Tag Archives: Evidence

How do I know that I REALLY believe?

11 Jan

“Assurance of my position IN the family of God or OUT of the family sometimes FEELS tenuous.   What if I’m deceiving myself?  What if I THINK I believe what Jesus taught, what the Bible says? But what if I don’t really believe but I THINK I do?  How do I know if I’m sincere?”

Do you know someone who shares those kinds of thoughts?  Do you sometimes go around and around yourself, wondering if you really are saved?

Yesterday for ‘some’ reason that discouraging scenario popped into my mind while driving home.  I turned off what I was listening to and set my mind to figuring out how I would respond to an imaginary friend. Here’s the conversation I had in my head:

Me: You’re not sure if you REALLY believe you are saved, is that it?

Friend: Yes.

Me:  And you would like some assurance so you can put this issue to rest, once and for all?

Friend: PLEASE!

Me: Okay, let’s imagine that you came to me and shared that you were uncertain if you REALLY believed in gravity.  Do you know what I would have you do?

Friend: (a bit puzzled) Ah, no….what?

Me:  I’d say:  Test it out!  Let’s get some evidence for the reality of gravity.  Here, get up on this chair and step out into the air, off the chair and see what happens.

(Friend follows my instructions and lands on his/her feet)

Me:  You now have evidence that gravity is REAL.  Do you believe it is real?

Friend:  Of course!

Me:  Are you sure? Why do you now think that your belief is sincere?

Friend:  Because I have evidence that gravity is real.

Me:  Exactly! So let’s apply the same principle to belief IN God, that is, faith in Jesus’ work done in his life and on the cross, which is SAVING faith.  What evidence do you think would prove that you have been born from above, that you belong to the family of God?

Friend:  Hmmm, maybe if I prayed and received answers to prayer?  Maybe a miracle?

Me:  Possibly, but you might just rationalize them to be a coincidence.

Me:  Here is what I find to be irrefutable evidence:  the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Me: Before I became a ‘new creation in Christ’ I had NO experience of this kind of conviction or heart remorse and prompting.  I might have felt GUILT or SHAME at being CALLED OUT for doing something wrong, but never did I feel GRIEF at hurting a person.

Friend: I know what you mean!  A couple of months ago, I said something offhand, unnecessary, AND self-aggrandizing to a colleague at school. As soon as I was in the car driving home, ‘it’ hit me:  my judgmental tone, facial expression, and remark.  With genuine remorse, I immediately confessed to the Father.  And I could hardly wait for the next day to seek out my co-worker and ask forgiveness for my unkind, unfair and self-righteous comment.  Although not a believer, she graciously received my apology.  I was both relieved and grateful.

Me:  Right!  and before, when you KNOW for sure that you were NOT a believer, did you experience that kind of prompting by the Holy Spirit?

Friend: No!

Me:  There you have it! I think Holy Spirit conviction IS evidence of His permanent presence in your heart.  You cannot deceive yourself about that.  Besides……do you think Satan planted that thought in your head to confess?  or has it always been part of your nature to feel bad about every self-righteous comment you’ve made?

Friend: Fat chance that Satan wants me to humble myself and seek reconciliation.  And I never used to pay attention to my comments to others, the way I do now.

Me:  Okay, then. That settles it.  If you start to doubt again whether you truly are saved, just remember the evidence of God’s Spirit IN you!  His convicting work is called sanctification!

 

 

Why some people aren’t Christians or ‘Preppers’

24 May

Ps 78:32  

In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe.

I was listening to someone explain how & why he had lost faith in the God he had enjoyed throughout his childhood.  It happened like this: he fell in love with a gal in high school who wasn’t a Christian.  That relationship led him to question what he had been taught from church and the Bible about why there are some people who aren’t Christian. The evidence he saw around him upon investigation caused him to abandon confidence in the truth of the Bible and what he had learned at church.

As he detailed the events, he offered this distinction:

  • I don’t claim to prove whether God exists or not.  I just don’t believe in God.

Hearing him draw a contrast, I began to see that though intertwined, these are indeed two different issues. (You can listen to the interview or access his written account of the unraveling of his faith at the link above.)  What struck me was the following statement:

  • “I might be wrong about God. But what I’m sure of is that my search for the truth has been genuine and my beliefs are sincere.”

Some questions for thinking logical Joes and Janes:

  1. What added value does ‘genuine’ bring to one’s search for the truth?
  2. Does it matter if beliefs are ‘sincere’?

I’m bothered by his (and many others’ I encounter) almost cavalier, yet ‘sincere’, dismissal of just not believing in God.

Is Christianity a matter of choosing to believe?  And what does it mean to ‘not believe’, or even ‘to believe’ for that matter?  And what about truth?

We have a friend who is a ‘survivalist prepper’.  You’ve heard of those folks. They stockpile vast supplies of food, weapons and other necessary goods so they can live independently for weeks and even months in various apocalyptic scenarios.  My husband and I have not taken those kind of ‘what if’ precautions, although we do have some supplies in the event of a power outage due to storms.

