One of the interesting things about language is that language is able to express things that are impossible. That is, with language you can say things that are understandable, are valid, but are not sound. For instance, an argument with false premises may have false conclusions and still be valid. But, an argument that is valid and has true premises cannot have a false conclusion. [Note: the previous paragraph is an extremely rough definition for purposes of this post.]
In popular speak when we say that someone has a valid argument, we are saying that the argument hangs together, that it is logically true. In other words, when you hear the argument, it makes sense. There is something powerfully appealing about an argument that makes sense. You automatically find yourself stopping to consider whether your argument is wrong.
In fact, in popular speak, it is not unusual for people to say that various people have put forward valid arguments. What we are saying is that people have put forward arguments that hang together, that make sense, but whose conclusions may not agree with each other.
We often do not do the hard work of sifting through various premises to find out whether the beginning premises are correct. It is much easier to devolve into some type of acknowledgement of everyone’s validity rather than to cause upheaval. This is why we have the aphorism that says that at a good social gathering no one should discuss politics, religion, or sex. Those are three subjects that are full of valid arguments, but inevitably lead to conflict if discussed.
When it comes to social gatherings, or even to some church gatherings, this attitude makes sense. After all, even a parish can only remain together if any of several historical theological arguments are quietly ignored in practice. There are many good Protestant congregations that completely avoid a full discussion of Calvinism or Armenianism in order to be able to remain one congregation. Frankly, in practice it matters little which one of those viewpoints you follow. In the same way, in Orthodoxy it is better to stay away from Palamas, the Paris School, toll-houses, membership fees, etc., as these are subjects that often have little practical effect on the faith.
The problem comes in knowing which subjects can be safely avoided and which subjects must be discussed.
p align=”justify”>[MORE TO COME]