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Do extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? – the power of a counter argument

9 Sep

Some people like to dismiss miracles or supernatural events with the demand for something MORE than the existence of an immaterial being.  They want decisive extraordinary proof to back up any claims they consider beyond the ordinary.

Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Intelligent Design all point to an intentional first cause responsible for the creation of the Universe.   That seems to be pretty ‘extraordinary’, but apparently the ‘doubters’ don’t accept the powerful cumulative case that points to a ‘big-banger’ who/that initiated our universe.

Before we go down the rabbit trail of trying to come up with evidence that would be extraordinary enough to satisfy skeptics, let’s consider whether their requirement for such sensational reasoning is justifiable.

The other day, in reading Psalm 84, I saw a counter-argument to the atheists/agnostics’ pushback.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

If it is true that ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof’ then one might EQUALLY say:

  • Extraordinary beauty or loveliness requires an admirer/observer/lodger who is equally extraordinary

But look at the opening of the psalm.  The man who pens these words is overwhelmed with the beauty and the majesty of the Jewish sanctuary.  But is he, himself, majestic or lovely or beautiful?

Well he MIGHT be, you could argue.  And you’d probably be basing that reason on the fact that he is made in the image of God.  All reflectors of God are beautiful in that sense.  But if he is someone who has just offered an animal to be sacrificed and it’s around 970 BC, then he’s probably smelly and might even be splattered with ox or sheep’s blood!

Okay, so the man COULD be lovely or he could be smelly.  But who else or what else in this section of Psalm 84 considers God’s sanctuary good and fit to enter and stay?

  • the common birds, specifically sparrows and swallows

When the ordinariness of the ones coming into the temple, whether humans or birds,  are capable  and qualified to deem the setting “lovely’.  That beauty both satisfies the human soul and provides necessary shelter for God’s winged creatures.  The quality of loveliness does not require the beholder/user to be lovely.  It follows then that reactionary comeback to anything supernatural is NOT well founded.

So, no!!! Extraordinary places or events do not require extraordinary evidence.  They just call for evidence and reasons that are TRUE!

For further discussion of the ‘extraordinary objection’ visit this link

Logical gal – new insight into Bible verse via French translation and a hypothetical syllogisme

1 Jul

Grace was given to you, regarding Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him. Phil 1:29

Caught off guard, I reread this morning’s devotional in the French (from a French Bible meditation-a-day calendar by La Bonne Semence – Website is here).  Why had I never seen that before?

Paul was explaining that faith to believe Jesus is a gift just like the power to endure suffering is a gift.

Two gifts; same grace; 2 different purposes:

  1. Power to believe Jesus is God
  2. Power to go through suffering

Grace

Doing a little digging, I discovered why I had never before ‘seen’ the connection to grace, to a gift from God.  Many of the English translations say something like the ESV – For to you it has been granted…...

My mind had just skipped over those words and lingered on my discomfort with the linkage between believing and suffering. I confess an unhealthy FEAR of future suffering.  So I have both pondered and shuddered at the latter portion of that statement.

Applying some clear thinking it was fairly easy to draw out some principles from this now illumined verse:

  • Both true belief and the power to endure suffering are possible only with God
  • By definition grace is a gift
  • God grants grace as a gift to Christians
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot see or rely on the Biblical Jesus
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot make it through suffering the way God has intended it

These inferences immediately eased my unholy fears.  Here’s how I applied them to all the ‘what-ifs’ that swirl around in my head more times than I’d like to admit.

When I imagine a scenario, like a fatal car accident affecting a family member, I realize my lack of control. And there is nowhere to go with the fear. So it hovers. Blocks sleep at night and robs me of peace during the day.

Fear - stories

What I now see, thanks to God using this French translation (and the Greek supports it!), is that the imagined fears all take place outside of any grace that God provides.  The suffering I’m picturing is set against the backdrop of ME and my capabilities.  Of course, when I look at me, I am discouraged.   But Christians aren’t meant to live relying on their puny resources. Christians, once God re-births them, get a spiritual DNA.  (think: new supernatural power)

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.        2 Cor 5:17

As my cousin Terry counsels, ‘Don’t step out of your circle of Grace.’  She’s talking about ‘daily bread’.  God gives us what we need AS we need it. That’s what He promises.  He doesn’t provide the ‘feeling’ of grace in the present for a potential future situation.

