Union University
Union University Dept of Language

Evangelogia



The Horse Laugh Fallacy

by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

December 22, 2011 - Mockery masquerades as intellectual sophistication among the urbane. But its infantile cowardice is disclosed by its selectivity. To see that this is so simply ask whether the “daring” jesters who produced this would publicly display a similar comedic animus toward Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. (Doubtful.)

There is, of course, a non-sociological explanation for Christo-centric derision (the sociological one involving Muslim outrage/violence as compared with the relative meekness of Christians). That explanation is rather incisively captured in C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters.

In writing to his junior tempter, Wormwood, the wiser demon, Uncle Screwtape explains the potential uses of laughter in capturing a human soul for the devil (“Our Father”). Of the kinds of laughter, Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy, the last is “best of all” for “progressing quietly and comfortably towards Our Father’s house.”  Screwtape explains that Flippancy is “very economical.”

“Only a clever human,” writes Screwtape to Wormwood, “can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it . . . It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.”

Derision is demonic. Christ and those who bear his name must be unique objects of scorn precisely because the demons know the truth (Luke 4:41, James 2:19), while feebly striving for falsehood to prevail. 

Ultimately, the demonic struggle is hopeless. For Christ has disarmed the principalities and powers, putting them to shame by triumphing over them on the cross (Colossians 2:15). Mockery is all that remains.  Thus, the flippancy with which some treat the Light of the World is merely a sign of a darkened soul Tebowing before its Prince.