Tag Archives: Greg Koukl

Better not to shotgun a response

1 Feb

When you flush out a covey of quail, don’t shoot into the covey. Instead, pick out and select one bird to bring down!

flock-of-birds

Good advice from a quail-hunter.  And appropriate for addressing opposing views we encounter these days.

I absorbed this advice just recently and already it is making a difference.  One afternoon not too long ago, we indulged in our favorite after church past time, sharing lunch while reading the Sunday paper.  An op-ed piece about ‘women’s health issues’ had caught my eye and raised my dander.  The authors wrote, decrying the new administration’s goal of decreasing federal funds for Planned Parenthood. The way they framed their argument seemed to have one goal:  to arouse the ire of women by describing a presumed danger of losing access to existing health care.

The team of two local professors raised several points worthy of questioning and I wanted to tackle them all.  Fortunately for my intended audience, I took a walk and listened to radio host Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason explain a principle learned from his days as a boy hunting quail with his friends.

He explained that if you shoot directly into the covey, you’d waste your shot.  But if you aim for one bird, you have a better chance of actually bagging one.

His advice applied to our current contentious climate in America and shaped how I focused my letter to the editor later that afternoon.  Listening to Greg, I also saw in a flash why previous letters I had penned most likely exercised zero effect on readers.  Past letters have probably tanked due to a jumble of points, all poorly developed.

So what did I focus on in this most current letter?  A statistic mentioned in the paper’s essay. In a strategic move to minimize the arguments of the pro-life position, the authors stated that abortions account for only 3 % of all of Planned Parenthood’s services.

I smelled a fake statistic.

Sure enough when I went to factcheck.org I read how PP counts services.  Say a woman goes into a PP facility thinking she might be pregnant and wanting to discuss options.  In one visit, she might receive:

  • an initial screening consult
  • a blood test
  • a pee test
  • a pap smear
  • a referral to another provider for a different issue the consult uncovered

And if this woman does indeed choose to schedule an abortion, that second visit might include:

  • a information/procedural consult
  • an ultrasound
  • a further consult
  • an abortion
  • a post-procedure consult
  • 1 or 2 prescriptions for pain/possible infection
  • a prescription for contraception

So this hypothetical one gal might receive 12 different services and only 1 is an abortion.

Do you see how the quantity of abortions performed could be minimized when compared with the accompanying services?

Thanks to Greg Koukl’s advice preceding my letter attempt, I selected this one issue and worked to write as clearly and persuasively as possible pointing out the misleading accounting.  I don’t know if anyone will be persuaded, but clarifying my purpose and aiming at just one ‘quail’ focused me and guided my thoughts and word choice.

 

Narrowing my efforts also helped me articulate for myself what my ‘bone of contention’ is!  Whatever our views, it’s always worth the time to know what we believe and why!

How to vote….

14 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kitchen strainer

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

Do you want to stand out from the rest of society? Then use logic!

6 Apr

And practice thinking!

You’ve seen that smart-alecky bumper sticker:

Critical Thinking - national deficit

It’s actually a true analysis of many Americans.  When I was hired at a classical Christian school, I was assigned one ‘extra class’ to teach: logic….to 8th graders!  Not knowing the first thing about rational thought and argumentation, it took a year for me stumbling my way through the curriculum to begin to understand it.  And as I continued to grow more skilled in the tools I was acquiring, I realized what a treasure I had been handed.

Logical reasoning is foundational to reading correctly, to arguing cogently, to sniffing out holes in other people’s assertions.  This discipline also goes hand-in-hand with apologetics, that body of knowledge that provides a rational defense for the truth of the claims of Jesus in the Bible.

In my personal life, I continue a gentle but on-going campaign, through prayer and conversational engagement, to provoke a family member to let go of her 4 score of false teaching imbibed in a liberal church.  When we start to disagree and I turn to the Bible to back my point, she’ll retort:

  • That’s just man’s opinion!

She does NOT believe in the divine and infallible inspiration of the writers through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Why not?  Because every other Christian she knows, outside of our family and one of her nieces, believes that a ‘fundamentalist’ (her word) interpretation of the Bible naïvely accepts what was the view of primitive men and women, way back ‘then’!

Right off the bat, her argument is weakened by resorting to Chronological Snobbery, that fallacy that rests on the assumption that simply because something is old OR new, it must be better or worse.  No legs under that assertion!

When she restates her attack and critical view of the Bible, she then reminds me that we have travelled this road before, she and I, and we just need to leave it be.

And being the gracious gal that I am, I demur. (I’ll leave you to decide the truth of THAT claim!)

Today, though, I heard a powerful way of reasoning that I think will give her pause.  Let me try out this hypothetical dialogue. Then you can let me know what you think and how she might respond.

me: Just because someone is baptized as a baby, that doesn’t make them a Christian

her: That’s not so!

me: Well, John records Jesus informing Nicodemus that he had to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. And Jesus likens this spiritual birth to the wind blowing where it wants; man does not control or initiate being ‘born from above’.  It’s a God-launched change, unlike man-centered baptisms that ASSUME the efficacy of a priest declaring ‘you’re a Christian by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (and this procedure).

her: (Version A) – That’s just John’s view!

me: What?  John was an eyewitness and disciple of Jesus!

her: (or Version B) – Humph, the Bible was written by men and things get lost in multiple translations and in all the copying.

