Archive | February, 2016

Impatience hampers logical discussions

24 Feb

Jumping the gun  True confession:  more often than not I am SO eager to use the limited time I sense in a discussion to communicate my view, that I don’t take the time to understand the other guy’s case.

This impatience can lead me actually to waste valuable time with my conversation partner. The other day when I was in Québec leading a group of my 8th grade French students I engaged in some interesting back and forth with our bus driver.  At one point, as he was pointing out how many churches around the city had closed and been renovated for other purposes, I asked him point blank if he believed in God?  At his response in the negative I invited him to explain. He was not loath to expound for a couple of minutes before the tour guide interrupted him with a query. We never got back to the question.  I now realize that a more effective question would have been to ask him:

  • Well what kind of god DON’T you believe in?

His response would have provided far more clues to his thinking and shine light on a more effective tactic I might employ.

Back stateside while catching up on some podcasts about thinking and reasoning, I heard Greg Koukl explain the importance of pursuing clarity on his radio broadcast (podcast). That advice reminded me of my Canadian conversation.  Greg recounted part of a discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness visitor to his house (can’t remember if it was real or hypothetical) where the point of debate concerned the Trinitarian God of Christianity. First, Koukl clarified the Jehovah Witness’ distinction (and main point) between God the Father and Jesus the Son. Then he spent most of the remaining time getting the visitor to articulate what HE, the visitor, understood the Christian view of God to be (the view the man was criticizing).  Greg reported actually writing down what the other man said.  Only then did he compare that man’s talking points about his religion’s version with orthodox Christianity.

That approach would never have occurred to me.  I certainly know MY desire to make my case clear. And equally important is for me to understand properly my interlocutor’s viewpoint. But to take the time and tease out of the other guy what HE thinks MY position to be was a new strategy.  It certainly removes some pressure by making the OTHER guy articulate both his own view and what he assumes mine to be.

What happened in Greg’s conversation in the remaining time after clarifying both views? His investment paid off.  Because he had helped the Jehovah’s Witness specify in his own words the Christian position, Greg didn’t take long to make HIS own point.  It turned out that the Jehovah’s Witness was objecting to views of Jesus not at all factual.  So there really was no problem or point of disagreement.  It was a smooth and effective way to clear the smoke and confusion….or at least to rattle the cage of this über-confident evangelist promoting something other than biblical Christianity.

Related terms differ enormously

17 Feb

Do a few letters make a difference?

small things big difference

You betcha!  The other day I listened to a commentator point out the distinction between what is ‘accepted’ by our culture and what is ‘acceptable’ by God.

The difference between these two concepts is akin to the idea of ‘mores’ versus ‘ethics’.

Mores refers to the practices of a culture at large.  But ‘ethics’ has in mind larger guiding principles, such as what is the good, the true and the beautiful.

Unfortunately our American culture seems to operate under this reasoning:

  • All practices that are legal and accepted by the majority are acceptable and right for us to do
  • Abortion is legal and accepted by the majority
  • Therefore, abortion is acceptable and right for us to do

Another way of framing the current thinking might be:

  • All practices the majority of a group engage in (what’s accepted by the group) are acceptable
  • The majority of Americans support autonomy when it comes to their own bodies
  • Euthanasia and assisted suicide are examples of decisions that the majority see as belonging to the individual alone
  • Therefore, euthanasia and assisted suicide are acceptable

Of course, the question left unaddressed is:

Who else might be entitled to judge the rightness, the ‘oughtness’ or acceptability of a practice?

The One who created humans would be a good place to start!

 

 

 

 

Logic tools employed in real life

10 Feb

Fresh insights and knowledge for the grabbing!

Pick ax

The laws of logic direct our thinking and warn us of pitfalls to faulty reasoning.

But the ASSUMPTION is that one is willing actually to think. And that takes effort.

Reading a passage in the New Testament reminded me of the exhortation Paul gives to ‘think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.  2 Timothy 2:7

The tricky verse that challenged me to apply some careful reasoning finds itself in the middle of a passage from John’s letter, 1 John 5: 1-5. It says:

  1. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. 5. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Whew! There is a lot in those 5 verses but I want to linger and look at verse 3 (in red). Let’s park a while.

