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Backward logic to diagnose sadness

17 May

Kiss the son before he becomes angry, and you die where you stand. Indeed, his wrath can flare up quickly. How blessed are those who take refuge in him.  Psalm 2:12

The Hebrew word for ‘blessed’ is ‘esher’.  Amplifying thus the way the text reads:

O the happiness of those who shelter in God.

Psalm 2 cycled through in my prayer-feed this morning.  What struck me between the eyes was this last FACT in verse 12.  Christians who rely on and trust the Lord in all their troubles and suffering are happy!

So what does that imply if I, a Christian, am not experiencing this kind of blessing or happiness?

Let’s look at this syllogistically:

All those who rely on God/shelter in God are happy.

I am not happy

Tf, I am not relying on God/sheltering in God

Boom.  There it is.  Pure logical deduction.  Can’t escape it.

So, what do to do?  What is the solution?

Christians know they can do absolutely nothing spiritually apart from Christ.  But with Him, all things are possible! Straight from our Savior’s mouth to His disciples comes His gentle rebuke:

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt 19:26

Through His Word this morning, God reminded me that if I’m not content in Jesus today, then I am living out in the wilds, tossed here and there by the winds of circumstances.

With that Holy Spirit warning, I ran back to my Rock.

I’ll probably have to do that again THIS very day!  Silly and senseless lamb that I am.  But O the bliss of returning to my good Shepherd!

How recognizing a fallacy helps sniff out a poor argument

10 May

All cows have four legs

My dog Fido has four legs

Therefore, Fido is a cow

Pastor John Piper explained in a rebroadcasted sermon how high school geometry had grounded him in clear thinking.  Mathematical laws, one leading to a next, trained him to use deductive reasoning.  With practice in drawing valid and true conclusions, he developed a ‘nose’ for truth, as he put it.  The practical effect for him has been to alert him to ‘fishy’ conclusions that stink, that is they don’t add up, given the premises provided.

Looking at the syllogism above, we notice something and we ‘smell’ something:

  1. Premises 1 & 2 are in fact TRUE – cows have 4 legs and dogs normally do as well
  2. But we know that the conclusion is FALSE.  Our dog Fido is NOT a cow.

For me, the quickest way to explain why our sense of ‘fishiness’ is spot on, is to draw out each premise.

Take All cows have 4 legs.

Step 1:  draw a circle – label it Creatures with 4 legs.

2 cirlces

Step 2: draw a smaller circle somewhere inside the first circle.  This represents ALL COWS.  Every cow that ever WAS, IS, WILL BE  is in that circle.  (assuming no handicapped cows)

Step 3:  Mark an X in the big circle called, Creatures with 4 legs.

Circles with X

Do you spot the problem?  We don’t know where to place Fido.  Does he belong in the circle of cows? or out of the circle of cows?  From the information given, the 2 premises, that cannot be determined.

Therefore, the conclusion is false.  Why?  Because the new premise that ‘Fido is a cow’ assumes too much.  It might be, but it might not be.

There is of course, a technical way of categorizing the validity of the syllogism.  But for me, just sketching it out is simplest.

When I taught in a classical Christian school in Yorktown, Va, logic was a mandatory class for 7th and 8th graders.  I instructed the younger students in the joy of spotting fallacies (much to the annoyance of their parents who thereafter had to be on their guard!).  The 8th graders were at the perfect age to begin to understand how to analyze and formulate good arguments.

I believe that this tool in clear thinking is invaluable to young teens AND adults.  This kind of knowledge is powerful and builds confidence when they head out into a world such as ours:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil: who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!  Isaiah 5: 20-21 (NASB)

 

 

 

 

Bible verse logic

19 Apr

I love reading Scripture in French, just for the different wording.  Psalm 65:1 in English reads: There will be silence and calm waiting before you, and praise in Zion.

But in French, it’s ‘Notre calme attente à toi est la louange que nous t’offrons’Our calm counting and waiting on you is the praise that we offer you.  (ESV/Blue Letter Bible site:)

This morning in my study time, I linked THAT affirmation with Psalm 34:1 – I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 

What I saw was that for His praise to be “always in my mouth”, it must be always in my mind.  And what will guarantee that I’ll always be thinking of ways to praise God?  Only my neediness.

To be needy raises this question: when do we actually HAVE to wait for or count on someone?  When we don’t have what it takes, when we are DESPERATE!

But it’s human nature to DESPISE being needy.  And especially trying/difficult for those of us in the ‘modern West’.  As moderns, we have weaned ourselves off of being dependent on others by all our personalized, automated, self-contained devices and life-style choices.

But God knows best.  After all, He created us.  And His ON-PURPOSE design for us is to need Him, to be dependent on Him.

