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Do humility and logic go together?

3 May

 

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way. Ps 25:8-9

Danger alert!

Logic can destroy humility.

How can that be?  I thought clear rational thinking was the entire point of this blog?

Yes, but learning to use skills of rational, deductive reasoning can cause us to grow smug. And SMUGNESS reeks of pride, arrogance and insufferableness.

I am a Biblical Christian who loves words and takes God’s Word seriously. Therefore, I believe whole-heartedly that the original text of the Bible is accurate and free from error. Why?  because I accept as true that God superintended its transmission to the authors through His divine Spirit. After all, the God who SPOKE the universe into being can certainly insure the accuracy of the original writings.  Beside that, He even says that His Word is true. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. John 17:17

Here’s the snare.  I can be arrogant and prideful when I think I am right.  Why do I think my views are correct?

  • Because I am a born-again Christian who has been given a new and different nature
  • Because I have learned some logical thinking principles, which empower me

God, however, isn’t content to leave me equipped with ‘right’ thinking, whether content or method.

The message God seems to be sending me through daily Bible reading and various prayers is that since we humans are created beings, there is NO way in God’s kingdom that we finite creatures can be all-seeing and all-knowing.  Those ‘omni’ qualities belong to God alone who is perfect.

How that should translate into my life and perhaps yours, if you agree, is that we can be wrong!  Maybe our conclusions from the evidence WE SEE and KNOW are rightly deduced, but the presupposition behind the syllogism is huge.  Namely that we see and know ALL the facts.  Could there be, perhaps, more to meet MY eye and awareness?

I work amidst kind and friendly colleagues in a middle school in Asheville, NC.  I’m the only one, I imagine, who doubts some of the ‘givens’ about global warming and its attendant problems.  What I’m trying to practice during our lunchtime, round-table informal chats is to listen for the BEST arguments to support their views regarding this climate situation.

Wanting to understand the other side depends first on the recognition that I might not be right. Oh, maybe given the circumstances and facts I’ve seen and read, I can make a case for what I believe and why.  But the possibility DOES exist that I might actually have a blind spot.

This God-worked humility in me, through life’s hardships and knocks and my daily reading of His Word, has initiated a less sure, less-exalted view of how ‘infallible’ or correct I might be.

I believe, that our world needs more ‘Logical Joes and Janes’, but ones who humble themselves enough to listen with care to others’ views.

Better not to shotgun a response

1 Feb

When you flush out a covey of quail, don’t shoot into the covey. Instead, pick out and select one bird to bring down!

flock-of-birds

Good advice from a quail-hunter.  And appropriate for addressing opposing views we encounter these days.

I absorbed this advice just recently and already it is making a difference.  One afternoon not too long ago, we indulged in our favorite after church past time, sharing lunch while reading the Sunday paper.  An op-ed piece about ‘women’s health issues’ had caught my eye and raised my dander.  The authors wrote, decrying the new administration’s goal of decreasing federal funds for Planned Parenthood. The way they framed their argument seemed to have one goal:  to arouse the ire of women by describing a presumed danger of losing access to existing health care.

The team of two local professors raised several points worthy of questioning and I wanted to tackle them all.  Fortunately for my intended audience, I took a walk and listened to radio host Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason explain a principle learned from his days as a boy hunting quail with his friends.

He explained that if you shoot directly into the covey, you’d waste your shot.  But if you aim for one bird, you have a better chance of actually bagging one.

His advice applied to our current contentious climate in America and shaped how I focused my letter to the editor later that afternoon.  Listening to Greg, I also saw in a flash why previous letters I had penned most likely exercised zero effect on readers.  Past letters have probably tanked due to a jumble of points, all poorly developed.

So what did I focus on in this most current letter?  A statistic mentioned in the paper’s essay. In a strategic move to minimize the arguments of the pro-life position, the authors stated that abortions account for only 3 % of all of Planned Parenthood’s services.

