Archive | July, 2014

Logical Gal advises – ‘Say what you mean and mean what you say!’

30 Jul

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.

-Henry Brooks Adams, historian (1838-1918)

Clear thinking

In our warped-speed culture, do you find that ANYONE takes the time to develop a thought or inquire into someone else’s ideas?  We ping off of sound bytes before we know what WE think or THEY think!

Over at my other blog – Posts about God’s Word, I mused on 27 July 2014 about how we rush around and drive ourselves nuts.   Technology was supposed to FREE us to pursue leisure, to be less crazy!

And what exactly is leisure?  Classically it has little to do with ‘fun activities’ filling our time off from work.  Instead it referred to the time set aside for contemplation of all that is TRUE, GOOD and BEAUTIFUL. Consider Josef Pieper’s observation about how we spend time and what it does to our soul!

“… the greatest menace to our capacity for contemplation is the incessant fabrication of tawdry empty stimuli which kill the receptivity of the soul.”
Josef Pieper, Happiness and Contemplation

**

Recently, one of our sons who has a baby and a small child forwarded on an essay based on a study about harm to the brain as an effect of spanking.  He asked for our thoughts.  You can access the report of the findings here:  Spanking Article

Because I was ‘rushed’, I just glanced at the on-line article in typical 21st century SCAN mode.  It ‘appeared’ to be condemning all forms of physical discipline.  When one is checking Facebook or Twitter or other social media sites that share essays, reports and articles, little attention is given to careful reading.  True to my experience, the article APPEARED to be anti-spanking.  I can see the harm I could have done by communicating verbally with another mom or grandmother what I had skimmed.

Read carefully

To my relief, when I took the time to read slowly and with consideration I found the author DID make a distinction between spanking that would be more like battery (think – striking a child with a belt) and the kind that is just a swift swat with a hand, making a clear point.

But the initial paragraph was crafted the way journalists are taught to write – stay broad and general at first, then go into more depth and details in subsequent paragraphs BECAUSE most people don’t read beyond the initial paragraph.

Here’s the rub – do any of us have time enough to read deeply and slowly, giving thought to what we are ingesting and connecting it to previously held and categorized knowledge ?

I, for one, don’t have that kind of time.  So just MAYBE the solution is to read less, but read well.  To speak less, but speak more thoughtfully.  To allocate my ‘free’ time to worthwhile learning.

Then just MAYBE my communications with others might grow more true, more sticky and less ‘thick’ or viscous as historian Henry Adams lamented (quote at beginning of blog post).  Then just MAYBE someone will say:  “That Maria – she often says what she means and means what she says!” 

Question: what about you?  What could you eliminate from your daily ‘intake’? (think: You Tube videos, newspapers, TV, blog posts, Instagram, Pinterest…..)

And as a gift to you, my way-too-busy reader, I have decided for the time-being to upload a post to this site just once a week. In the meantime, I intend to ask God how HE wants me to use the time He has allotted me.  

 

Logical Gal – speaking causes confusion

26 Jul

confused

Words are meant to clarify….often they confuse or divide!

Last time we mentioned that even the name/personage of Jesus was unclear by itself.  Saying you rely on Jesus doesn’t communicate who this Jesus is. Is he the Mormon Jesus or the Muslim Jesus or in fact the Biblical Jesus of Christianity?

This shouldn’t surprise us.  My husband Michael is completely different from any of a number of other Michaels in the world.

So the existence of more than one concept called ‘pray’ should come as no shock.

Early in my logic learning I vowed to practice ASKING questions before MAKING my points.  One afternoon I was enjoying a massage.  The gal who was working out six months worth of knots in my neck mentioned that her mom was undergoing surgery and that she was ‘praying’ for her recovery.  My first thought was:

  • Is she actually a Christian?  After all, she just admitted that she prayed!

Praying gal

When I asked her just what praying entailed, she described:

  • sending loving, healing thoughts through the air all the way to her mom in California

Good thing I asked what she meant!  Her clarification opened up a safe place for me to describe what I do when I pray.  I explained  how I make my request to the One who has created the entire universe and now sustains it.  I ask Him to heal a loved one because I know that He is real, alive and present as well as the powerful God of love.  She didn’t say much in return, but at least she HEARD a description of theistic prayer. I didn’t explain the gospel or say anything about Jesus. My goal was modest: to make the distinction between ‘new-agey’ practices and prayer to a real deity.

*

Unfortunately, I am NOT consistent in carrying out my resolve first to ask questions! I still succumb to my desire to make my point before I understand someone’s position.  It’s not only senseless on my part, but often a waste of time. Many times I am wrong in my assumptions drawn from someone’s cursory statement about their position on a topic. Why do I rush to get my ‘voice in edgewise’?  Probably because I’m impressed with my thinking!

