Running Down False Alternatives . . . .


running down 1  Running Down Mis-Characterizations

 The speaker is Dominic Smart.

√ The passage is Joshua 14.

√ The biblical characters are Joshua and Caleb.

√ The issue is trusting God’s Word.

 The purpose is to help the audience understand the nature of faith.

 The rhetorical method employed is “running down” alternatives

Dominic Smart is going to run down a list of possible false characterizations of Joshua’s & Caleb’s faith in an attempt to help the audience understand the genuine nature of “faith.”  In one sense Smart is clarifying the nature of faith by separating it from what it might mistakenly be thought to be.

Dominic Smart knows that some members of his audience might think of “faith” as something which is a human propensity, inclination, or predisposition.  You can see his purpose when he states, “Now let’s get something absolutely straight right at this point — in what we’re looking at.”

To do this, he will run down some false and human characterization of Joshua’s & Caleb’s faith.

“Run down” may be the best description of what Smart does since as you will see, he runs through a list of mistaken characterizations of “faith” – one after another.  He also uses the same rhetorical technique we laid out in our previous article.



(Dominic Smart CLIP – Be Like Caleb – @9:37 of original full message 03/09/2008)


Now let’s get something absolutely straight right at this point — in what we’re looking at

This is not — the distinction between Caleb and Joshua on the one hand — and the other ten tribes /  ten spies on the other hand – and all the people

this is not a distinction between optimists and pessimists

this is not a distinction between optimists and realists

this is not a distinction between space heads who never think anything through — and sober-minded people who always see the things that have to be done

this is not a distinction between wacky visionaries — and those who really assess the actual nature of things

this is not a distinction between people who are early adopters — and now they’re at the front of the train — and those who will lag behind and think everything through very carefully in ponderously and all the rest of it

it’s not** a distinction of personality – at all


those distinctions are around – within any group people – the size of our fellowship — who will have those distinctions


we’ll have some people who are early adopters; we’ll have some people are inventing the things that early adopters adopt — and we’ll have some people who are at the very back of the train and wait and see  – prove everything to me before I’ll commit


that’s that’s part of our personalities, and those things work together and can work together very well, if we love each other.


But that’s not what we’re talking about tonight because that’s not what the Word of God is talking about.


So if you think that this is a sermon from –  way out space – I don’t ever think anything through — and you’re one of the sort of serious gravity types . . . . .and so dismiss the sermon – you’re dismissing the Word of God


This is not that distinction.


This is . . . .

. . . . a distinction between perceiving – because God is in the picture — and ruling God out

being one of his people who follows him — or being one of his people who refuses to follow Him.


This is a matter of faith in God — not personality differences.


So don’t read it as differences between Caleb and Joshua – and people of a different personality


It’s not that at all.


— Dominic Smart



Smart is not only spelling out the faith of Joshua & Caleb but is actually knocking down the excusatory ways his listeners might justify their faithlessness.

The biblical faith of Joshua and Caleb was not . . . .

  • optimism vs. pessimists
  • optimism vs. realists
  • space heads vs. sober-mindedness
They were not . . . .
  • wacky visionaries vs. those who accurately access a situation
  • early adopters vs. back of the train-ers
Their faith was not . . . .
  • a personality trait


A Mind Generating Factory:

What can help a speaker or preacher generate thoughts as Smart has done?  The purpose of looking at the rhetorical abilities of good and great speakers like Smart is not to “plagiarize” their words but to understand some methods we can employ to get our mind thinking down some avenues we have not thought about going down.

Public speaking is a weighty and concentrated mental task.  It is helped by having others brainstorm with us.  However, most do not have “the others” around the table with us as we are preparing.  The task falls to the abilities residing within our own minds as we not only . . . .

come to understand the truths and principles within a passage

but as we also

design ways to effectively communicate those truths and principles.

What Smart is doing can be helped by going to a “reverse dictionary.”*    For instance, if you began by looking up the word “faith,” you might be helped by such words as . . . .

  • optimistic
  • Pollyannaism
  • pipedream
  • probability
  • simplemindedness
  • greenness
  • possibility
  • superstition
  • unquestioning
  • gullible
  • naive
  • optimistic
  • rose-colored glasses
  • make the best of it
  • knock on wood
  • dreamer
  • risk-reward
  • possibility

Not only can all these words lead to further word searches, but they can be used to jog your mental processes and generate ways to contrast real biblical faith with __?__.

Let me take a run at it and add more content to what Dominic stated.


Joshua and Caleb were not “Pollyannas” who could only see the best in each and every situation.

They were not wearing rose-colored glasses which saw the giants as less in stature than the reality by which others saw those giants.

They had their questions, but their questions did not stop their faith.  It was not a pipedream that motivated them to follow God’s direction.

They were not “green-saints” who had not yet turned cynical as older saints.

They had not made some calculation as to the possible odds of winning versus losing.

— Ted Martens


*Such as “Roget’s International Thesaurus” which is much different from a typical or standard thesaurus.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.