If There’s a Slippery Slope, Then Jesus May Be Leading Us Down It

slipper-slope-Christian

The fear of the unknown has been a powerful force for Christians over the years. If you let go of a particular doctrine, welcome a particular person, or adopt a particular belief, THERE’S NO TELLING WHERE IT COULD LEAD!

It’s amazingly effective for several reasons:

  1. There is no way to effectively dispute the future. It hasn’t happened yet.
  2. It doesn’t actually engage an idea or its implications for the present.
  3. It aims to keep listeners reliant on authority figures and gatekeepers for protection.

I’ve used the slippery slope argument myself in the past.

One day in seminary we were discussing Christian unity, and I mentioned my horror over a theoretical “liberal” Christian teaching my child’s Sunday school class. “THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!!” There’s no telling where a liberal teacher could lead my children…

My professor, who had a good bit of conservative Baptist in him, pushed me to rethink my fear-based logic.

A good ten years of living with the Gospels has helped me see how unhelpful it is to live by fear in the first place, to say nothing of asking who or what we’re supposed to put our faith in to begin with. Didn’t Jesus say he was leaving his followers with peace after all?

If we are interacting with anything, be it theology, a social issue, or a political cause, from the position of fear and uncertainty about sliding down a slippery slope into the great and potentially terrible unknown, let’s at least ask if we’re using fear to excuse ourselves from engaging with ideas we’d rather not face. There may be times when a bit of caution is warranted—for instance, my personal alarm bells go off if someone starts treating the Trinity as optional or suspect.

All of that to say, if there’s a pattern to the Gospel stories, it’s Jesus leading his followers down one slippery slope after another.

You can’t glean wheat on the Sabbath… who knows where that will lead!

You can’t forgive a cripple’s sins… who knows where that will lead!

You can’t heal on the Sabbath… who knows where that will lead!

You can’t forgive a woman with an adulterous past… who knows where that will lead!

You can’t heal a Gentile woman… who knows where that will lead!

 

Things continue along similar lines with the early church.

You can’t preach to the Roman soldiers… who knows where that will lead!

You can’t convert Gentiles without making them Jews first… who knows where that will lead!

 

It’s one slippery slope after another in the New Testament. So the issue isn’t how to avoid all of the slippery slopes.

We need to figure out which slippery slope Jesus is leading us down.

Jesus gave us a few clues about these slippery slopes:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35, NRSV

 

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.”

Luke 6:43-44, NRSV

 

How do we produce good fruit and become loving people, then? I can think of no better metaphor than Jesus’ teaching: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15).

The logic of slippery slopes is this: Stay close to certain beliefs and practices, avoid certain beliefs and practices, and then you will stay close to Jesus.

The vine and branches logic is this: Stay close to Jesus and then you’ll know which beliefs and practices to hold onto to and which to avoid.

I remember several women from my days in a fundamentalist church who were the most sincere and loving prayer warriors I’ve ever met. If we tried talking about Bible translations, atonement theory, politics, and who knows what else, I’m sure we’d all go a little crazy these days. However, there was unmistakable fruit in their lives. You felt loved when you met them. They were connected to the vine.

You could say there’s a family resemblance among those who understand they are the children of God. They’ve been transformed by the common love that flows from the Father, Son, and Spirit.

We all hope and pray that we’re on the same page as Jesus, and I’m sure that we’ve all got something quite wrong about him. If there’s one thing I hope I am closer to getting right than not, it’s this idea of slippery slopes.

If Jesus was all about keeping people from sliding down slippery slopes, then he did a terrible job of it. If anything, he blatantly broke the Law or at least rejected how his contemporaries interpreted the Law.

Jesus led his followers down a slippery slope where the law of love and the law of the Spirit trumped the particulars of the written Law.

There aren’t letters bold and all-caps enough for me on this. People had chapter and verse support for opposing the ministry of Jesus. The literalists of his day found his ministry deeply troubling and obviously opposed to the purposes of God.

It was a slippery slope toward love and Spirit.

It was a slippery slope away from boundaries and external rules.

