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Bears repeating: our presuppositions matter

28 Dec

A dear friend of mine dove into theological waters for the first time last week.  As a result, I understand more clearly her view on the veracity and usefulness of the Bible.

She belongs to the United Church of Christ.  One of their beliefs is essentially ‘no creeds’.

  • The UCC has no rigid formulation of doctrine or attachment to creeds or structures. Its overarching creed is love. UCC pastors and teachers are known for their commitment to excellence in theological preparation, interpretation of the scripture and justice advocacy.

I am not writing a post to attack this denomination, but to use what they write about themselves to illustrate several points regarding logical and clear thought.

A couple of conclusions one can draw from that paragraph:

  1. If there is no substantive content to a belief, then there is no foundation for saying something is true or false, right or wrong.
  2. If you advocate ‘love’, who is going to criticize you, especially if you are vague about what love means?  Seems attractive and safe, yes.  Nevertheless, meaningless.

Some questions I would ask:

  1. Just what DO you mean by ‘love’?  Whose definition are you using? Is ‘love’ allowing people to continue in self-destructive ways because they believe them to be right?  Is it ‘loving’ (in order to avoid saddening or offending someone) to withhold a diagnosis for a disease that is curable?
  2. If there is no doctrine, then how can one interpret the Scriptures?
  3. And on what basis can one’s interpretation of Scripture be judged ‘excellent’?

That’s a short response, having read what this denomination writes about itself at the macro level. At the micro or individual and personal level, here is what weighs on me concerning my friend.

If I am correct in presenting her viewpoint, she believes that certainty about what the Bible teaches is impossible and in fact ‘destructive’.

I passed some sleepless hours across three nights last week working out the implications of this view.  What I have been given by God, the light and faith to believe that the Bible is not only true but authoritative, is precious and incalculably beneficial to me.  Here are just a few of its gifts:

  • God’s promises are both a safe haven in scary times and a source of REAL, supernatural strength when I both feel and AM weak
  • His Word provides guidance and wisdom
  • I have assurance that I am personally known and loved by a good Father who created me and everything in the universe
  • There is a purpose to both my life and my suffering
  • I have an inheritance safely waiting for me that outweighs all suffering on this earth

So there you have it, some out-workings of presuppositions.  Beliefs really do matter.

So what is my advice to all of us?  Not only must we know what we believe, but WHY we hold those beliefs. And we must be willing to follow the ramifications and determine if we like where they lead.

Bonnes Pensées!  Happy thinking!

 

 

If God controls the nations….

21 Dec

2 Chron 20:5-6  Jehoshaphat stood before the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the Lord’s temple, in front of the new courtyard. He prayed: “O Lord God of our ancestors, you are the God who lives in heaven and rules over all the kingdoms of the nations. You possess strength and power; no one can stand against you.

Biblical Christians accept, without pause, the fact that God controls nations.  Numerous passages in the Bible teach this.  Consider just a smattering of examples:

  • The formation of the people of Israel, created by God from one Babylonian pagan, Abraham.
  • Or God sending Cyrus to capture and subjugate rebellious Judah.
  • Or arranging for Caesar Augustus to desire a census so that Mary & Joseph would travel to Jerusalem and Jesus would be born in Bethlehem instead of Nazareth

So, my thought is this:

If God controls the nations, then He also controls individual people and events.

How else do nations run, if not by very little details!

This past year I read David McCullough’s historical account of the Panama Canal.

God worked mosquitos, personality traits of leaders, weather, and human sin all together to bring America to the point to successfully take over the construction of the canal from the French.  When the French began construction in 1881 of this, their second significant canal after the Suez Canal, no one in Washington, DC even dreamed that America would complete this project.

But there were many details that God sovereignly organized into one surprising result.

Even the non-Christian deist Benjamin Franklin recognized the ‘butterfly effect’ and memorialized it with this rhyme:

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

Christians more easily recognize that God is the source of all these details, but where we (ME!!) fail is in applying this FACT to the personal details of our lives.  What great peace I forfeit when I fail to remember that God is in fact lovingly directing all occurrences according to His GOOD purposes.  This includes those details/events:

  • that others mean for evil (just consider Judas’ betrayal of Jesus)
  • natural disasters like earthquakes and droughts due to the Fall (‘all of creation groans in pain ‘ – Romans 8:22)

This logical gal is going to remind herself daily:

  • If God controls the nations, then He is controlling the details of my life right now.
  • If God is God, then He is good.
  • Therefore, the good God controls the details of my life right now.

That’s enough for me.

Post-truth? What does that mean?

30 Nov

oxfordengdict

Today I welcome Michael Cochrane as guest writer to ‘Logical Gal’.  Michael, besides being my husband, works as a technology reporter for World News Group and voiceover artist. I fell in love with him 37 years ago when I overheard a young man announce, “The unexamined life is not worth living!” He has been a guiding force in my growth as a critical thinker.

Each year the Oxford University Press, publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) select a word of the year, one that “reflect(s) the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and… [has] lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.”

The OED word of the year for 2016 is “post-truth,” which is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Unlike words such as “post-war” or “post-modern,” the term “post-truth” does not suggest the world has moved beyond a time in which truth is relevant or significant. Rather, it implies that we now live in a world in which public opinion of events, politics, economics, science, morality and ethics – essentially anything that comprises reality – is more important than reality itself, and that emotional appeal or subjective belief is more effective than factual truth in achieving that objective.

Another way to think of this is to look at the classical correspondence theory of truth, which states (according to Wikipedia), “the truth or falsity of a statement is determined only by how it relates to the world and whether it accurately describes (i.e., corresponds with) that world.” In other words, truth is “that which conforms to reality.”

