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Prayer logic

4 Jan

You do not have, because you do not ask.  James 4:2c

I’ve been listening to archived John Piper sermons on prayer.  The Bible’s stunning truth about prayer hit me afresh this morning.

We don’t understand WHY the all-powerful God, the One who created every visible molecule in the universe as well as everything that is invisible, says He waits on us to ask. Only that He DOES…command that we pray, that we ask Him for what we need and want.

Note to Maria – Don’t spend any energy chewing on the bone of how come – just revel in it. The fact that He who created all things at His command should invite us to participate with Him should STUN us!

After we pick ourselves up off our face, we should then focus on the truth that James announces.

But an obvious question emerges if we try to formulate James’ truth claim into a syllogism in order to think it through. Do we apply James’ statement universally (ALL versus SOME) or as referring to a particular group of people?  Here’s what it looks like when I write it as a universal truth.

Premise 1: ALL people who lack something are people who don’t ask God for that item

Premise 2: You are a person who doesn’t have something

Conclusion:  Therefore, you are a person who doesn’t ask God

Hmm, does that logic square with how you have experienced reality so far?  Are there situations in which you have prayed to God and have yet to receive?  Or conversely, has God given you gifts for which you didn’t ask/pray?

I think all of us can attest to circumstances when despite LOTS of prayer God has not supplied the healing, the job, the baby, the money, the spouse or the resolution. As well as times when He ‘out of the blue’ graced us with a surprise blessing, both unanticipated and unasked.

In analyzing the above syllogism, we would say it is logically valid, that the premises are laid out in a correct order, but the conclusion is not true. Why?  because the subject in Premise 1 falsely includes ALL people in the world.

If we exchange the universal quantifier ‘ALL’ for the particular quantifier ‘SOME’, then we might get closer to the Truth.  Let me show you what that looks like and then we’ll talk about it:

Premise 1: Some people who lack are those who don’t ask God to provide what they need/want

Premise 2:  You are someone who doesn’t have what you want

Conclusion:  Therefore, you are someone who hasn’t asked God to provide

Again, that conclusion is not true in every situation.  To wit, I have repeatedly asked God to give me a different job.  And He hasn’t, YET……

So just using one circumstance in my life as a counter-example, I can prove that the conclusion in this second syllogism is not true.  It’s also not valid.  Why?  Because the conclusion overreaches the facts given in Premises 1. This first or major premise describes only one of two categories I’m going to call ‘LACKERS’ – those who haven’t prayed.  There is the category of ‘LACKERS’ who have indeed asked God for what they want.  So even though Premise 2 is true (you don’t have what you want) we can’t be sure which group of ‘LACKERS’ you fall into.

Bottom line?  I don’t know why God hasn’t answered my many prayers, YET.  But I do believe the Bible is authoritative.  I know that God commands us to pray.  I also know that He is good.  So there I rest AND I will continue to pray. What about you?

Logical Gal – Our major premise affects our eternal destiny

1 Apr

The pastor employed tight logic to make his point about who gets to enjoy eternity with God after death.  A simple 3-component syllogism (2 reasons leading to an assertion or conclusion) could summarize his core teaching.

Eternal life with God

Here is the syllogism with just the minor premise. (When we don’t explicitly articulate any of the 3 parts of the syllogism, we have an enthymeme).

Premise 2 went like this:

P1

P2 – I’ve led a horrible life of evil that would shock you if you knew

C – Therefore, I …….

What I found interesting was that the conclusion would vary depending on the first or major premise!

What possibilities exist?  There might be more than these 2, but let’s look at the polar opposites:

  • All those whose performances and record on Earth meet God’s standard are ushered into heaven with God
  • All those who ‘call upon the name of the Lord’ (Romans 10:13) are ushered into heaven with God

Do you see what I mean?  The pastor’s point was that the one who despairs that his wicked, wasted past has totally disqualified him from a forever life of fellowship with God doesn’t understand the Biblical God.  And if he insists that his past is too dark and unworthy actually puts HIS despair and past in the sovereign place of God as being supreme.  It’s arrogant to insist on one’s ability to trump God.

