Didactic and Dialectic Thought

We’ve discussed in the past pseudo-scholarship — those with Ph’d’s and other titles claiming to be knowledgeable, yet making basic errors in deduction, reason and logic. Many of those “scholars” make absurd errors, all while sounding scholarly. One reason for those errors stems from didactic versus dialectic thought. Stay with us for a bit as we discuss some terms, but you’ll quickly see how these conflicting ideas cause considerable problems for the church, as well as the world at large.

OK, what’s with the $2 words? It’s a vital issue to understand if you want to comprehend current events, find trends, and find out what’s really going on. Two different methods of drawing conclusions exist, and while most people believe analyzing facts to arrive at a conclusion remains the proper course, those might be surprised upon discovering a completely different method frequently appears — one ignoring facts as it needs to.

  • Didactic analysis involves facts and deduction. It’s what most people understand to be logic.
  • Dialectic analysis involves consensus and discussion to arrive at a conclusion.

If you’re older than 30 or so, you’ve grown up with didactic thought — analyzing a set of facts to draw a conclusion. Different people may disagree on the conclusions or analysis, but facts are facts, and definitions don’t change.

But if you’ve been recently educated (you’re younger than 30 or so), you’re likely trained in dialectic thinking — using discussion and group-think (even if it’s a small group) to arrive at conclusions. Facts may or may not be used, and definitions and concepts shift as required to fit the conclusion.

For example, we’ve discovered people equating the definite article “the” with the indefinite article “a”. When pointed out the difference between definite and indefinite articles, the claim comes they’re equivalent and interchangeable — classic dialectic thought process as definitions change and shift as needed (for the record, “the” means singular [specific item], while “a” implies one of perhaps many. If they’re equivalent, why call them two different things?). For the dialectic process, definitions don’t matter, as they shift as needed.

A similar occurrence happens with atheists — by definition, atheism claims there is no god. But of course, that makes no sense as the only way you can claim there is no god is if you have all knowledge, thus atheism becomes trapped by absurdity.

But we’re seeing many people calling themselves atheists actually use the term in an agnostic way — agnostics don’t have a reason to believe in god, or say we can’t know, or no evidence exists, while the atheist makes the bold assertion no god exists. Again, dialectic thinking rescues the illogical position of the atheist, who subtly shifts definitions to suit their purposes. After all, the dialectic atheist says, if other atheists misuse the term that way (discussion and what the group thinks), it must be acceptable.

Consulting grammar and the root of the words proves them wrong:

  • a-theism — without god (theism)
  • a-gnostic — without knowledge (gnosis)

The atheist states there is no god, while the agnostic doesn’t have a reason to believe, as they see no evidence for god. Again, if atheism equates to agnosticism, why do two words exist with different roots? Only dialectic thought can equate the two and rescue the atheist from the absurdity of his position.

Didactic methods appear in science — math, physics, computer science, chemistry and so on, while dialectic methods appear in philosophy, psychology, history, literature and similar areas — if you’ve read Orwell’s “Animal Farm” you’ve seen the dialectic method in action.

As Miss California Carrie Prejean found out, one area the didactic versus dialectic appears is in the “tolerance” arena. When asked a question she gave an answer, but not one pleasing to some. True tolerance means everyone is entitled to their opinion, and we’ll debate and discuss with respect. But as Carrie Prejean found out, dialectic tolerance shifts — the tolerant crowd displays extreme intolerance toward her, all the while claiming otherwise. How do they act so contradictory? They’ve used dialectic reasoning to redefine tolerance.

Young people (about 30 years old and younger, or those spending extensive time in education, especially in English, history, philosophy, psychology, or similar) have been trained in the dialectic thought process — building consensus, agreement, ignoring facts when needed, shifting definitions, and so on. Very few individuals recently educated understand how to draw conclusions from a set of facts the way their previous generation did.

Instead, it’s group-think, value relativism, and shifting terms as needed as dialectic thought becomes more common, and absolutes are abandoned.

Of course, dialectic thought equally infects the church, as Christian terms such as Jesus, resurrection, hell, and even satan change in dialectic tactics to change Christianity from standing for something, to something which falls for anything. How many different winds of doctrine blow through the Church? From the Toronto Blessing, to the Emergent Church, the purpose driven life, and more — they all have one thing in common — using dialectic thought to change meaning, either to better meld with the world and it’s views, or to avoid those pesky areas of the Bible which remain stubbornly clear.

It might surprise you to learn many pastors don’t hold to the virgin birth, reality of hell, existence of satan, inerrancy of the Bible, the rapture, literal return of Jesus, and many other basic Christian doctrines. They may sound orthodox — even using the same terms — but they don’t mean the same as they use dialectic thought.

The question for the church is simple — when did God’s Word become insufficient? When did it become irrelevant? And why abandon the absolute of God’s Word for the shifting sand of man’s wisdom?

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