Evangelical Shadow Games — Plato’s Cave Reimagined

I was in the shower a while back thinking about Evangelicalism’s newest boogeyman, Critical Race Theory, and I thought of this analogy. (Yes, being pelted with steaming hot water can have revelatory effects.)

Some of you will be familiar with the Plato’s Cave analogy, where reality exists outside the cave, creating shadows on the walls of the cave. The shadows are the cave-dwellers’ (i.e. us) view of reality—they have no concept of the 3-D, full color reality outside. Likewise, the world we see is a mere shadow of reality which exists outside of our view.

The Cave is an interesting concept. Now imagine the world of Evangelicalism, the post-Enlightenment, Modernist theological construct that Evangelicals call reality, is a cave. Along comes something called post-modernism, which starts throwing unwanted shadows as well as some light on the wall of Evangelicalism. Then along comes “emergent” or “progressive” Christianity, throwing more shadows and light. If that isn’t enough, an imaginary monster they wrongly call Critical Theory comes along, throwing even more shadows and light. The original shadows are being threatened. The Modernist evangelical cave-dwellers go crazy.

Evangelicals cannot deal with anything from outside of the cave. They must do one of two things:

  1. Retreat further into the Cave.
  2. Coax you inside the cave with them so they can argue with you about the shadows. Once that happens, you have lost, as you are no longer talking about reality, but about the 2-dimensional shadows of the cave.

This is why the responses to “progressive Christianity” and so-called Critical Race Theory that I’ve seen are complete nonsense. Much of it boils down to “it doesn’t fit in our cave décor, so it’s wrong,” or more simply, “it’s wrong so it’s wrong.” In philosophical terms, it’s a hodgepodge of fallacious reasoning, including strawman, generalization, false dichotomy, false equivalence, slippery slope, and the list goes on. Basically, it is the same collection of logical fallacies used to combat any other non-evangelical thoughts. Even if their arguments are technically valid (the form of the argument is logical), their presuppositions are flawed—so garbage in, garbage out. Everything eventually goes back to their foundational premisses which need to be challenged.

Here are some takeaways from my analogy and related thinking:

  1. I have, over time, developed an anti-Evangelical bias with, I believe, valid reason.
  2. The prime directive for Evangelicalism is to protect Evangelicalism at all costs, even at the expense of truth and the gospel.
  3. Don’t get stuck arguing about the meaning of shadows.
  4. Stay outside of the cave.
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