Parking

It pays to spend time looking at the words and actually SEEING what they communicate. Firstly I noticed,

  • God’s love = either the love that COMES from God (that He gives) or the love that is part of His nature, that is what I would call ‘God-like love’

Then I asked myself,

  • Which comes first – this love FROM/OF God or that we keep His commandments?

To answer that I went back and started with verse 1. Restating or distilling John’s thoughts, I jotted down some premises,

P1 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Christ are people who have been born of God. (also called ‘children of God’ in verse 2)

P2 – All people who love the Father are people who love the children of God.

P3 – All those who love the children of God are people who love God and obey (also phrased as ‘keep’) his commandments.

P4 – All love for/of/from God is the obeying God’s commands

P5 – No commands of God are burdensome (heavy or grievous in the Greek)

P6 – All people who have been born of God are people who overcome the world

(overcome in Greek = to prevail, get the victory, conquer)

P7 – All world-overcoming victory is our faith

(victory in Greek = means of success, of prevailing)

P8 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are people who overcome the world

Looking at P6 and P8 and relying on the Transitive Property of Equality whereby:

If A = B and B = C, then A = C

I think I can safely equate: All people who have been born of God with

All people who believe that Jesus is Son of God

And also with the first part of P1: All those who believe that Jesus is the Christ

 Going back over these verses, I got stuck on this question:

What causes us to love the Father?

It seems that the Apostle John ASSUMES that all those who believe that Jesus is the Christ/Jesus is the Son of God are ABLE to love both the Father AND other children of God.

What could be underlying that assumption? Looking down at P7, which states that faith is the key to overcome the world, it seems that when one is born of God, one is equipped with faith. Where do I get that?

Here’s P1 again:

P1 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Christ are people who have been born of God.

Look at the verbs I’ve underlined. The tenses are different. It’s clear that ‘being born of God’ comes first. And those who are born of God now can believe, that is they ‘have faith’.

And this ‘faith’ enables them to prevail against the world.

What goes along with ‘having faith’ then seems to imply one can obey or keep God’s commands, to include the VERY IMPORTANT directive to love others in the same family of God. And loving one’s siblings in God’s family = loving God.

**

Okay, so maybe I lost you in all that. But here is what I, Maria, gain from thinking through and wrestling with these verses in an orderly fashion, applying logical clear thinking:

Jesus said that the most important commands were

  1. Love God
  2. Love Others

Knowing me by nature, I can’t ‘gin’ up that kind of love on my own, based on my human nature.

What is reassuring is that knowing that I DO in fact believe that Jesus is God’s son guarantees that I have been born of God and that I am now equipped (it was a gift) with powerful faith that allows me to prevail over the lure of the world which preaches messages like:

  • You only live once, so carpe diem!
  • Complete your bucket list.
  • Pursue your passion
  • You deserve it

And instead of putting MY interests first, with the God’s gifts of strength and desire, I can love others, starting with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Without the faith that came as a gift, then I am sucked into that worldly, self-centered rat race.

I find this VERY good news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The logic behind worry

3 Feb

Weather forecast

I’m preparing to lead a group of students to Québec and God-willing when this blog posts, we will be in the middle of our weeklong French language ‘field trip’.

Travel like all of life is unpredictable, but flights in the winter seem more weather dependent.  The other day during my morning prayers,  I was asking God to grant clement conditions. Immediately I found myself reasoning, “There’s no point in worrying about that!”

Suddenly I found myself engaged in a hypothetical conversation:

Maria 1 – No point getting anxious about the weather two weeks hence!

Maria 2 – Why not?

Maria 1 – Because I can’t do anything about it!

Maria 2 – Right!  but….is  your overall guiding assumption  “One should worry only about those things one can control.”?  Is that it?  Tell me, what ARE the areas over which you exercise control?

Maria 1 – Well, to be honest, I don’t really control anything.

Maria 2 – So why worry about anything?

Maria 1 – Good point.  It’s not rational or ‘reason-able’, is it.

Conclusion: Logic is VERY practical and useful for everyday life.