Trust Ticking Packages


Imagine that one afternoon you take the walk out to the mail box and inside is a package wrapped in brown paper.  On further examination it has no return address and the label is written by hand.  It is ticking.

A casual estimate would be that 99% of people would have a reaction, and that reaction would be decidedly negative.  Why negative?  Have you ever had a box come in the mail that ticked?  The only thing that most people would base their reaction on are movies and television shows.  Perhaps a news feature or an article may influence the impulse, but much of the reaction is from fiction.

What else could be ticking?  It may be a clock or some sort of mechanical device.  What are the odds that it would actually be a bomb?  The post office is on the look for these items and they are not likely to get to your home.  Does someone want to kill you?  Most people who are murdered are victims of people they know and the methods are more immediate rather than calculated.

Wait, hold the phone…

What Am I Saying?

There is something very wrong with this logic.  What I have intentionally done is demonstrate how potentially misleading logic can be.  The problem with this scenario is that the severity of the situation has not been taken into account at all.  Suppose it was a clock, would it not be better to assume that it was in fact a bomb?  Is it an issue that much of the information about ticking packages has come from movies and television when you consider that only one incidence that could result in the loss of life requires more caution?

The best thing to do is to not disturb the package, call the police, and leave the scene.  It may be unlikely that there is anything wrong, but if there is, the consequences are so severe that no other choice can be made.

If the Package is Ticking…

…RUN!  Don’t go back for your good china.  Don’t see what coupons are in the accompanying flyer.  Abandon your possessions for something more valuable: your life.

In matters of faith, the consequences are even more severe.  This is not about some minor points that you may hold in disagreement, but if you hear the distinct sound of ticking it is already time to run.  The difficulty is that in matters of Christian faith, it may be difficult to hear the ticking.  The only way you are able to is to be grounded in the tenets of Christian doctrine.  What are vital to the Christian faith?  What would, if they were removed, make a person’s belief so different that it can no longer be called Christianity?

Some have said, “But if you can’t be sure, then can you really make that judgment?”  That is a good point.  The package could contain a clock, after all they do sound much the same.

The question is whether or not it is worth the risk.  Why follow a pastor or attend a church which has raised serious controversy about basic Christian beliefs?  Why continue to ascribe to church leaders who raise such strong controversy among other Christian leaders?  After all, there are hundreds of other churches, pastors, and Christian leaders who are grounded in the Bible, who overtly and confidently affirm the basic teachings of Christianity.

It may come down to holding onto it as if it were a clock, yet being willing to accept the damage of the blast if it is a bomb.  However, it may be abandoning so much that is good to spare the risk of the destruction of yourself and those for whom you care so much.  Is it worth the risk?

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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

14 responses to “Trust Ticking Packages

  • Sabio Lantz

    Aaron, that was cute !

    You were indeed correct when you said,

    There is something very wrong with this logic.

    Good logic certainly does weighs consequences into the decision — bad logic does not. “Logic” in this sense, means a method of thinking. It does not mean “a specific defined methodology”. So ironically your logic committed the equivocation error of informal logic (see a cool taxonomy here). This is revealed when you said,

    What I have intentionally done is demonstrate how potentially misleading logic can be.

    Here you now make “logic” a defined way of thinking as opposed to “faith”. But there is such thing as both bad faith and bad logic — but that is another story. What you tried to do is say, “See, here is example of how logic is bad, therefore, trust your faith.” But really all you showed was the difference between good and bad logic. You did not support the notion of the weakness of logic, just the weakeness of bad logic.

    Your logic, if applied even-handedly by non-Christians (Muslims, Hindus and atheists …), would imply that they should run from all ideas that contradict what they hold precious. But you want them to stay and consider your Christianity, don’t you? There is no reason to admonish people to run from stuff that contradicts the orthodoxy of their tribe — most people do it very naturally, most people are followers. And all religions, just like you have done, tell their believers to do just that.

    Only few some encourage doubt and testing.
    Your point of weighing consequences is important. Your message of “Run from anything which challenges orthodoxy” is a generic scare tactic.

  • Aaron

    I am using logic to appeal to the logic that accompanies the faith of Christianity. There is a significant difference between “blind faith” and “informed belief.”

    I suppose that it could be considered a “scare tactic” except that as a believer I would say that it is out of concern for others. Even not believing Christianity to be true, would you not agree that if someone does not bare orthodox belief it would be difficult to say that they could teach orthodox Christianity?

    Could an atheist believe in creation and still be part of the in-group? If Richard Dawkins came out in favor of intelligent design (even apart from a god) would he be as respected?