It was a slippery slope away from written laws to the law being written on our hearts.

Jesus slipped down to the center of God’s love that has the power to transform us, to lead us toward holiness, and to fill us with more than enough love to pass on to others.

Perfect love drives out fear, by the way…

So whatever is going on around us, love provides a steady foundation. When we are rooted and grounded in love, we can gladly slide down any slippery slope. Perhaps those things are actually what’s sliding away after all, while we remain fixed in the love of Christ.

This is why Paul writes:

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit,17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 3:16-19, NRSV

When you are rooted in the love of Christ, you’re (ideally, at least) less reliant on authority figures and laws that tell you what to believe, what to do, or how to stay safe. The unknown will always be unsettling. That is why our best bet is to rest in the one who has already overcome the world.

 

 

30 thoughts on “If There’s a Slippery Slope, Then Jesus May Be Leading Us Down It

  1. Very true that when he left the disciples he gave them his ‘Peace’ So, why all the fear? Its because we take our eyes off him. I am learning more and more that the Gospel of grace is always on a slope, just when you think you have it all levelled up, it throws you down another slope. Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, I saw this blog on Twitter! Thank you as this is something I needed right now. I live by listening to the Holy Spirit and half the time I do not get why I do half of what I do. It makes no sense. I find myself doing these things when I sliding downward. Again, thank you much! Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The only reason the examples you give of the slippery slopes Jesus led people down during his earthly life don’t seem slippery or slopey today, is because they are part of our everyday faith (if not part of our everyday practice!) Thanks for reminding us how dangerous and against the rules they were in his day. I have always responded to the the slippery slope argument in the past by saying, “There is no slope, just individual decisions.” Trash that! I am going with your response.

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  4. In a season of the church where we often do feel like we are sliding down a slippery slope this blog post is a much needed read! Yes, there are those of us who are sliding down at great speed with big grins on our faces and others who feel pushed down against our will… both need to remember to let go of fear and cling to Love. It seems that the only way to graciously land after sliding down a slippery slope is to always cling to Love. Thank you for this!
    ❤️Ann

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Slippery Slope: Gay marriage could open the door to legalized polygamy, incestuous marriage, pedophilial rights, bestial unions….

    Slippery Slope: Do not play in the middle of the street, it may lead to…

    Please understand that a slippery slope is a fallacy only if it is unreasonable to think that other detrimental things will ensue.

    If one holds to a worldview that embraces relativism, then perhaps none of this is a big deal.

    For those of us who adhere to a worldview that is characterized by absolutes which include the inherent immorality of certain actions and lifestyles such as: lying, adultery, pedophilia, bigotry…., such slippery slopes are a big deal.

    You speak much of love. Agape love is the chief virtue of the Christian life. This biblical agape love is described for us in I Cor. 13 as a love that rejoices in the truth. Not a truth. For those of us who believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that homosexuality is a sin, we hold that to enable, encourage, and endorse is the very epitome of that which is Unloving. Thus, opposite to Christ’s ethic. This seems to me to be what you are endorsing.

    I am glad that you brought out Christ’s dichotomous admonitions contained in His concluding remarks of the Sermon on the Mount. The defining characteristic which distinguishes between those who ultimately end in destruction and those who enter into life (2 paths, 2 prophets, 2 ways of life, 2 foundations) is that of hearing and obeying His truth. Our lives are built upon very real foundations of truth or lies. What we believe does bear upon the decisions we make, and those decision do bear very real (temporal and eternal) consequences. To continue on such a path in life is indeed a slippery slope that is non-fallacious, yet does end in rather long-lasting and uncomfortable environs.

    I will close with a loving plea to the author to please cease in his misleading practice of proof-texting. We all know that when one removes certain texts from their immediate and greater contexts, he or she can craft all kinds of twisted doctrinal tales.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Did I use the word “homosexual” in this post? I’m addressing an overall mindset and approach to scripture, not a particular doctrine/issue/etc.