If we accept this definition of truth, then by inference, “post-truth” also means “post-reality.” Which actually makes more sense as a word of the year given the secular, cultural elite’s current embrace of ideology as a substitute for objective reality.

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!

 

Reformation Logic – If God did this, then for sure….

2 Nov

95-theses This past Monday was the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther’s penning and dispatching to Albert of Brandenburg (Archbishop of Mainz) his 95 arguments for reforming the church.

One of the central beliefs among the reformers was the doctrine that guilty sinners are justified ONLY by faith in Jesus’ atoning death and righteous life on their behalf.  Using ‘shorthand’ this is called ‘the justification by faith’.  Prior to this tectonic shift back to original Christianity, the church had taught with a growing force that salvation was dependent not just on faith but also on works.  One had to MERIT heaven.

So where does logic fit in?  Have you heard of reasoning from the greater to the lesser?

If so, then you’re in for a boatload of comfort!

Here’s how the argument goes:

If God has given you faith to trust Him to save you from deserved wrath, then that same faith is sufficient for you to trust Him when He says He will provide grace for every other one of your needs.

The greater and ‘harder’ work is rescuing us from our certain prideful or oblivious march along the path toward hell.  That cost the Father His Son. The ‘lesser’ work is rescuing, helping, provisioning, guiding, healing, and meeting our needs in this life through faith.

There’s even a promise from God backing up this conditional IF/THEN statement.  Romans 8:32 – For He who did not spare His own Son, will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all other things?

How does that comfort me?

When I’m afraid about something difficult facing me later today or next week, then I ‘admonish’ myself like this:

  • Maria, you have trusted God for the gift of eternal life, why would you doubt His promise when He tells you NOT to fear the here and now? The same Word that holds out His offer of salvation also declares His willingness to be with you and to provide exactly what you need at the right time. To doubt this God for the lesser when He has already given you the greater just doesn’t make sense, Maria!!

Dear friends, there’s a constant negative, world-shouting message of fear and false reality.  We MUST vigorously and repeatedly recall the truth.  Our faith in the biblical God is a gift and our most precious possession. But like a muscle, if we don’t strengthen it every day, it will not remain static, but grow smaller.

Exercise the logical mind that God has given you!

 

 

 

Reasoning from facts about the future

7 Sep

I came upon the following Scripture this morning as I was searching for an essay I had saved about the death of a beloved dog.  Our neighbors had to say goodbye to such a good friend and they are struggling with the hole he has left in their hearts.

As I was rereading the essay, the author referenced the passage below.  The prophesy about the lion’s diet floored me.  Read on:

Isaiah 11:  6-9

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

Lion eating meat

I had to verify it, but according to what my Google search engine pulled up, lions in their present state eat meat and not straw.  And oxen are herbivores.

If that is the case, then God’s word to John about the future as recorded in Revelation 21:5 takes on new and specific significance concerning animals:

“Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Why should I be startled to learn that the God who created every thing that exists is also the same God who changes dispositions, tastes and digestive systems!

Here, then, is how I reasoned from that deduction.  My reasoning actually takes us back in time.  I am painting a hypothetical scenario, which I cannot prove conclusively, but I find satisfaction in stretching my mind thoughtfully:

If God changed man’s fundamental nature ( from being able to CHOOSE obedience to Him before the Fall into being able ONLY to sin as a consequence**), then it is feasible in the new heavens and new earth God will alter man’s fundamental nature anew

If God in the future will change a lion from a carnivore to an herbivore, then God in the past before the Fall may have created the lion to be different than his present predatory state

Why am I spending energy thinking through these rational possibilities?

Welcome, reality in a fallen world!

My body doesn’t work well when I eat the foods I crave.  Breads, oatmeal and starches appeal to me, but they clog up my system.  I do better eating meats.  Meat costs more than starches. And due to some financial decisions we altered our meals this summer to include non-meat dinners every other night.  Think beans and grains.  But they clog up my system.

Therefore, I have reluctantly accepted the evidence that eating beef, pork, chicken, fish and eggs is what God has chosen for me.  This diet goes with the ‘boundary lines (that) have fallen for me in pleasant places’ (as God defines my safe space! – Psalm 16:6).  This way of eating is what He calls GOOD, for me, in this current world.

My conclusion?

  • If the manner in which animals feed today in our corrupted world has been scarred, then maybe the reason for my slow and inefficient digestive system has also been scarred.

It makes logical sense, then, to accept these limits and gracefully live within them and look forward to a future world.

 

How logic rescues us from false guilt

29 Jun

John 14:15  If you love me, you will keep my commandments

At first reading, I feel convicted.  I must not really love God, for I don’t obey his every commandment.

But that is a reverse and false reading of this hypothetical conditional premise.

Jesus, who instructed his disciples right up until Roman guards arrested him on the eve of his crucifixion, did NOT teach:

If you keep all my rules, then it’ll be true that you love me.

Well, then what was it that he taught?  Here’s both the bad news and the good news (Gospel) of our love for God.

  • No one naturally is capable of loving God, for everyone is born with a birth defect called hatred or indifference toward God
  • If we feel ANY affection for or interest in the biblical God (as described in the Bible), then that is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s saving work in our stony hearts.  Only God can swap out a stiff and impenetrable heart and replace it with a softness and inclination for him.

So what about the ….”then you’ll obey me” clause?

Think of it like this.  When someone loves you and you feel love for him or her, you naturally want to please him or her.  You want to know what they think, what interests them, what they consider important.  So it is with God.  Because he loves us first and then follows that electing and intentional love by implanting in us a reciprocal love for him, we receive new desires and delights.

If it is THAT easy to twist the meaning of a Bible truth through faulty logic, what other realities might we have equally misconstrued?