Do Christian beliefs rest on ‘blind’ faith?

23 Mar

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”  John 20:29

I love Venn diagrams!  Creating categories helps me think through possibilities and provides a way to understand what something IS because I can see ‘what it is NOT!’

Take screwdrivers.  When I’m new to a concept, in order to picture it through descriptive words, I have to know what the other possibilities might be.

My dad first introduced me to the screwdriver by sending me to fetch a Phillips.  I asked him what one was.  He described the cross-recessed tool.  I had to know if there were other possibilities besides this design.  As I recall, he only mentioned the other common device – the slot drive one.  If your curiosity is piqued, then take a glance at this website.

Back to Jesus’ comment about ‘those who believe without seeing’.  Just like with screwdrivers, I want to know how many possible kinds of believers are there and what distinguishes each from the other.  Are believers merely binary?  That is, are there only 2 kinds – those who believe because they see Jesus and those who believe yet don’t see Jesus?   Or are there other categories because of different distinctives?

I think the ‘world’ outside of Christianity will respond with a hearty Yes!  There are those who believe because they SEE and then there are “the blind-faith kind“.   These folks are often parodied as those who ‘check their brains at the door.’   I’ve even run across some Christians who proudly echo a version of that kind of belief.  When queried about why they believe, they’ll respond with an ‘I just do!’

But is that the only basis for trusting Christianity to be true?

No!  and fortunately not.

We believe that Jesus is God and that all He said about Himself, His Father, the world, the past and the future IS accurate because we have eyewitness testimony.  The written Bible is a document that has been historically validated and stood the test of time.

Yes, the Holy Spirit has to open eyes and hearts to accept that the testimony is true.  But the documentation exists, nonetheless.

So back to Jesus and His blessing on those of us who were not around to encounter Jesus in 1st-century Palestine.  We have the benefit of being able to read every single day the evidentiary accounts of God dealing with Old Testament Israel and her enemies.  And we have written testimony by the apostles of what happened in the life of Jesus and after His ascension.

Don’t forget, many of those who DID hear Jesus teach and see Him perform miracles did not believe.  This fact alone throws into question the adage, ‘seeing is believing’.  It certainly wasn’t for everyone.

If you believe and rest in the fact of Jesus being who the Bible says He is, then thank God for giving you this living faith. It IS a gift.  But it’s not a blessing bestowed in a vacuum.  The Bible exists; be glad about that!  And please practice being able to point to this evidence with confidence when someone asks you why you believe.   As the apostle Peter wrote, honor Jesus for the testimonies:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  1 Peter 3:15

 

My heart’s desires – the logical approach

17 Mar

Consider this argument: 

P1 – Designers who manufacture products know best how they should operate

P2 – God designed and made human beings

C – Therefore, God knows best how they should operate

 

Psalm 33:15 refers to God as He who fashions the hearts of them all (the children of man)

Given our topsy-turvy contemporary culture, I’ve been thinking about the desires that pour out of our hearts and incline us to move in different directions.  Society’s icons counsel:

  • Be true to your heart
  • Follow your heart
  • Look within
  • Trust your heart
  • Go after your passion

But that assumes that what the human heart wants is optimal for humans.  This ‘wisdom’ also presupposes that in our reasoning, we know when we should yield to the heart and when we should hold back. (Or worse yet – that the mere existence of a desire MEANS an automatic seeking to fulfill it!)

Imagine a car, fresh off the dealer’s lot.  Having written a very large check for your vehicle that should work well since it’s new, you cautiously ease onto the road, headed home.  You don’t have to drive very far until you notice a distinct tug by the steering wheel to the left. The wheels seem to have a mind of their own, wanting to veer into oncoming traffic.

The way this car operates at the moment is what happens to be natural for it. It ‘desires’ to pull left.

But you, the operator, know better.  And in fact, the car manufacturer knows better.

Yet if your car could talk, he might even argue, ‘THIS makes me feel good, to favor the left!”