I smelled a fake statistic.

Sure enough when I went to factcheck.org I read how PP counts services.  Say a woman goes into a PP facility thinking she might be pregnant and wanting to discuss options.  In one visit, she might receive:

  • an initial screening consult
  • a blood test
  • a pee test
  • a pap smear
  • a referral to another provider for a different issue the consult uncovered

And if this woman does indeed choose to schedule an abortion, that second visit might include:

  • a information/procedural consult
  • an ultrasound
  • a further consult
  • an abortion
  • a post-procedure consult
  • 1 or 2 prescriptions for pain/possible infection
  • a prescription for contraception

So this hypothetical one gal might receive 12 different services and only 1 is an abortion.

Do you see how the quantity of abortions performed could be minimized when compared with the accompanying services?

Thanks to Greg Koukl’s advice preceding my letter attempt, I selected this one issue and worked to write as clearly and persuasively as possible pointing out the misleading accounting.  I don’t know if anyone will be persuaded, but clarifying my purpose and aiming at just one ‘quail’ focused me and guided my thoughts and word choice.

 

Narrowing my efforts also helped me articulate for myself what my ‘bone of contention’ is!  Whatever our views, it’s always worth the time to know what we believe and why!

Novel Logic

9 Nov

And (you) killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead; and we are witnesses. – Acts 3:15

Okay, logical guys and gals.  It’s the day after the election.  Let’s use some clear thinking to stabilize ourselves.

No matter who has won a mandate (?) to sit in the Oval Office, the story line is still intact. If we let ourselves fall into discouragement, then we are putting a lie to the FACT that there is a Cosmic Story in which we all play our roles.  Furthermore, we can read the last chapter as written in the Bible’s final book, The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

If any of you ENJOY reading dense, complicated novels with labyrinth-like plot lines, then there is no need to despair.

Facts:

  • the Author of life did not die (see verse above)
  • He is directing each scene on earth and in heaven (All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. – Matt 28: 18)
  • good novelists keep us in suspense and direct the plot through a suspenseful climax to a satisfying conclusion

If we relish and appreciate reading a finely crafted story by a reputable author, then we can relax and carry on with OUR assigned roles as ambassadors and reconcilers for Christ.

 

Psalm 115:3 –  Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases!

 

Presuppositions and discontent

3 Aug

Premise:

Most women at my age and stage in life have retired from full-time work

Conclusion

I should be retired from full-time work

Like most teachers who are relishing their summer sabbatical, I’ve been struggling with not wanting to go back to school in August. Turning 59 has added weight to my annual reluctance return to the classroom.

Here’s the problem:

Christians are called by God to be content in all the situations He places them. So on top of my longing for permanent summer, I recognize this grumbly attitude is sin. In essence, I’m saying to God: Your assignment for me is wrong!

As a logical gal, I’ve been working to reorder my thinking. This labor has borne fruit.

It dawned on me the other day that besides the missing first premise, I have an unspoken presupposition. Let me order my though process and fill in for you AND me what was just floating in the back of my mind:

Presupp: Retirement is both good and normal in America

Premise 1: Most workingwomen in their late 50s retire from full-time work

Premise 2: I am approaching 60

Conclusion: It would be both good and normal for me to retire NOW!

In articulating what lay behind my ‘unmet expectation’ I saw the problem!

Where did I get the idea:

  • that God’s plan for his people is to retire?
  • or that retirement is actually GOOD for me?

The point of this? Thinking through and pinning down just what grounds our feelings enables us to analyze whether what we believe is in fact TRUE.

Besides, I should know better than to indulge in that kind of discontent. God has built up a track record of meeting my needs. The most recent occasion when God came through was last winter when my husband dealt with some health issues. The verse I clung through some real suffering was Psalm 84:11:

 No good thing does the Lord withhold from those whose way is upright.

 That fact and promise allowed me to trust God’s character and plans for us when Mike was ill.

