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How do you know that?

25 Jan

“How do you know that?” he asked me.  In need of a bathroom, I had entered an open door in the school along my route.  When I couldn’t find a public restroom, I stopped the first person in the building I could find.  He looked like a student cadre member at a military school.  He let me use his own private facilities in his ensuite dorm room.

How we got started about which news you could trust, I don’t know.  But when he made a comment regarding ‘facts’ about the new administration, I replied:  “But the media is biased toward the left’s political agenda!”

That’s when he came back with the question that stymied me.  How DID I know that?

I couldn’t very well reply:

  • Well, that’s what I read/hear/think!

If that’s all I can come up with, then I’m no better than the non-thinking masses. You know about whom I’m writing? – the ones I accuse of just parroting what they hear, without sorting out reasons for what they believe?

That dialogue and unsettling realization about my lack of preparedness took place in a snippet of last night’s dream.

But a real-live similar conversation last fall in Boston got me thinking about my deficit in study.

Sharing a room with a teacher colleague afforded plenty of time to talk.  She and I engaged at one point in some discussion about a few controversial issues taking place in our home state of North Carolina.  The issue that revealed my gaps was the so-called ‘bathroom law’.  I found that I could not articulate well why I found it objectionable that a transgendered person could choose the bathroom that matched his/her/its gender feelings.

It could have been the stress of having to think on my feet, because upon calm reflection later several points came to mind:

  • sexually abused women could suffer flash back emotional trauma when confronted by a biological male transgendered into a woman
  • young girls could be prey for a sexual aggressor
  • privacy issues

The point was I felt unprepared in our conversation.

My dream last night underscored the same feeling.

However, I did experience one positive, but unexpected conversation earlier in the week.  A school colleague (not the same one as in Boston) answered my question about a planned faculty female trip to Washington, DC.  She explained that it was to attend a rally supporting women’s rights.  We got talking about abortion.  I HAD done enough study in pro-life tactics to know the pivotal issue:

  • What is the fetus?

If it is NOT a human life, then the woman carrying it has every right to dispose of it as she sees fit.

But if it IS a human life, then that unborn child has the right to life.

We had a civil exchange and left it like this:

  • I place the rights of the unborn baby over the rights of the woman
  • She places the rights of the woman over the right to life of the child

Although I’m pleased that I could at least make a partial case for why destroying a life is murder, I want to be better prepared for the next conversation.

And last night’s dream has motivated me to know and be able to articulate WHY I believe what I do across many issues.

Logical Janes and Joes must do their homework in order to be a force for clear thinking and moral logic!

 

Another reason for believing God

31 Aug

Do you accept God for who he says he is in the Bible because the written words are true?

And do you know that the words are true because there is enough external evidence to warrant true belief?

Or do you trust God and his words because you always have and don’t really think about why you do?

I ask because I learned of another way to justify one’s belief in God.  Listening to a podcasted discussion (Unbelievable with Justin Brierley) between 2 philosophers the other day introduced me to the concept of ‘properly basic beliefs’ and ‘non-propositional’ logic.

As a layperson, I gleaned that a properly basic belief is one not based on other propositional truth or on evidence, but accepted and trusted.  These are beliefs that can’t be proven. Examples might be:

  • the sense or knowing that there is more to life than what we see
  • 2 + 2 = 4

The American philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, offers this example:

  •  I think other minds exist because I have a mind and I exist, but I can’t prove it.  All might be an illusion (remember The Matrix?).
  • Nonetheless, we humans do accept that if we exist, then others exist. And if we acknowledge THAT as a rational belief, then might we not also accept as rational the proposition that God exists?

This way of ‘argumentation’ does presuppose that we humans have the capacity to think rationally.  (to use this lingo, “the belief that humans are designed to think rationally” is properly basic)

Plantinga points to the ‘sensus divinitatis’ in every human as evidence that the existence of God is a rational conclusion.  This sense of the divine appears in every culture across the expanse of history.

So what do you think?  For Christians who are commanded by Jesus to explain the good news of God’s rescue plans to all we encounter in our daily lives, is this approach sufficient?  Probably not.  But as we live out ‘the Great Commission’ we are learning and assembling a ‘tool kit’.  I’m reassured just knowing that intelligent Christian thinkers across the centuries have vetted what is probably common to all people I meet.  There ARE convictions we hold as rational without being able to articulate any propositional or evidential reason other than, “I just believe it!”