Straw man applications

Straw Man

When I was studying philosophy (the first time around) one of the biggest errors one could make was to argue against a philosophical position that no one actually holds. This is called a straw man fallacy. These are really tempting to fall into as everyone wants to sound smart and vanquish an alternative idea but, if no one actually believes the idea you’re knocking down then you may as well king hit a dead dog.

So I’ve been thinking recently about some sermons I’ve heard recently from College students. They weren’t bad talks, in fact some of them were pretty good. Top exposition, informed structure, considered doctrinal implications. But what I noticed was that even though they were speaking to a congregation that they could know a fair bit about, they attacked easy targets in application. It is a fair call to say that prosperity doctrines aren’t really a huge struggle for Moore men. I’m pretty sure the Chappo boys aren’t reading the prayer of Jabez at the moment. The listeners will cheer with you as the stick the boot in but will they be challenged to change the parts of their lives that the passage does uncover as struggles?

What I want to know is how do we prevent ourselves from diving for easy application?



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7 responses to “Straw man applications

  1. katierae

    my question is how has the preacher applied the passage to his own life??

    running with your prosperity gospel example – its probably fair to say that it isn’t an issue for the guy preaching either…. so what application has HE gotten from the passage for himself…. and why isn’t he preaching about that?

  2. Applying the passage to ourselves first may help.

  3. Something that was once taught to me was that application must come from your exegesis of a passage.

    But I would like to know what you mean by “easy application”? Do you mean, “therefore, do look at porn” type of application even though that’s not the main point of the passage? Is that what you mean?

    But also, just thinking, propserity doctrines may not be an issue for Chappo boys, etc, but greed and materialism may be issues that we are not aware of.

    Your thoughts Box?

    • steveboxwell

      Thanks for the thoughts so far guys.

      @ Stan, when I say the easy application, I mean the obvious target application. The application that no one in the room would struggle to implement. It is about always shooting at the bits of our armour that are strong, without ever finding our weak spots. I’m not meaning weak application where you don’t exhort anyone to anything much or general application where you say “trust God” and we are left without a clear picture of how to do that.

      @ Kate and Anton, I agree that application to self should be the obvious starting point. But how do you ever interact with worldview in application. There may be significant shifts toward Jesus that you’ve made that others are yet to.

      It is a tricky business!

  4. Oh, I’m sure Gauci’s got the prayer of Jabez somewhere prominent in his room 😉

  5. Steve, what a great observation. I’ve found that in my own life, the way to dig deep and apply a passage in a way that’s more than skin deep, I need to spend an extended period of time in the passage. Not 8 hours one day, but mull over the passage over a week. Go jogging and ponder and pray over the passage. Talk to people about it. Consider the different people I’m preaching to, and how this passage might apply to them. Nothing revolutionary, but when preparation (or consideration of application) is left to the last minute, it’s easy for the application to get compressed into the obvious, and perhaps irrelevant (at least for the people we’re speaking to).

    Perhaps we need to spend less time in exegesis, and more time in considered, prayerful application?

  6. I’m just about to listen to Keller’s talk on this so I’ll try to remember to come back and post what I learn.

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