God has so set up the ‘system’ that only those who accept His offer of mercy as a gift are welcome.  That way, no one can take credit for either

a) being sorry enough for one’s past

b) being good enough to qualify for Heaven

The pastor’s encouraging sermon grew out of this syllogism:

P1 – All those who call upon the name (the character) of the Lord, regardless of their past shall be saved

P2 – Even though I am wicked beyond measure, I am calling on God to save me.

C – Therefore, God will welcome me into His Eternal Kingdom

Easter

May you find rest for your soul this Easter, based on both his sinless life and the righteous work that Jesus did on the cross. He has paid for those evil thoughts and deeds of His children and God and met every standard of righteousness during his time on earth. Therefore, God is just to embrace those who take up His righteous offer of mercy.  Be at peace!

Logical Gal asks: Will you go to heaven?

22 Jul

Eternal Life

God does NOT want you to be in the dark about whether you will be with Him eternally.

John writes this assurance  to believers :

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Well, is that it? Do you feel better now?

Wait a moment, you say.

John’s statement IS a powerful promise IF….

  • We clarify some key terms – ‘believe’ and ‘the name of the Son of God’
  • We flesh out the promise, by formulating a syllogism

Just the basics of logic, right?

So what does ‘believe’ mean when it comes to Christianity?  If we substitute the word ‘trust and rely on‘ for believe, we come closer to the sense of the concept.  A Christian is someone who trusts what Jesus says, Jesus being in essence God himself. (I and the Father are one – John 10:30)

What did Jesus say?  that He came to suffer the punishment we deserve for our rebellion against God and that He came to live a perfect, obedient life which gets credited to the account of His true followers.  It’s an unbelievable 2-way exchange.  Our guilt for His righteousness. Both sides of that swap ARE the necessary work that enable us to be adopted as children of God.

Name of Son of God

Now what about His name?  That’s easier to understand.  The name represents His character and functions.  Just glance at the image above and you’ll get an idea of just WHOM it is that Christians trust and rely on!  So when someone announces,  “I believe in Jesus!” one should ask this question: Whom actually are you talking about?

Mormons refer to a Jesus who is the spirit-brother of Lucifer and was born the way you and I were born, through a sexual union.

And then there are Muslims who deny that Jesus is the Son of God or that He actually died on the cross.

Those characterizations do not fit the Christian Jesus, the eternal and perfect Son of God. Words, obviously,  can mask a great deal.

*Now for a syllogism to lead us to an assurance of salvation:

Premise 1: All people who trust and rely on the Biblical Jesus for both standing in as deserved punishment bearer AND for living a perfectly righteous life receive eternal life with God

Premise 2: Joe is a person who trusts and relies on the Biblical Jesus for…..

Conclusion: Therefore, Joe knows/is certain that he has eternal life with God

Is that it?  Well, there is a pre-supposition lurking and these are always good to uncover in ANY argument.

Gods word is truth

Yes, one must believe that what is written in the Bible IS truth.  So then the promise as recorded by the apostle John at the beginning of this blog post is reliable and valid.

Just a word of encouragement for you if you are a believer who at times doubts his or her ultimate salvation.  We can’t go by feelings OR our behavior.  The Bible does not say, “If  you FEEL close to God, or if you DO all that God wants you to do, you will go to heaven.”

Remember, there is a spiritual force of darkness whose goal it is to deprive you of  KNOWING you are saved.  He is called the Father of Lies and the Accuser.  We must choose whom to listen to.

Question: If you are a Christian, what is holding you back from resting in the security of belonging to God?

 

 

 

Logical Gal and the Power of a New Thought

2 Jun

gravel road work

We now live on a gravel road that needs periodic maintenance.  And so we find ourselves dependent on road contractors. We’re  on our second one.  The first we ‘inherited’ from the couple who sold us the house.  My husband had the dickens of a time getting him both to commit  AND show up to work.

The second one has turned out to be unreliable as well.

unreliable

Each day this past week Scott was supposed to have come.  And each day my husband fumed.  Finally he contacted a builder friend to ask for a recommendation for someone else.  A passing comment from our friend changed my thoughts and conclusions.

It turns out that the gravel guy is ‘having problems’.

