Tag Archives: Christianity

Logical Gal and Santa

24 Dec

Santa Definition  It all gets down to terms and clarity, doesn’t it!

Actually, defining terms is the very first step in logic.   And for good reason!  I can see why there might be not a few nervous children tonight, the eve of Christmas 2014.  They might be wondering, given the legend of Santa Claus, how good one must be to merit a ‘successful’ visit from Saint Nick!

Since the tradition of a gift-giving jolly fat man magically distributing packaged surprises to all the children in the world happens to have accreted to the celebration of the birth of the incarnate (en-fleshed) God, I think I’ll leave you with some good news.

You don’t have to be good enough for Jesus to save you, no matter HOW one defines the term.  In fact, you might be humbled by the fact that it is impossible for you or me to be ‘good enough’ to reach Holy God’s standard of perfection.  That’s why you and I, and every human being ever born, need a savior.

The only requirement (and each one of us is totally qualified) is that we be a sinful, rebellious man, woman or child.  By nature, we meet THAT standard through and through!

We don’t have to clean ourselves up first in order to qualify for Jesus’ offer of salvation.  He wants to rescue us just the way we are.  (but He’ll set about renovating us from top to bottom once we belong to Him!)

For one woman’s simple explanation of this good news, dialed down to the level that young children can grasp, go to this site Link to this Great News explained simply.

Good News

In summary, I wish you a very Happy Christmas.  And should you be fellowshipping with friends and family this week, be sure to prepare your mind and mouth FIRST to think of and ask a question before sharing your views.  More times than not, wanting to put in my 2 cents worth, I have misunderstand someone’s point of view and ASSUMED wrongly, to my chagrin!

Questions to have at your disposal:

  • What do you mean by ‘good enough’?
  • What are your reasons for saying that ‘the sky is falling‘  (how did you reach your conclusion?)

 

Logical Gal – Beware of a Distinction without a Difference

10 Dec

An old adage says it best: “He who distinguishes well, thinks well.”

Penseur

I love distinctions, but recently a conversation among Christians reminded me that one must take care NOT to invent a distinction where none exists.

The fallacy called Distinction without a Difference is so named because it is easy for us to be duped into thinking two ideas are different when all that varies are the words used to describe the two concepts.

Kids grow almost expert at using this fallacy on their parents.  Consider the following hypothetical conversation:

Mom  – Stop fidgeting, Johnny!

Johnny – I’m not fidgeting, I’m just moving my feet!

or how about this between two high school students:

Gal – I don’t want us to date anymore, Doug.

Guy – You mean it’s over, you and me?

Gal – No, it’s just that I don’t want to go out with you anymore.

breakup of a couple

The conversation snippet I heard the other day involved one pastor claiming that some Christians worship the Bible.

The other pastor, pushing back, maintained that Christians don’t worship a book, but take seriously the very words as they are written and the different contexts. They worship God as He reveals Himself in the Bible.

 

Bible

If someone asks – Do you love the Bible or do you love God?, how would you answer?

I would say, I love the Bible because it’s the supernatural (divine) intentional, powerful, breathed out record of God and His plan for His creation.  The Bible reveals the nature of God, which creates in me a growing knowledge and love for Him.  They are so connected, that I don’t separate them.  That’s like asking me which do I love more, my husband’s heart or his thoughts?  They are one and the same!

 

 

 

Logical Gal – what do you believe?

3 Dec

It was a tense moment – Halloween morning at breakfast with some colleagues.  We teachers were finishing our coffee in the lobby of a hotel where our 8th graders had fallen into bed after a full day (morning college visit, afternoon caving and evening in Chattanooga).

The Spanish teacher proudly showed off her festive orange and black socks and mentioned that she loved Halloween.  When I asked her why, she attributed her fondness for the holiday to both her and her mom’s sensitivity to the spiritual.