Are we any different, from the point of view of being something designed and made?  We human beings have bodies, hearts, and minds purposefully planned and fashioned by our creator God.  Only when we align ourselves according to His Word, the Scriptures, do we ‘operate’ or ‘function’ correctly.

To assume that all desires are GOOD and beneficial for not only us but society is dangerous and misleading.  Yes, people will argue, “That’s just the way God made me.  If he hadn’t wanted me to feel a certain way, he would have designed me differently.”

There happens to be one detail that throws that argument out the window!  Given the fall of one man and woman (thanks, Aunt Eve and Uncle Adam!), all of creation has been disordered.  AND God alone both knows and has the manufacturer’s right to prescribe how we should function to optimize LIFE.

 

If that were true, then EVERYONE would….

11 Mar

The mis-assumed credibility of the ‘majority’ can floor me sometimes.

I’m beginning to see a pattern among people when I suggest an idea that they don’t ‘hear everywhere’ in their culture bubble.

What do I mean by ‘culture bubble’?

It’s that comfortable opinion environment we inhabit.  Technology has ‘advanced’ to the point where we can structure our online feeds to friend/unfriend, to curate interests, to ignore or even avoid hearing dissenting views. We don’t even have to HEAR or read or confront a dissenting view most of the time.

We choose friends, watch certain shows, read selected periodicals and books, worship with like-minded culture-bearers, and participate in rallies with fellow supporters.

So it SEEMS as though everyone around us thinks like us.  It doesn’t take much to then assume that how we think IS reality and not just one competing viewpoint.

I first saw this when I embraced a non-prevailing way of teaching French.  Most teachers use the grammar-textbook approach.  When introduced to teaching via Comprehensible Input, my colleagues balked and told me that this way didn’t work.  That was in 2000 and the majority of fellow Second Language teachers still exalt grammar and vocab list methodologies. But I have gathered MUCH evidence over the past 17 + years helping students acquire French this way.  It works!

Then there is Christianity. Despite much evidence for the historicity of Jesus and the examples of changed lives and societies, the majority of people worldwide reject the claims of Biblical Christianity.  ‘Oh, that’s what primitive people used to believe.  But science has proven….”

Then there is the climate debate. My husband would be quick to point out how Climate Change alarmists tend to cling to dogma over data. “97% of scientists believe X, so that settles it!”  Just what is it about the power of consensus that allows many to stay wedded to a questionable belief or even to be smug about it?

I’m not saying that the views of every majority group are by nature false.  But I think we ought to identify and examine our presuppositions.  What you believe guides the evidence you accept as true.  The opposite should be the case – that one follows the evidence to arrive at a rational viewpoint. And a viewpoint that one is willing to hold loosely out of HUMILITY.

How does humility come into this equation?  Logical Joes and Janes should know by now that a human being cannot be privy to ALL truth.  Pride believes that his or her viewpoint IS the truth – something impossible to verify. Only God, who reigns outside of this created world (for He brought its very existence into being), knows the truth.

The latest example that leaves me puzzled about this tendency toward ‘majority-bias’ is the prevailing view of many regarding nutrition and health.  I’m aware that some DIS-regard the idea that what we eat powerfully influences our bodies.  But the medical explanations from doctors and researchers who have spent years studying this topic are worth thinking about. Then there are the many first-person reports I continue to read.  Accounts from men and women who have switched to a plant-based diet.  It appears that there is a growing body of data that seems to indicate that what you eat can be more influential than genes or even predispositions toward illnesses and disease.

But when I suggest a vegan way of food to those who take meds, AND who suffer the side effects, AND who feel crummy AND who are overweight, they scoff.  Politely.  And say things like, “If this were so, then my doctor would speak up. In fact, we would be seeing this in the news and all over the internet!”

Well, maybe so or maybe not.  But shouldn’t we follow the evidence to where it leads?

 

Extreme - Plant based diets v. surgery

 

Why life is hard – one reason

26 Jan

I find that clear thinking and logical deductions help me think through my day-to-day life.  And as my understanding of the Bible deepens and is clarified, thinking carefully illumines Truth.

For instance, does it ever feel like God is blocking you? That no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to make ‘it’ happen?  What if you realized that your goal or desire is NOT what would actually make you happy?