Our friend, who seems very rational, might accuse us of living in denial if we say, “We don’t believe in the realistic eventuality which grounds your preparation.”

How SHOULD we respond to possible mega disaster events?  Just like how we should respond to the possibility of there being a real God.

The only questions are:

  • What evidence is there for a likely event for which we should increase our preparation?
  • What evidence is there for the supernatural God as described in the Christian Bible?

And given the evidence, what is the most reasonable (reason-based) response one should make?

A more honest conclusion on the part of the man who lost his faith would be:

  • I don’t like where the evidence points, because I don’t want to deal with the God that the Bible describes.
  • And as a fully-aware, but perhaps irrational adult, I deliberately choose to put off dealing with what will happen to me when I die

Friends, I don’t know about the odds of an apocalyptic scenario happening in my lifetime.  But what I do know is that there is a preponderance of evidence to give us a high degree of certainty that the triune God of the Bible (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is who He says He is as recorded in the 66 books of the Bible.  Therefore, I assert that we can TRUST the written record.

Only fools ignore that kind of certainty.

 

Another reason for believing God

31 Aug

Do you accept God for who he says he is in the Bible because the written words are true?

And do you know that the words are true because there is enough external evidence to warrant true belief?

Or do you trust God and his words because you always have and don’t really think about why you do?

I ask because I learned of another way to justify one’s belief in God.  Listening to a podcasted discussion (Unbelievable with Justin Brierley) between 2 philosophers the other day introduced me to the concept of ‘properly basic beliefs’ and ‘non-propositional’ logic.

As a layperson, I gleaned that a properly basic belief is one not based on other propositional truth or on evidence, but accepted and trusted.  These are beliefs that can’t be proven. Examples might be:

  • the sense or knowing that there is more to life than what we see
  • 2 + 2 = 4

The American philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, offers this example:

  •  I think other minds exist because I have a mind and I exist, but I can’t prove it.  All might be an illusion (remember The Matrix?).
  • Nonetheless, we humans do accept that if we exist, then others exist. And if we acknowledge THAT as a rational belief, then might we not also accept as rational the proposition that God exists?

This way of ‘argumentation’ does presuppose that we humans have the capacity to think rationally.  (to use this lingo, “the belief that humans are designed to think rationally” is properly basic)

Plantinga points to the ‘sensus divinitatis’ in every human as evidence that the existence of God is a rational conclusion.  This sense of the divine appears in every culture across the expanse of history.

So what do you think?  For Christians who are commanded by Jesus to explain the good news of God’s rescue plans to all we encounter in our daily lives, is this approach sufficient?  Probably not.  But as we live out ‘the Great Commission’ we are learning and assembling a ‘tool kit’.  I’m reassured just knowing that intelligent Christian thinkers across the centuries have vetted what is probably common to all people I meet.  There ARE convictions we hold as rational without being able to articulate any propositional or evidential reason other than, “I just believe it!”

 

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.

 

Logical Gal – No such thing as blind faith!

8 Apr

How many times have you heard Christians described as un-thinking dolts who depend on ‘blind faith’ to get them through life?

Properly defining terms will release Christians from that unkind, unflattering and untrue label.

Pistis (Strong’s  # 4102) is the Greek word for trust. (often translated as ‘faith’)

So what do Christians trust or rely on for their beliefs?  They look to evidence.

Image

Does that surprise you?  It shouldn’t.  The Christian God provided the direct evidence of an empty tomb, ‘securely’ guarded by well-trained Roman soldiers. Paul cites eyewitness testimony from 500+ people who vouched they encountered or saw the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth. When he pens this fact, most of those people are still alive and available to counter his bold statement if in fact UN-true.

So Christians who trust God have past evidence to inform their ‘faith’.  They also have the recorded promises of a supernatural being. This God has the audacity to have put in writing for generations to see what He was predicting.  So far, many of those promises have been fulfilled.  Actual circumstances that have turned out the way God promised build confidence in His followers.

Image

So Christians have an evidence-based trust in God, backed up by reason.  Those who live by ‘supposed sight’ actually are the less rational.  They tend to let circumstances alter their feelings, which then rule their decisions.

So tell me, who is the one who lives blindly? ‘Thinking Christians’ is NOT an oxymoron!

Image

Question: What do you have faith in?  Whom or what do you trust and why?

Logical Gal questions 99.99% death rate of germs

31 Dec

anti-bacterial soapis clinically proven to eliminate 99.9% of bacteria

Hmmm, what questions might a thinking, logical person pose about the claim above?

  • What do you mean by the term, “to eliminate”?
  • How was the study done?
  • Which bacteria were eliminated?

If one takes the time to dig just a little, it turns out that many of these advertising assertions are misleading.  The article below describes just such a situation.

Veracity of one set of claims

As often is the case, statistics get batted around pretty indiscriminately. But this sloppiness is not confined to marketing.

How about the claim that 50% of marriages end in divorce?  Apparently that number, also, is a misinterpretation of data.  Have you heard the adage that a lie repeated often enough becomes a truth?