Startling, isn’t it, that until now I hadn’t transferred over God’s Word to my job as a 10-month schoolteacher.

If I am still ‘having to’ teach at age 59, then it must be because God considers it GOOD for me.

And with that, I can begin to anticipate with a lighter heart the good He has planned for this new school year.

Julie Andrews and faulty logic

8 Jun

Nothing comes from Nothing

“Nothing comes from nothing,” sang Julie Andrews in my favorite film of all time, The Sound of Music.

And that is a true statement! If all there ever was, was nothing, then that is all that would be right now!

Here is the governess Maria’s argument:

No thing comes from no thing

Here is some thing

Therefore, some other existing thing caused this particular thing

But where the Maria character goes with her conclusion is debatable.  And as a Christian, I would assert that it is unsubstantiated and false.

Let’s think about the possible argument setups.

Truth: Nothing comes from nothing

Explicit Fact most would agree with:  Something VERY good is going on in Maria’s life – she has fallen in love with the Captain

Implicit Fact most would agree with: Falling in love and the accompanying joy is not anything that circumstances or another person can give us

Possible Causal Agents for this ‘love’:

a) the Karma principle and Maria’s conclusion – I must have done something good in my youth

b) random circumstances just fell out this way and Maria has chosen to ascribe significance to these particular molecules in motion

c) God is the source of ‘all good gifts’, one of which is ‘this something good’.

  • (James 1:17   Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens)

So which precipitating event for Maria & the Captain’s relationship are you or I going to pick?

It all depends on one’s worldview.  What is a worldview?  It is a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.

I’ll leave you to work out your own conclusion.  What astonishes me is how long it took for me to grow aware of the lyrics to this song.  Throughout the numerous times I’ve watched the movie or listened to the music, I remained caught up in the happy evocative sentiments. NEVER did I consider the import of the words. It’s clear that a large portion of our world operates out of a secular worldview, whether material or immaterial.  AND, it’s a story easy to absorb and accept without thinking or questioning.

*Lyrics – [Maria:]

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/soundtracks/s/thesoundofmusiclyrics/somethinggoodlyrics.html

 

 

Bullying in place of argumentation

11 May

HB2  I live in North Carolina outside the town of Asheville.  I read the daily newspaper, especially the editorial page and letters to the editor.

The clear majority of published letter writers caustically and sarcastically attacks the predominately Republican state government that passed House Bill 2 (HB2), which then was signed, into law by Governor Pat McCrory.

What has ensued from that legislative event has been mostly manipulative bullying (or bullying manipulation) by entertainers and companies such as Bruce Springsteen and PayPal.

If one supports the bill, one is automatically branded a bigot. And the labeling is delivered via shouting.  Where is the reasoned argumentation?  There is none.  No space is allowed for civil and thoughtful discourse.

So what happens when one framing of an issue is repeated loudly and often enough?

Nazi Joseph Goebbels might not have been the first person to arrive via inductive reasoning at this practical reality, but chillingly, his conclusion was born out in the Nazi horrors.”If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.” http://www.HolocaustResearchProject.org. 

In the current NC uproar, I would substitute LBGTQ movement supporters for ‘the State’.

The other day I read the latest issue of Hillsdale College’s Imprimis’.  This publication reprints speeches of notable visitors to the conservative institution.  I knew absolutely nothing about the baseball legend Ty Cobb. Nonetheless, what I DID learn reading this pamphlet was how naïve I might be to trust what I hear reported by ‘everyone’.   Apparently it has been common knowledge for a couple of generations since Mr. Cobb’s death that he was a racist, violent and unkind ‘scumbag,’ if nothing else.

But….the facts don’t bear this out.  The historian who set about to write an even more salacious biography of the 20th century sports ‘hero’ found the truth to be more interesting than current (that is, current since Mr. Cobb’s death in 1961) documentation.