To say that God might be in the way of our plans is NOT to imply that He is a ‘cosmic meany’ or grumpy God who is against pleasure.   Our God is the happiest being in and out of the entire universe.  The Bible even calls Him ‘happy‘ or in Greek, ‘makarios‘.

1 Timothy 1: 10b-11 …..sound teaching that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed* God.

Furthermore, our good triune God created pleasure and fashioned us, His image-bearers, to be supremely happy, content and satisfied in HIM!  We just don’t know, at first, what makes us happy.  And we have an enemy who keeps diverting our attention to temporary shiny baubles.

Psalm 16:11 – You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

What I am finding out and beginning to consciously learn is that when I start to pursue something that does not lead to ULTIMATE joy (as much as is possible here on this present earth), God thwarts me, eventually.

I’ve seen it in my decades-long pursuit of ‘the perfect weight’.  And I see it now in my desire to ‘feel competent’ at my craft of teaching French so students acquire the language.

How so?  Well, a new thought occurred to me this week.  If what I mean by ‘I want to feel competent‘ that I don’t want to feel needy or unsure of my skills, then I have set myself up for a NO-WIN endeavor.

For God has made you and me, created beings, to be DEPENDENT on our Maker.

Here’s the logic.  I’m sure you can follow these premises.  Do you agree that they are true?

  • God wills for me to be supremely happy (makarios) IN HIM!
  • God’s will is always done, eventually.
  • When I pursue something other than God that I think will make me supremely happy (makarios), then I am in opposition to God’s will.
  • God will cannot be denied.
  • Therefore, God will either block my pursuit or allow me to continue until I reach the painful conclusion of just how unsatisfactory it is.

I’m FAR better off giving in and submitting to God BECAUSE He is good and loving.

If you have listened to or read anything by John Piper from Desiring God Ministries, then you recognize how he summarizes this philosophy of the Christian life as “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Seeing evidence of God’s glory HERE and NOW fills that cavernous pleasure ache in us.  Not completely while we are in this body, but more than anything created.  Here is how our Lord describes the worth of His glory.

Isaiah 42:8  I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.

The highest and best gift God can give us is to SEE His glory.  Look at how Jesus explains it:

John 17:24  Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! (NLT)

So maybe the next time you experience frustration over something you have had your heart and mind set on, consider whether God might be blessing you by holding you back from something far less satisfying compared to what you might have now.

Of course, it goes without saying, we’ll need to pray for discernment and wisdom to distinguish between ‘a time to persevere’ and a time to ‘submit to God’s will and let go.’

Bible Promise Logic

11 Jan

John 8:31-32  If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free

I’ve been struggling with knowing God’s truth, but not having it make a difference in my day to day life.  Here’s how this struggle looks in a partial syllogism or Enthymeme:

  • Premise:  If you know the truth
  • Conclusion: Then, you will be set free

To complete or make explicit the missing premise in this enthymeme, I can write it like this:

  • P1 – All those who know the truth will be set free
  • P2 – I know the truth
  • Conclusion – Therefore, I have been set free

But here’s the rub:  I DO know the truth about Jesus and how I have a new identity as a regenerate Christian, adopted child of our Triune God.  But I still live in bondage to some faulty thinking EVEN though I know better.

So the syllogism that describes my true, functional condition looks like this:

  • P1 All those who know the truth will be set free
  • P2 I am not free, but in bondage
  • Therefore, I do not really know the truth

Solution?  There’s only one way to be set free.  And that is to immerse myself in the Gospels and pray, asking God to grant me to know Jesus and what He did for me both in atoning for my sins and in fulfilling the law.  The shorthand way to describe that remedy is for me to meditate on just how much He loves me.

A verse I read this morning caused me to see that possibility: 1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.

Maybe I don’t TRUST God’s love for me because I don’t really know it.  I see now that even before my recent frustration with feeling trapped in habitual practices, I was groping for a deeper and more intimate knowledge of God.  I had chosen my 2018 New Year’s Resolution to notice and study God’s glory wherever it comes up in the Bible.

