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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?

Improbable does not equal false

30 Dec

At this time of year Christians around the world celebrate the miracle of the birth and appearance in human form of the invisible, immaterial, spirit Father and Creator of all that is.  God showing up as a man, one of us, is astounding and very improbable.  But that doesn’t make it untrue.

Here’s my premise:

Surprising and unpredictable events happen

Don’t you find it curious that we accept some ‘blow-your-mind’ facts with nary a ripple?

pyramids

Think about the technological skill necessary to build the pyramids or create Stonehenge, for example.  I’m amazed that so-called primitive groups of people organized themselves effectively and applied mathematical principles with such results.

Or what about those puzzling Fibonacci numbers that seem to be at the center of our orderly universe?  I’m not a math person, but just reading some of the examples on this page below make me exclaim, “How can that be?”

Stranger and more intriguing than you think

So why do I bring the improbable up?  Because I was reading about how the Holy Spirit kept the murdered and mutilated Jesus Christ from decaying once He was declared dead.  ALL bodies start to decay when blood ceases to flow.  But Jesus left the tomb two days after being placed behind a sealed and guarded rock.  More than 500 people saw him and no one exclaimed at decomposition.   Some even touched him and watched him eat, two very physical things that require a normal body.

I don’t ever doubt THAT ‘unnatural, out of the ordinary’ fact, that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  So that got me thinking about some other one-off events recorded by the Old Testament, like –

  • sandals not wearing out during the 40 years of wilderness wandering (Deut 29:5)
  • Jonah’s safety during the several days he spent in a big fish (Jonah 1:17)

There are far more ‘stranger than fiction’ documented actualities that defy any rational explanation we can offer. A willingness to live with the unexplainable helps.

The next time you encounter a partial skeptic about anything, ask him what lies behind his doubts? See if you can get at his reasons, his general principle.  If he mentions what causes him to balk at accepting something out of the ordinary, then maybe by your questions you can lead him to doubt HIS doubts about everything needing an explanation that makes sense to him.

Why improbable events are more commonplace than you think

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 and when making sense is not enough

21 Jan

Makes sense

That makes sense to me!

Have you ever heard that comment or uttered it yourself?  It sounds so innocent, doesn’t it!  Don’t we want to make sense of the world around us – especially in light of all the horrors and issues that DON’T make sense?

It’s human nature to try to identify, draw associations and categorize all the information that cascades into our consciousness, moment by moment!

But, we must not forget that just because something makes sense, that detail does NOT make it true!

I ran across a useful example of this faulty thinking the other day.  While listening to a radio program broadcast by the organization Stand to Reason, the host discussed how to deal with the possibility that scientists might very well indeed find a gene marker held in common by some gay men and women.  The presupposition explored by the host is this:

Whatever makes sense is right or must be true.

The caller who holds to the above assumption suggested the following opening to an argument based on that assumption:

  • If there is a ‘gay gene’, then it is natural for those with that gene to want to/ need to engage in what is ‘natural’

After having suggested that line of thinking, he finished his explanation with the comment, “Makes sense to me!”

The host, Greg Koukl, reminded listeners that JUST because something makes sense, that doesn’t make it true or right.   An argument based on the faulty assumption could be stated like this:

P1 – All that makes sense is right

P2 – Doing what is natural makes sense

C – Therefore, doing what comes natural is right

And going on, one can continue:  Given a ‘gay gene’, then it is only natural that those with this gene engage in the behavior that is part of their inherited disposition.

However in the above argument, although it may be rational and correctly formed, it can still be faulty if one or both of the premises are FALSE.  Take a look at the following obvious example of a valid, but unsound syllogism:

P1 – All things with 4 feet are alive

P2 – This table has 4 feet

C – Therefore, this table is alive

Why is this argument valid?  Because it follows the rules of formal logic.  It makes sense, we could say. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to tell that something is WRONG!!!

Bingo!  The faulty premise is the very first one.  NOT all things that have 4 feet are alive, only SOME.  So the universal statement needs to be changed to a particular statement to be true.

P1 – Some things with 4 feet are alive

P2 – This table has 4 feet

C – Therefore, this table is alive

Soundness Venn diagram

Let’s get back to the possible research into gene markers and whether doing what is natural makes sense.

  • Besides the unsoundness of the argument due to the faulty 1st premise..
  • Besides the false nature of the underlying presupposition that What makes sense must be so,

There is ALSO the assumption that could be debated:  We should engage in what comes naturally!

Really?

Question: Which ‘natural’ scenarios come to mind that raise a red flag?

tantrums

 

Logical Gal at the movies

13 Aug

AI the movie

We’re enjoying re-watching some ‘thinking’ movies from the past.  Once you’ve screened a film for the plot line, you can go back and catch the deeper layers. AI or Artificial Intelligence has some dialogue worth pondering.

David is a proto-type robot child who is programmed to ‘love’ after a bonding sequence his ‘Mommy’ (human who owns him) initiates and follows. He responds to her eyes, voice and actions with uncanny human-like qualities that mimic true affection.

In one scene David  is challenged by the family’s REAL son to cut off a locket of Mommy’s hair.  The guile-filled biological boy frames it as a game and orders David to play. We follow the innocent David sneaking into the parents’ bedroom, scissors in hand.  The suspense builds to the predictable moment when Mommy wakes up in horror to see David with sharp edges in hand hovering over her face.   But in momma-bear mode,  she attempts to soft-pedal the event when the horrified dad comes out with this logic:

If he can love, then he can hate!