When I casually responded, ‘Oh, so you believe in the spiritual dimension of life?‘ it didn’t take her long to move from my commenting on the historical basis for Christianity to her objections to Christianity’s claim to be the one true religion.  The secular history and science teachers joined in to draw the distinction between fact and belief when I attempted to point out the evidence for Jesus and His resurrection.

Mr. Science clarified the difference between fact and belief.  According to his way of thinking, the two have nothing in common.  He illustrated this division with an illustration taken from family life.  It went like this:  Whereas he might believe that his role as dad is the most important function he fulfills in his life, it was just a belief and had nothing to do with truth.  “That’s a belief and is miles apart from facts like the Law of Gravity!

science v faith

Had there been time, I would have loved to say that one has to have facts or knowledge and from them one draws a conclusion based on some presuppositions or assumptions.  Facts (aka truth) drive or inform beliefs.  Here’s how I think the process works:

My colleague has gathered data (facts) from….

  • reading books about parenting
  • talking to other dads
  • absorbing hard-earned wisdom gleaned from previous generations
  • his own personal experiences in parenting

And based on presuppositions like:

  • my intuitions are trustworthy
  • what I read and what others tell me is reliable
  • time with my children is an investment that has the power to shape them

……he has formed a belief that parenting is his most important job.

The credibility of the Law of Gravity is founded on the same principles, isn’t it?

Law of Gravity

  • scientists have gathered data from observations and
  • they trust the data AND their skills

Why is there such animus about belief when applied to Christianity? After all, we gather evidence from those concrete facts; then we formulate a hypothesis that has the power to account for all the details.

Maybe the term ‘belief’ appears weak and unscientific because it’s used equally to communicate ideas as varied as:

  • I believe in Santa Claus
  • I believe in the Tooth Fairy
  • I believe in miracles
  • I believe in myself
  • I believe in ghosts
  • I believe in God, the Father Almighty….

Two dictionary entries for ‘belief’ describe both

  • an acceptance of a statement as true
  • having confidence in something

Recently I’ve come across powerful ways to describe a belief.  They feel weightier and appear less hackneyed:

  • “Evidence supports that X is true” (this corresponds to the 1st definition of belief)
  • “I trust X” (matching the second sense of the term above)

My discussion with colleagues just reinforces in my mind that our choice of words is critical to making a case for whatever our point of view is.  Words matter!

Obviously my short discourse with those fellow teachers on Halloween day didn’t land anywhere substantial because we could devote only about 4 minutes before we had to herd kids.  Making a case for any point of view TAKES TIME. And our culture is so rushed, that reasoned, thoughtful and calm discussion rarely happens!

But…it pays to be prepared and think through our word choice ahead of time.  As God instructs us through the apostle Peter, we Christians should

  • 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)

 

 

 

Logical Gal and a win-win wager

22 Oct

True Confessions!

I struggle with worry.  Not only is this stupid, but it’s a sin since God commands Christians: Do not be anxious (Phil 4:6)

I was battling this unbelief Sunday night and Monday morning, when I realized that the possible outcomes revolving around my worrysome circumstance could be organized in a similar fashion to Pascal’s Wager.

Pensées - Pascal

Blaise Pascal was a French philosopher and mathematician.  One of the ways you might be acquainted with him is through his Pensées .  This collection of thoughts were gathered by his man-servant and assembled after his death.  He had written each pithy reflection about God on pieces of parchment and then sewn them into his coat’s lining.

Pascal meditated on how one should live this life here on earth in view of what might happen beyond the grave.  His reasoning as a logician led him  in view of  after death options to sort out the possible outcomes of a decision for or against relying on God.

The 4 possibilities look like this:

1. God exists and I give up management and submit to Him – I get a joy-filled/punishment-free eternal life with God. The cost? Very little –  some temporary experiences that might have satisfied me if indulged in.

2. God exists and I refuse to acknowledge Him and control my own life – I get a scary and painful eternal life away from God. The cost? A LOT! – an eternity of pain that lasts a lot longer than the temporary earthly pleasures I indulged in

3. God does not exist and I give up my control and desires and live according to what I think He wants – I get nothing, because there is nothing beyond the grave.  Nothing bad or good awaits me forever. The cost? Very little some temporary experiences I held back from.