The real data about marriage and divorce

The world is filled with data-hungry people.  And without careful thought, statistical fallacies can be allowed into our assessments, coloring what we believe to be true.  And if we pass along false data to others, even in casual conversation, we are adding to the problem.

A couple of weeks ago, a report correcting an oft-quoted statistic about crimes against female college students set the record straight.  For years, people had cited a 1 in 5 chance (20 %) that a college co-ed would be attacked on her college campus.  Apparently the study was flawed in several ways, one being it was based on too few data.  A more rigorous study shows the probability of attack to be less than 1 percent. Sexual assault statistics of women on campus

Statistics lie

Please don’t think that I am impugning the character of everyone who conducts or cites studies whose conclusions are false.  I would imagine that most people sincerely believe what they assert. Nevertheless, just like we should check out any fantastical story that arrives in our email inbox to see if it’s true, we should take equal care to vet a statistic before passing on something shocking in one mass email to our contacts.

Snopes.com

 

 

 

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?)

 

Dodging arguments – Appeals to Authority

17 Dec

I was listening to a radio discussion about correct Bible interpretation.  One of the three men dismissed the entire conversation with this comment:

“There’s something wrong about 3 white guys talking about how to understand the Bible!”

3 men

What struck me was the following thought:  What does the identity of the one(s) advancing the argument have to do with the force of the argument? What about examining the reasons for one’s interpretation of the Bible?   This dodge is simply a reverse of a common fallacy, Appeal to Authority.

Appeals to authority work like this: in lieu of reasoning with care, the advancer of a point of view avoids giving any support for his assertion by informing his audience that So-and-So believes it.  The assumption is:

So-and-So is a well-known authority

Whatever he believes must be right

He shares or has endorsed my point of view

Therefore, my assertion is correct

Back to the three gentlemen discussing the Bible.  The one I quoted tried to weaken the entire discussion by dismissing it before it got off the ground.  In essence he was saying:

  • We can’t possibly come up with a sound and full-orbed understanding of God’s Word due to our gender and race.  Our viewpoint as men is one-sided and incomplete, a priori.

That’s absurd!  That’s akin to claiming that women are incapable of researching and writing with any degree of accuracy about war or likewise men have nothing credible to say about rape.  Dismissing one’s ideas due to one’s identity is faulty!

This reverse of the Fallacy of the Appeal to Authority can sometimes be an example of the Genetic Fallacy.

Genetic Fallacy - red fish This red fish announces that since he is red, he is irrelevant.  The implication is that nothing he might advance has merit because of what he is.

I often hear people marginalize a point of view by this derisory comment:

  • You only say that because you’re a _________!

My experience has been that many of us resort to fallacies when we don’t have a watertight argument OR worse, we have NO facts or evidence for what we believe.   Yet, we desperately want to discredit the other guy’s argument.  So the fight instinct kicks in and we clobber our opponent with a sound byte and then fall back on fallacies because we are bereft of reasons.

What’s the solution?

My advice to this logical gal (me!) is

  • don’t articulate an opinion until I have done a bit of research
  • and when asked my views, resist the temptation to respond by instead asking some clarifying questions  IN ORDER to gain some information

Easier said than done!

 

 

 

 

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 How to Figure out the Truth

10 Sep

Truth

Recently I heard a clear-thinking talk show host provide a method of discovering the truth about a topic. Of course, none of us can be 100 % confident that we have ‘the truth’. But we CAN arrive at a position with a reasonable degree of confidence of its correspondence to reality.

As an aside, why can’t any of us be ABSOLUTE certain of anything? Because in this universe we only occupy a position as created beings. We are part of the creation and we don’t stand above it, with a 360 % view (so to speak).

Back to the radio show I heard – the illustration used to showcase this method was the argument for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This system works for any event, from crimes being tried in court to your teen’s assertion that the car WAS home before midnight.

When we look at the historicity of Jesus Christ, there are apparently 4 unattested facts. Atheistic, agnostic and Christian scholars alike agree on these four points because one does not have to point to the Bible or any supernatural cause.

 

Jesus' tomb is empty, unlike others

Gary Habermas is credited for having boiled these down to clear indisputable data:

  1. A man named Jesus of Nazareth was put to death by crucifixion at the hands of Roman soldiers on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
  1. The dead Jesus was put into a tomb that was sealed and guarded.
  1. Three days after his death his disciples claimed the tomb was empty and that they encountered the resurrected Jesus and continued to see him for 40 days.
  1. Based on that claim/belief, the Christian church exploded into being and grew exponentially.

Those are the facts. Now what?

What follows next is to open the discussion to competing explanations. All are welcome to hold forth. But….

After you lay out your best scenario that explains all the facts, there is still one crucial piece.

You must provide EVIDENCE to support your explanation. Otherwise, your explanation is nothing more than a ‘just so story’. Or as I’ve heard another Logical Joe say:

  • One could say THIS….
  • Or one could say THAT….but what does the evidence support?

Evidence

In  summary:

-lay out the facts

-suggest possible explanations, looking for one that has the most explanatory taking into consideration ALL the facts

-examine the evidence

Question: What situation comes to mind that would benefit from this method for getting at the truth of the matter?