Archive | October, 2014

Logical Gal and the beauty of a category error

29 Oct

I heard some good news this week – enunciated in a way that I can understand AND remember.

Good for goodness sake

And it was just the opposite of the song invoked in the photo above.  Whew!

One of my favorite preaching pastors, John Piper Link to his site, was explaining the concept of election and justification, Christian terms for being called into the Christian family by God.  He painted the scenario of a gal lamenting to her pastor that her past was SO BAD, that NO WAY could God forgive her enough to let her into His kingdom.

That’s when Piper described her as BOTH prideful AND incorrect in thinking that any condition could block God’s will.

At that moment…..drum roll Piper announced that God NEVER even considers one’s past life or actions in his selection of His children.  This gal was making a category error.  She was thinking that the two kinds of people were

  • the GOOD enough

and the

  • NOT GOOD enough

It is truly happy news to learn that she was not even in the ball park.

She was right on one account;  there are just TWO categories of folk.  All humans fall into one of these two groups:

  • those who belong to the family of God and are considered His adopted children
  • those who don’t belong to the family because God has not adopted them as His children

But HOW He chooses is a mystery. If we take His words as truth (and since He is God, by nature He IS Truth), then He has decreed who He adopts for His own reasons that have nothing to do with how ‘bad or good’ we are.  (Truth be told, NO ONE is ‘good’.)  Listen to what God teaches us through Paul’s writings in Romans 9: 10-13

  • when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”  As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Of course, we will probably trip over the verbs LOVED and HATED.

So as all good logicians and thinkers, we should CLARIFY THE MEANING of these two terms.

 

Clarify meanining

I’ll leave you to think through what God might intend by ‘love and hate’, but before you snort and feel frustrated, think about how we freely and loosely toss around terms.

  • I love movies….I love my dog…I love my children…I love God
  • I hate laundry….I hate Mondays….I hate terrorists….I hate it when I lose my temper

 

Logical Gal and a win-win wager

22 Oct

True Confessions!

I struggle with worry.  Not only is this stupid, but it’s a sin since God commands Christians: Do not be anxious (Phil 4:6)

I was battling this unbelief Sunday night and Monday morning, when I realized that the possible outcomes revolving around my worrysome circumstance could be organized in a similar fashion to Pascal’s Wager.

Pensées - Pascal

Blaise Pascal was a French philosopher and mathematician.  One of the ways you might be acquainted with him is through his Pensées .  This collection of thoughts were gathered by his man-servant and assembled after his death.  He had written each pithy reflection about God on pieces of parchment and then sewn them into his coat’s lining.

Pascal meditated on how one should live this life here on earth in view of what might happen beyond the grave.  His reasoning as a logician led him  in view of  after death options to sort out the possible outcomes of a decision for or against relying on God.

The 4 possibilities look like this:

1. God exists and I give up management and submit to Him – I get a joy-filled/punishment-free eternal life with God. The cost? Very little –  some temporary experiences that might have satisfied me if indulged in.

2. God exists and I refuse to acknowledge Him and control my own life – I get a scary and painful eternal life away from God. The cost? A LOT! – an eternity of pain that lasts a lot longer than the temporary earthly pleasures I indulged in

3. God does not exist and I give up my control and desires and live according to what I think He wants – I get nothing, because there is nothing beyond the grave.  Nothing bad or good awaits me forever. The cost? Very little some temporary experiences I held back from.

4. God does not exist and I live my life following my own desires – I get nothing, because there is nothing beyond the grave. Nothing bad or good awaits me forever.  The cost? Nothing

So if you evaluate what you stand to gain or lose, rationally it makes sense to bet on God existing. (of course what one thinks of God and what God thinks of us is not up to odds, but this is just a way of using reason)

Back to worry.  How does this idea of a wager apply?

I think we can set up a similar decision wager paradigm that clearly shows the folly of worry.

First of all, here is my pre-supposition:  Worry is a joy and happiness stealer.  The formula looks like this:

Worry Inequaltiy Math Symbol Joy

And our choice of belief boils down to this:

1. Believe God when He says He is taking care of us = no need to worry.

2. Don’t believe God when He says He is taking care of us =  need to worry.

  • If we believe God and He is who He says He is and therefore IS taking care of us – we didn’t worry and we have peace and get proof that God provided for that need/situation/problem.
  • If we believe God and He doesn’t exist or isn’t like what we think – we didn’t  worry and we have to deal with the outcome of the need/situation/problem but we didn’t experience the joyless pain of worry leading up to the situation.
  • If we don’t believe God, whether He exists or not, we end up worrying and lose our joy and peace.

It makes sense as Christians to opt for the first situation.

Happiness

If God IS God by definition, then in His essence He is honest and everything He says about Himself IS true.  Afterall, his character and reputation are at stake.  We yield to emotions so often and don’t cling to truth.  And all along God is present and willing and able to handle our situations.