  • Sabio Lantz


    My point is, you did NOT use good reasoning (you are still calling it “logic”). You used the equivocation informal logic error in your reasoning. Did you look it up? Did you understand where what I am pointing out?

    [ Your font is not only hard on the eyes, your links are hard to see].

    Yes, I agree in the difference between “blind faith” and “informed belief”, but I did not bring that up or liken them. Did you?

    I did not understand your question.

    But I will now leave the logic error I think you made. Returning to you main point:

    In medicine, we have a phrase, “If it sounds like a horse, smells like a horse, and looks like a horse, it is a horse” Meaning, “Don’t chase Zebras” — In medicine, a “Zebra” is a very rare disorder (given the signs and symptoms) and thus if all the symptoms point to a common disorder, you should chase that first.

    I guess the was your point. You are basically saying,

    “If it sounds like bad doctrine (and dear readers you should know), then it is bad doctrine. And you know that if you listen to bad doctrine, you risk hell ! So run ! Why aren’t you running?”

    Yeah, that is indeed your exclusivist theology — or at least it sounds like your are leaning exclusivist — are you?

    In your Christianity, do you have to have all the theology right for God to love you — or should I say, “not damn you”? Because your god will love us poor atheists all the way to hell, won’t he?

    You were threatening “Hell” Aaron — please admit it.

    No, a person could not be an atheist if they believed in a still active creator. But we don’t think they will burn in hell for that and I would not discourage my children from marrying such a person. And I would not think they are a mortal threat to all of humanity.

    There is a big difference between being not respected and being accused of heresy and threatened with damnation. I don’t mind you saying it, but when you try to disguise it with niceness and logical fallacies, it is terribly distasteful.

  • Aaron

    I brought up the difference between “blind faith” and “informed belief” because I heard your critique about the equivocation fallacy as a comment on my use of the word “logic.” Is that not the case?

    Admittedly, I did not take logic in college and it is clear that I am at a disadvantage in that regard. I am curious about what in my post was illogical or a fallacy because of the simple fact that you and I do not share the same belief.

    I have no problem with the fact that “hell” is part of this concern. That is certainly the cornerstone of my concern for those who are misled to think that certain church leaders are subtly not orthodox. I do have a problem with saying that I am “threatening hell,” mainly because I am not making the choice of heaven or hell for people. Say what you will 😉

    And indeed, Christianity is exclusive, but can I say it is inclusively exclusive (or would it be exclusively inclusive?) because we believe that salvation is a gift which only requires belief. After all, I did not make that up, and I can’t say that I am comfortable with that notion, really in the slightest. But being uncomfortable does not make it not true about the teaching of the Bible and the words of Christ.

    Even having read the arguments about its apparent absence of belief, atheism also seems to be a club that is just as exclusive.

  • Sabio Lantz

    (1) College
    Heck, I have studied more outside of college than I ever did in college. You can get books on logic but those things I supplied are a good start. In debate, the simple categories of logic are often brought up and good debators try to use them. You never answered my question about reading the error type and if you understand.

    Logic has two main meanings : a) using arguments to support a position b) the branch of philosophy that analyzes inferences.
    Anyone can make arguments(1). Taking care to avoid the fallacies of reasoning discovered over the centuries when arguing, in an art (2).
    You mixed the two meanings while trying to say that faith is safer than logic. But we need not discuss about faith, that was not my point. My point was your ironic logic error of equivocation.

    Great, I am glad you admitted that “hell” is one of your cornerstones of concern. Interestingly, in the past I have read how “hell” and “afterlife” thought developed in Judaism and Christianity and apparently it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in the way it is later developed in Christianity. I would think clear thinking about hell would be important.

    Theology describes positions on soteriology — exclusive is one. The others are inclusiveness, plurality and universality. These are technical terms that have very specific meanings as relates to salvation.
    Your last sentence, hilariously ironic, is yet again the logical error of equivocation. You did it again. Your logic is incorrect and thus you are missing the point. BTW, equivocation is a favorite rhetoric technique of preacher types — it is a breach of logic that most in the congregation will miss — especially when they want to believe.
    Aaron, I suggest you study it and take a look at how you did it here. It will help your debating skills. It is not mere word wars, you are making truth errors.

  • Aaron

    I have studied what you linked here. Could a perception of equivocation not be dependent, at least in part, on a person’s beliefs? Could semantics not also be a factor?

  • Sabio Lantz

    No, I am afraid not. Unless you can point out the difference.
    So that I don’t feel like I am spinning my wheels, here. Please restate my argument to you concerning your equivocation fallacy error with the word “exclusive”.