Pride goes before a fall!

 

Question: When were you last wrong in your assessment of someone’s view?

 

Logical Gal asks: Will you go to heaven?

22 Jul

Eternal Life

God does NOT want you to be in the dark about whether you will be with Him eternally.

John writes this assurance  to believers :

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Well, is that it? Do you feel better now?

Wait a moment, you say.

John’s statement IS a powerful promise IF….

  • We clarify some key terms – ‘believe’ and ‘the name of the Son of God’
  • We flesh out the promise, by formulating a syllogism

Just the basics of logic, right?

So what does ‘believe’ mean when it comes to Christianity?  If we substitute the word ‘trust and rely on‘ for believe, we come closer to the sense of the concept.  A Christian is someone who trusts what Jesus says, Jesus being in essence God himself. (I and the Father are one – John 10:30)

What did Jesus say?  that He came to suffer the punishment we deserve for our rebellion against God and that He came to live a perfect, obedient life which gets credited to the account of His true followers.  It’s an unbelievable 2-way exchange.  Our guilt for His righteousness. Both sides of that swap ARE the necessary work that enable us to be adopted as children of God.

Name of Son of God

Now what about His name?  That’s easier to understand.  The name represents His character and functions.  Just glance at the image above and you’ll get an idea of just WHOM it is that Christians trust and rely on!  So when someone announces,  “I believe in Jesus!” one should ask this question: Whom actually are you talking about?

Mormons refer to a Jesus who is the spirit-brother of Lucifer and was born the way you and I were born, through a sexual union.

And then there are Muslims who deny that Jesus is the Son of God or that He actually died on the cross.

Those characterizations do not fit the Christian Jesus, the eternal and perfect Son of God. Words, obviously,  can mask a great deal.

*Now for a syllogism to lead us to an assurance of salvation:

Premise 1: All people who trust and rely on the Biblical Jesus for both standing in as deserved punishment bearer AND for living a perfectly righteous life receive eternal life with God

Premise 2: Joe is a person who trusts and relies on the Biblical Jesus for…..

Conclusion: Therefore, Joe knows/is certain that he has eternal life with God

Is that it?  Well, there is a pre-supposition lurking and these are always good to uncover in ANY argument.

Gods word is truth

Yes, one must believe that what is written in the Bible IS truth.  So then the promise as recorded by the apostle John at the beginning of this blog post is reliable and valid.

Just a word of encouragement for you if you are a believer who at times doubts his or her ultimate salvation.  We can’t go by feelings OR our behavior.  The Bible does not say, “If  you FEEL close to God, or if you DO all that God wants you to do, you will go to heaven.”

Remember, there is a spiritual force of darkness whose goal it is to deprive you of  KNOWING you are saved.  He is called the Father of Lies and the Accuser.  We must choose whom to listen to.

Question: If you are a Christian, what is holding you back from resting in the security of belonging to God?

 

 

 

Logical Gal – why do you believe what you believe?

17 Jul

Beliefs

I heard a former French atheist claim that belief in God was ‘properly basic‘.

I had to look it up to understand what was meant.

It seems that whatever belief we hold must be justifiable.  We have to supply a proper or legitimate reason for believing. That is, when we can provide a ‘proper’ reason for why we hold something to be true, then we are in our ‘intellectual rights’ for believing it to be so.    So what is a kind of reason that would lead to something being a legitimate belief?

The easiest source for a good reason or foundation is to deduce a new truth from a prior accepted truth.  Sounds cut and dry…yet…you can end up  following an ‘infinite regress’, a I believe this because of that.   And I believe THAT because of ANOTHER THAT..resulting in an unending pointing back to the prior belief  à la ‘world without end, Amen!’

Fortunately some beliefs are considered ‘properly basic’ in that you don’t have to explain WHY you believe that they are so.  These beliefs are often mathematical or logical in scope.  But some people will claim that belief in God is ‘properly basic’,  that no proof is needed. They will say, “Well  you believe that minds other than yours exist, right?  How do you prove that?  You wouldn’t even be able to THINK about whether God existed if He hadn’t created reason, so belief in God is a starting point – hence ‘properly basic’.”

So how do we sort out whether something fits the ‘properly basic’ category or not?    Just be able to answer the question: Why do you believe XYZ?

You have 2 choices:

a) you can say – I believe XYZ because it’s a properly basic belief and doesn’t need proof.  And then you EXPLAIN why that is so.

or

b) you can say – I believe XYZ for this reason….. and you provide a proper basis for your thinking.

In other words – just know what you believe and why you think it is so!

But what constitutes a ‘proper’ reason outside of one that is ‘properly basic’?  This requires making some distinctions, AKA thinking!