4. God does not exist and I live my life following my own desires – I get nothing, because there is nothing beyond the grave. Nothing bad or good awaits me forever.  The cost? Nothing

So if you evaluate what you stand to gain or lose, rationally it makes sense to bet on God existing. (of course what one thinks of God and what God thinks of us is not up to odds, but this is just a way of using reason)

Back to worry.  How does this idea of a wager apply?

I think we can set up a similar decision wager paradigm that clearly shows the folly of worry.

First of all, here is my pre-supposition:  Worry is a joy and happiness stealer.  The formula looks like this:

Worry Inequaltiy Math Symbol Joy

And our choice of belief boils down to this:

1. Believe God when He says He is taking care of us = no need to worry.

2. Don’t believe God when He says He is taking care of us =  need to worry.

  • If we believe God and He is who He says He is and therefore IS taking care of us – we didn’t worry and we have peace and get proof that God provided for that need/situation/problem.
  • If we believe God and He doesn’t exist or isn’t like what we think – we didn’t  worry and we have to deal with the outcome of the need/situation/problem but we didn’t experience the joyless pain of worry leading up to the situation.
  • If we don’t believe God, whether He exists or not, we end up worrying and lose our joy and peace.

It makes sense as Christians to opt for the first situation.

Happiness

If God IS God by definition, then in His essence He is honest and everything He says about Himself IS true.  Afterall, his character and reputation are at stake.  We yield to emotions so often and don’t cling to truth.  And all along God is present and willing and able to handle our situations.

I have to remind myself daily that God knows about my day and has provisioned me with exactly what I need for each moment.  I am to make use of these provisions by divine faith which He has given me.

Christianity is a calling to use the evidence that God through the Holy Spirit has given us.  May we each be empowered to believe the Truth!

…the Spirit is Truth.  1 John 5:6b 

Question:  What helps you with anxiety?

 

Logical Gal and category challenges

1 Oct

Category Management

The idea of category errors is useful.

I don’t know if it’s an urban legend, but Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel in space, supposedly proclaimed after his return that he had searched intently and never once did he observe God while in space.

If it’s true, then the statement reveals a category error in his thinking for the following reason:

Humans can observe MATERIAL stuff, but God is NOT material.  He is IMMATERIAL.  It’s akin to asking questions like:

  • How much does blue weigh?
  • If you had to pack your Mom’s love for you to take on a trip, how many suitcases would you need?

The faulty thinking is revealed by simple facts such as:

  • Blue is a property that has no mass, so it cannot be weighed
  • Love is not something that can be measured physically nor can it concretely fill a suitcase

What occurred to me this morning as I listened to a podcast during my walk, was the wonderful Greek word tetelestai  (Strong’s # 5055).  It means: It is finished.

Jesus uttered that word when He finished suffering the punishment for human sin IN OUR PLACE.  His action of redeeming us from hell made it possible for us to be transferred from the Kingdom of this World (under Satan’s rule) into God’s Kingdom.  His work on the cross also guaranteed that not only can humans be freed from the power and punishment of sin, but they can be GIVEN/ASSIGNED a new identity.

Tetelestai

Notice that I did not say, that humans can be given the opportunity to craft their own identity.  Never once do we have that possibility.  There are only 2 possible identities for every man, woman and child who has ever lived OR will ever live.  We are either grafted into Christ and have HIS forgiveness and flawlessness applied to us…….

  • or we are left to face the just judgment and punishment for our works on our own – the imminent next events for those who live according to the outworking of the Fall  (sinful nature) which they have inherited

Here’s where the concept of category error comes back in.  Since Christians have been given a new identity when they are born again,

Identity in Christ

they are treated the same as though they had been born a citizen of a country:

  • NO exam to study for
  • No application process to undergo
  • No appearing before a judge to swear fidelity

So it is STUPID to spend any effort and time trying to craft an identity, right?

