The Jelly Has Departed From You: A Logical Fallacy

Once, so long ago today’s young earth creationists were all young, I was at a church youth event preparing to eat. There are no church youth events where one does not eat, but this one gave me a choice I had never had before.

“Will you have peanut butter or jelly?” the nice man asked.

I was stunned. Could the two be separated? And so I responded: “Could I have both?”

“Wow,” the man replied, “that is so weird. I don’t think that would be good.” It turns out that he had lived a sheltered childhood where PBJ was either PB or J. Peanut butter was more filling and peanut butter was all I got. The glory of Jelly had departed.

This is a sort-of (and certainly silly) example of the “either-or” fallacy. We are presented with a choice and either we pick the first or the second. This is invalid if there is a third choice or if one can have both goods at the same time: the choice in unnecessary. Another sort of reasoning flaw is when children assume that if you say you love one child, then you must not love the rest . . . unless you say so.

“If Dad says he loves Lewis and he doesn’t say he loves me, then he must not love me.”

“We are having cake!” does not logically imply that only our gang is having cake! Some treats are exclusive, I cannot in fact eat my cake and still have my cake (as cake), but many are not mutally exclusive. My kids having candy and gum doesn’t mean, in the superabundance of God’s Kingdom, that you have no candy and gum.

Candy and gum for all is possible in the Divine Economy!

Simple minded politicians make these mistakes all the time. They live in a world of envy and greed: if you have a job, then you must have taken it from somebody else, but jobs are not always a “zero sum game.” Sometimes a company makes brand new jobs and your gain is not anybody’s loss!

This is the glory of the free market that God built into His cosmos.

All this reminds me to dare to dream outside of choices with which I am presented: “Can I have peanut butter and jelly?” Dare to dream! Sometimes there is a good reason I cannot . . . it might even be impossible. There is no way to sell my soul and still be innocent. Some actions are inherently wicked and there is no way to do them without destruction.

And yet sometimes if I look beyond the choices I am given by the world, the flesh, and the devil: I can have my peanut butter and jelly all together with Wonder Bread!

There is a deeper lesson. Logic schools me in the rigorous discipline of rejoicing with those who rejoice. Your party need not cast a pall on my parade.

In fact, the harder I have tried to cramp the abundance of God, or to cling in fear to my good lest your good infringe on it, the more my goods have slipped away. Some soul braver than I was demanded and received his full peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Couldn’t I rejoice in his manly daring and enjoy my sandwich while he ate his? After all, his jelly was not why I had none.

My experience says that coveting jelly has only gotten me into a spiritual jam. Even if I get jelly, the total PBJ sandwich by greed, the glory of the jelly departs from the man who thinks his PBJ is his and has cost his mates their own. It is sin to him . . . even if it is not true that his jam cost his friends their sweets. To the man who believes, even falsely, that his Smuckers cost his friends their jelly, to that man his PBJ is sin.

God forbid I be greedy and horde a thing that exists in great abundance. Preserve me, God.

God once said to people that He was tired of their sin and “Ichabod” was to be written, His Glory was gone. God has infinite glory, every nation could share in it, the glory of Israel need not diminish the glory of the United States, but the glory can depart. It will not leave me to go to someone else because it is limited, but because I have become limited, too small, too cramped, too grasping, miserable and fearful.

May the glory of the Lord fill the whole earth as the water covers the sea and God may just a bit fall on me.

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