Tag Archives: Greg Koukl

Logical Gal and the power of the right question

2 May

Clarify

The Apostle Paul talks about the concept of election in Romans 8

For those God  foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (verse 29)

A point of controversy  hinges on the way you define ‘foreknow‘ .  Tuesday, during the weekly call-in show called Stand to Reason , I heard the host Greg Koukl ask the question – What or Whom does God foreknow?   This turned out to be THE correct question which led me to some new knowledge.

Thank you Socrates!

Socratic questions

 

There are at least 2 ways of  thinking about this foreknowledge:

One group of Christians holds to the view that God gives a measure of grace to every one.  Some then build on that grace by yielding or accepting Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  God knows ahead of time who is going to ‘choose’ because He can look down the corridors of time at all points of events future. Knowing who will yield to Him are those people considered ‘elect’.

The other group of Christians maintains that God ‘chooses’ ahead of time who will be the recipients of His gift of mercy and grace.  They can’t possibly ‘choose’ Him because by nature they would reject God.  So His work of grace has to be 100 percent.

It turns out that limiting oneself to the common definition of  foreknowledge as ‘information held before an event’ is both misleading AND insufficient. God doesn’t exercise foreknowledge of information (wrong term) God foreknows PEOPLE (He chooses people).  On the other hand knowing all information ahead of time or anytime  is called omniscience.

That one question of ‘ What does God have foreknowledge of – people or choices/courses of action?’ amplifies the discussion in a significant way that adds depth to our understanding of God!

Right Question

Take-away: What follow-up questions will yield more relevant information to a topic important to you?

Logical Gal tackles ‘Thou Shalt Not Judge!’

3 Feb

I’ve heard it said that the most famous Bible verse that even non-Christians quote from memory is John 3:16 because it is so often held up, painted on signs at football games. But ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged!’ from Matthew 7:1 is quickly overtaking the former in that category, given  our climate of tolerance.

Since we live in a topsy-turvy world where what society used to regard as  unthinkable is now ‘de rigeur’ or normal, we tend to tiptoe around evil and sin so a not to OFFEND anyone.

But come on, people!  America is a federal republic governed by a constitution with written, id est, legal protections of rights such as freedom of speech!

So what DOES a truth-loving, logic-valuing gal or guy do when clobbered with, “YOU CAN’T JUDGE ME!”

We do what Greg Koukl teaches: pull out a question and lay it on the one who made that claim. Here are some possibilities to get you started:

  • Why is that?
  • What do you think we are not supposed to judge?
  • The quote says that we can’t judge unless we’re willing to be judged.  What if I accept that condition?
  • What does it mean – to judge?

Actually there is even a Bible verse we can gently lob back to them – one that will REALLY start them thinking (the whole point of engaging with them!)

John 7:24 quotes Jesus as exhorting us:  Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.

I love that!  It brings us back to common sense and correct Bible reading.  The Bible is FULL of standards and judgments.  Only those who have never read God’s Word are those who think they own Matthew 7:1.

A reason for the blockage and misunderstanding regarding judging comes from not understanding how a court system works.

Just from a year of daily informal logic lessons my 7th graders learned to spot fallacies with glee!  When we examined the Appeal to Pity fallacy, we talked about where MERCY fits into a court case.  Many people inaccurately think that someone is either ruled guilty or they’re shown mercy.  That’s a category error.  A judge and/or jury must first RULE on the guilt or innocence of the defendant.  Is he guilty or innocent of the charge against him?  Once THAT judgment is made, then we can talk about what sentencing is appropriate.

What, then, are the judge’s choices in sentencing?  He can either give a just or fair punishment to fit the crime OR he can show MERCY.

Those who juxtapose guilt against mercy have it wrong.  First determine guilt or innocence, and then consider mercy.  Remember that Jesus had no qualms judging the woman caught in adultery.  She WAS guilty. Her action WAS wrong and against the law.  She, as well as everyone else, knew that.  She deserved stoning which was the pre-determined punishment.  But Jesus chose to show mercy.  He sequenced the events correctly.

So stealing, lying, envy, sex outside of a married heterosexual covenant ARE wrong according to God’s word.  We don’t have to apologize for the standard or the judgment. Stop cringing about Truth!  You have nothing to feel ashamed about in acknowledging standards.  But show mercy when appropriate, for you, too desire mercy, don’t you?

Logical Gal caught without a good argument

6 Jan

There, I did it again!  I opened my mouth, made an assertion and was surprised when my conversation partner asked me why I thought that!!!  Uhhh….I immediately went into SCRAMBLE-mode. Not a comfortable position from which to articulate good reasons for my belief.

How did this happen?  Simply because I was at a New Year’s open house with school colleagues and was trying to make conversation. I happened to mention a book we had given a family member about how Teddy Roosevelt saved college football.  I linked that historical anecdote to the topic of the ‘feminization of American men’.

Link to book

And it was THAT statement that caused my colleague to look at me blankly and respond that he had never heard such a view before.  And as his due, he asked me for my reasons to support my premise. For as Greg Koukl teaches, ‘He who makes an assertion assumes the burden of proof for defending it.’

I won’t describe why I brought up the argument, for the point of this reflection is how uncomfortable I felt MAKING the case for something I haven’t actually articulated before.

It really doesn’t matter that I’ve read articles, skimmed blog posts or heard interviews with various people talking about this issue.  If I haven’t thought through the reasons myself and at least DISCUSSED them with my husband in a safe place, then I should not open my mouth in public.

This is not the first time I’ve experienced ‘egg on my face’  .

If I have ONE logic resolution to make for 2014, it is this: If I want to discuss a topic in which I feel weak or unprepared, I can always ask my conversation partner HIS thoughts about the subject.  This questioning gains me more time to think and I might learn something, too!

Question: What area in critical thinking and argumentation do you need to work on in 2014? 

Logical Gal asks why when faced with bold claim

13 Nov

Another letter to the editor of our local Asheville paper.  Thankfully, I never seem to run out of material to consider for a logic column!

Here’s the startling statement to consider:

“Good healthcare ought to be a right here as it is in the rest of the world.”

So where does a Logical Gal or Guy start in dissecting this conclusion?

Let’s start at the very beginning!

Logical thinking starts with an examination of terms.  Remember, that HE who makes the claim MUST defend it.  The burden of proof is on the claim-maker to explain his terms and his reasons for how he arrived at his assertion.

Don’t be afraid – you don’t have to know ANYTHING about the intricacies of healthcare to engage with someone like this letter writer.  Asking questions will immediately shift the burden and you will not feel any pressure at all.

Here are a few to get us started:

1. What do you have in mind when you talk about ‘healthcare’ ?  Does that include just emergency services like if you break a leg?  Does it include preventative care like annual check-ups?  How many tests should be provided? Are medications part of healthcare?  What limits, if any, do you envision?

2. And who gets to decide what is ‘good’?  How do you define ‘good’ ?  Are there different tiers of quality or the quantity of services provided?

3. What do you mean by ‘right’ ?  Like civil rights?  Would this be a federal right that would need to begin as a constitutional amendment?  Or are you talking about a state’s right?  Would citizens get to define the right?  vote for the right?

4. Where is ‘healthcare’  a right in other parts of the world?  What kind is provided?  How is it paid for?  What is the tax situation like in those countries?  Are their citizens ‘content’  with the quality, delivery and cost of healthcare?

5. How did you arrive at your conclusion that ‘good healthcare ought to be a right in the US’ ?   What are your reasons?  what research did you conduct?

Do you see how easy it would be to conduct a GENTLE (not a pounding/hounding/beat you into the ground) conversation?

Anyone can write a letter or make a claim.  Opinions are a dime a dozen:

That works out to .83 cents per opinion…

But reasoned, thoughtful discourse is invaluable (and rare).

PS:  Greg Koukl in his book  Tactics Book Link   walks his readers through more questioning practice.  It’s worth studying and internalizing.

Logical Gal asks why crazy weather is a moral issue

6 Nov

A local letter writer to our newspaper here in Western North Carolina has bundled together a few circumstances to make a case for his point of view.  The events he cites are :

Hurricane Sandy in NJ + a summer-like North  Carolinian day in February + unusual rain this past summer in our local area .  And from these 3 events, he concludes  –  “Something is wrong “.

Then he jumps to this claim and I quote, “At this point, to deny the reality of climate change and its underlying human causes is a moral choice.

So how does a logical gal or guy start to think about this man’s argument?  The best place to start is with TERMS.

