Archive | July, 2015

Logical Gal’s 37 billion dollar debt and the If…then argument

29 Jul

Debt - $37 billion

Romans 8:32  He that did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also give us all things with him?

I was trying to put a number on an impossible debt I might owe – one in which I had absolutely NO hope of coming close to paying off.  I arbitrarily picked 37 billion dollars because it sounded….unreal!

Now what if I added to that monetary obligation the imminent threat of execution should I NOT come up with the money by a certain deadline?

With that sentence hanging over me every waking moment, how could I ever take pleasure in the sound of birds, or a breathtaking sunset or the smell of newly mown grass?  Who could enjoy ANYthing, knowing that sure and certain death was drawing closer?

Rain cloud

The apostle Paul argues from the greater to the lesser when he places ‘front and center’ God’s gift to us of Jesus’ death in lieu of ours to pay our un-payable debt. For each breath we draw and live in rebellion to our holy creator God increases our guilt.

So imagine WITH ME the freedom we should feel knowing for a fact that THIS sentence has been carried out already and we are literally OFF the hook and on good terms with our Creator God.

What could hang over us more serious than that already settled debt? Why in light of that load having been lifted, wouldn’t we have a different perspective about all other problems?  Wouldn’t all other setbacks, frustrations and disappointments fall into an entirely DIFFERENT category?  Wouldn’t we find it natural to remember, to relax and then to rejoice at all times when encountering trials?   No longer having to fear the worst, wouldn’t we be able to bear up under the lesser pains of life?  What would we recall when:

  • we run short on money for this month’s bills?  That the God who has already done the ‘impossible’ promises to provide.
  • we face a relationship gone sour? That God will either heal it, change US or comfort us.
  • ‘the right job’ never materializes? That there is likely SOME work to be had that will cover the bills and benefit others.
  • that chronic sin pattern or health problem or, or, or? That we are to turn our thoughts back to Him and quiet our minds in God. That our worst imaginable nightmare has been taken care of.  That He alone has the omniscient knowledge, kind wisdom and infinite power to do what is best for us.

I’m finding as I face disappointments that range from minor to more painful that when I remind myself of the logic of God having taken care of my BIGGEST need, (which by the way cost Him the MOST), I relax in the logic of the holy and faithful nature of the One of whom Paul argues ‘How can He not also take care of……?’

If God takes care of my most serious problem, then He will take care of my lesser problems

God has removed my unpayable debt against Him that meant a one-way ticket to Hell

Therefore, God will give me what I need for this lesser problem

Martin Luther’s Beer Argument – Final Test

22 Jul

Martin Luther and beer

Last week we extrapolated and analyzed Luther’s premises to see if he had aligned them correctly into a valid chain argument or syllogism.

“Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”

 You can check out that ‘step one’ explanation and follow our reasoning on the post dated 15 July 2015.  We showed that indeed, this church reformer applied his logic equally well to the merits of beer.

With the validity of the argument confirmed, we turn next to verifying the truth of each premise.  For if an argument is both valid AND true, then we can admire the reasoning and say with some degree of awe, “That’s one ‘sound’, airtight argument!” (or, ‘I’ll drink to that!’)

Toasting Beer Glasses

In order to see more easily whether a premise is true or false, it’s best to write or ‘translate’ informal statements into their logical form.  A crucial step is to decide whether the subject pertains to ALL ‘members’ or just SOME.  Luther has used the pronoun ‘whoever‘.  That is a universal pronoun, so we replace it with ‘ALL’ without changing our former monk’s intentions.

P1 – All those who drink beer are those who are quick to sleep

P2 – All those who sleep long are those who do not sin

P3 – All those who do not sin are those who enter Heaven

C – Therefore, all people who drink beer are those who enter Heaven. 

Logical Joes and Janes know that if any of the premises of the syllogism are false, then there is a problem.  So let’s just start at the beginning with Premise 1.  Is it true that ‘all those who drink beer are quick to sleep’?  What do we have to do to test that statement?

Quite simply, if we can find ONE counterexample where that is not the case, where a beer drinker is not someone quick to sleep, then Premise 1 is false the way it is written. (to ‘fix’ it, changing it into a true statement, Luther would simply substitute the ‘particular’ quantifier of SOME for the ‘universal’ quantifier of ALL.)

I, for one, can drink one beer and not fall asleep quickly. The premise does not mention HOW MUCH beer Luther had in mind.  And there’s no point second-guessing him.  All we can go by is the premise as Martin Luther allegedly uttered or wrote it.

Therefore, just by a quick glance of the first premise, the syllogism breaks down.