Yet that is what I still find myself doing:

  • I angst about what others think of my teaching
  • I angst about whether I’m ‘doing enough’ as a neighbor and as a member of a church family
  • I angst about whether I’m loving my husband in the ways he wants/needs to be loved
  • I angst about whether I am being a good-enough grandmother (whatever THAT means!)
  • And when November arrives, I angst about whether I will select the right kind of presents for family members

And that’s just off the top of my head.

And why?  All because doing ‘it right’ has to do with the identity I WANT to think is ‘me’.

But when I realized this morning that my identity has already been established and is in fact fixed and secure, I suddenly saw that working to shore up my identity (even if just for myself) was not only futile but stupid.

These insights are why I love logic!  Clear thinking can bring freedom.

Question:  Where has thinking through carefully about an issue led to a breakthrough that has impacted your life? 

 

Logical Gal and how to write a letter to the editor

7 Jul

letter to the editor

Today’s Asheville Citizen-Times sported a guest columnist who is Director of Radiology at a local medical school.  He wrote about 750 words asserting as FACT two ‘propositions’ about the theory of evolution and the nature of Christians.

About evolution, his statements were along the line of ‘it’s settled science’.  And his view of Christians painted a strawman group of people who can’t ground their beliefs in anything true or factual.  He also maintained that most Christians accept the theory of evolution.

Nor did he build a case around either premise.  His commentary turned out to be nothing more than multiple statements offered as ‘fact’.  He then finished up by accusing Christians of being anti-science and a threat to democracy if they support creationism.

As a thinking Christian, I have to keep my emotions in check.  But it’s not enough to avoid mild rants about how our current society sees Christians.  I don’t always compose a letter to the editor. This time I felt like I should.

But what do you do when there are so many un-truths in one piece?

direction?

 

I had to limit myself and choose a main topic and maybe one side issue.  First I prayed that God would guide me.  And He did!  Before I sat down at the computer, I listened to a podcast while walking and heard some ideas that gave direction to my thoughts.  Then I jotted down my points BEFORE I started writing the letter.

Taking a few minutes to line up my direction kept me, I hope, from volleying back with an equally shot-gunned answer.  I also tried to write at a 5th grade reading level (the audience of daily papers, they say) and keep my tone winsome.

Here’s my response.  We’ll see if the paper publishes it.  At least the guy or gal whose job it is to monitor letters and perform ‘triage’ on them will have to read it!

 

Dr. ‘Joe Blow’ seems to think that only Christians trust beliefs they cannot see. Were we to sit down to talk, I would offer the following for his consideration:

We all start with a story or world-view written by the community we most identify with. This world-view is a lens through which we see and explain different facets of life. Dr. Rowe has faith that the scientific view of the world is true.

Reason calls us to verify our view with facts and experiences. What can be measured lends credence to the story.  Christians rely on the evidence of the historical crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. No top-rate New Testament scholar, secular or religious, disputes the historicity of the death and rising to life of Jesus of Nazareth.

However certainty about one’s assumptions is impossible. We should retain those offering the most explanatory power.

Therefore, the best any human can do is exercise reasonable trust.

If Dr. Rowe were married, I would ask him how he is sure of his wife’s love. I would point out that he couldn’t have the same kind of certainty he probably has about the temperature at which water freezes. But he can look at his experiences with his wife and choose to trust her love for him. She has probably built up a track record of faithful exercise of loving actions toward him.

Thinking Christians look at the evidence and their experiences of God in their lives and make the rational step of trusting the God of the Bible.

Question: which is easier for you to do – write a response to someone with whom you fundamentally disagree or dialogue face-to-face?

 

 

 

Logical Gal identifies a common Red Herring

25 Jun

Red Herring

You Christians are so intolerant and bigoted!  You think Jesus is the only way to God!

Have you heard that shouted out in the public square?  Increasingly religion is an invitation to an emotional mudfest.

