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Logical Gal – what about meaning?

6 Jun

Meaning

I read an essay that mentioned truth and meaning in the same sentence.  I stopped, realizing that I had never thought about the distinction between the two.

Truth is pretty straight forward in its definition, even though volumes of ink and print have been invested in battling over whether true exists.

I’ll spare you the churn- it does.

truth

Truth is that which exists, that which corresponds to reality.  It’s not  a case of – YOUR truth or MY truth, nor is it  – True for YOU and True for ME.

So without showing the reasons for the assertion that TRUTH is objective reality  (other posts have done that – just click on the tag labelled ‘truth’ along the lower right side of this blog), l will move on to something that IS more subjective, and that is ‘meaning‘.

In talking with my husband the other night, we reasoned our way to the following:  meaning is a way to describe the impact of reality ON a human.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City has organized and streamlined Christian doctrine into a set of 52 questions and answers  – New City Catechism.  One of the questions asks: “What does the resurrection mean FOR me?”

That one little preposition ‘for’ is key.  I thought about how the bent of the question would be significantly changed if one were to substitute the preposition ‘to’ in the place of the 3-letter one.  What something means FOR me is completely different from what it means TO me.  I can be wrong about what a piece of reality means to me.  However, when you say something has meaning FOR someone,  a follow-on question quickly surfaces……meaning FOR me ACCORDING TO WHOM OR WHAT? 

In the arena of the New City Catechism, the authority supporting those answers is the Bible.  But there are plenty of other authorities in life.  For example,  I can imagine a scenario where a teenager might query her parent:  What does this curfew mean FOR me?

Curfew

and the parent might respond: The curfew means a limit which carries consequences TO you should you violate it.

So the concept of meaning follows on FROM truth.  And it varies according to authority.

  • The next question that then occurs: Do WE have authority over meaning for ourselves?
  • What about those poor souls who announce  – “Life Is Meaningless! ?

Meaningless

I’m thinking that the only response one could offer would be to ask them the questions:

  1. How do you define ‘meaning’? 
  2. From whose point of view is ‘life meaningless’? 

They might be intending the concept of ‘meaning’ to refer to teleos (the Greek term for purpose) – that is design or ultimate end .  In that case someone might be a materialist and consider life to be a random interchange of time and matter to have NO ultimate purpose.  However IF there is ultimate meaning FOR someone because ‘someone or something’ created them in the first place, THEN no matter the denial or ignorance of that creating authority, there IS meaning for the person.

Whew!  – I’m getting hungry.  All that thinking burns us the ‘little gray cells’ as our favorite Belgian detective likes to say!

Hercule Poirot

I’ll leave you with the logical next question:  Do you view life as having meaning and purpose?  If so, according to whom or what?

 

 

Logical Gal – who’s to judge?

16 May

Beware of facile slogans that slip off the tongue!

They say that the most oft-quoted Bible verse in America is “Judge not, lest ye be judged!” (Matt 7:1)

judge not

 

But is that ALL the Bible says?  How does a Logical Gal or Guy think about this?  What questions would he or she ask?

First of all, we need to look at not just ONE Bible verse, but others, to see if one or more concepts might be in question.  If the term is the same but the concept is different, then a fallacy might be lurking!

Just a few verses further along from that famous one-liner is this instruction about judging: ” You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and THEN you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:5)  That sure sounds like we ARE to judge, once we get ourselves squared away.

Not only is there an appropriate time to judge, we are actually exhorted TO judge and given a standard.  Consider THIS verse, also from the Bible –Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. (John 7:24) 

There is also this command: The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” (1 Cor 2:15) 

Judge righteously

There is one group of people whom God commends for being skeptical and judging BY the standards of the Bible.  They practiced discernment, a form of judgment.  They did not take what they heard at face value, but ‘judged’ rightly.  These men and women were the Bereans. (Acts 17:11) They listened to  new teachings and judged or filtered them by God’s grid of righteousness.  They WERE judgmental and were held up as an example for us to emulate.  They would have told Paul to his face, courteously but directly, that he was WRONG had his teaching NOT lined up with the Bible.  That’s being pretty ‘judgmental’ by today’s shallow standards.

Bereans

So the next time someone tosses in your face that bit of trite bumper sticker ‘wisdom’ about judging, just ask them politely: Why?   and then wait for them to fill the airspace.  And if they say, “Because it’s WRONG to judge!”  Ask them “Who says?”  and then be prepared to show them what Jesus taught!