken together to realize how vast it is. My 2c.

  9. The idea of telling kids they can be "whatever they want to be" has always bothered me, too, for the very reasons you submitted in your post and in your follow-up to Kateri.

    We have a family friend who recently had to break it to his 15-year-old son that he is never going to make it to the NBA. Not only does he lack the height, but he lacks the talent.

    The dad was a lttle heartbroken to have to do it, but also a little angry at the teachers who have been telling kids from Kindergarten on that they can be whatever they want to be.

    I also appreciated the point you make about presuppositions. Good stuff, Lewis!

  10. What? No hate mail? LOL I'm so relieved.
    Carry on. =)