  • It’s at THIS point where we usually reach our impasse and move on to something else.  I respect her because she’s older and I don’t want to be TOO pushy.
  • But now I think I will add….

me: You do believe that Jesus died for your sins and that you’ll have eternal life with him when you die?

her:  Yes, at least I certainly hope so!

me: And where do you find that in the Bible? What makes you so sure that you are banking on a true doctrine or teaching?   (Greg Koukl, a Christian apologist, advises: ‘Ask a question to make a point.‘)

her: I’m not a ‘Bible scholar’ like you, but I know the church teaches that.

me: Why do you trust what ‘men’ say and teach? What if that doctrine is just a primitive and naïve interpretation?

her:  I have no idea.

me: (another possible question for her) Do you believe the accounts of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus?  If so, why?

her: That’s a solid belief that every Christian agrees on; nothing controversial there!

me: So do you always believe a position to be true because ‘everyone believes it’? Could ‘everyone’ be wrong about something?

I’m not sure how she might respond.  Any ideas?  My fervent prayer is that this dear lady finally abandons her resistance and trust God.  After all, if one can believe the biggest miracle (or fish story!)

  • of the immaterial God coming to earth in the form of another mortal human being,
  • of being murdered under trumped-up false charges,
  • and of then being raised from the dead and ascending to Heaven,

….then why not take Jesus at his word regarding the truth of all the Scriptures?

Matthew 5:18  (Jesus asserts) I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.

Behold, the power of thinking critically and logically!

 

 

Impatience hampers logical discussions

24 Feb

Jumping the gun  True confession:  more often than not I am SO eager to use the limited time I sense in a discussion to communicate my view, that I don’t take the time to understand the other guy’s case.

This impatience can lead me actually to waste valuable time with my conversation partner. The other day when I was in Québec leading a group of my 8th grade French students I engaged in some interesting back and forth with our bus driver.  At one point, as he was pointing out how many churches around the city had closed and been renovated for other purposes, I asked him point blank if he believed in God?  At his response in the negative I invited him to explain. He was not loath to expound for a couple of minutes before the tour guide interrupted him with a query. We never got back to the question.  I now realize that a more effective question would have been to ask him:

  • Well what kind of god DON’T you believe in?

His response would have provided far more clues to his thinking and shine light on a more effective tactic I might employ.

Back stateside while catching up on some podcasts about thinking and reasoning, I heard Greg Koukl explain the importance of pursuing clarity on his radio broadcast (podcast). That advice reminded me of my Canadian conversation.  Greg recounted part of a discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness visitor to his house (can’t remember if it was real or hypothetical) where the point of debate concerned the Trinitarian God of Christianity. First, Koukl clarified the Jehovah Witness’ distinction (and main point) between God the Father and Jesus the Son. Then he spent most of the remaining time getting the visitor to articulate what HE, the visitor, understood the Christian view of God to be (the view the man was criticizing).  Greg reported actually writing down what the other man said.  Only then did he compare that man’s talking points about his religion’s version with orthodox Christianity.

That approach would never have occurred to me.  I certainly know MY desire to make my case clear. And equally important is for me to understand properly my interlocutor’s viewpoint. But to take the time and tease out of the other guy what HE thinks MY position to be was a new strategy.  It certainly removes some pressure by making the OTHER guy articulate both his own view and what he assumes mine to be.

What happened in Greg’s conversation in the remaining time after clarifying both views? His investment paid off.  Because he had helped the Jehovah’s Witness specify in his own words the Christian position, Greg didn’t take long to make HIS own point.  It turned out that the Jehovah’s Witness was objecting to views of Jesus not at all factual.  So there really was no problem or point of disagreement.  It was a smooth and effective way to clear the smoke and confusion….or at least to rattle the cage of this über-confident evangelist promoting something other than biblical Christianity.

Logical Gal ponders the wisdom of setting your own standards

3 Jun

Stephen Colbert’s advice to Wake Forest University’s Class of 2015 included this gem:

“I hope you find the courage to decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong and then please expect as much of the world around you. Try to make the world good according to your standards.”

For a better sense of the context, here’s a report of his speech – Here’s the link

So what are we supposed to make of this man’s distilled life lesson and advice?  What came to mind immediately was the fact that whoever makes an assertion has the responsibility to defend his or her point.  Often no one questions our sound bytes or pronouncements. We live in a fast world.  Thinking takes too much time, apparently.  Where to start???

Watching Greg Koukl model effective questioning in this Video teaching Tactics in Defending your Faith, I’ve learned that you can help someone reason through his assertions and see the outworking of his conclusions.  You do this by asking questions that get the person to look closely at what might happen if someone took seriously her point.  You walk with ‘asserters’ until they actually arrive at conclusions that are not sustainable or acceptable even to them.