That’s it –  a new idea!  The possibility that there might be a DIFFERENT REASON than what I had supposed – a cavalier, unprofessional approach to business, changed my conclusion.

Before, I was reasoning like this:

Premise 1 – All ‘no-shows’ in business appointments are evidence of shoddy management and/or poor character

Premise 2 – Scott is a ‘no-show’

Conclusion – Therefore, Scott’s way of running his business is evidence of shoddy management and probably poor character!

No Sow

Now, I reasoned to a different conclusion because my major premise had changed:

New Premise 1 – Some ‘no-shows’ in business appointments are evidence of shoddy management and/or poor character

New Premise 2 – Scott is a ‘no-show’

New Conclusion – Therefore, Scott’s way of running his business might be evidence of something other than shoddy  management or poor character.  It might actually be the effect of personal or family problems.

*

Just the possibility of a different reason that was impeding good business practices changed how I thought about this man.  I actually prayed for him for the first time, instead of impugning his character.

Jumping to conclusions

It remains to be seen just WHO will repair our gravel road, but this experience has reminded me again of the danger of jumping to conclusions.

Question: – When have you made an assumption in error that led to a false conclusion?

 

 

Logical Gal and a simple syllogism as one evidence of God

2 Apr

meaning of life

There are many evidences that point to the existence of a transcendent God who created the universe.

I was reading some arguments that weakened the case for materialism.  This ISM maintains that all there is in the universe is that which is verifiable empirically.  Simply put, if you can touch it, or hear it, or measure it in someway, then it exists.  Without getting very complicated, all the non-measurable stuff like love, or courage or memories have a physical explanation only, (neurons firing that give the illusion of meaning).  No doubt I have OVER-simplified the argument, so please forgive me.  I am not claiming to do justice to the case for naturalism/materialism.

The point the author was making is that even if one were to grant as true that  the material is all there is, that kind of reductionism makes life difficult to live.

empiricism

On to the argument proposed by the author.  He used the simple syllogism that is the building block of all  reasoning.

Premise 1:  If God does not exist, then life has no ultimate purpose or meaning

Premise 2: Life has ultimate meaning and purpose

Conclusion:  There must be a God

 

Purpose in life

It seems that materialists tend to pull meaning out of thin air (nothing to ground it).  If they are honest in their philosophical materialism, then all that is is what can be measured.  Ergo there IS no ultimate meaning.  But as the realistic existentialists reasoned and wrote mid 20th century, the only logical conclusion to THAT assessment  of life is suicide.  Fortunately few materialists are willing to to that far.  In their hearts they might believe: “Life is absurd, without any meaning,” but they ALSO make this decision, “….so we are just going to assert that it is meaningful.”

Question:  What other syllogisms can you form as an evidence for the transcendant God?

Logical Gal finds a ‘reasonable’ editorial in local paper

30 Dec

Finally, a well-articulated editorial in our local, one-sided newspaper!

I love to read the paper because it’s the source of discussion for my husband and me and I also find topics for this blog.

So last night I was pleased to find a guest editorialist present his position and then back it up with reasons.  Hence, he wrote a ‘reasonable’ essay.

His premise was clear:  let’s dump the Affordable Care Act and initiate better reform to the current health care system.  He then did what every logical Joe and Jane should do: he presented several reasons for his first premise (dumping the incoming system), followed by carefully described proposals supporting his second premise (reforming the old way).

I haven’t studied the issue enough to be able to have facts, figures and various scenarios at my finger tips, but the way he wrote made reading and thinking through the 2 arguments easy to follow.  I was then able to discuss the issues with my husband. It’s axiomatic that we can’t articulate what we don’t understand.

So as we close out 2013, let’s go into the New Year with at least one tool that will help us to read, think and communicate better.

When you read, look for the premises – the main points.  Ask yourself: What is the author trying to say?  I often underline such premises or propositions when I read to learn (as opposed to reading for diversion).  Once you have identified the premises, then look for the reasons.  Remember, that a premise often is a conclusion that has to be supported.  You don’t have to support everything you say; some things are accepted by all people.

The sun came out today – a fact that is accepted in your local area, or at least by meteorologists.

It’s better when the sun shines brightly – this is a hypothesis that needs shoring up with reasons.