      Also regarding proof texting, I provided links where the entire passages can be read in context. I trust my readers to dig deeper and disagree if they like. You yourself cited 1 Cor 13 just as I cited John 15. Did you do something different or better? I await your (most likely) lengthy reply that will most certainly demonstrate how to NOT proof text.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Ed, thanks for sharing this thoughtful post. I agree with your concern with where the fear-based mindset can lead. 🙂

        As far as Wade’s reply …..he may have been reading this post as a sequel to your previous post. That’s not a stretch, I don’t think. I think you should engage him on that specific issue, in lieu of this post (in your defense, you could say you played your cards in the previous one)? One of your arguments against slippery slopes is “[they don’t] actually engage an idea or its implications for the present.” I hear you that you’re addressing an overall mindset, but in context, it did seem to me like you were “laying a book open on the coffee table” hoping certain people would walk by and read. If you know what I mean?

        Personally, I felt like you were a bit condescending to your brothers and sisters in Christ when you bothered to point out those ladies were “fundamentalist.” Your graciousness seemed fake. Like, “Readers, I know you will find this hard to believe but EVEN FUNDIES can have love (shocking)!” I sincerely apologize if I misread you. Perhaps it’s my issue. We don’t know each other. But that is what I heard.

        A question I have is, what does “slippery slope” actually mean? When is it valid, and when is it invalid? And who decides? By your own admission, tampering with the Trinity is one (Amen!). So essentially, a slippery slope is good if we agree with it’s concerns, but is wrong if we disagree? Technically speaking, isn’t there a slippery slope behind all of the good of God’s creation, as a by-product of the fall? In fact, wouldn’t it be true that this very post contains a slippery slope–that someone would misunderstand it to teach a “rule” that, discernment and rationality aside, all “slippery-slope” talk is fear-based and therefore always wrong?

        Perhaps it all comes down to what we believe about how to interpret Jesus’ words. Both He and the Apostle Paul had plenty of warnings about imposters and those who would come *in His name (so apparently, they don’t even believe themselves to be deceptive), yet He will reject them for their lawlessness (Matt 7:23). That gives me pause.

        Peace, my friend

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I used the word “fundamentalist” because they would have chosen it based on their adherence to the “Fundamentals.” Quick context: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fundamentals

          Also, I want to be charitable here, but your question about what a slippery slope actually means either avoids or missed the thrust of my post. Just to be clear: “The vine and branches logic is this: Stay close to Jesus and then you’ll know which beliefs and practices to hold onto to and which to avoid.” He is the God of the living, and the indwelling Spirit that guided the early church in the formation of the biblical canon (hello Catholics!) is still able to guide us into the truth today.

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    2. I think the main difference between yours and Ed’s viewpoints could be summed up with the answer to the question “what is the Word of God?” You said it was the Bible, I think Ed would say it’s Jesus. Jesus IS what God has to say. Follow Jesus and your Christian faith will be a journey down the slippery slope towards God’s heart.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is possibly the most dangerous thought on this entire page.

        “What is the Word of God?”

        It is BOTH Jesus and the Bible, and suggesting that you can pick and choose one or the other is horrifyingly dangerous.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. In the book of Acts, the Council of Jerusalem, the apostles gathered before the Lord to consider a slippery slope. The scriptural reply was…”it seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit.” They relied upon their understanding of scriptures and the leading of the Spirit. You cannot seperate the interpretation of scripture or the leading of the Spirit to an individual interpretation. The definitions are intrinsically tied to the COMMUNITY of faith. You cannot have orthodoxy without it. In the gnostic environment of today where everyone does what it is right in their own eyes and in many cases tries to make God in their own image, it is dangerous not to and very important to actually do so, submit slippery slopes to the COMMUNITY of faith and not individual experiences and perceptions of moments in time. Just some perspective on how the COMMUNITY has handled slippery slopes before and will handle them in the future.

          Liked by 1 person

    3. I appreciate what the author is trying to say, but I think you (Wade) are the only one here that actually understands the slippery slope fallacy.