So if I were face to face with Mr. Colbert I might ask him a few questions like:

  • Besides employing courage, how does one decide what is right and what is wrong?
  • What happens if your ‘right’ is my ‘wrong’?  Who gets the final say?  Who arbitrates?
  • Who gets to define the concept of ‘good‘ in that 2nd sentence quoted above?
  • What would our world look like if EVERYONE of these 2015 graduates you have addressed takes your advice and embarks on ‘trying to make’ the world ‘good’ according to his or her standards?
  • Aren’t radical Islamic groups trying to do just that?  Is force justified? How far do we allow fellow citizens to go in ‘making’ the world ‘good’?

For the amount they probably payed Stephen Colbert, I hope Wake Forest was satisfied with their choice of commencement speaker!

Stephen Colbert

Logical Gal – what some will stoop to in order to WIN!

11 Feb

Winning at all costs

Would you like to know how you can win debates every time?  especially if your opponent is nervous and naive?

Just redefine the terms to suit you!  It’s that simple.

I heard this point expounded while listening to a podcast from Stand to Reason. – Here’s the Link.  Greg Koukl, the host, was providing listeners with an example of how some of the so-called New Atheists actually make a mistake when it comes to understanding the concept of Biblical Faith.

The bumper sticker below is apparently what they think faith means.  Do you suppose they exercise that kind of faith in airline pilots when they board a commercial flight?blind faith bumper sticker

What atheists might label as faith is simply trust or reliance.   Just as I’m sure they rely on previous safety records when deciding to board a commercial aircraft, Christians rely on eye-witness accounts as part of their ‘reasons to believe’ that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  Thus these atheists incorrectly define faith as: “a leap of faith without evidence” aka “blind faith”.  Certainly their false definition could be an intentional tactic.  But I actually think they are woefully ignorant about what the Bible has to say about trust, belief and evidence.  Numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments there are references to reason and evidence.

  • God, through the prophet Isaiah beckons, “Come now, let us reason together.…” (Isaiah 1:18)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is recorded as saying:

  • ” Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” (Jn 14:11)

And what makes the credibility of Jesus so solid is that His claims could have been easy to dispute.  The falsifiability of a claim is its strength.  So what would falsify Christianity? For one thing, had the Romans or Jews of Palestine been able to produce the body of a dead, crucified Jesus THAT would have been evidence that he was not who he said he was.

Question – So who actually is clinging to a debate position without evidence?  Are the ‘New Atheists’ themselves making a ‘Leap of Faith’ that the Biblical God does not exist?

Leap of faith

Logical Gal and when making sense is not enough

21 Jan

Makes sense

That makes sense to me!

Have you ever heard that comment or uttered it yourself?  It sounds so innocent, doesn’t it!  Don’t we want to make sense of the world around us – especially in light of all the horrors and issues that DON’T make sense?

It’s human nature to try to identify, draw associations and categorize all the information that cascades into our consciousness, moment by moment!

But, we must not forget that just because something makes sense, that detail does NOT make it true!

I ran across a useful example of this faulty thinking the other day.  While listening to a radio program broadcast by the organization Stand to Reason, the host discussed how to deal with the possibility that scientists might very well indeed find a gene marker held in common by some gay men and women.  The presupposition explored by the host is this:

Whatever makes sense is right or must be true.

The caller who holds to the above assumption suggested the following opening to an argument based on that assumption:

  • If there is a ‘gay gene’, then it is natural for those with that gene to want to/ need to engage in what is ‘natural’

After having suggested that line of thinking, he finished his explanation with the comment, “Makes sense to me!”

The host, Greg Koukl, reminded listeners that JUST because something makes sense, that doesn’t make it true or right.   An argument based on the faulty assumption could be stated like this:

P1 – All that makes sense is right

P2 – Doing what is natural makes sense

C – Therefore, doing what comes natural is right

And going on, one can continue:  Given a ‘gay gene’, then it is only natural that those with this gene engage in the behavior that is part of their inherited disposition.

However in the above argument, although it may be rational and correctly formed, it can still be faulty if one or both of the premises are FALSE.  Take a look at the following obvious example of a valid, but unsound syllogism:

P1 – All things with 4 feet are alive

P2 – This table has 4 feet

C – Therefore, this table is alive

Why is this argument valid?  Because it follows the rules of formal logic.  It makes sense, we could say. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to tell that something is WRONG!!!

Bingo!  The faulty premise is the very first one.  NOT all things that have 4 feet are alive, only SOME.  So the universal statement needs to be changed to a particular statement to be true.

P1 – Some things with 4 feet are alive

P2 – This table has 4 feet

C – Therefore, this table is alive

Soundness Venn diagram

Let’s get back to the possible research into gene markers and whether doing what is natural makes sense.

  • Besides the unsoundness of the argument due to the faulty 1st premise..
  • Besides the false nature of the underlying presupposition that What makes sense must be so,

There is ALSO the assumption that could be debated:  We should engage in what comes naturally!

Really?

Question: Which ‘natural’ scenarios come to mind that raise a red flag?

tantrums