If the writer or speaker offers NEITHER clear premises, NOR reasons for his beliefs, then don’t waste your time reading any further.

Conversely, when you yourself write, take the time to formulate a syllogism for each position you are offering. That simple 3- proposition formula will guide your writing so you’re less likely to forget a major point or ramble.

Here is an example of what could be the core of an essay:

Main point, what you’re arguing:

America’s health care system should be reformed, not replaced

Reasons or premises (P1, P2) to back your point, your conclusion:

P1: Retaining smaller, individual delivery systems (rather than replacing them with one massive federal program) can more easily adapt to particular needs of consumers

P2: Small but significant changes can make health care more affordable, more ‘tailorable’ and more responsive to individuals

‘They’ say that if you’re looking for a job, or for investors to support a new product, you should have a 30-second elevator speech ‘in your pocket’. This ‘commercial’ would explain either to the CEO or to a seed-fund Patron who happened to join your elevator why they should hire you/ invest in your idea.  And to do that, you need to know what you’re ‘selling’ and why.   We’re always selling ideas at the very minimum.  Let’s resolve to work out what we believe and why for those matters important to us.

 

Vitamins DO make a difference – creating our first valid syllogism

9 Sep

So, have you taken your vitamins yet?  Are you convinced that some taking of supplements is a habit that improves one’s health?

Last time we set out our conclusion by identifying 2 of the 3 necessary terms.  And we narrowed down our quantifier to SOME vitamin taking, not ALL.

Today we need to finish fleshing out the syllogism by adding a 3rd term.

You will most likely think that our syllogism doesn’t communicate a strong and complete case in support of the conclusion.  You will be right!  This syllogism is just a 1st step.  The 2 premises that we write will simply show your thinking process, how you are arriving at that first conclusion.  An entire argument involves a series of syllogisms.  By focusing on just this ONE LITTLE step, we are staying ‘ honest’ in our reasoning.        

Think about Math Teachers whose litany rings in our memories, “You must show ALL your work to get full credit!”  

Here is our conclusion from last time, properly labeled:

I statement – Therefore, some taking of supplements (Su) is a habit that improves one’s health (Pu)

By the end of our session, we had established the following information about our syllogism:

  • S term of the syllogism (aka Minor Term)  = taking of supplements
  • P term of the syllogism (aka Major Term)  = a habit that improves one’s health

Today we have to come up with our 3rd term (Rule 1), which will be the M or middle term.  This term will LINK the other two terms (major & minor terms), enabling a conclusion.

After playing around with some terms to determine the IDEAL one, I think I found the one that can link the other ideas.  What we are talking about are those daily activities that make a difference in one’s health.   Thus I chose the following for a Middle Term:

Doctor-endorsed daily practices

Next I had to choose the affirmative quantifier.  Did I intend the term to be UNIVERSAL as in ALL or particular as in SOME?

For argument’ s sake, let’s suppose that I happen to think that ALL doctor-endorsed daily practices are habits that improve health (we’ll talk about TRUTH later)

Here is what our syllogism looks like:

All  doctor-endorsed daily practices (Md)  are habits that improve one’ s health (Pu)

Some taking of supplements(Su)  is a doctor-endorsed daily practice(Mu)

Tf, some taking of supplements (Su) is a habit that improves one’s health (Pu)

 

Let’s go through our checklist to see if the syllogism is at least valid.  Remember that we haven’t even addressed the truthfulness of each premise.

1. 3 and only 3 terms? YES
2. Does the Middle term illicitly show up in the conclusion? NO
3. If a term is distributed in the conclusion, is it Distributed at least one other place NA (both terms in the conclusion are Undistributed)
4. Middle term Distributed at least once? YES (in Premise # 1)
5. Are Premises 1 & 2 negative? NO
6. If Premises 1 & 2 are affirmative, is our conclusion also affirmative? YES
7. If either of the 2 premises negative, is the conclusion also negative? N/A

Therefore, we have written a VALID syllogism!  Yay!

Once you have a valid syllogism, THEN you can look at the truth/falsity of each premise.  But that’s another discussion!

The takeaway?   Those little quantifiers REALLY make a difference.  Be precise with your words.