But here’s the good news.  This design is not just to keep us in our place with a kind of resigned ‘I had better be grateful’ acceptance.  No, on the contrary, our good and all-wise God has structured us to find pure, satisfying joy in having our needs met by Him.  (After all, Jesus waited and endured the dreadful, shame-filled cross for ‘the joy set before Him – Hebrew 12:2)

At almost 60 years old, I have finally reached the stage where more often than not, I can see the soundness of His purpose in making me stumble-prone and inadequate when I lean on myself.  Like Paul, I am BEGINNING to learn to be content when I am weak.  As in Hebrews 11:34, I am one of those ‘….whose weakness was turned to strength…..’

Further building my case for the power of a life defined by Psalm 65:1, I draw assurance from the Father’s promise in Psalm 84:11 – …..No good thing does He withhold…..  Of course, I have learned that what God calls ‘good’ is not always what Maria considers good. But my confidence in Him grows day by day as He provides the evidence of promises delivered, over and over again.  I am beginning to SEE the wisdom in the ‘good’ He decrees for me, even if this ‘good’ comes wrapped in brown paper.

How are you building a case for God’s ways in your life?  What evidence are you assembling that strengthens your resolve to count on Him?

The power of a conclusion

8 Feb

It’s never too late to begin to parent well.

Even if you have been a poor father and raised 10 ungodly sons.

My husband and I were marveling the other day at Joseph’s unwavering faith displayed while a slave in Potiphar’s house and then during subsequent years stuck in that Egyptian prison.

Unlike Great Grandpa Abraham, Grandpa Isaac or Dad Jacob, Joseph neither saw nor spoke with God or His angels.  But God’s hand rested on him.

  •  Genesis 39:2-4 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.

What happened to Joseph that set him apart from his wicked, ungodly older brothers?

Here’s my theory:

Genesis 34 narrates the account of Dinah’s rape by one of pagan Shechem’s local boys. Father Jacob does nothing.  His 10 older boys take matters in their own hands and brutally revenge their sister’s honor.

Jacob had not exercised any godly influence on his sons that we can discern. After this dark chapter of family history, he could have concluded:

  • I have failed as a father for I have NOT raised my sons to know the Lord
  • Therefore, I’m a terrible father.  That’s just who I am.

I don’t think Jacob indulged the human inclination toward self-pity and paralyzing remorse.  I think the nadir in his life marks a turning point in his resolve and behavior.  What’s the evidence?  In Genesis 37 Joseph shares some startling dreams about his brothers bowing down to him.  Then during his Egyptian captivity, dreams play a major role in his deliverance.

Maybe Jacob came to his senses after the Dinah tragedy and began to take his father role seriously.  I can picture him spending hours relating all he knew to Joseph and Benjamin about Abraham’s adventures with God and then their grandfather Isaac’s experiences on Mount Moriah with the sacrificial ram swap for his own life and then how he prayed for their grandmother Rebekah to get pregnant. And then his, Jacob’s, very own encounters with God.

He would have dramatically narrated the ladder dream with angels descending and ascending to heaven, which occurred the first night on his outward journey to Uncle Laban’s. Then God spoke to him, directing him to lead the entire clan back to Canaan.  He would have explained the ‘genesis’ of his perpetual limp, trophy won during the famous wrestling match with the Angel of the Lord.  Joseph and Benjamin would have begged to hear yet again how God spared them all when Uncle Esau met Jacob’s approaching gaggle of people and herds with a small army of 400 men!  Jacob had feared for all their lives and strategically divided everyone into smaller groups.

Yes, Jacob must have drawn a different conclusion after his last parenting failure, one that changed the course of history.

Yes, he had mostly abdicated his responsibility to teach his family about Almighty God. But, he could change and perhaps influence the two remaining boys. There WAS something he could do. It wasn’t too late.

My scenario is speculative.  Yet, there is no question that Joseph WAS different from his brothers.  His character turned out to be pivotal for the family, for the Hebrews and for the world.  Had he not heard about the family’s God encounters of years past and learned about the character of God, he might not have been open to the dreams God gave him. There possibly would have been…….

  • No bragging to his brothers
  • N0 fuming jealousy that turned murderous
  • No enslavement in Egypt
  • No ruling in Egypt
  • No rescue from famine
  • No fertile cocooning in Goshen
  • No population explosion
  • No miraculous departure
  • and on and on all the way to NO birth of the Messiah in the tribe of Judah, as predicted

Why was Joseph different?  As my husband pointed out, the Bible is silent on how he learned about God, but God was clearly with him during his 13-14 as a slave/prisoner.  He worked diligently with skill and rose in the ranks wherever God planted him.  We read of neither moping nor complaining.  He strove to serve those around him, whether as a household slave, a helper to the prison boss or the number two ruler in Egypt.

My point is this: what we conclude from past failures affects the future.  What encouragement.  And what a warning about drawing the WRONG conclusions.

It’s NEVER too late to change.

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?

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.

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!