I have to remind myself daily that God knows about my day and has provisioned me with exactly what I need for each moment.  I am to make use of these provisions by divine faith which He has given me.

Christianity is a calling to use the evidence that God through the Holy Spirit has given us.  May we each be empowered to believe the Truth!

…the Spirit is Truth.  1 John 5:6b 

Question:  What helps you with anxiety?

 

Logical Gal-statements that die before reaching 1st base

15 Oct

Self Refuting Tree Sawing Analogy

 

I tuned in last week to J. Warner Wallace’s discussion about TRUTH.

He addressed rules or pronouncements that can’t even meet their own standards, what he calls self-refuting statements.

Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective who ministers by sharing investigative insights that apply to Christianity. He films and uploads a video discussion most Fridays about evidence supporting the truth of Jesus Christ.  You can find these gems at Cold Case Christianity.    Here’s the link to his site

One of his points about truth that I enjoyed hearing again described the change in the definition of TOLERANCE.

Tolerance USED to be defined as the respectful treatment of the FACT or PRESENCE of differing points of view.  This original view of ‘tolerance’ assumed that people believed differently and that beliefs often opposed or contradicted one another.  But today, the concept of tolerance includes the belief that ALL views are equally ‘valid’.  As meek and mild as this new version may seem, it has a mean bite to it!

Pushing the definition to go in THIS direction actually uses ‘valid’ to mean:

  • You can’t criticize my view and say it’s WRONG!

Today’s Tolerance Bullies protect ‘new and improved’ definitions of such fundamental parts of society as

  • holidays (Seattle just voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day)
  • gender
  • marriage
  • societal roles
  • aberrant and normal behavior
  • rights and entitlements

As overwhelming and furiously paced as these changes may be, one can take comfort in the FACT that the logic behind the pre-supposition grounding this new definition of tolerance is flawed.

If it is true that tolerance means you can’t say my belief is WRONG, then…

  • You, yourself, can’t label ‘wrong’ MY belief that traditional marriage is the only legitimate marriage union
  • You, yourself, have no leg to stand on when criticizing my view that abortion is murder!
  • And if I were to think it’s okay to act out any number of behaviors you don’t like, my loyalty to them is protected by your new definition

Do you see how today’s new definition breaks down before getting to first base?  That, my friends, is the beauty of logic!

Just like the in-your-face comeback (see image below) to the fact of the existence of absolute truth, their statements break down before they can gather a molecule of dust!

Self-refuting statements

 

All you have to say in response to their claim above:

– So, is your statement just a personal opinion?

Question:  What is a ‘Truth Pronouncement’ that seems suicidal to you?

 

 

 

 

So next time, instead of feeling overwhelmed by next topsy-turvy way of thinking, take a deep breath and ask yourself if that person’s statement follows their OWN ground rules.

Logical Gal and what makes a good definition

8 Oct

Stop

Have you ever felt sheepish after jumping down someone’s throat….

for incorrectly assessing your conversational partner’s point of view?  Come to find out, you had been thinking about X and they had meant Y.  And it all hinged on a TERM!  Before you and I engage in a discussion, we need to clarify and clear away the fog by defining our terms precisely!

That’s rule # 1

And we always follow the rules, right? Smiley Face

Sometimes though, it is easier said then done.  Especially when we aren’t sure what makes for a good definition.

There are several guidelines, but today I want to talk about 2 characteristics in particular which assist in obtaining clarity. Communicating a definition means that your audience is left better off after listening to you – there is LESS confusion.

First things first!

When you create a definition, you need to include both a genus (the big category to which it belongs) and a differentia (the ‘what about it details’ that make IT different from other members in the category/genus).  Hence, a GooD definition – capital G for genus and capital D for differentia, includes both parts, the genus and the differential.

For example, what is a car?

Car

The ‘genus’ is the large family of motorized vehicles.

And what distinguishes a car from a truck from an airplane could be stated like this:

a member of the motorized vehicle genus which has 4 wheels and has as its primary design function that of transporting 1-6 people on a road.

What’s highlighted in red makes up the differentia.  Now here is the tricky part and what I want to convey in this blog post.  When we attempt accurately to describe the differentia, we have to be both inclusive AND exclusive in a sufficient manner so that:

  • the differentia could not apply to more than one member of the differentia

For example, if we had suggested a differentia that went like this….which has as its primary function that of transporting people and not cargo on a road..then how would we tell whether this included or EXcluded a van or  a bus or even a motorcycle?

A definition has to be ‘mutually exclusive’, meaning that there be NO confusion whether something fits into a car slot or a bus slot or a motorcycle slot or a pickup truck slot.