I intuitively feel that the path to liberation lies in going deep into seeing, observing, studying, meditating on the glory of God as manifest in Jesus and being satisfied with who He is and what He has done.

How to avoid Confirmation Bias

17 Dec

Just what IS confirmation bias?  In short, it’s drawing a conclusion that you WANT, by overlooking some evidence to the contrary or picking and choosing partial evidence to support or bolster your predetermined view.

My husband surprised me last week when he acknowledged his own confirmation bias regarding the verdict of ‘not guilty’ in the trial of illegal immigrant Jose Zarate, accused of 1st degree (intentional) murder.  Mike, in fact, changed his mind after reading a report written by an alternate juror.  This citizen performed his civic duty by sitting through all the testimony and lawyer presentations for the two sides.  After the verdict, he then discussed with several jurors the verdict-arrival process the sequestered group had followed.  He concluded that the jury had indeed arrived at the correct decision because the alleged murderer had NOT in fact premeditated the shooting of Kate Steinle.

Dear clear thinking, rational friends: We must hold on to a commitment to the truth.  We must focus on ALL the evidence and follow it, even if it leads us to a judgment we don’t like.  Isn’t that why this bronze statue was cast?

Justice is blind

We Americans hold that justice is blind.  Surely we must apply that restraint to our biases and cherished pet beliefs when we are called to make a fair and impartial decision.

Again, I say, ‘Well done, Michael!’  Now may I be equally willing to embrace such fairness and evenhandedness as my husband.  After all, doing so would only be following our Father’s lead as described by the prophet Jeremiah:

……..I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:24b)

It’s the differences that count

1 Dec

Have you heard these remarks?:

  • We, humans, share 98.8% DNA with chimps; so of course, Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct!
  • Rights for the transgendered is a civil right’s issue, just like it was for African-Americans!
  • Why is it NOT okay when a suicide bomber kills a bunch of innocent people, but the Bible condones Samson’s act of bringing down the crowded pavilion to which he was chained, killing many?

I heard this latter issue discussed the other day. The radio show host responded by putting aside the similarities and focusing instead on the differences.  As I was listening, I realized how often I had been subject to this confusion-producing tactic.  Obfuscation can occur when arguments highlight the points in common.  Often the distinctions and differences go unmentioned, yet they can quickly bring clarity to the controversy.

Trading on what appears to be a significant showstopper, the powerful appearance of similarities between examples, can be a case of redirection.  In informal logic, we name that fallacy the Red Herring.

What is a Red Herring?  It’s a tactic based on a tradition in northern coastal town markets (but likely to occur anywhere deception is needed).  Imagine a weekly farmer & fisherman’s market. A policeman spots a pickpocketer.  Blowing his whistle and gathering reinforcements, he sics his hound dogs after the thief.  Speeding by a fishmonger, our criminal grabs some mackerel or other fish and throws it behind him at the yapping dogs like a stick.  The animals change course, suddenly motivated by the prospect of a tasty treat!

So what are we to do when an opponent moves the spotlight to their defended case and how it’s no different than an example, 100 % accepted by current society?

Gently acknowledge the similarities; don’t dispute them.  But then YOU redirect the discussion to the fact that differences often are critical.   Offer this example:

  • Two glasses of clear liquid.  One contains nothing but water.  The other holds water and one teeny, tiny eye-dropper-measured partial milliliter of arsenic.  I think any reasonable person would say that the invisible drop of the poison WOULD make a difference!

If you can’t think on your feet to discern differences between examples, then ask your interlocutor some clarifying questions to uncover what he thinks the pertinent commonalities might be.  That will buy you some time so you can think clearly.  However, if nothing comes to mind, there is NO shame in saying with humility that you need some time to think about the issue he brought up.  Ask him if you all can revisit the topic in the near future.  The other person, someone whom God also created in His image with the ability to reason, will likely look at you with a tad more respect.  And that is gain.  Then go do your research and do follow up with him.  You’ll grow in your thinking skills and learn something about how your friend thinks.  And you might change his mind!