I knew a guy once, a campus minister, who argued that it was a sin to drink a coke with a little paper umbrella in it. I don’t know if he began arguing seriously. His tongue might have begun in his cheek. But you know how guys are – the minute someone takes up the fight, they get serious and soon the belief that little umbrellas should not be allowed in cokes becomes the very fulcrum of the faith, and a necessary truth asserted by the blood of Christ. His reasoning went:
If drinking alcoholic beverages can lead to sinful behavior, and terrible addiction,
Then, the appearance of drinking alcohol may encourage others to drink,
Thus, anything that may lead someone to think you are drinking alcohol could encourage sinful behavior,
Therefore, drinking a coke with a little paper umbrella in it is a sin.
I have no doubt that some of you, dear readers, see the sound wisdom in this argument, and I must confess that my suspicion makes me very sad. If, Then, Thus, Thereforeis, at best, a mere parlor game. At worst it is the elevation human reasoning to the position of clearly revealed truth. You can use If, Then, Thus, Therefore to argue any manner silliness, and defend it as gospel.
Let me state unequivocally that I reject If, Then, Thus, Thereforeas unbiblical. I reject it because Jesus and Paul reject it. I reject it because it requires three more steps in understanding than simple truth ought to require.
When the Bible wants us to know something it says it plainly. He that believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16.15). Love your enemies (Matthew 5.44). Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5.17). The writers of the New Testament explain the implications of truth – sometimes at length. But, truth needs no If, Then, Thus, Therefore to be established.
In Mark 2.23ff, Jesus is passing through the grain fields with his disciples on the Sabbath. The disciples were stripping the heads off the grain, rubbing the grain heads in their hands, blowing away the chaff, and popping the grain in their mouths like sunflower seeds. The Pharisees considered this a grave sin. Their reasoning would have gone something like this:
If work is prohibited on the Sabbath, and grinding grain is work,
Then grinding grain on the Sabbath is sinful,
Thus any separation of wheat from chaff is prohibited on the Sabbath,
Therefore popping grain heads in your mouth is a violation of the Sabbath.
And so they demanded: “Why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?!”
Jesus could have deconstructed their If, Then, Thus, Therefore, and replaced it with one of his own. It was the argument they were itching to have – the kind of argument that fills rabbinic literature. Jesus refuses to play their game. He answers them with a biblical example: “David ate the temple showbread when he was famished,” and two simply stated biblical truths: “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” and “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” No involved arguments, tortured or elegant, are used here – just simply stated, irrefutable truth.
When Paul, in Romans 14, tackles the thorny issue of what meats Christians may eat, he states simply,
I know, and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. (v.14)
What follows is not an If, Then, Thus, Therefore, definitively settling the matter – although this would seem to be the perfect place for such - but a prohibition of arguing about the matter any further:
If because of your food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. (v.15)
Let us not forget that Paul instructed Titus:
Shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after the second warning, knowing that such a man is twisted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
Jesus said “Let your ‘yes’ be yes, and you ‘no’ be no,” not “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes, if…then…thus…therefore.” In fact, he says that anything beyond a plain, honest answer “is of the evil one,” (Matthew 5.37).
His simple point, I hope, is taken.