I just do

The above explanation might suffice for why you married your partner, but that won’t work for most anything else.  With love, you might be saying that your feelings are based on a whim. Or at best they are a result of something that you can’t put into words.

But for other issues, like why you feel hopeful about the future, or why you are a democrat, or why you eat gluten-free or why you hold to a naturalist worldview or why you have chosen to homeschool, or why you believe that human nature doesn’t change – these beliefs must be supported by something else.  Here are a few possibilities:

  • you believe because your 5 senses offer evidence that the belief is true (and you trust your senses)  – I SAW the airplane land with my own eyes!
  • you believe because you can make a logically deductive case for the belief – All men make mistakes.  John is a man.  Therefore, he makes mistakes.
  • you have probable cause to believe due to previous experiences – Every time I eat wheat bread, my stomach is upset.  When I substitute gluten-free bread, my stomach is fine.  Therefore, I do better on a gluten-free diet.
  • you believe because it is self-evident or axiomatic, as uncontroversial as “The sun always rises in the east.”
  • you believe because someone or something authoritative that you trust has claimed it to be so.  For example: George Washington was our 1st president.  I trust the history books and the oil paintings that we have portraying Washington.

Whether a belief is ‘properly basic’ or not might be more than you care to remember, and you might have to google it like I did the next time you hear it.  But, the take away is this:

  • We need to be able to articulate not only WHAT we believe, but WHY we hold something to be true.

Question: What is your strongest, most passionate belief that you are quickest to defend?  And what would you say grounds it? Or is IT, in fact, ‘properly basic’ and does not need any reason or defense?

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal – distinctions lead to tension

14 Jul

Distinction

definition (Google) :  a noun indicating a difference or contrast between similar people or things

Distinction - pencils

To think through a concept in order to arrive at a more clear understanding requires grappling with distinctions.   I am VERY fond of distinctions because they tell me THIS and not THAT.  Knowing what something is not can lead to a more complete idea of what something is.

Today in Sunday School we were studying James, chapter 3.  Jesus’ half-brother warns against selfish ambition.  That caused me to wonder what OTHER kinds of ambition there might be!  I am beginning to ask more questions as I grow my logic and clear thinking skills.  This new habit encourages me!

We all know how concrete children seem to be, how they default to labeling the world either Black or White.  This tendency is forgivable in children, often the source of amused smiles in parents.  But for grownups to continue this view of life brings on smug criticism in others.  Moderns pride themselves in being ‘nuanced’.  Even entire nations criticize others for NOT living with ‘gray’.  The French accuse some American administrations of having been ‘Manichaean’ , that is dividing the world into ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’.

Ronald Reagan

Criticized or not, I truly believe that for some issues, there is TRUTH and non-truth.  But as I continue to read, study, think and grow, I realize that some concepts just defy being pinned down and categorized separately because it is WE who are finite and cannot get beyond our God-given limitations.

Hence, my fascination with DISTINCTIONS!  Here are the top 4 in Christianity, as I see them:

  • the Trinity – God is ONE essence but THREE persons.  So although God the Father, and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit each enjoys different roles – they are one and the same.  God is both/and and very real!   We see God the Father clearly as the ‘person’ in charge.  God the Son submits to the Father.  The Spirit works with them both – they are all one God.  Enough to keep us thinking forever!
  • Jesus – fully human and fully man!  How can that be?  We don’t know HOW, but we do know it is TRUE.
  • Christians – we live in the flesh here in this present world, and we live in the spirit in the Kingdom of God where we actually are seated at the same time that we are walking on earth.
  • Free Will and God’s Sovereign Control – Yes!  They both exist and we can see the differences, but one doesn’t exclude the other.  Yet even though we can KNOW this, we can also not understand it.

Only someone who is still immature will fight this tension and want to come down on one side or the other. They will feel the need to go PAST making a distinction and to actually cause a separation. And they will try to force YOU to do so, too!

Fish or cut bait

But you don’t have to.  Just remember that it does take a lot of patience and humility and a degree of wonder to live with the fact that we won’t sort it all out.  No matter HOW smart we become!

Who knows – maybe being willing to live with that tension of the both/and might lead to a higher plane of insight?

Question – What do YOU distinguish but can’t separate?

 

 

 

Logical Gal says – Give thought to what you hear and read

10 Jul

Gullible Charlie Brown

There are some sayings, truisms they call them, that have been around a long time.

We swallow them without much consideration, believing them to be truth.

I read one the other day. It’s often used as a critique of a religious person:

  • She’s so heavenly minded that she is no earthly good!

Heavenly minded, no earthly good

What does that mean?  What kind of person IS someone whose mind is focused on heaven ?  And is that a bad thing?  The fleshed-out major premise with the rest of the argument is here:

Either a person thinks a lot about heaven or a person accomplishes good on earth.