We could have started with any of the premises, testing their truthfulness. Take, for example, Premise 3 that ‘all those who do not sin are those who enter heaven.‘ From everything else Martin Luther wrote, I know for a fact that he did not believe that statement himself.  For he was a Biblically-based theologian.  And the Bible does not teach that one must be perfect to enter heaven.  No one is perfect. Those who are welcomed into heaven are those for whom Jesus died as a substitute, who have renounced their rebellion and gratefully accepted the gift of forgiveness.

Surrender to Jesus

That’s it! We have finished our analysis – quickly, too. Do you see how easy it is to determine the truthfulness of an argument just by taking a careful look at one premise? Looking over this exercise of taking seriously what Luther surely meant in jest, we have reviewed that a sound argument has two parts.  It must be correctly formed (that is: ‘VALID’) as well as formulated with true premises.

Practice yourself, especially in this season of much political and cultural rhetoric, where little clear and reasoned thinking is evident.

Dissecting Martin Luther’s beer argument- Part 1

15 Jul

Martin Luther and beer

Soon we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther publicizing his 95 ‘bones of contention’ with the prevailing Roman church of the time. Not among them was the following argument, but we can have some fun with this example of Luther’s logic.  Let’s see if it’s sound.

“Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”

To determine if an argument is sound, we must test its validity and truthfulness. On to validity to check if Luther DID construct his argument correctly in how he laid it out.

  • Step # 1 is to ‘translate’ it into logical form.  When we encounter the pronoun ‘whoever’, we substitute the universal quantifier ALL.

P1 – All those who drink beer are those who are quick to sleep

P2 – All those who sleep long are those who do not sin

P3 – All those who do not sin are those who enter Heaven

C – Therefore, all people who drink beer are those who enter Heaven.

Maybe this is the first time you have encountered a chain argument.  Don’t be thrown off by the existence of 3 explicit premises plus the conclusion.

Aristotle never mentioned this argument, although it is named for him.  The Aristotelian or classic ‘Sorites’ is a series of 2 or more syllogisms with accompanying unstated conclusions until the very last one.

Aristotle

Using letters to stand in for the subjects and predicates (what precede and follow the ‘is/are’ in each premise) we get:

P1 – All A is B

P2 – All B is C

P3 – All C is D

Therefore, all A is D

What is missing in THIS case is one implicit conclusion leading to the final one. As logical gals and guys, we have to flush it out.  In general with all sorites we articulate the ‘hidden’ conclusions by extrapolating them through re-ordering two premises at a time in order to create separate syllogisms. In our argument above, there are only 3 premises and you’ll see that we tease them out to form 2 syllogisms

Watch what happens when we switch the position of P1 and P2 and deductively bring to light the hidden conclusion. (Not to worry, we are following a ‘school’ procedure that is perfectly prescribed for just this kind of argument.)

P2 – All B is C  – All those who are quick to sleep are those who do not sin

P1 – All A is B  – All those who drink beer are those who are quick to sleep

C1 -Tf, All A is C  – Therefore, all those who drink beer are those who do not sin (unspoken by Luther)

*

Next we bring down P3 – All C is D  –  All those who do not sin are those who enter heaven

and place underneath it our ‘new’ C1 – All A is C  All those who drink beer are those who do not sin

Following along deductively we arrive at – Therefore, all A is D – Therefore, all those who drink beer are those who enter heaven

and we notice that this latest conclusion, renamed C2 from C1, was the original one in Luther’s argument –  Therefore, all who drink beer are those who enter heaven.

We’ll stop here for this week. The argument IS valid in that the premises and both the extrapolated as well as original conclusions are in the correct form.  Let me know what might still be unclear.  Next time, God willing, we’ll tackle the truthfulness of each premise.  If we determine that the premises are true, it follows that the conclusions must be true because we know the sorites is correctly laid out.  But only if we find all to be true can we THEN conclude that Martin Luther presented a SOUND argument to his beer-swilling buddies!

Logical Gal asks: Why are you a liberal? Why are you a Christian?

8 Jul

“You’re just a Christian because you were brought up in a Christian family!”

What are you going to say to THAT marginalization of your belief?

As always, the logical gal or guy takes a deep breath, then formulates questions that soften the smug accuser.

  • So, let me get this straight, you vote the same political party your parents do/did?
  • And you parent your own children they way you were raised? (or you share a love for the same hobbies as your mom and dad?)

You can see the many possibilities this line of questioning offers!

I can almost certainly hear your interlocutor start to backpedal…..

“Well, no….but that’s not the same thing!”

