Painting yourself into a corner

Sunday, June 2, 2019
Article Image Alt Text

Ministerial Association

If you ever painted a floor, poured concrete or boxed yourself into a place you didn’t want to stay for a (long) while you understand the idea of painting yourself into a corner.

This old bromide is generally understood literally but also can be taken figuratively. When we find ourselves boxed in by some bad or inadvertent choices, or erroneous reasoning we seek a way out.

Often that means walking across a freshly painted floor or wading through that smoothly troweled concrete while attempting to smooth over the blemishes or holes we created on the exit.

What about boxing ourselves in or painting ourselves into a corner with erroneous reasoning, or a faulty conclusion or surmise?

So often our reasoning follows the pattern of a statement of fact (major premise) followed by another statement of fact (minor premise) followed by a conclusion or a surmise. The conclusion may or may not be true and valid, but it often sounds good to the untrained or ill informed.

Here is an example of this “syllogistic” reasoning that I encountered: Major Premise: The Bible is the inspired Word of God (True Statement). Minor Premise: The Bible was written by fallible men (Mostly true statement by adding a misleading qualifier.) Conclusion: The Bible is not a reliable document.

Paul wrote this: 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Also from the apostle Peter: 2 Peter 1:19 (NKJV) And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

So how do we draw accurate, meaningful conclusions to spiritually related questions?

Peter answered that very clearly: 1 Peter 4:11 (NIV) If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

How do we avoid wrong conclusions? The Preacher, the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote this in Ecclesiastes 12:9 (NIV) Not only was the Teacher wise, but also, he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails--given by one Shepherd. 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. 13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Jim Squires preaches at the Church of Christ in Glendive. He advocates using Scripture to answer scriptural inquires. He also advocates not going beyond the written Word for answers because of the controversy conjecture creates. Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, And the sternness of his face is changed. Ecclesiastes 8:1 (NKJV)

Jim Squires is the Glendive Ministerial Association secretary. He can be reached at