Bottom line, logically-speaking?   It’s STUPID to meditate on possible suffering.

So what will I do when another IRRATIONAL fear pops unbidden into my mind?  Remind myself of truth, that God has promised future grace when I need it.  For now, I will live in the present moment, relying on these facts that:

  • just as it takes a gift or grace to receive faith and believe
  • so, too, it takes a gift or grace to receive power and suffer in the manner He has planned

Here’s the if-then version of that truth:

  • Premise 1 – If God has given me faith to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, then God will give me power and grace for suffering as it comes.
  • Premise 2 – God HAS given me faith, right now, to believe and rely on Him
  • Conclusion – Therefore, He will most assuredly give me grace and power for suffering when it occurs.

Question: Where have clear thinking and logic helped you mine truth from the Bible?

Logical Gal and ‘Neutrality’

12 Nov

Neutral

Facts are neutral bits of reality.

Humans give them context and meaning, filling in assumptions to offer explanations.  Sometimes we actually add reasons to our assertions and craft an argument.  But whether we stop short of an argument and just offer a POSSIBLE explanation or craft an intact case, we still carry assumptions that may or may not be expressed for all to see and hear.

The mid-term elections are behind us (Good riddance to all those ads!) but ‘framing’ the results flourishes.  Just like the British headlines after George W. Bush was RE-elected, some people will be scratching their heads to create an explanation for certain wins and losses.

How can 59 million people be so DUMB

Truth is – most facts are neutral.  They take on values (good, bad, stupid, wise….) only compared to something else or based on a pre-supposition.

Look at this conclusion, aka an assertion, which I am inventing for argument’s sake:

  • Senator Joe Blow won reelection because of big oil

‘because of big oil’ is one of those invented explanations.  Possible explanations are everywhere, but they masquerade as arguments. Unaccompanied by reasons, they are meaningless.  But even when the provider shores up her explanation with reasons, not all is uncovered.  We have to dig to find out the pre-suppositions that are BEHIND the reasons and conclusion.   But how do you uncover what is not explicitly articulated?

  • You can ask the person making the claim
  • Or…you can propose an assumption you think might be below the surface and ask the claim-maker to verify or deny it

For example, I might ask:

  1. So you think that Senator Joe Blow won only because those in the oil industry voted for him?

or

2. So you don’t think that Senator Joe Blow might have offered a record of results from his first 6 years or a set of values that pleased his constituents?

Our assumptions (also called presuppositions) heavily influence how we evaluate facts,; they give facts their context.

Hold your horses

(holding one’s horses!) 

Something else that influences our evaluation is our tendency to move from considering neutral facts, to drawing inferences, to making judgments.  Often our conclusions overreach the facts of the particular case.  So we must resist that tendency or habit and ask ourselves if this particular case justifies our conclusions.

Consider the following example I recently read in Senator Hayakawa’s book – Hayakawa's Bk Language

Imagine a hypothetical ‘Pete’ and the following FACT:

  • Pete just got released after spending 3 years in prison

An unwarranted inference might lead one to assume:  Pete is a criminal!

But all we know are 2 facts:

1. Pete spent 3 years in prison

2. Pete has been released

We DON’T know definitively whether or not Pete was guilty of the crime for which he was incarcerated.

If we flow quickly into that inference, however, we might be led to make a judgment such as:  Pete can’t be trusted because he is a criminal.  I would never hire him!

True confessions!  Stopping before I make an inference and slide into a judgment is easier SAID than done!  But anything worthwhile takes effort!  Our world needs more cautious but clear thinkers.

So in this post-election season, let’s exercise calm and rational thinking no matter which side of the political spectrum we land. There’s no room for unwarranted judgments that demonize or boast.