  • AND the genus and differentia have to provide for all potential members so that you don’t exclude a possible member, leaving them unassigned.

For example, if I had not intentionally selected the number ONE as the lower end of passenger carrying capacity, I might have left out the possibility of a really tiny one-person vehicle from being considered a car.

One passenger car

What got me thinking about the importance of ‘GooD’ definitions and the proper use of categories was the opening of a sermon in which the pastor was describing Mexican food.  He had grown up in California and argued that when you boiled down this style of cuisine, there were basically MEAT tacos and BEAN tacos.  The varieties are endless, but by his thinking, a GooD definition of Mexican food would be this:

Mexican food is a style of cooking (genus) using tacos as a base for filling with either meat or beans in various combinations combined with many possible add-ons. (differentia)

Mexican Food

After tantalizing his congregation with mouthwatering thoughts of a tasty lunch, he delivered his punch line: 

There are only 2 kinds of people in the world:

  • those who live according to the Holy Spirit and are therefore born-again Christians with a happy future
  • those who live according to their own agenda and are therefore enemies of God with a depressing future

If you think about it, every single person on Earth who ever has lived, is living or will live fits into either one or the other group. Therefore, this categorization is considered ‘jointly exhaustive’.

And no one can have a foot in one category AND the other at the same time. Therefore, this description is ‘mutually exclusive’.

It’s sobering, isn’t it!

But truth is like that.  I’m reminded of another area where there are only 2 categories:  a woman is either pregnant or she is not pregnant.  The logic law that states that limitation of reality is called the Law of the Excluded Middle.

Even though Truth can be as bracing as a bucket of ice water, there is Good News.  And it is this:

  • Although EVERYONE starts off in that 2nd category (or trajectory toward remaining an enemy of God), no one is doomed to stay there.  God’s offer of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is available to all those who are willing to accept the gift.

Question: what are other categories with only 2 possibilities? 

And for an explanation of how you can be adopted into God’s forever family, How to become a Christian

 

 

 

Logical Gal and category challenges

1 Oct

Category Management

The idea of category errors is useful.

I don’t know if it’s an urban legend, but Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel in space, supposedly proclaimed after his return that he had searched intently and never once did he observe God while in space.

If it’s true, then the statement reveals a category error in his thinking for the following reason:

Humans can observe MATERIAL stuff, but God is NOT material.  He is IMMATERIAL.  It’s akin to asking questions like:

  • How much does blue weigh?
  • If you had to pack your Mom’s love for you to take on a trip, how many suitcases would you need?

The faulty thinking is revealed by simple facts such as:

  • Blue is a property that has no mass, so it cannot be weighed
  • Love is not something that can be measured physically nor can it concretely fill a suitcase

What occurred to me this morning as I listened to a podcast during my walk, was the wonderful Greek word tetelestai  (Strong’s # 5055).  It means: It is finished.

Jesus uttered that word when He finished suffering the punishment for human sin IN OUR PLACE.  His action of redeeming us from hell made it possible for us to be transferred from the Kingdom of this World (under Satan’s rule) into God’s Kingdom.  His work on the cross also guaranteed that not only can humans be freed from the power and punishment of sin, but they can be GIVEN/ASSIGNED a new identity.

Tetelestai

Notice that I did not say, that humans can be given the opportunity to craft their own identity.  Never once do we have that possibility.  There are only 2 possible identities for every man, woman and child who has ever lived OR will ever live.  We are either grafted into Christ and have HIS forgiveness and flawlessness applied to us…….

  • or we are left to face the just judgment and punishment for our works on our own – the imminent next events for those who live according to the outworking of the Fall  (sinful nature) which they have inherited

Here’s where the concept of category error comes back in.  Since Christians have been given a new identity when they are born again,

Identity in Christ

they are treated the same as though they had been born a citizen of a country:

  • NO exam to study for
  • No application process to undergo
  • No appearing before a judge to swear fidelity

So it is STUPID to spend any effort and time trying to craft an identity, right?

Yet that is what I still find myself doing:

  • I angst about what others think of my teaching
  • I angst about whether I’m ‘doing enough’ as a neighbor and as a member of a church family
  • I angst about whether I’m loving my husband in the ways he wants/needs to be loved
  • I angst about whether I am being a good-enough grandmother (whatever THAT means!)
  • And when November arrives, I angst about whether I will select the right kind of presents for family members

And that’s just off the top of my head.

And why?  All because doing ‘it right’ has to do with the identity I WANT to think is ‘me’.

But when I realized this morning that my identity has already been established and is in fact fixed and secure, I suddenly saw that working to shore up my identity (even if just for myself) was not only futile but stupid.

These insights are why I love logic!  Clear thinking can bring freedom.

Question:  Where has thinking through carefully about an issue led to a breakthrough that has impacted your life?