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  6. Reminds me of a post I wrote not long ago, entitled “The Slippery Slope of Compassion.” Caring for others and listening to their stories is dangerous in fundamentalism because it challenges deeply entrenched beliefs. But that’s what Jesus did. 🙂

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  7. This is exceptionally well stated and beautiful. You have successfully articulated why fear should not be the guiding force. Thank you.

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  8. “THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!!”

    Yep. Experienced that firsthand when those in charge of interviewing candidates for church membership wouldn’t even interview a woman simply because she couldn’t agree with the church’s stance that homosexuality is sin. She wasn’t gay. She went through the process to become a member because she desired to be a part of the church, but simply because she couldn’t agree on that one point, she wasn’t even granted an interview and I remember one person worrying that she might want to teach children. Such a sad experience

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      1. No, she was a straight woman, who with her husband, wanted to join the church. So, not even gay. Just had a different view on homosexuality.

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  9. There are posts I like, posts I love, posts that make me think, and posts that are so true and real I wish I had written them myself. This is one of the latter.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You make a compelling and well-rounded argument, and if you assume that all “slippery slope” situations are the same and devoid of any potential doctrinal issues, then no one can possibly legitimately dispute your argument.

    Problem is, the “slippery slope” argument is not always so easily defined, nor is it only relegated to obviously one-dimensional non-doctrinally challenging issues.

    Loving others as Christ loved the Church is important. Ignoring the Bible and what it explicitly states is NOT a good idea.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. But Jesus’ opponents had chapter and verse argument to support their perspectives.

      I’m not saying we should pick and choose scripture. I’m saying we pick and choose. Jesus picked and chose. Heck, God saying, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” is picking and choosing to a certain degree. And if you are picking and choosing without the guidance of the Spirit, who inspired scripture in the first place, then you’re in trouble.

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      1. These discussions are interesting. It appears that you play semantics with the phrase “slippery slope” to challenge the reader to think for him/her self. I do believe this argument is misplaced suggesting that Biblical criticism of Pharaisees, etc is a challenge to the “slippery slope” or “fear”. Your definition of “slippery slope”, I believe, is wrong. Consider:

        “The logic of slippery slopes is this: Stay close to certain beliefs and practices, avoid certain beliefs and practices, and then you will stay close to Jesus.

        The vine and branches logic is this: Stay close to Jesus and then you’ll know which beliefs and practices to hold onto to and which to avoid.”

        My definition would be that ‘slippery slope’ is the understanding of where a current action will lead in the future. Though the current action may make sense in the context of the moment, the obvious repercussions will be detrimental….. For this reason I do disagree with your conclusions and would suggest that your scriptural references are out of “context”. I do not wish to be critical and hope you understand my comment as one Brother to another….”Iron sharpening iron”!

        Thanks for sharing.

        Mark

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  11. Skipping over the debate here in the comments, I am simply taking away a great reminder that living from a place of fear is not what God has for us. Perfect love casts out fear and Jesus is that perfect love.

    When it comes to all of the negative places that slippery slopes can lead, I don’t think those destinations change the idea that we are to proceed in all things from a place of love rather than fear. And that is not my forte! Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. In the book of Acts, the Council of Jerusalem, the apostles gathered before the Lord to consider a slippery slope. The scriptural reply was…”it seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit.” They relied upon their understanding of scriptures and the leading of the Spirit. You cannot seperate the interpretation of scripture or the leading of the Spirit to an individual interpretation. The definitions are intrinsically tied to the COMMUNITY of faith. You cannot have orthodoxy without it. In the gnostic environment of today where everyone does what it is right in their own eyes and in many cases tries to make God in their own image, it is dangerous not to and very important to actually do so, submit slippery slopes to the COMMUNITY of faith and not individual experiences and perceptions of moments in time. Just some perspective on how the COMMUNITY has handled slippery slopes before and will handle them in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, according to God’s holy written Word. Jesus, God’s Word made flesh, said He came to bring peace, but not peace as the world gives. He came to bring peace that passes all understanding. Jesus also said He did not come to bring peace, but division.

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  14. The slipperiest of all slopes? Eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Wow, where did that take us? Another? Rejecting God’s offer of peace with Him through His Son.

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