You might have barely summoned the courage to broach the subject of one’s guilt or need of a savior when your interlocutor is all over you in barely concealed indignation.

Wait one!!!

Wait

You are being led OFF track by this accusation.  It’s easy to get confused and attempt to defend yourself when emotionally beat upon.  But it’s a trick, a diversion AWAY from the topic.

If you picture a petty thief  being chased by police and their dogs, you can also imagine that he might run through a market square, grab a fish (hence ‘red herring’) and throw it to the dogs to distract them from tailing him!

Thief

We must sidestep the bait and gently focus the discussion back to the original topic.  Here’s how you might respond (after you have counted to 3!)

You:  You could be right, that Christians are intolerant, but that’s a discussion perhaps for another day.

You continue:  I would like actually to go back to our original topic. Would that be all right with you?

So what WAS the topic?

In essence you had started to lay out the claim that:

  • People are objectively guilty
  • Unless a person wants to face the one and only judge of the universe, one needs a savior who will stand in his stead and ‘pay for the crime’

You hadn’t even gotten to whether these two propositions were TRUE!!!

For if they are not true, it really doesn’t matter whether Christians are intolerant and bigoted!

Question:  Do you see how a policy of ‘First things, first!’ can save a lot of energy and time?  First, clarify your terms and then determine the truth or falsity of the premises.  To do the latter, the advancer of the premise must supply supporting evidence or reasons!

 

First things first

 

PS:  This post marks the 156th one I’ve written since last 25 June 2013 – 52 weeks worth of writing and publishing accounts where clear thinking and the knowledge of logic have helped me and others.  I owe it ALL to the one true and living God of the universe, the triune Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  My prayer each week was both for God to supply the topics AND to stretch my time.  Ten months of the past 12 I taught French and commuted 100 minutes a day.  At other times we had company or travelled to visit family and friends. This last post today is proof of His faithfulness.

 

 

 

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 – 2 meanings for ‘God’

17 Feb

Everyone worships the same God, right?

I never knew that there were TWO different questions about God? (see link to an essay at the bottom of this post – the author goes into more details).

People often toss out the question: Do you believe in God?

Before we respond (to ANY question!), we need clarification.  Unless we know what the intent of the questioner is, there’s no point in answering.  As Ravi Zacharias says, ” Intent precedes content

So back to the 2 questions about God – you know how much I love distinctions.  Well, here is one that I NEVER considered (which makes it all the more fun!)

Question # 1:  WHAT is God?

New to me was the idea that ‘God’ is a title or an office, a position like King, President or CEO.

Question # 2:  WHO is God? 

Who is the being that fills the office of God?  Here is where we think about the specific qualities of attributes of the one filling that role. Asking WHO implies that the answer is a person; so he has a name.

For instance, we often here that Muslims, Jews and Christians all worship the same God.  Is that true?

I now see how useful this 2-question tool can be to think through that issue.  Most people would probably agree on the WHAT question, for all 3 religions are mono-theistic.

But when it comes to WHO fills that role, then each of us has a very different answer.

For Jews, it is Yahweh – a one- substance, one-person supernatural creator and sustainer.  The concept of Jesus as an equal member of a triune God is NOT part of their doctrine.

For Muslims, it’s Allah – (and  yes, they happen to use the same term for his role and his name ). They also do not believe that Jesus is God’s son who died on the cross to save sinners.

For Christians, it’s a Person who is one substance or essence, but has 3 different persons. He goes by many names depending on which attribute is being emphasized. (id est – Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Prince of Peace, Good Shepherd, Lion of Judah…….and so)

What is the take away from this distinction between WHO and WHAT?

Namely:  the more tools in our kitbag, (i.e the more questions we have at our disposal), then the clearer our thinking can be.  This world is a complicated place.  One of the keys to living well with the other 7 billion inhabitants is to understand their particular concerns as well as the issues that affect all of us.  We need logical minds to listen well and to communicate clearly.  Seeking distinctions in order to ask more precise questions is a skill worth practicing.

Sorting out what and who God is – good essay