Archive | September, 2014

Logical Gal – Multiple definitions can be confusing!

24 Sep

A recent devotional I read mentioned the Apostle Paul’s use of the term Israel to refer to FOUR different concepts.

I thought a brief account of how ‘Israel’ is employed would serve as a useful reminder to clarify terms before jumping into a discussion/debate or argument with someone.

The first question ALWAYS to ask is: What do you mean by X?

Hebrew people

‘Tabletalk’ is a monthly magazine with articles and daily Bible teaching by Dr. R.C. Sproul. I’m a month behind, but the 18 August 2014 piece was based on some verses in Romans 11.  Dr. Sproul mentions that in Romans 9-11, Paul uses ‘Israel’ to describe 4 different groups of people (his exact words follow):

  • The group of ethnic Jews who have true faith in the Lord
  • The entire corporate nation that is made up of all ethic Jews, including those who do not trust in the Lord
  • Ethnic Jews who have not placed their faith in Jesus
  • And finally, the term Israel can also designate all of those who believe in Jesus, including both ethnic Jews and ethnic Gentiles

Just reading about these distinctions reinforced in MY mind how ‘nuanced’ the Bible is.  I’m beginning to realize that words in Scripture are often a shorthand description that needs to be amplified.  For example, I’ve often been puzzled by the first 4 words in Paul’s statement: To live is Christ and to die is gain. (Phil 1:21)

I now realize that we in contemporary America speak in an equally symbolic but well understood way when we announce boldly general statements such as:  “Gardening is my life” or some such thing.  So to say ‘to live is Christ’ would probably mean that Christ is the most important person and truth in my life and I base everything on Him.

If we invest the energy and time actually to think and ponder, we CAN deal with layered concepts that might at first seem to stretch us.

I’ll leave you with a puzzle to practice with, one that maybe you can unravel.  Just as there are equivocal definitions of the term Israel, there are several possibilities for the adjective ALL or EVERY……  I often hear people announce hyperbolically:

  • All of New York turned out for the parade
  • All the OTHER kids get to go to the party!
  • Everyone knows that…..

Here’s my challenge:  What does Paul mean when he boldly writes to the Christians in Rome – All Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26)

All Israel will be saved

Before we get into a theological back and forth, we had better work to clarify the following:

  1. which category of Israel is meant?
  2. what does ‘all’ really mean?
  3. and in what sense will that group be ‘saved’?

Only then can a discussion proceed!

Would that as a matter of course I could be so restrained in my conversations.

 

 

Logical Gal and courage to ask some questions

17 Sep

Questions - ask them

As a woman, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by assertive naturalist types who claim that evolution IS the only rational explanation for the way life is.  I guess I’m taken back by their self-assurance and confidence.

But gradually as I’ve listened to podcasts by thoughtful, rational and well-educated /well-credentialed scientists and philosophers who are Christian, I’ve learned some questions that might come in handy.

Actually there is NO reason ever to feel intimidated by anyone because we can ALWAYS ask a question.  The more we learn about someone’s position, not only do we ‘buy time’, but we gain insight that can be very helpful in future conversations.

Here are a few questions I have learned to ask:

  • When a self-proclaimed materialist says: “Intelligent Design is NOT science!” Ask: What do you call a theory that is based on physical data and uses logical inferences? (Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute’s response)
  • When you encounter this claim: “Evolution accounts for all our human development” Ask: How can you trust reason if it comes from a non-rational source? (materialists claim we are just molecules in motion)
  • When up against the assertion,”There are no absolute moral values!” Ask: How can you be sure?
  • When someone is going on and on about the strength or beauty of the theory of evolution, Ask: If survivability is what ensures that species continue and evolve, then truth is not necessary.  And if truth is not necessary, why should I trust your theory of evolution?
  • When you encounter a resurrection-denier who says, “Dead men don’t rise on their own!” Ask: Do you believe in the theory of Cause and Effect?  (Christians don’t claim that Jesus rose on his own, but that God supernaturally raised him!)
  • When faced with pushback from someone who needs ‘logical certainty’ before he’ll believe the truth claims of Christianity Ask: Did you have that kind of certainty when you got married?  (Practical certainty is what most of us live by)

These are just a few questions I am adding to my ‘rational thinking tool bag’.  What about you?  Which questions have served you well?

