Cascading Issues

The concern here is not the noun issues, but the verb. The action of issuing suggests going, coming, or flowing out. Synonyms are egress and emergence. Think of issuing orders. Think of one’s children as one’s issue. To get at the root meaning of the word it may be helpful to consider an archaic but important definition.


Webster tells us that the word issue used to suggest a final outcome that usually constituted a solution (as of a problem) or resolution (as of a difficulty); and a final conclusion or decision about something arrived at after consideration. Issue was thought of as the end of a process or the conclusion of an effort or line of thinking. For example, “I hope that his enterprise would have a prosperous issue,” in the sense that the enterprise, endeavor or idea would produce children or fruit of a particular character.

Issue is a product of character or genetics. The biblical term is kind (Genesis 1:11), in modern parlance — species, which suggests a common form, character or type. Applying this to the plural noun issues, then, our subject or topic is the fruit of an idea, a philosophy, a line of thinking, or a particular worldview.


People ask, “Where do you stand on the issues?” Then they will usually list several issues of concern to them, for instance, abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, war (either in general or a specific engagement), drugs, taxes, etc. The concern about issues is a concern about the application of a person’s faith, philosophy, ideas, and/or worldview.

An application is always a derivative concern. The application of a particular thought, idea or worldview issues forth in the articulation and/or establishment of policy. In other words, policy is the fruit of a mindset, a philosophy, a theology, a point of view and/or a worldview. Policies are the application of a particular line of thinking. Thus, the question of issues is a question of policies.


Particular policies are the result of a cascade of ideas, rules and/or values. The Latin root of the word cascade is casus, and means fall. Thus, the meaning of cascade is a steep, a hill or edge where a thing can fall from. Once a thing is falling it is out of its own control, and is caught up in an inevitable outcome, a cascade. Think of a waterfall. When a swimmer nears a waterfall and gets caught in the cascade, he cannot extract himself from the inevitable conclusion of going over the fall. He becomes part of the cascade. Thus, a cascade determines the result or outcome of a particular thing.

More generically, a cascade involves a series wherein something is arranged or occurs in a succession of stages such that each stage derives from or acts upon the product of the preceding stage. Think dominoes. Think slippery slope, as when one is on the slippery slope all subsequent motion is down hill or toward a particular conclusion. Resistance is futile. Such is the nature of a cascade.

A cascade is a logical and necessary process that concludes at a particular endpoint or outcome through the application of a particular rule or a particular set of rules.

By Design

The current rage in the world of web design is something called Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). A style sheet is a set of instructions that are implemented by a computer and applied to a range of situations downstream (so to speak) without the need for the repetition of the instructions. A Style Sheet is a set of hierarchical rules that, once stated, will always be applied in a specific order without restatement. And one of the frustrating things about CSS designing is that sometimes a particular rule is being applied, but the source instruction for that rule is difficult to determine because it is upstream and far removed from the immediate situation or code context. Once one understands the order of the cascade, the rule can be determined. Such is the nature of a cascade. The secret to using Style Sheets effectively is understanding the order of the cascade.

Theological Cascade

The concern in this section of the Pilgrim Platform website is an explication of what I call theological cascade, the order, rules and issues of thoughts, values and ideas. The biblical cascade under consideration, the order of the cascade, is that theology determines (or produces) philosophy, and philosophy determines (or produces) ethics, and ethics determines (or produces) policy, and policy determines (or produces) behavior.

The cascade can be mapped as follows:

Theology –> Philosophy–> Ethics–> Policy–> Behavior

And because the connections are necessary by definition, the cascade flow can be followed in both directions — upstream and downstream, once one understands the underlying structure of the cascade. However, in the real world people are seldom aware of the cascade in which they live and move. Both a conscious person and an unconscious log will go over a waterfall once they are in the flow of the cascade. According to the Bible, all people are always caught in a particular cascade — the Fall (Genesis 3).

Of course, God has sent Christ with a specific rule that will alter the Genesis 3 cascade. Designers can think of Jesus Christ as an inline style tag (rule) that is attached to a particular piece of code (a person). Inline style tags (rules) trump the cascade and force the immediate application of the rule. They stop the cascade flow regarding a particular code element.

It has been said that ideas have consequences. Those consequences are the issues (the progeny or fruit) under consideration. Issues are consequences of thought systems — both intended consequences and accidental or unforeseen consequences. Particular issues come out of particular points of view, particular beliefs and values. Our worldviews define and produce issues. Issues are the products of worldviews. Our intent is to show the connections between issues and worldviews, between belief and behavior.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *