Tag Archives: Christianity

Just because something IS, does that mean it OUGHT to be?

28 Sep

is-ought-fallacy  Given the breathless rate of societal upheaval in America these past 2 years, the IS/OUGHT fallacy seems to be the modus operandi of the current ‘Culture Nazis’.

What do I mean by that?

First of all, to set the stage for this failure in reasoning,  here is where I see this kind of fallacious thinking popping up.  People seem to believe and argue for a narrative that goes like this:

  • This relationship exists (IS), therefore it ought to be authorized (OUGHT)

In short hand – If something exists, it should exist.

But is that true? And if so, then on what basis?  What grounds or serves as a foundation for this premise and conclusion?

If my two-year old granddaughter makes a scene when her parents deny her every wish, should she throw a tantrum just because that is her ‘natural’ or default response?

Just because she screams, should she scream?

Can we say that something is wrong or right?  Or is personal preference what supports our decisions?

A toddler’s self-centered outburst is small potatoes compared to what culture is claiming as reasonable.  Consider the following if/then conditional premises that follow this is/ought line of thinking:

  • If two people love each other and feel their relationship deserves official recognition, then they ought to have the freedom to marry with the state’s approval
  • If a person born a biological male feels better acting like a female, then he should be acknowledged as a female

What’s the difference between those is-ought statements and the following?

  • If a person feels like she is very overweight, but her appearance belies her feelings, then she should be treated as overweight (this is the way she is as she defines reality, then others should accept her preference)
  • If a person claims he can operate a motor vehicle and consume marijuana, then he should be allowed to do so  (this is his self-evaluation, therefore we should accept it)

The first two affirmations are now accepted by a segment of our US population.  The last two claims more folks might question.  But the reasoning in all 4 if-then statements is the same.

Should we really make decisions about what is good, right, beautiful and acceptable based on what occurs naturally, what we prefer or what we feel?  Many would say unequivocally YES!   When we balk at submitting to authority we do so out from a desire for self-rule or AUTO-NOMY.  ‘Who gives YOU (or society, or the church, or God!) the right to tell me what to do!’

When a people no longer submit to law or when the law becomes watered down so that it can be stretched to mean whatever one wants, then anarchy ensues.

Even if my country is becoming unmoored and applying false reasoning to justify personal preference, Christians have an authoritative foundation to guide and ground their decisions.  What a relief.

As a Christian, my parameters of what is the good and acceptable are detailed in the teachings and commandments of God.  He is my creator and I belong to Him.  So I defer to His wisdom and His wishes for me.

Many Americans seem increasingly to prefer a decision-making model that leaves them like drifting ships with no anchor.  In reality, without any authority in their lives they are actual prisoners of their temperamental or fickle feelings.

Who wants to live with this life rule?: “What IS today IS my truth and I OUGHT to be accepted by everyone.  And I reserve the right to adjust how I feel and act for tomorrow. My opinion and preference is how I define my reality.”

 

 

 

 

How logic rescues us from false guilt

29 Jun

John 14:15  If you love me, you will keep my commandments

At first reading, I feel convicted.  I must not really love God, for I don’t obey his every commandment.

But that is a reverse and false reading of this hypothetical conditional premise.

Jesus, who instructed his disciples right up until Roman guards arrested him on the eve of his crucifixion, did NOT teach:

If you keep all my rules, then it’ll be true that you love me.

Well, then what was it that he taught?  Here’s both the bad news and the good news (Gospel) of our love for God.

  • No one naturally is capable of loving God, for everyone is born with a birth defect called hatred or indifference toward God
  • If we feel ANY affection for or interest in the biblical God (as described in the Bible), then that is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s saving work in our stony hearts.  Only God can swap out a stiff and impenetrable heart and replace it with a softness and inclination for him.

So what about the ….”then you’ll obey me” clause?

Think of it like this.  When someone loves you and you feel love for him or her, you naturally want to please him or her.  You want to know what they think, what interests them, what they consider important.  So it is with God.  Because he loves us first and then follows that electing and intentional love by implanting in us a reciprocal love for him, we receive new desires and delights.

If it is THAT easy to twist the meaning of a Bible truth through faulty logic, what other realities might we have equally misconstrued?

 

Underpinnings of logical thought

4 May

Here’s an argument:

The biblical worldview is the optimal worldview to support logic because it best explains why we can declare a premise to be either TRUE or FALSE.

True or false

Let me explain what I mean.  To use the tools of logic, we must assume several conditions about the building blocks of an argument.  At its most basic analysis, there are 3 component parts to an argument:

-terms (individual words or phrases that represent a concept like: chocolate ice cream or dogs)

-premises (statements that provide a judgment about a concept like: red hair is thick or cats are quirky)

-syllogisms (the ensemble of at least 2 premises and the conclusion that follows like:  PREMISE 1 – All boys are strong  PREMISE 2 – Joe is a boy  CONCLUSION – Joe is strong)

When evaluating terms, premises and syllogisms, logicians use this measurement:

  • terms are either clear or ambiguous (to the degree that they unequivocally and explicitly describe a concept)
  • premises are either true or false (to the degree they accurately match reality)
  • syllogisms are either valid or invalid (to the degree they follow the ‘rules’ of logic)

So why do I make the claim that the biblical worldview should be adopted in order to use logic?  If I understand Darwinian naturalism or materialism correctly, truth is not something that is necessary.  The species survives and continues by adapting. So what is ‘good’ for a population is what ensures its ongoing viability.  That MIGHT intersect with truth, but it does not depend on truth.

When a materialist or naturalist argues for his point of view, he borrows the concept of truth to advance a point of view. And in conversation with said materialist, if we avoid pointing out the inconsistency between her beliefs and practices we are being gracious. But there might be an occasion gently to point out this ‘inconvenient truth’.  I grow more confident when I write out my thoughts regarding this assumption about logic.

You might be thinking, what is the linkage between a biblical worldview and truth?  Good question!  Christians believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired account of God’s creation and rescue of a people He loves.  The very character and nature of God is grounded on personal attributes such as His:

  • truthfulness
  • immutability
  • eternality
  • goodness
  • wisdom
  • infinite power and knowledge

Christians believe in absolute truth because of who God is, an immaterial being who defines and models perfect truth. The evidence we have that God is true and speaks truth is that the Bible corresponds to reality.  Vast numbers of written records document both the historical and the archeological reliability of most of the Bible including the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Therefore, without going into that kind of detail, I argue that the use of logic rests on the presupposition that truth exists.  And the only worldview that supports THAT belief is the biblical one.

 

Sobering logic

30 Mar

 

Alfie

What’s it all about, Alfie? You know what I mean,” so commented with subdued irony the Michael Caine character in the 1966 British film, “Alfie”.  A very important thought, maybe this was first time that Alfie had looked beyond the present moment to something more than pleasing himself.

Most human beings, unlike other mammals, DO ask the big questions of life.  Rightly so, for these issues are not whimsical ponderings, but life-altering in their implications and answers.

I haven’t seen the movie, but reading the synopsis of it see this link, gave me a sense of the emptiness of Alfie’s (Alfred) life of womanizing.  I thought about the movie and how people either do or don’t take seriously the metaphysical and very serious matters confronting each of us.

The most important choice any human must make can be framed this way as a conditional major premise:

  • If we have lived attached to Jesus Christ in this life, then we will live together with Christ in the next life (which lasts forever)
The converse is true: 
  • If we have NOT lived attached to Christ in this life, then we will NOT live with Christ in the next life (which lasts forever)

Reality is, a decision must be made in this life.  There is no karma, no second chances once we die.  There are only two paths, one with Christ and one without.

These facts are not my opinions; they come from Jesus himself.  He is the one who declared:

  •  “I am THE way, the truth and the light.” John 14:6a

So think deeply, dear logical Joe and Jane.  As pastor and teacher Dr. R. C. Sproul counsels, ‘This moment counts forever’.

2 roads

 

When do you draw a conclusion?

20 Jan

Hasty Generalizations

American culture grows seemingly more coarse and vitriolic.  Contributing in part to this downward trend in civility is the tendency to draw a conclusion based on too few individual cases.  This mistake in reasoning is called the Fallacy of Hasty Generalization.

Guilty as charged!  I have committed this error often because I have WANTED to generalize. As an adult who has already raised kids yet still works with adolescents in the classroom, I find that I tend to assert unfairly this and that about teens.  Often my conclusions are backed by weak reasons drawn from too few examples. Whether I pronounce judgments about their decreased interest in deep reading or their inability to converse intelligently, I am being dishonest.  It is not fair to that generation to apply an observation about some members to the entire cohort!

As one who easily falls into this lazy way of thinking, I notice the same tendency in others to demonize others. Just who are these groups generalized about and often cast in a negative light?  A few examples are:

  • Muslims
  • the government
  • evangelical Christians
  • socially-liberal democrats
  • small-government republicans
  • corporations or ‘Big Business’
  • ‘climate change deniers’
  • ‘big agriculture’
  • the pharmaceutical industry
  • immigrants, both legal and illegal
  • welfare recipients
  • different ethnicities

Well what do we do to be a fair-minded and honest Logical Joes or Janes?

A simple change of ‘quantifier’.  Instead of broadcasting with a universal,

  • ALL conservative Christians are intolerant or 
  • ALL welfare recipients are lazy

(which is NOT true), one should instead employ,

  • SOME evangelical Christians are intolerant
  • SOME welfare recipients are lazy

Personal sample experience can never be complete.  We are in effect lying when we infer inductively from too few examples to the whole.

So for 2016, let’s challenge ourselves to refrain from adding to the social media hostility and accurately communicate with our pens, mouths, photos and keyboard or finger strokes. We can only control our actions, but others might notice and voluntarily restrain their tendency to exaggerate.