Labeling one’s assessment of evidence as a MORAL action caught my eye.  Hmm…better see how ‘moral’  is defined.

Dictionary.com defines ‘moral’ as distinguishing between right and wrong conduct….in the context of what is customary for a culture.  Moral derives from ‘mores’  which are the practices of a culture. Our letter writer who happens to be a pastor (maybe that’s why he has introduced the language of morality?) seems to be saying that how one evaluates evidence and arrives at a conclusion can be considered morally RIGHT or morally WRONG.  He seems to rely on the alleged consensus of a large group of climate scientists.  In essence his reasoning is based on majority thinking. If one sides with the majority, then one has made a morally correct assessment.

But should the opinion of a large group of scientists be the basis for policy change that might have an even broader impact on our world than that of climate change? (think economic repercussions)  These are tough issues that demand clear thinking.

I’ve been greatly helped by a book whose author, Greg Koukl,  is a mature radio show host and head of an organization devoted to good reasoning.  On his show, Greg discusses questions with callers in the area of ethics, values and religion. The fundamental principle Greg teaches (and writes about in his book Tactics)  is this:  Whoever makes the claim has the burden to demonstrate what he means and how he arrives at  his conclusions.

To order Greg Koukl’s book

I think I would enjoy meeting face to face with the local pastor who exhorts his fellow newspaper readers to ‘right this wrong’.  After listening to him defend his argument, I would ask him to identify his authority and to explain how he knows that this person or persons are right? After all, has a majority of smart people ever been mistaken? Don’t scientific theories come and go? Before we instigate sweeping policy changes in one area, we need to study potential effects on the larger system, namely our country and the world.

To take vitamins or not, that is….not the question today

2 Sep

Imagine that your office mate has just asserted the most ridiculous conclusion that you have ever heard: that taking vitamins is a waste of time and money!    

    VERSUS ………….    

You, who pop a handful of carefully selected ‘food supplements’ SWEAR by the efficacy of these expensive pills.  After all, how many sick days have YOU taken in the past five years?

But before you give her a piece of your mind, calm down and ask her to explain her claim.  Remember that she who advances a proposition, a claim, a conclusion, an assertion MUST give her evidence, her reasons, her method of arriving at this thought.  If you want some help, click on the link here for a resource by Greg Koukl.  Great Book to Help who does what in an argument

After listening to your office mate, you realize that before you can even GET to thinking about the truth or falsity of her conclusion, you have to guide her in formulating her reasons.  After some coaxing, here is what she has offered:

  • Food provides enough vitamins and minerals to stay healthy
  • No manufactured vitamins can provide the same quality of benefit found naturally in food.
  • Therefore, taking vitamins is a waste of time and money

Your friend obviously needs some help in identifying her terms and organizing her argument into syllogisms that are built on 3 terms each.

But before you pull out your pencil and start sketching logic charts, we can just refer to Rule # 7 to show that her argument is invalid:

What is the quality of premise # 1 (‘food provides enough…’ )?   It is AFFIRMATIVE

What is the quality of premise # 2 (‘no manufactured…’)?  It is NEGATIVE

Rule # 7 of the Seven Rules for Testing Validity states that if one of the 2 premises is negative, then the conclusion MUST be negative.  Your friend has NOT stated a negative conclusion but the AFFIRMATIVE statement that ‘Taking vitamins is a waste of time and money’

Since the argument is invalid based on Rule # 7, you’re off the hook from giving your 2 cents worth.  But spend some time helping her tease out her reasons and re-articulating them and then checking to see that is what she means.  She’ll gain respect for you as a gentle friend and maybe SHE might see some holes in her reasoning.

Meanwhile play around with what YOU believe about vitamins and craft YOUR argument following the 7 rules.

Here they are in summary.  Next time we’ll build an argument about vitamins that is VALID.

Every syllogism to be valid (that is correctly formed), must comply with all seven rules:

  1. Has 3 and only 3 terms
  2. No middle term in the conclusion
  3. If a term is ‘distributed’ in the conclusion, it must be ‘distributed’ in one of the premises
  4. The middle term must be distributed once.
  5. No conclusion can be drawn from 2 negative premises
  6. If the 2 premises are affirmative, the conclusion MUST be affirmative as well
  7. If one of the 2 premises is negative, then the conclusion MUST be negative as well.

Keep thinking!