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How do you know that?

25 Jan

“How do you know that?” he asked me.  In need of a bathroom, I had entered an open door in the school along my route.  When I couldn’t find a public restroom, I stopped the first person in the building I could find.  He looked like a student cadre member at a military school.  He let me use his own private facilities in his ensuite dorm room.

How we got started about which news you could trust, I don’t know.  But when he made a comment regarding ‘facts’ about the new administration, I replied:  “But the media is biased toward the left’s political agenda!”

That’s when he came back with the question that stymied me.  How DID I know that?

I couldn’t very well reply:

  • Well, that’s what I read/hear/think!

If that’s all I can come up with, then I’m no better than the non-thinking masses. You know about whom I’m writing? – the ones I accuse of just parroting what they hear, without sorting out reasons for what they believe?

That dialogue and unsettling realization about my lack of preparedness took place in a snippet of last night’s dream.

But a real-live similar conversation last fall in Boston got me thinking about my deficit in study.

Sharing a room with a teacher colleague afforded plenty of time to talk.  She and I engaged at one point in some discussion about a few controversial issues taking place in our home state of North Carolina.  The issue that revealed my gaps was the so-called ‘bathroom law’.  I found that I could not articulate well why I found it objectionable that a transgendered person could choose the bathroom that matched his/her/its gender feelings.

It could have been the stress of having to think on my feet, because upon calm reflection later several points came to mind:

  • sexually abused women could suffer flash back emotional trauma when confronted by a biological male transgendered into a woman
  • young girls could be prey for a sexual aggressor
  • privacy issues

The point was I felt unprepared in our conversation.

My dream last night underscored the same feeling.

However, I did experience one positive, but unexpected conversation earlier in the week.  A school colleague (not the same one as in Boston) answered my question about a planned faculty female trip to Washington, DC.  She explained that it was to attend a rally supporting women’s rights.  We got talking about abortion.  I HAD done enough study in pro-life tactics to know the pivotal issue:

  • What is the fetus?

If it is NOT a human life, then the woman carrying it has every right to dispose of it as she sees fit.

But if it IS a human life, then that unborn child has the right to life.

We had a civil exchange and left it like this:

  • I place the rights of the unborn baby over the rights of the woman
  • She places the rights of the woman over the right to life of the child

Although I’m pleased that I could at least make a partial case for why destroying a life is murder, I want to be better prepared for the next conversation.

And last night’s dream has motivated me to know and be able to articulate WHY I believe what I do across many issues.

Logical Janes and Joes must do their homework in order to be a force for clear thinking and moral logic!

 

Why we don’t see eye to eye

12 Oct

Both sides, liberals and conservatives, acknowledge a frightening trend in American culture and politics.  We have become a nation sharply divided into 2 camps.  Middle ground seems like a relic from an innocent and bygone era.  I wonder……Is that what Americans in the late 1850s might have felt?  Did the polarization and hatred ‘between brothers’ pain them too?  Did the two separate issues of slavery and states’ rights, painted in such a way as to offer no room for compromise, bother them?

I think I know why these painful times arise.  And the tool of logic and clear thinking can help us understand the reason behind these divisions as well as point us to a way to engage in some civil discourse.

Since I mentioned the Civil War, let’s start there.  The North and the South could not agree on any compromises that might have helped walk tensions back, thus averting war, because they were arguing two separate issues.

In broad terms, the central arguments of both sides coalesced around different issues:

  • The South championed their right as sovereign states to do what they constitutionally voted as best for each state.
  • The North supported the view of the worth and dignity of all men, black and white. They saw slavery as a moral blot on the nation which needed to be eradicated.

So when you have one side shouting Argument A and the other side shouting Argument B, nothing is heard nor can be settled.

In  a debate, both sides must agree to take up JUST ONE issue at a time.  They must settle and decide on ONE resolution to argue.  To wit:

  • Slavery is a moral evil and should be abolished by the federal government

OR….

  • Each American state has the sovereign right to govern itself, making the economic and political decisions deemed preferable by its citizens

One side advances reasons FOR the resolution and tries to convince an audience.

The other side builds its case AGAINST the resolution and equally tries to convince an audience.

What the two sides MUST not do is argue more than one issue at a time!

Consider other seemingly irreconcilable issues:

  1. Abortion – again two issues.  A woman’s right to decide about her body versus the unborn child’s right to life.
  2. How to evaluate Trump – the two paths seem to be policies versus character.  Those who support Trump build their case on their belief that he will champion policies that are best for our country.  Those who say they won’t vote for Trump argue based on his character flaws.

Logical friends, we get NOWHERE when we argue two SEPARATE issues AT THE SAME TIME!

So, the next time you find yourself in a discussion that seems to polarize you and your friend, call a time out.  Point out what you both are doing.  Ask your friend if she would like to continue discussing what clearly are important issues, but let her choose one position to take up.  Then guide both of you into articulating the question or resolution to each one’s satisfaction.   Narrow down and parse out what the two of you think you can calmly and rationally discuss.

