Joel McDurmon has responded here to my earlier critique of his response to Tim Bayly, which can be read here. I am currently on the road, and don’t have a lot of time to respond. But I would like to say just a couple of basic things, things that I believe lie right at the root of our discussion.
First, actual slippery slopes are not instances of the slippery slope fallacy. Not everything slippery is a slope, and not every slippery slope is a fallacy. When people are actually sliding, it is not a fallacy to point out that they are doing so. “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; Their foot shall slide in due time: For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things that shall come upon them make haste” (Deut. 32:35). People do slip. Backsliders do slide back.
Informal fallacies of distraction are not the same thing as formal structural fallacies. If someone argues that a cow is a dog because dogs have four legs, this a structural fallacy. It is a pure fallacy, with no way to make it better. But when Jesus says that Pharisees are whited sepulchers, this is not an ad hominem fallacy even though it is an ad hominem attack. If a man is about to step onto a greasy slope, and I yell “watch out!” this is not a slippery slope fallacy. However, if a man points out that I have been apparently arguing that cows are dogs because of the four leg argument, and that I am being irrational, or so it seems to him, and I respond by saying his tendency to overemphasize Aristotelian categories, if not checked, is going to choke out everything truly human and valuable from our lives—love, compassion, and the organic life of the emotions—then I am being guilty of it. So that’s one thing.
Second, Joel quotes Jesus, and tries to apply it to this discussion: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Now the Lord was not talking about clothes. He was talking about their misapplication of the Mosaic code. He was talking about how they were trying to kill Him because He had created the appearance of Sabbath-breaking by healing a man. But then they would agree to do a similar thing when they circumcised a boy on the Sabbath, and so Jesus told them they needed to reason more carefully in the future.
In short, when Jesus said “appearance” here, He wasn’t teaching on our subject (clothing and demeanor) at all. But does He ever talk about appearances in the other sense, as we are using it, in the sense of how someone dresses might reflect a spiritual problem? Well, yes, He does.
“But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses” (Matt. 11:8).
These are the malakoi, soft men, denizens of kings’ palaces and upscale catalogs.
“Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts” (Luke 20:46).
These are the ecclesiastical poohbahs, parading in solemn assembly, flagging their spiritual problems to the world through their flowing robes, and stoles that drag on the ground.
Do the apostles ever talk about the spiritual meaning of appearances in this sense? Well, yes, they do. And do they tell pastors to admonish their people accordingly? Well, yes, they do that too.
“likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Timothy 2:9, ESV).
And what example did Paul give Timothy on this? He taught on it. He put it in the Bible. The apostle Peter teaches the same principle.
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—” (1 Peter 3:3, ESV).
At a bare minimum, every pastor who preaches through 1 Timothy and 1 Peter has a responsibility to make application where Joel would rather they not.
Sure, there is a way to be a wooden fundamentalist about these things. They are two ways to neglect the Bible. One is to not even attempt to do what the Scriptures say, and the other is to do it poorly. But don’t tell me the Scriptures don’t teach on these things. They kind of sort of do.