Thursday, February 16, 2012

Convictions, Opinions, and Absolutes

So, I know the title to this sounds kind of philosophical, and I guess this post does tend in that direction. It isn't too bad, though, I promise. After all, most of us live out our day- to- day lives based on some philosophy, whether we ever thought about what it might be or not.

I've been thinking about this for a while in the context of... yup, you guessed it, motherhood. I know, that seems to be all I write about nowadays. I guess it gets kind of all-consuming when it is not just your job, but your life!

Anyhow, here is what I was thinking. Often I hear people talk about their convictions. I do it myself- pretty often, actually. One mom has a 'conviction' she should stay home with her kids instead of working. Another mom has a conviction she should home school her kids in order to really train them up for the Kingdom. Another might have a conviction that she should become a doctor or nurse or teacher.

Now, let's back up a minute and talk about absolutes. Absolutes are things that are there and true no matter what you and I believe about them. The grass is green whether you like it, believe it, or have ever even seen it, or not. (God is the same way (not green, I just mean His existence). That is another topic I won't delve into right now, although it is the reason why the "whatever- religion -works -for- you" philosophy is completely unreasonable!)

Let's say then that I have an conviction that the grass is actually purple (my favorite color). I may believe with all my heart that the grass is purple, but it is a false conviction- because it just isn't.

Here's where I'm going with this. Actually, never mind, I don't know where I'm going. I'm still trying to sort this out. I believe convictions are absolutely essential and good. And, of course, absolutes are outside of us and our convictions and opinions because they are true no matter what. But where I get confused is: shouldn't convictions be based on absolutes? Maybe not. After all, I'm not naive enough to think that what works for one person or family is necessarily what works for every person or family. On the contrary, I am well aware that such thinking can lead to legalism, condemnation, and arrogance.

However, I still get confused. If a Christian has a conviction that he should home -school or use a Christian school for his kids (as an example), and he holds that conviction because he believes that public schools teach a doctrine contrary to Truth and Jesus and that children are too young to discern such contrary messages, then does that not hold true for ALL Christian children? It SEEMS like it should, but I can not say that I'm convinced of it...hence my confusion. To be logical, it would seem that what is true (an absolute) would lead to a conviction that is based on a truth. It would follow that everyone would hold that conviction, if they stopped to think about it. Like I said, though, I am wary of legalism. I've seen the damage it can do so I do not make that statement. Philosophically, however, it seems like a logical conclusion to make. If it IS the logical conclusion to make, then someone has wrong convictions because contrary convictions on the same topic would not be able to coexist as true.

Another example, somewhat extreme, might be the wearing of skirts (for women). If I believe (which I don't) that pants on a woman are immodest because they show off her backside, causing all men to stumble, then don't I HAVE to believe that all other women who wear pants are being immodest? Even if I say that I don't impose my conviction on others but just am convicted of it myself, how can I hold it as a strong conviction unless I believe it is based on an absolute truth that would necessarily HAVE to make it true for everyone?

Now, let me be clear by repeating again that I do NOT think that the same things work for everyone. I just don't know where to draw the line.

For me, the trouble comes when I think about things like staying home with my kids or Christian education (in some form). If I have a conviction that I need to do one or both of those things for my kids, but then I go on to decide that my decision is not based on an absolute truth, then it just becomes a matter of opinion, doesn't it? And, guess what? I lose the strength of my conviction and it weakens considerably to 'just my opinion'. I have troubles with that.

So, like I said, I'm not sure about the whole topic. What things are absolute and true, no matter what our convictions or opinions are? They exist, of course, lots of them, but what are they? What things are true for some people but not for others? What are they based on if not absolute truth? What is just a matter of opinion and what is worthy of being called a conviction?

I don't know. Any thoughts on how you have reconciled these things in your own life? Do share!


  1. I don't have a reconciliation. I am just brainstorming here...

    but are there some truths that are different for different people? Obviously the big truths, like God's existence, is outside of people. Therefore, big truths are universal for everyone. However, can we be convicted of a calling to work in a certain area or do certain things? Those types of convictions would be based on the 'truths' of our strengths and talents, right?

    "Little" things like talents are individual. Otherwise everyone would have the same job. Can conviction be based on the abilities given? Or are all convictions based on truths outside of ourselves? I am not sure how that relates to staying home with kids or education.I know nothing about how home-schooling works: Perhaps with education some parents have the talent to teach and home-school, and other parents do not feel 'convicted' of that talent.

    I am not sure. It is an interesting thought and question. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Hmmm, good thoughts, Arija. I like the idea of 'little' truths.I will mull this over... But, the thing with the homeschooling example is that sometimes it is done simply because the parent believes they can give the child a better education one-on-one than a group setting could give (often true from a purely academic standpoint), but often I've known people who did it because they believed it was their God-given responsibility to teach and train their children in Godly ways and they didn't believe they could do that when the child was away most of the day...but is that true for just them because of their personality and their kids and their interests and talents? or is it not true at all? hmmm....

      Ok, here I am mulling it over in the comments. I shall mull it over in my head before writing next time... :)