Bag of tools

Logical Gal and How to Figure out the Truth

10 Sep

Truth

Recently I heard a clear-thinking talk show host provide a method of discovering the truth about a topic. Of course, none of us can be 100 % confident that we have ‘the truth’. But we CAN arrive at a position with a reasonable degree of confidence of its correspondence to reality.

As an aside, why can’t any of us be ABSOLUTE certain of anything? Because in this universe we only occupy a position as created beings. We are part of the creation and we don’t stand above it, with a 360 % view (so to speak).

Back to the radio show I heard – the illustration used to showcase this method was the argument for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This system works for any event, from crimes being tried in court to your teen’s assertion that the car WAS home before midnight.

When we look at the historicity of Jesus Christ, there are apparently 4 unattested facts. Atheistic, agnostic and Christian scholars alike agree on these four points because one does not have to point to the Bible or any supernatural cause.

 

Jesus' tomb is empty, unlike others

Gary Habermas is credited for having boiled these down to clear indisputable data:

  1. A man named Jesus of Nazareth was put to death by crucifixion at the hands of Roman soldiers on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
  1. The dead Jesus was put into a tomb that was sealed and guarded.
  1. Three days after his death his disciples claimed the tomb was empty and that they encountered the resurrected Jesus and continued to see him for 40 days.
  1. Based on that claim/belief, the Christian church exploded into being and grew exponentially.

Those are the facts. Now what?

What follows next is to open the discussion to competing explanations. All are welcome to hold forth. But….

After you lay out your best scenario that explains all the facts, there is still one crucial piece.

You must provide EVIDENCE to support your explanation. Otherwise, your explanation is nothing more than a ‘just so story’. Or as I’ve heard another Logical Joe say:

  • One could say THIS….
  • Or one could say THAT….but what does the evidence support?

Evidence

In  summary:

-lay out the facts

-suggest possible explanations, looking for one that has the most explanatory taking into consideration ALL the facts

-examine the evidence

Question: What situation comes to mind that would benefit from this method for getting at the truth of the matter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal says: We need another category for God

3 Sep

Have you ever been cornered at the mall by one of those survey-takers? You know, the kind with the clipboard making a beeline just for you?

Survey taker at the mall The kinds of questions they ask always frustrate me because there are not enough options to cover how I really think.  So I am pigeon-holed into declaring a position that doesn’t reflect my views!

Similarly, we Christians sometimes make a mistake of allowing a false description of God go uncorrected simply because we do not have enough categories in our repertoire.

I’m thinking of the false dilemma that atheists try to force us into.  One

If God is a loving being as you Christians claim He is, then He would not allow any evil!

Evil obviously DOES exist

Therefore, God is not loving

A different version of this might be to set it up so that the very existence of God is at stake, with the presence of evil being proof that He can’t exist.

Evil and suffering God allows

What we need, however, IS a category that allows for a good and loving God who has a good and loving purpose for allowing suffering.  Is that so implausible?

I heard just yesterday a man paint a scenario of aliens visiting earth and observing a hospital delivery room where the following is happening:

  • a woman is panting in agony
  • her husband looks anxious
  • one person looks like he is trying to suffocate the woman by placing something over her mouth and nose
  • a sharp needle is stuck in her arm
  • a few minutes later as she is thrashing about, a man takes a knife and slices open her belly
  • he extracts a wailing slimy little person from inside the woman
  • people rush the small creature away from the woman who is holding her arms out clearly wanting to see and touch this life form

The aliens would NOT know the reasons behind this incomprehensible series of events and conclude that earthlings are cruel and bizarre.

childbirth

What they would not realize that in a short while:

  • the woman would be smiling as she held her living, breathing precious newborn
  • a very relieved husband would be hovering, maybe videoing his new daughter
  • the past agony of an emergency C-section would be considered well worth the pain fear

If such a scenario exists to explain and justify a not so ordinary example of human suffering, is it possible that God might have a ‘good’ reason for allowing what we considered evil?  This is NOT to deny evil, pain and suffering, but is a justification for forming another category for a God who IS good AND allows circumstances which cause us to recoil since we don’t understand or see the purpose.

What we cannot say, like the aliens who don’t have all the information, is that since WE don’t know the reason, there must not be one.

 

Question:  Which objection to the existence of the biblical God do you encounter most often?