For a brief look at what the truth actually is regarding Ty Cobb, read for yourself:   Ty Cobb – how history reports lies

Learning about the injustice done to a 20th century iconic figure has reinforced in my mind the desperate need for clear-thinking and kind logical Janes and Joes.  Friends, there IS truth.  And as people made in God’s image, we are called to look for, understand and argue for the truth, but ALWAYS in a winsome and grace-filled manner. Browbeating another person is NOT logic.

May God help us to major in the ‘kind and logical’ rather than seeking always to be right and logical, at a cost to human dignity.  It is arrogant to assume we see the Truth 100 % accurately.

 

 

Taking a text literally

13 Apr

Literalists get bad press and are viewed as simplistic and irrational at times.

I’ve recently heard both an agnostic, Stanley Fish, and a Christian, Hugh Ross, expound on how to take a text literally. And they are nothing but reasoned and intelligent men who document a sensible manner to textual analysis.  Both men are experts in their field: Fish is currently a visiting professor at the Cardozo School of Law in NYC.  Hugh Ross is an astrophysicist who founded and guides a Christian think tank called Reasons to Believe.

Our law professor is a practitioner of intentional originalism.  Simplified, this is a method of interpreting the Constitution regarding cases that come before a court.  One examines the meaning of the original words in the written text and searches to find the original intent of those who wrote the law or the Constitution. Antonin Scalia, the recently deceased Supreme Court justice was also an originalist. However, he placed more emphasis on the text and differed from Fish who gave more weight to the intent of the author(s).

Although this distinction is not that wide, what IS striking is the vast gulf in worldviews between Scalia and Fish.  Apparently some critics of originalism have criticized Justice Scalia’s originalism as just ‘code’ for conservative values. That’s a simplistic strawman fallacy, however, even per Fish.

The other misunderstood ‘smart man’ is Hugh Ross who as a Christian takes the Bible literally.  And he is an old earth creationist.  Yes, he does believe the universe was created in 6 days.  But what counts is the translation of the Hebrew term, ‘day’. As Ross explains, Hebrew uses a small vocabulary compared to English. Here’s what Wikipedia writes:

Although it is commonly rendered as day in English translations, the word yom has several literal definitions: [1]

  • Period of light (as contrasted with the period of darkness),
  • Period of twenty-four hours
  • General term for time
  • Point of time
  • Sunrise to sunset
  • Sunset to next sunset
  • A year (in the plural; I Sam 27:7; Ex 13:10, etc.)
  • Time period of unspecified length.
  • A long, but finite span of time – ageepochseason.

To determine the appropriate literal meaning for words in Genesis, one has to look at the context and reasonably (based on REASON) evaluate which meaning best fits the context. Yes, this is a humble undertaking, but not beyond the abilities God has given us and redeemed for His use.

Here’s a clue for Hugh Ross that Yom means an epoch or long time, his view. He points to the words ‘evening….morning, the first day‘ and makes the obvious observation that until Day 4, there IS no sun, hence no 24-hour rotation of the earth.  Look at the text below:

Genesis 1:3-5

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

What do you make, then, of the words ‘evening….morning’?  Dr. Hugh Ross offers the following, as what he thinks could very well have been the intention of the author, God:

  • ‘evening and morning’ are used to communicate the start and the end of a period of time

In the evangelical world, there are Christians who self-identify as ‘young earth creationists’.  From some of the criticisms I’ve heard leveled at their ‘old earth creationist’ brothers and sisters, these Christians FEAR that assenting to ‘an old earth creation model’ smuggles in an accompanying assent to Darwinian evolution.  I can understand that fear, but I believe it is unfounded and not reasonable. These believers are acting more like liberal legislators or judges who fear that originalism might open the door to conservative values.

These differing approaches to finding truth DO encourage me in one way.  They showcase that most folks really do believe and function in a world of values and truth. (good, bad, right, wrong…). And the fact that people hold differing worldviews does not prevent them from agreeing on certain principles.