You can then ask:

  • How so? How is it different?

Or, you could gently probe THEIR spiritual background and ask how THEY were brought up and if THOSE experiences have had any influence on their views today.

Likely their responses will be either:

  1. “Yes, my parents were agnostic and so am I!”

(to which you calmly remark:

  • So you have just followed the path they laid out?)
  1. “No! I think for myself!”

(to which you calmly remark:

  • So only agnostics look at evidence and see the most reasonable conclusion?)

Other possible questions:

  • Based on your premise, then all Muslims are followers of their religion solely due to their family and cultural milieu?
  • Why do recent polls in America show an increasing rise in those claiming NO religious affiliation?  Likely some of these ‘nones’ were brought up in Christian homes!
  • What do you think accounts for the striking growth of Christianity in Communist China? Or in Africa?

Genetic Fallacy

But the best response to a Genetic Fallacy (you only believe X because of the origin or genesis of the belief) is:

  • You know, you could be right that I’m a Christian because I was brought up in a Christian home.
  • But the MORE important question to consider is this: Does God exist or does He not? For if God does NOT exist, then it really doesn’t matter why I believe what I do. And we are wasting each other’s time discussing it!
  • But if God DOES exist, then Who He is and What He says and What He has done and WILL do are relevant to your life and mine, don’t you think?

Now, more than recently, we must be able to ask discerning questions that gently challenge.  Speaking the Truth while showing compassion toward the other person is the mark of a Christ-follower.  With the Holy Spirit both guiding and restraining us we profess what is True to those whom God has made in His image.  The results are up to Him.

Logical gal – new insight into Bible verse via French translation and a hypothetical syllogisme

1 Jul

Grace was given to you, regarding Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him. Phil 1:29

Caught off guard, I reread this morning’s devotional in the French (from a French Bible meditation-a-day calendar by La Bonne Semence – Website is here).  Why had I never seen that before?

Paul was explaining that faith to believe Jesus is a gift just like the power to endure suffering is a gift.

Two gifts; same grace; 2 different purposes:

  1. Power to believe Jesus is God
  2. Power to go through suffering

Grace

Doing a little digging, I discovered why I had never before ‘seen’ the connection to grace, to a gift from God.  Many of the English translations say something like the ESV – For to you it has been granted…...

My mind had just skipped over those words and lingered on my discomfort with the linkage between believing and suffering. I confess an unhealthy FEAR of future suffering.  So I have both pondered and shuddered at the latter portion of that statement.

Applying some clear thinking it was fairly easy to draw out some principles from this now illumined verse:

  • Both true belief and the power to endure suffering are possible only with God
  • By definition grace is a gift
  • God grants grace as a gift to Christians
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot see or rely on the Biblical Jesus
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot make it through suffering the way God has intended it

These inferences immediately eased my unholy fears.  Here’s how I applied them to all the ‘what-ifs’ that swirl around in my head more times than I’d like to admit.

When I imagine a scenario, like a fatal car accident affecting a family member, I realize my lack of control. And there is nowhere to go with the fear. So it hovers. Blocks sleep at night and robs me of peace during the day.

Fear - stories

What I now see, thanks to God using this French translation (and the Greek supports it!), is that the imagined fears all take place outside of any grace that God provides.  The suffering I’m picturing is set against the backdrop of ME and my capabilities.  Of course, when I look at me, I am discouraged.   But Christians aren’t meant to live relying on their puny resources. Christians, once God re-births them, get a spiritual DNA.  (think: new supernatural power)

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.        2 Cor 5:17

As my cousin Terry counsels, ‘Don’t step out of your circle of Grace.’  She’s talking about ‘daily bread’.  God gives us what we need AS we need it. That’s what He promises.  He doesn’t provide the ‘feeling’ of grace in the present for a potential future situation.

Bottom line, logically-speaking?   It’s STUPID to meditate on possible suffering.

So what will I do when another IRRATIONAL fear pops unbidden into my mind?  Remind myself of truth, that God has promised future grace when I need it.  For now, I will live in the present moment, relying on these facts that:

  • just as it takes a gift or grace to receive faith and believe
  • so, too, it takes a gift or grace to receive power and suffer in the manner He has planned

Here’s the if-then version of that truth:

  • Premise 1 – If God has given me faith to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, then God will give me power and grace for suffering as it comes.
  • Premise 2 – God HAS given me faith, right now, to believe and rely on Him
  • Conclusion – Therefore, He will most assuredly give me grace and power for suffering when it occurs.

Question: Where have clear thinking and logic helped you mine truth from the Bible?