What about the appropriate time or occasion to draw a conclusion?  I’ll throw out that my only source for absolute truth, which is the Bible or God’s Word.  For an example of a certain truth that pertains to ALL people, here’s a paraphrased Biblical conclusion. The One who created every molecule in the universe, alone is capable of formulating a 100% accurate assessment:

All have sinned by exchanging and turning their back on God’s glory for the meager and far lesser satisfying glory of created things.

Now that’s a true and safe conclusion!

 

 

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? A logical thought

6 Jan
Recently, a nuanced discussion about the nature of God caused me to think and think again.  Nothing wrong with that.
Law of Identity
I’ve always reasoned that Christians worship a God different from that of Muslims.  And I’ve relied on the Law of Identity to support my conclusion.  Here’s my simple way of describing this law of nature:
Given that….
Thing 1 has characteristics A, B and C
  and
Thing 2 has characteristics A, B and X
Then it follows that…..
  • Thing 1 cannot be identical to Thing 2, because the characteristics of each are not the same.
  • Thing 1, by definition, has to consist of A,B and C or it is not Thing 1
  • Thing 2, by definition, has to consist of A, B and X or it is not Thing 2

For a much more educated explanation, Here’s a link.

Applying this Law of Identity to the question of gods, I’ve concluded in the past that since Muslims:

  • don’t believe in a triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
  • don’t accept that God had a Son (this is blasphemy to them)
  • consider it false that Jesus, whom they consider a great prophet, actually died on the Cross

Then, the God that is central to their religion is different from the God Christians worship.

But Frank Beckwith, a Catholic philosopher, has reasoned otherwise. He argues that we DO worship the same God, even if Muslims are mistaken about some of the essential characteristics of this God. 

If I understand his points, it would be like two people disputing over whether a friend each has is mutual or different.

Example: 

Pete’s friend Bob works for a radio station is married to a gal named Sally and lives in Chicago.

Ed’s friend Bob works for a hospital is also married to a gal named Sally and lives in Chicago.

 

Are there two Bobs, or just the one?

According to the Law of Identity, the characteristics have to be the same for the objects to be identical.  But what if both Ed and Pete are each ignorant of a particular feature about Bob?  Does their ignorance nullify the possibility of ‘Bob’ being one and the same?

So I can see that it is possible that Muslims worship the Christian God even if they are ignorant about some of His necessary attributes.

But this discussion misses the point. And I think Satan loves for the world to tie itself up in knots and thus be distracted from THE CENTRAL ISSUE that has ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES.

What must I do to be saved?

Each of us must make a reasonable decision about the options presented to us.  Which one, if any, is true? Which one matches what we know about reality? 

And more to the point, what do we do with attested statements spoken by Jesus that:

  • He is the only way to God (John 14:6)
  • He and the Father are One (John 10:30)
  • He created the universe (Colossians 1:6)
  • He will return to judge all of us (2 Timothy 4:1)

And, to top THOSE off, here is how Jesus oriented the Scriptures (that is the ‘Old Testament’) and presented them to two dejected disciples after His crucifixion:

  • Then Jesus quoted them passage after passage from the writings of the prophets, beginning with the book of Genesis and going right on through the Scriptures, explaining what the passages meant and what they said about himself.(Acts 24:27)

As we walk through 2016, let’s look to the Author of Truth to guide us in all knowledge.  After all, He set these laws of logic into being.  Could they be invitations to seek Him?  I know ONE thing for certain, unlike Dorothy and her friends, our search won’t lead to a mere man manipulating smoke and mirrors. God promises, instead, a Savior. And the Christian God does not lie.

Wizard of Oz

 

 

Yeah, but what about all those Crusades and Witchburnings?

16 Dec

Crusades

When ISIS perpetrated their evil in Paris, some commentators were quick to trot out past atrocities committed by so-called Christians.

Their response is a perfect example of the fallacy known as ‘Tu Quoque’.  This Latin phrase describing the attempt to deflect the debate means, ‘You too!’

Here’s a simple example:

Uncle Jim to his nephew:  Bobby, you shouldn’t smoke, it’s bad for your health.

Bobby: Yeah, well who are you to tell me that?  Look at you, addicted to 2 packs a day!

What makes Bobby’s response inappropriate is that his observation, though true, is irrelevant to the assertion: Smoking is bad for your health.

So Uncle Jim’s best move is to acknowledge the truth of his nephew’s comment and gently move the discussion back to the topic.  It could be that since Uncle Jim seems addicted to smoking he knows first hand the effect on his body.  The fact that he himself smokes has given him living proof of what research shows.  What counts, however, are the reasons he marshals to support his conclusion.

Off topic

Back to the terrorism conversation.  Whether Christians wrongly burned women at the stake or justified murder by covering it over with the guise of a religious cause is not up for discussion.  Raising those events is a ploy to shift the topic.  Logical Joes and Janes have to practice restraint and resist the temptation to enter THAT arena.  The simplest way, again, is to acknowledge the possibility of truth in what was said, but then guide the conversation partner gently back to what’s on the table.

With practice responding to parries AND staying on topic comes more naturally.