THE CIRCULAR REFERENCE CLUB
Person #1: The tree has leaves of green. I saw it.
Person #2: Person #1 said the tree has leaves of green. He is a witness, and I believe him. Therefore I am affirming that the tree has leaves of green, even though I didn’t see it.
Person #3: Person #2 is known to me to be a person of great integrity and she said that person #1 personally witnessed that the tree has leaves of green. Therefore, I believe it, and I would stake my reputation on it.
Person #1: Person #2 has listened to me speak about the tree having leaves of green, and therefore she can testify to the truth of what I have said. Furthermore, Person #3 knows that Person #2 is a person of great integrity, and is willing to stake his reputation on what I have said. Therefore, it is an established FACT that:
The tree has leaves of green. I saw it.
Person #4: I saw the tree in its fall foliage and would argue vehemently that the tree had fiery gold, orange and crimson leaves, and not one green leaf was to be seen.
Persons #1, #2, and #3 are not interested in this fact presented by Person #4, because they have a mutual admiration society going on, and they are stuck on validating each other in order to convince others of their veracity. But Person #4 has never seen green leaves on a tree, so he won’t believe that such a thing exists unless he sees it for himself.
The foregoing example is what I term a “Circular Reference Club“. Each of the first three persons wishes to be seen as an authority, and therefore they all bolster each other up in their assertions.
Metaphors and parables can only go so far, and we all know most green deciduous trees have a green stage, and then in the autumn, after the first cold snap, the leaves begin to turn into a riot of colors before the trees shed them altogether for winter.
Person #1 is correct to say that the tree has leaves of green, but is incorrect because he does not admit that the leaves may turn another color later. Person #4 is correct to say that the leaves are fiery gold, orange and crimson and that not one green leaf was to be seen. If Person #4 stops there, he may be spared the embarrassment of repeating the same mistake Person #1 is making. No doubt if Persons #1 and #4 did their research, they’d see that both had a point, and they would do further diligence to try to discover the entire truth.
But Persons #2 and #3 are merely pawns and fawns who do not check their facts, but form, rather, a cultish-groupie situation around Person #1 in order to feel important. They are, to use a rather harsh term, sycophants.
We see this in so-called “Literature”, where certain “noted” or “expert” “authors” are commonly cited because they are the ones who started the rumors that somehow came to be considered “fact” in the first place. This action could also be termed building upon an error.
In the science laboratory, one depends on the purity of the agar in the petri dish in order to grow only the cells one wishes to grow. If the agar were to be contaminated with e. coli, for example, and the lab tech was trying to grow pseudomonas, there would be a false result and the test would have to be re-started.
Those who know me already understand that something has happened to “set me off” — that I am writing to address a situation that I find is wrong. In this case, I am addressing the personal integrity of believers in Christ. I’m not interested in naming names (though there is a time and a place for doing this, as Paul clearly showed us in the case of Alexander the copper-smith), and I’m not interested in causing trouble for others. Unless so-called ministries come out and start blaspheming God, I will leave them to their consciences and let the Holy Spirit do His work with them.
However, I choose to address in this manner this type of behavior and the ramifications of this behavior as it affects others — both non-believers and believers in Christ.
What happens when we Christians simply parrot what others are saying through their works of fiction-presented-as-fact, and don’t check to see if what they are saying is really true before we repeat it? What if we don’t check to see if what we are seeing actually squares with the Word? Isn’t this sloppy and irresponsible reporting? If we build upon a faulty foundation, what we build may seem lovely to behold, but the first big wind that comes along is going to blow it down.
I am speaking about personal integrity and accountability for the things I say or write when they are to be shared with others.
I may have a “theory”, and if I wish to share it, I must honestly state it is a theory. I may hypothesize, or postulate, or posit, but in each case I must state that I am merely hypothesizing or postulating or positing, so that others do not take what I say as an intention to state a fact. If I believe something to be a fact, and if I can prove it is a fact to the best of my ability, then I will state it as a fact. It comes with the territory that someone else may work equally hard to discover that what I have said can be disproved, and then they must present their own facts to cause me to reevaluate my own conclusions.
There are problems in this war of “facts vs. theories”.
Pride enters in when we become invested. Perhaps monetary considerations cause us to hedge when we know that we have been bamboozled, and we just refuse to give up the game because it would damage the reputation we have built for ourselves. Building a kingdom to oneself is risky business, especially for Christians, and there is always someone who wants to depose the king.
Chief among those who would depose self-made kings is the King of Kings! God won’t share His glory with those who try to steal it, yet He will share His glory with those who love Him and faithfully serve Him. It is HIS glory, and not OURS. When we eat, sleep, breathe and work for our own glory, we go further and further away from the One to Whom ALL Honor and Glory is due!
Let us return to our Bibles, return to our diligent study and research, and prove all things, holding fast that which is good (right) and forsaking every other wind of doctrine that exalts itself against the name of Jesus Christ! Truly the fields are still white with the harvest, but the laborers are few. Could it be because they would rather build castles than humble themselves to help in the harvest?
May the Lord Christ keep His servants in His care, keep them from error, and lead them in a plain path.
Copyright 1999–2017 Pastor C. Covert. All rights reserved internationally, including intellectual, material and electronic property. The author permits that anyone may share any of her material with proper attribution and copyright notice, for no monetary gain or other consideration. Any other use constitutes a violation of this copyright notice and is actionable.