And after one more innocent event that casts David in a false light, the dad makes the decision to rid themselves of this too-advanced tech addition to their family.

*

Let’s practice some clear logical thinking by taking the dad’s announcement above and analyzing it.  This exercise will reenforce what we should do ANY time we encounter someone’s position which doesn’t seem quite right.

So what do we have in the dad’s pronouncement?

  • a conditional major premise, what we call an ‘If, then’ statement.
  • an enthymeme – one explicit part of an argument or syllogism and 2 missing parts that our minds fill in easily.

Here’s the completed argument:

Premise 1 (the major premise):  If David can love, then he can hate

Premise 2 (the minor premise): David has shown that he can love

Conclusion: Therefore, it is logical to believe that David is also capable of hating

There’s a law in logic that goes like this:  if the first 2 premises are true, then the conclusion MUST be true in a valid argument (valid means that the argument is in the correct form) 

The above syllogism IS valid because Premise 2 affirms the first segment of Premise 1 (called the antecedent). I ask you, then, is this analysis cut and dried?  Are the two premises true?

Well, the movie clearly demonstrates that David loves.  He is a machine.  He is programmed and built to act lovingly and to have that love increase (grow) in response to his one human ‘bondee’ (one human who initiates a short programmed sequence of words enters into a ‘bonded-for-life’ connection with the ‘mecha’ i.e, the robot).  In the photo below, Mommy places the fingers of one hand behind David’s neck and reads a sequence of words, cementing the bonding.

Bonding between David and Monica in movie AI

But the error in Premise 1 lies in its presupposition.  The dad has humans in mind when he assumes that love and hate go hand in hand.  And for those created in God’s images, id est all of us, that is true.  We have been given a certain degree of free will.  We GIVE our love and we RETAIN or hold back our love.  Or else it is not true love. (What a risk God took! But He evidently WANTS the pinnacle of His creation to love Him freely). The downside in creating a machine that imitates a loving human is that the owner of the ‘mecha’ deceives himself in thinking the machine really DOES love him. If he stops and THINKS, the machine is merely following a program, however complex it may be.

David loves Mommy, acts and speaks with tender, servant-like affection because he can do nothing else.  This is not true of humans.

*

Let’s shift back to real life.  Deep movies are satisfying because they offer us food for thought.  We can practice our logic skills in a safe environment when we discuss a film’s premises and conclusions.  Then we feel more prepared gently to question someone in our circle who advances a conclusion that might not be sound.

Vive le cinéma profond!

Question:  What is your all-time favorite deep movie?  What is a premise we could analyze? 

Logical Gal and Communicating via symbols

4 Jun

Today is our middle school end of year celebration where we recognize high achievers in character and scholarship and fête the 8th graders who are moving up to high school.

As I was dressing this morning, I fastened my small cross necklace around my neck.  I was thinking what I would say if someone were to ask me what my cross means.  It’s a good question.

cross necklace

Part of being a Logical Joe or Jane is being able to think carefully about the content of one’s knowledge and beliefs and then to articulate them clearly and in a way that connects with one’s listener.

So here goes:

  • I wear a cross because it reminds me that I belong to a ‘Loser’.…..at least that’s how the world viewed Jesus of Nazareth at the time.  Execution by crucifixion was the ultimate in shame and degradation.   Rome had mastered this method of torture and capital punishment to dispatch slaves and criminals.
  • I wear a cross so I won’t fall into thinking that there is something ‘better’ or more ‘moral’ about me.  Christianity is a religion FOR losers.  And we are all losers.
  • I wear a cross so I won’t forget that Christianity is not about what WE do, it’s about what was done FOR us.  This places Christianity in a completely different category.  For in each of the other religious communities, it’s spiritual power from a person or force PLUS one’s works.  Grace and/or faith PLUS deeds or  letting go or mindfulness or....

Skitch comparison of Christianity & all other religions

One of the conclusions to be drawn from a religion whose founder the world viewed and views even today as a Loser is this:

Premise 1: If the leader is mocked, persecuted and even killed, then his followers will likely be treated the same

Premise 2: Jesus was mocked, persecuted and murdered

Conclusion: Therefore, His followers should not be surprised when they are mistreated by the world

If...then statements

The above syllogism is the classic  ‘Conditional Hypothetical Syllogism‘. The 1st or major premise is the If/Then statement. And the argument is considered VALID if the 2nd or minor premise either AFFIRMS the antecedent (what precedes the ‘then’) or DENIES the consequent (what follows the ‘then’).

Back to the symbolism.  Wearing a cross also reminds me of another way that Christianity is different. It represents a counter-intuitive system of thought.  Jesus’ helplessness on the cross and His willing submission to His Father shows how God is different.  Jesus saved sinners, aka LOSERS by His seeming passivity.  God prevailed through allowing His Son to suffer and not help himself.  When Jesus was raised, His resurrection to life WAS substantiation of God’s ways and His approval and pleasure with this beloved Son.

We don’t EARN God’s approval by anything we do.  God is pleased with us to begin with, before we were born. Then He rescues us and trains us to walk in the School for Losers also calledLife with God as His adopted child’.

When I fasten that little cross around my neck and look in the mirror, that is what I am reminded of.  I need to practice articulating what I believe FIRST for my benefit and THEN for anyone who might ask me.

Question:  What symbol do you display in or around your home, on your car or on your person?  Can you clarify what it means?

Tatoo - Hope and anchor

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?