Jane is a person who thinks mostly about heaven

Therefore, Jane has little positive impact on circumstances around her 

Thinking critically means that we examine the truth of this major premise.  And based on heavenly-minded people I have encountered or read/heard about, those who meditate a lot on God’s revealed word about heaven are usually people who care deeply about others and seek to do them good.  In fact, one could argue that MOST good is done by people who believe that a far better world awaits them.  Less inclined to cling to ‘their’ stuff here on earth,  they tend to be generous with resources in this life.

**

The other saying I ‘ve been pondering is this:  The Devil is in the details

How often we speak in generalities! Words can be used as a kind of shorthand for a more complex meaning.  As I read my Bible I’m  beginning to realize that a lot of what is said DOES need to be broken down and parsed out with distinctions clarified.  For example, “…..Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27b)

I now understand, through word study and contextual reading of the whole of Bible, what this statement means in its two parts:

  • if you are a Christian (you agree with God regarding your nature and your sin problem and have accepted His gift of a solution – Jesus swapping His righteousness for your guilt), then you have a new nature that includes Jesus being spiritually and forever in you like new DNA
  • and His permanent immaterial/spiritual place in you is your guarantee  – your trust – of future glory in God’s New World

Details - God is in

So…what’s the point of these 2 examples?

Besides the counsel that we should think through all that we hear and read before taking any of it into ourselves, the larger take away is this:

  • We can’t enter into any MEANINGFUL discussion of important issues today via tweets and Facebook exchanges filled with slogans and ricocheting insults.  Worthy discourse takes time – time to understand fully what our opponent is saying and means and then time to unpack what we believe.
  • There’s no point wasting any emotional energy in ‘fly-bys’.  No one gains and many are put off.  Words are resources.  Let’s steward them well.

 

Question:  which contemporary saying or slogan seems most loaded to you?

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal and how to write a letter to the editor

7 Jul

letter to the editor

Today’s Asheville Citizen-Times sported a guest columnist who is Director of Radiology at a local medical school.  He wrote about 750 words asserting as FACT two ‘propositions’ about the theory of evolution and the nature of Christians.

About evolution, his statements were along the line of ‘it’s settled science’.  And his view of Christians painted a strawman group of people who can’t ground their beliefs in anything true or factual.  He also maintained that most Christians accept the theory of evolution.

Nor did he build a case around either premise.  His commentary turned out to be nothing more than multiple statements offered as ‘fact’.  He then finished up by accusing Christians of being anti-science and a threat to democracy if they support creationism.

As a thinking Christian, I have to keep my emotions in check.  But it’s not enough to avoid mild rants about how our current society sees Christians.  I don’t always compose a letter to the editor. This time I felt like I should.

But what do you do when there are so many un-truths in one piece?

direction?

 

I had to limit myself and choose a main topic and maybe one side issue.  First I prayed that God would guide me.  And He did!  Before I sat down at the computer, I listened to a podcast while walking and heard some ideas that gave direction to my thoughts.  Then I jotted down my points BEFORE I started writing the letter.

Taking a few minutes to line up my direction kept me, I hope, from volleying back with an equally shot-gunned answer.  I also tried to write at a 5th grade reading level (the audience of daily papers, they say) and keep my tone winsome.

Here’s my response.  We’ll see if the paper publishes it.  At least the guy or gal whose job it is to monitor letters and perform ‘triage’ on them will have to read it!

 

Dr. ‘Joe Blow’ seems to think that only Christians trust beliefs they cannot see. Were we to sit down to talk, I would offer the following for his consideration:

We all start with a story or world-view written by the community we most identify with. This world-view is a lens through which we see and explain different facets of life. Dr. Rowe has faith that the scientific view of the world is true.

Reason calls us to verify our view with facts and experiences. What can be measured lends credence to the story.  Christians rely on the evidence of the historical crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. No top-rate New Testament scholar, secular or religious, disputes the historicity of the death and rising to life of Jesus of Nazareth.

However certainty about one’s assumptions is impossible. We should retain those offering the most explanatory power.

Therefore, the best any human can do is exercise reasonable trust.

If Dr. Rowe were married, I would ask him how he is sure of his wife’s love. I would point out that he couldn’t have the same kind of certainty he probably has about the temperature at which water freezes. But he can look at his experiences with his wife and choose to trust her love for him. She has probably built up a track record of faithful exercise of loving actions toward him.

Thinking Christians look at the evidence and their experiences of God in their lives and make the rational step of trusting the God of the Bible.

Question: which is easier for you to do – write a response to someone with whom you fundamentally disagree or dialogue face-to-face?