    I really can’t see if you don’t get it or if you are just being argumentative or defensive. (if you have time)

  • Aaron

    No, I am not trying to be defensive, I really am confused about your critique.

    My argument in the original post is this:

    If you want to be a Christian, then there are basic things you will be wanting to believe in. If you are following someone who does not believe those basic things, then that person is not likely a Christian. If you are trying to pattern your life on teachings from someone who is not a Christian, then you are not likely a Christian yourself. So if you want to be a Christian then you need to seek other leadership.

    As far as equivocations: I think that there is logic to Christianity, so in my mind I am not using logic in different ways in the post. You think that Christianity is completely illogical, so to you it is an equivocation to use the word “logic” in both places. Does that make sense?

    For “exclusive,” the exclusive nature of Christianity is that you have to have a set of basic beliefs. If you do not then you are not in the club. The basic beliefs are Jesus, the Son of God, literally died, literally rose from the grave and he did it to atone for sins. Of course implied in that are beliefs in sin and in God. With those basic beliefs, I have no problem with debating people who disagree with me about the finer details. I honestly think that there are as many theological positions as there are people to have them.

    I am not sure how it is a different use of the word “exclusive” to also say that atheism is not exclusive. I have read The God Delusion where Dawkins rejects the notion that someone could hold a position of strict agnosticism indefinitely. Sure that is a feeble attempt to illustrate the point, but it does seem that there are criteria to be part of the club.

    As an aside, I am preparing reflections on the book and one of the things that I find extraordinary is the idea that Dawkins talks about in regard to his desire for people to see the truth of science because of its amazing beauty. Just saying that it truely resonated with me!

  • Sabio Lantz

    @ Aaron — When I started out talking about logic, I was simply discussing the logic you used in your argument. I was not discussing “the logic of Christianity”. I think many Christians use logic well — they may make assumptions I disagree with but they can manipulate the assumptions with logic well. I think many Atheists use logic poorly — I write of this on my site often. So again, you are using logic in two ways and you still don’t see how.

    You used the word exclusive in two ways and equivocated them to make your point — that is a breach of logic in debate. And now you probably are using “offend” differently so that you can make a paradoxical statement, as Boz points out.

    I was simply trying to illustrate logical principles used in debate. But you jumped into religious defensiveness and thus the conversation when that way. Again, I suggest you ask friends to explain equivocation as a logical error. I don’t think I can type it all out. Or maybe sometime I will do a post on it since it is such a common logical mistake that ALL people make.

  • Boz

    The Equivocation Fallacy

    One example that helped me understand the equivocation fallacy is from the modal ontological argument.

    The argument states:

    1. It is proposed that a being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in W; and
    2. It is proposed that a being has maximal greatness if it has maximal excellence in every possible world.
    3. Maximal greatness is possibly exemplified. That is, it is POSSIBLE that there be a being that has maximal greatness. (Premise)
    4. Therefore, possibly it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.
    5. Therefore, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.
    6. Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.

    The equivocation is in the word possible, in caps in premise 3.
    Every time that the word ‘possible’ appears (except for the highlighted), it refers to the concept of possible worlds in modal logic. Background here: .

    However, where I have highlighted, the argument is saying “Surely you must admit that it is possible that such a being exists. You’re not so intransigent as to suggest that it is 100% impossible, are you? *raise eyebrow* ”

    If the argument was using the meaning ‘possible worlds’ where I have highlighted, the premise (3) would be a baseless assertion.

    So, the argument shifts from one definition to the other, to try and trick the reader into accepting that it is a sound argument, when it is not.

    Did that help?

  • Sabio Lantz

    @ boz — superb, thanx. Aaron, is it clearer now?

  • Aaron

    “I can prove to you that I am not here right now”


    “Well, I’m not in San Deigo, right?”


    “And I am not in Detroit.”


    “And I am not in St. Louis.”


    “So if I am not in San Deigo, Detroit, or St. Louis, then I must be somewhere else, right?”


    “And if I am somewhere else, then I cannot be here!”

    … Yeah, I get it. How about you help me by defining the different uses of “exclusive” and “logic” in my comments above. Maybe that will help me to see where you see me switching the definitions.

  • Sabio Lantz

    You got me smiling !! That was fun. OK, you get it.
    So here is my post on “exclusivism”. You can change the word to “exclusivist” and thus you see I was using the word technically in a theology way. You were using it in a sociological way.

    Now, the “logic” one I explained.
    Definition 1: One’s argument [general]
    Definition 2: Specific rules to ensure validity and soundness in arguments. [specific]

    My objection had nothing to do with Christianity. It was a cry of a technical foul.

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