A Profession Not Worth a Button

“The doctrine of the Trinity! That is the substance, that is the ground and fundamental of all, for by this doctrine and this only the man is made a Christian and he that has not this doctrine, his profession is not worth a button.” —John Bunyan

Objection: “Everyone’s profession has worth.”

Argument #1: Self-Defeating

Without any qualifications being made, the objection is self-defeating. If Bunyan’s profession has worth, then you cannot speak against it. If you do speak against it, then not everyone’s profession has worth.

Argument #2: What Is Really Being Said

What such an objection is really saying though is that everyone else’s profession has worth. All other professions are true. The historic Christian profession claiming the exclusivity of Christ is not. 

Or, put another way, it is to say that all professions that do not claim to be exclusive have value. The problem is that Christianity is not the only exclusive religion. Judaism and Islam are also exclusivistic, as well as many expressions of Hinduism and Buddhism. This means the statement that “everyone’s profession has worth,” speaks contrary to the majority report of at least three of the world’s major religions. This cuts a huge chunk out of “everyone.” So what is really being said turns out to be not much of anything.

Argument #3: Pluralism is Exclusive

Again, making the claim that all professions have value, the religious pluralist not only stands contrary to historic Christianity, but against Judaism, Islam, and many expressions of Buddhism and Hinduism. Religious pluralism fails in its aim. Rather than welcoming in, it too excludes most other world religions and judges them for their exclusivity claims.

Argument #4: Both Statements Are Judgment Statements

An implication, and more often an outspoken accusation, is that in claiming the exclusivity Christ, Christians are being judgmental. But the objection itself is a judgmental statement. 

“You’re being judgmental!”

“Hmm…didn’t you just judge me?”

Again, the objection cuts off its own legs. Both Bunyan’s claim and the objection are judgment statements. The Christian is perfectly fine with others making judgment statements. The question is, which judgment is true? What standard is being used? This is a conversation I welcome. It is the one I’m trying to have.

Argument #5: Which Is Really More Arrogant?

An implication of the former implication is the charge of arrogance. “You’re being judgmental, ergo, you’re arrogant.” But consider that Christians make their profession in subjecting themselves to a standard outside themselves. Those who say all professions have value do so based on their own subjective thoughts and observations. The stance of a Christian is one of submission to an outside authority. The stance of a religious pluralist is to act like a god declaring truth, namely, the truth that all professions have value, save those that make exclusivity claims. Religious pluralism is judgmental, and it makes this judgment as a judge. It assumes a position of authority.

Argument #6: Argument, Truth, and Tolerance

G.K. Chesterton once said that we quarrel because we have forgotten how to argue. There was a time when two men who disagree could sit down at a table and argue, knowing that the other guy had their best interest in mind. This was because both of them came to the table believing that truth was something outside themselves. Because this was so, at best, the two men could admit that the other guy, in arguing for truth, was seeking what was best for the other and for humanity. This is true tolerance.

But today, many say all professions have worth. Truth is thought to be subjective. “If it makes you happy… If you believe it…” So if ever there is an argument, I’m no longer attacking ideas. I am attacking you. It is not that we are both going after truth. Instead, we are going after one another. Counterintuitively we must then say that all opinions have value. We must never object. This is the tyranny of pluralism. It silences all other voices. All debate and argument is ended. This is the intolerance of those who preach tolerance.

Argument #7: All Professions?

But, no one really believes that all professions have value.

Did Hitler’s professions concerning the Aryan race and the Jews have value?

Did Jim Jones’ profession have value?

Did the profession of the Jihadists who slammed jets into the Twin Towers have value?

Did the profession of worshippers of Molech who sacrificed their children have value?

Did the profession of Stalin’s communist Russia and Mao’s communist China have value?

Does the profession of your bank have value when they fail to register your last deposit?

Argument #8: Why?

“If they want to believe it, if it makes them happy, why speak against it?” 

When your child wants to put a toy in the light socket, why stop them? The answer is love. If the child says they believe that electricity won’t kill them because they’re Thor, the parent still insists. Lies harm.

To allow a soul to walk through this world believing a lie isn’t kind. If Christianity is true, to be indifferent to people’s profession isn’t kind. You may argue that Christianity’s claims are false. You can claim that all souls will go to heaven. But when you do so, you are making a truth claim. And then you must answer upon what standard you make such a claim? At this point we are in agreement. Not all professions are of equal value. True ones are. Which are true?

What one cannot say is that all professions have value, because that statement is self-refuting. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” As Lewis famously observed, “You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”*

Of course you could argue that Jesus never said that. But should you do so, you’ve discounted many a profession as not being worth a button. You’ve made a truth claim. And upon what standard?


*Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. HarperOne, 2001.

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