And let the debate begin. No, you might not have time for the issue you would have liked to have first broached, but at least you are less likely to destroy your relationship and think each is impassable and hard-hearted! And you might learn something about each other that could strengthen your friendship.  And that is a good reason for any debate.

 

 

Don’t weaken the anchor ropes of your faith!

21 Sep

Do you ever play out an imaginary conversation between you and someone else?  It could be with a hypothetical person or maybe with someone you know whose likely responses you think you can predict as well.

anchor

I spun one out yesterday as I read an essay meant to encourage Christians about the trustworthiness of God’s promises as recorded in the Bible.

Anyone who reads the Bible knows that it teaches that God never changes.  All his characteristics are not only inalterable, they are perfect and pure.  God’s qualities or attributes are the standard by which we created beings know what moral values look like. Which kind of values specifically?  To name a few, consider:

  • beauty
  • goodness
  • strength
  • truth
  • evil
  • mercy
  • wisdom
  • peace

The essayist whom I was reading argued for the importance of integrity and how we long for it in others.  Given our election choices this year, who isn’t interested in a candidate who will do what he or she promises!  Alas, we know that human beings will always disappoint, both others AND themselves.  Why? because created human beings have limits; we are finite and fallible!  But the God who created all things is always true to his word.

Why is this important?  Because life is filled with suffering and the promises to Christians in the Bible are hope-giving and life-sustaining.  Ken Boa, the author of what I was reading wrote, “Because it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2), he is the ultimate and reliable source of hope…….Whatever he says he will do is as good as done, and when we hope in his promises, this hope becomes an anchor for the soul…(Hebrews 6:19)”

My imaginary conversation took flight at this point.  I have a relative who does not believe that all the Bible is true.  She picks out what seems reasonable to her.  Not a very reliable metric, wouldn’t you say?

Here goes:

Me:  We can count on God’s promises in the Bible because what he says comes to pass, whether in our lifetime or later.

She:  How can you say that?  The Bible is just primitive man’s interpretation of his world around him.  We know better these days.

Me:  Do you think that about the New Testament as well?

She:  Not as much as I do about the Old Testament.  I’m sure that parts of the New Testament are true, like Jesus’ words.

Me: Why wouldn’t you think all of it is reliable?

She:  Because the Bible was written by men prejudiced by their times and lots has been changed in all the translations since the originals.

Me:  Do you believe God is all powerful?

She:  Yes, I would say so.

Me:  Do you believe God is all good?

She:  At least MY God is!

Me:  Well then, do you think that an all-powerful and all-good God would be incapable of insuring that what he intended to be written actually got written and translated correctly?

She: (I can’t predict what her response would have been at this point)

Where would you have gone in this conversation?

Dear friends, clear thinking and logic are tools not just for political arguments or policy debates.  Our handling of the tools of rational reasoning and clear terms is vital to our very life.  For anyone to retain the gift of faith that God has granted, a Christian must think clearly.

There are many attacks on Christianity today and those who number among the Church must know what they believe and why.  And all our TRUE beliefs find their source in who God is and what kind of sovereign Creator and Sustainer He is.

If we lose our faith in who he is as recorded in his Word, the Bible, we will drift with the cultural tide and be miserable.

How to vote….

14 Sep

It’s a doozy of a choice.  And we’ve been leaning toward voting for NEITHER major candidate.  Yet, I want to approach this important constitutional right and privilege with reason thinking.

Acting and concluding ‘reasonably’ means one can support a conclusion or decision with a clear rationale.

As can be expected, a lot of conservative Christians have weighed in.  What do I find compelling so far?

Two voices and their take on how to vote stand out of amongst all the advice friends, family and respected leaders have offered:

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.  The essence of his advice is this:

  • When we vote in November 2016, we are choosing an action that WE believe will do the most good, whether voting for Trump, for Clinton, for a 3rd-party candidate or abstaining.  To vote for a candidate does NOT mean one endorses the entire platform he or she promotes NOR does it mean one approves of the candidate’s character in toto.

Professor Hadley Arkes of Amherst College offers what he believes is the most important consideration when allocating one’s vote:

  • Whoever is the next ‘POTUS’ or President of the United States will not only be able to nominate up to 4 Supreme Court Justices, he or she will also nominate Federal Court judges.

So far, these are the only two factors that will go into my ‘decision analysis strainer.’

kitchen strainer

We don’t have to make a conclusive decision until election day.  So I will continue to read, study, listen and pray.  Logical Joes and Janes use REASON to make any decision.

More than one way to solve a problem

15 Jun

My purse was too small.  So I did what all illogical women do, I bought a new purse.

That wouldn’t have been too poor a decision except for 3 factors:

  • I loved this leather, back pack-type purse
  • My husband had given it to me about 5 years ago as a ‘just-cuz’ present
  • I’m a one-purse gal

I keep standard items in my ‘daily essentials-carrier’ like:

glasses, checkbook, wallet, EXTRA card carrier for all those preferred shopping relationships, notebook, almonds, a foiled 3-oz tuna pack, round Eos lip balm, business cards, spare batteries, pens, the other car’s spare key and a bulky makeup pouch with all the emergency supplies one might need.

