What is a False Antithesis?

Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church - D. A. CarsonI wasn’t aware of the logical error of a ‘False Antithesis’ until I read D.A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church.  It is an error that I know I have been guilty of, and an error that I am becoming keenly aware of in others through conversation, reading, etc.  It is an error that can cause one to think two things are in opposition to each other when they really are not.  It is an error whose consequences are not small.

Well, what is a false antithesis?  Despite its fancy name, it is actually quite easy to understand.  Consider this example: say you are talking with someone about confronting another person in sin; you are encouraging this particular person to move ahead in faith and confront someone who they know is living in unrepentant sin.  Their response to your encouragement, however, disarms and befuddles you: they say, “It’s hard to know what to do.  I don’t know if I should confront them; I mean, I just don’t want to be unloving.”  They, ever so subtly (and probably unwittingly) are creating a false antithesis-they are setting truth and love in opposition to each other.  This person is afraid to tell another person the truth because they are afraid that it would be unloving to do so.

The reality, however, is that truth and love are not in opposition to each other and therefore this person is creating a false antithesis.  The most loving thing this person could do is tell the sinning brother the truth.  I’m sure you could think of several more examples.  I know I have said, when considering my future and my financial situation, things like, “I want to act in faith but I also want to be wise.”  See, when I talk like this, it demonstrates that I believe that faith and wisdom are in opposition to one another; it’s either act in faith, or act in wisdom.  Can you see the folly of such thinking?

Or, have you ever heard this one?  “Our church needs to be more into discipleship-not just evangelism.”  Again, what’s the problem?  The problem is that any true evangelism will be intensely concerned about discipleship because evangelism is itself a call to discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20).  It is a false antithesis to set them in opposition to each other.

So what should we do with these false antitheses?  To use the words of D.A. Carson,

Damn all false antithesis to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ (234).

No uncertainty there!  If we find a false antithesis in ourselves, or observe it in another, let’s be quick to examine ourselves (Matthew 7:1-5) and then proceed to help our brother or sister think more clearly and not separate those things that were always meant to go together like truth and love, faith and wisdom, discipleship and evangelism.

[For more on this, I would highly recommend Gunner Gundersen’s article, I Don’t Want to Preach at You.]

6 thoughts on “What is a False Antithesis?”

  1. Not only is truth the kindest, most loving gift we can give self and others, but God also gives us another reason to confront a brother or sister who is continuing in sin. His Word says, “If you see a brother sinning and warn him not, then his blood will be on your hands; but, if you warn a brother and he does not repent, then his blood is on his own hands and you are free; but, if he does repent, then it is to your glory.”

    I did paraphrase that scripture. Nevertheless, I remind myself of that whenever such an issue comes up; for there is no way I want anyone’s blood on my hands, which is to say I’ve become responsible for not having warned a brother of sister continuing in sin. It truly is our responsiblity to share God’s Truth and to judge within the church, which means to warn those continuing in sin. So, it’s not a judgment of condemnation, it is a judgment of warning.

    Thank you, Derek, for posting this faithful article. :)

    Love in Christ,
    http://bonnieq.wordpress.com
    Truth Seekers and Speakers

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Derek. It’s very helpful to identify and nail down this fallacy. I think you hit the nail on the head at the end of the post when you said that in instances where false antitheses are being drawn, we need to “think more clearly” and help others do the same. In other words, we should condemn false antitheses (as Carson says) because they undermine and twist the truth, and we should also be mentally rigorous in the pursuit of biblical harmonization. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to say that these two (both condemning and harmonizing antitheses) aren’t in opposition to each other. There are few processes that give me more insight into the truth than being forced to wrestle long and hard with seemingly divergent principles in the Bible. And there are probably few processes that lead me to acknowledge more my dependence on the Spirit. Thanks for a thoughtful post, brother.

  3. Yo D, Thanks for the insight from Carson. We are studying through 1 John and he uses antithesis a lot. If anyone wants to see some examples of true antithesis chapter 2 is full of them. Keep up the encouraging blogging!

  4. Hey Derek, I’ve just read through all of the blogs you’re posting, keep it up! I especially enjoyed this one. I had read through this book a while back but did not really remember this part about antithesis, which is pretty helpful. It is good to know that truth and love do not contradict one another, but instead compliment. Hope you have a great week.

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