What I love about the purse is that it’s a hands-free bag one can sport as a small backpack or sling over the shoulder.  Not to mention also that it is leather and minimalist.

But it’s TOO small (there’s always a price to pay, isn’t there!).  There’s only one way to arrange the above items so that all fits as efficiently as possible.  And several times a week, I seem to need something from one of the bottom residents.  Which means I need table space to take everything out, retrieve the item and repack.

Thus far my logical thought process:

Premise: My purse is too small

Conclusion: Therefore, I need a larger bag

I’m always checking out purse selections when we happen to be in a store, which is not all that often.  So last week I was delighted when I just ‘happened’ on a selection of purses at a hiking/outdoor store while returning an item. There was a backpack-style bag, maybe a fourth larger than my daily ‘porte-stuff’. Perfect, I thought.  Since it was early in the new month, I decided I could spring for this spontaneous purchase. But I knew what I must do if I wanted to remain true to my values.  As an aspiring minimalist, I have taken on the rule of “Bring a new item into the house – Eliminate the old item”

What I had not counted on were two unintended consequences:

  • my husband was shocked AND hurt that I threw out the old purse he had given me
  • the larger purse just didn’t slide on as easily as my old one and seemed less secure

I ruminated for 24 hours and then voilà, the lesson from the  Elevator Problem Story hit me.  Malcolm Gladwell had written about this in one of his books.  Apparently elevators moved too slowly for those waiting to board on different floors.  When design engineers were assembled to brainstorm about increasing the speed of elevators in a multi-storied building, one young maverick re-identified the problem.  It wasn’t that the elevator moved too slowly, but that people grew bored waiting!  I’ll let you click on the above link to read his accepted solution that worked and cost far less to implement.

The point was, I had incorrectly concluded that I needed a larger purse.  If we revisit my so-called logical syllogism from above, you’ll notice there is only one stated premise:

Premise: My purse is too small

Conclusion: Therefore, I need a larger bag

A 2nd premise is missing, thus what is written is an ‘enthymeme’, an argument with an unstated premise or conclusion.

In my mind, I thought there was only one possible premise:

Premise 1:  If one’s purse is too small, then one needs a larger bag

Actually, it’s not that I was incorrect about that premise, but that the premise was not complete!

My Eureka moment came from realizing that I had mis-diagnosed the problem.  It wasn’t that my purse was too small, but that I thought I had to fit all those items into it.  My ‘essentials’ had not even been up for re-evaluation.  My pre-supposition had been this: All that my purse currently carries is essential. As soon as everything was back on the table, so to speak, it was clear that I could pare down what I carried every day.

So with some quick and honest tallying of how often ’emergencies’ arise and the substitution of a less-bulky loyalty card carrier, I eagerly ran to the trashcan outside and retrieved my oldie but goodie beloved friend.

Purse

 

Here is my completed premise that brought about my happy result:

Premise 1: If one’s purse is too small, one can remove some items or secure a larger bag

This logical gal needs some more practice in applying reason to everyday ordinary problems!

 

 

Gospel logic

18 May

God is able to make all grace abound to you that always having all sufficiency in all things, you may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Cor 9:8

I sometimes struggle with feeling as though I have SUFFICIENT time to do what I want to do – read during a period of the day when I am most alert.

So anytime I hear mention of the concepts of ENOUGH or SATISFACTION, which both can be described as contentment with the current supply, my ears perk up.

The other day, I was thinking about how  I might logically frame my feeling of sufficiency. Here is an initial attempt:

Premise 1: If I have all sufficiency in money, time and health, I am content

Premise 2: God has said that He is able to provide me with complete sufficiency

Conclusion: I should be content because I have access to my sufficiency by asking Him regularly for what I need

If the above reasoning is true, then why might I still struggle with a sense of lack or not enough?

Immediately the Holy Spirit reminded me of the PURPOSE for which God promises to provide me sufficiency.  Not primarily (so it might seem) simply to please myself, but instead to do the work that HE has planned for me to undertake.  In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we are raised from the walking dead to being alive in Christ to undertake and carry out the works that God has planned for us.

For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10

(an aside, the Greek word for workmanship is poiema which some have rendered as ‘poetry’)

Okay – so when God gives us grace that translates into sufficiency, He says that it is not for our good pleasure (my reading), but to do the work that He has pre-ordained for us.

Hmm…is that disappointing?  Well, ça dépend! (that depends, as the French say).

Jesus said: My food/meat is to do the will of God who sent me and to accomplish His work – John 4:34  And food is the Greek word broma which means:

  • aliment which refreshes, delights or truly satisfies the mind

It seems that God is VERY efficient.  He has so created work both to accomplish His purposes AND to refresh me. I can be assured that looking to God the Father for what will ultimately satisfy me involves letting HIM assign and organize the work I am to do.

Left to please myself, I might think what I crave for restoration are the time and energy to READ.  But I am beginning to see that maybe I am not wise enough as the created being to know what is best for me.

I’m slowly learning to depend on my Maker to know what kind of high-grade octane nurtures, protects and optimizes my spiritual engine.

high octane