Tag Archives: Jesus

Truth matters…and can change your life

23 Mar

POW bracelet  When I was a junior in high school, many of us wore POW bracelets to remind ourselves of those men still held prisoner by the North Vietnamese.  I don’t know what happened to ‘my POW’ or the bracelet.  But that memory was vividly stirred when I heard someone explain how ‘news’ makes a difference.  The scenario he painted was of a wife, bereft of her POW husband, who still held on to the slim hope that he might be returned to her and their children.

One day, she picks up the phone to hear the startling news that not only is her husband alive, but he is already safely travelling home on a naval ship.  The Navy will pay for her to fly to San Diego to meet him in two weeks.

After the phone call, her circumstances have not changed, for she is still without her husband.  But the news of that future event WILL have an effect on her and the children.

What’s this example have to do with truth?  That’s easy: unless that mom trusts the veracity of the phone call, that it is NOT a hoax, then she won’t book the flight and make the arrangements to meet the ship when it docks.   Truth DOES matter.

So too does truth carry weight in a logical argument.  Recall that to have a powerful position, two conditions must be met.  Premises must be true and the way a conclusion is drawn must follow rules of logic.  An argument that abides by guidelines in how it’s formed is deemed valid.

Couple true premises with an orderly, valid proceeding from premises to conclusion, and you have a sound, or ‘unbeatable’ argument.

I saw another example of the power of true premises this morning when I was reminded of the account of Hannah, future mom of the prophet Samuel.

Mournful due to infertility and constantly belittled by ‘the other wife’ of Elkanah, Hannah refuses to eat but prays in the tabernacle during the family’s annual trek to worship at Shiloh.  Hannah receives a blessing from the priest Eli when she prays in for a son (1 Sam 1:1-18).

All she has heard is ‘news’ (Eli’s blessing) that the Lord will do for her as she requested while praying. When she arises from prayer, nothing has changed.  She is still childless, but she has heard and believed the ‘truth’ given to her by this representative of God, the priest Eli.

Here is a framework for this news and why it changed the live of our hypothetical POW’s wife and for Hannah, future mom of the renowned prophet Samuel.

P1 – I can confidently trust and act on true news of future events

P2 – My husband’s return is true news of a future event

C – Therefore, I can confidently count on my husband’s return

We can substitute the Hannah details for premise # 2

P2- My conceiving a son is true news of a future event

C – Therefore, I can confidently count on being a mom

What happens after the ‘counting on something occurring that has been foretold’?  Lives change!

  • The POW’s wife and children felt joy during the 2 weeks before Dad reached American soil.  They quickly sprang into action, prepping for Dad’s return.  Perhaps a planned spring break vacation was cancelled.
  • Hannah’s countenance immediately turned glad.  She ended her mournful fast, took food and confidently did the next step of sleeping with her husband Elkanah in order to conceive a son.

I’ll leave you with the MOST IMPORTANT news that Christians have heard:

  • Jesus, Son of God, was executed in the place of guilty sinners who are deprived of the means of coming to God and glorifying him by enjoying him (sin bars the way to commune with a holy God)
  • After dying, he was buried and came back to life 3 days later. His resurrection validated his prior public claims to BE God as well as demonstrated the truth of his announced purpose to live and die for helpless sinners. His punishment for our sins removed a holy God’s hostility toward men, opening the way to a happy father-child relationship.

Let’s put THAT news into our syllogism:

P1:  I can confidently trust and act on true news of future events

P2: Jesus’s substitutionary death for guilty sinners (as well as his substitutionary life perfectly pleasing to God and law-fulfilling) is a fact

C: Therefore, I can make decisions, both day-to-day and long term, counting on those facts.

Besides the outward impact on my life’s choices, the AFFECTIVE part is equally changed:

  • Picture the glee, delight and joy of the POW family as they make plans.  Mom is still a single parent juggling the demands of mothering, working and keeping house.  Those circumstances haven’t changed. But her whistle and glowing face point to a significant change.
  • Imagine Hannah’s attitude NOW when ‘the other wife’ with children mocks her. She still is slim and childless, but the taunting rolls off her back if she even notices it. She finds herself wanting to take in sufficient and healthy food to carry her future baby safely. Her mind is preoccupied with thoughts about the future.

And we who are Christians who trust and act on the news of what Jesus has done for us also live life differently, although we still might be suffering in today’s current circumstances.

What if we don’t EXPERIENCE joy or find ourselves meditating on meeting Jesus face to face?  What if we actually FEEL and ACT the same as our neighbor who has no certainty of this paradigm-shattering historical event?  Maybe it’s as simple as this: we haven’t been convinced what eyewitness testimony (the Gospel accounts in the New Testament) describes is true.

Remember, faith (or certainty about an unseen but true event) grows stronger by hearing reports again of what Jesus has done.

Truth DOES and should make a difference in our lives.

Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

 

One reason being a Christian makes me happy

16 Mar

Existential Qs

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Who am I?  
  • Is there any point to any of this?

Paul commended the Athenian thinkers of his day for looking into the important questions of life, the deep issues.  He observed that they were indeed following the hunger that God placed in all men, to know Him.  But they had arrived at some dead ends.  Paul started where their human reason had landed them and hooked their curiosity with this pronouncement:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God,and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for  ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.…  Acts 17:24-28a

Was their curiosity satisfied?  Yes and no. A few Athenians were able to SEE the truth, but most weren’t.  Why was that?  Were they not all smart, thinking, logical Joes and Janes?

I am the light of the world; the one who follows me will not walk in the shadows but that one will have the Light of the world.  John 8:12

I first heard someone explain who Jesus was and what He had done when I was 23.  That is when I ‘saw the light’ so to speak. At that point most of my existential questions began to be answered.  What caused me to see clearly and arrive at a true paradigm that explains those 3 questions at the beginning of this blog?  Nothing but the supernatural working of God ON me.  It happens like this for all those who treasure Jesus Christ:

  • No one can follow Jesus unless he can SEE Jesus (though invisible).
  • We can’t SEE who Jesus is until God flips on the immaterial light switch in our ‘heart’, that source of reason and imagination and will.
  • Once we ‘see’ this supernatural light, then we can ALSO ‘see’ by means of Jesus EVERYTHING else that’s ultimately or eternally important.

That Holy Spirit lightbulb moment happened for me when I was 23. As I have grown and learned to know who Jesus is in all his limitless dimensions, I have grown existentially happier and happier.  I now rest KNOWING the following:

  • The meaning of life – to know and let others know about the Triune God
  • Who I am – a RICHLY gifted and GREATLY loved, though underserving, child of God
  • What the point of life and this world is – for God to create a diverse family of human beings from across the ages who will enjoy Him by being satisfied by Him forever

Do I have the answers to all my questions?  Good heavens, NO!   But the major existential issues of life that every human grapples with and which each system of thought attempts to answer ARE settled.

And……I am free to SEE and to SAVOR the True, the Good and the Beautiful in this life that God has created.  As a dependent follower of Christ I have been given a mission to spread this good news of God’s love and purpose with others.

For all those reasons my heart IS happy, no matter how trying the day is or what suffering it brings.

When is an Evangelical Christian a Christian? – terms matter!

2 Mar

Define your terms

I’ve been stymied at the increasing reports of those ‘Evangelical Christians‘ who support Donald Trump.  How can that be?  Trump doesn’t represent anything Christian, whether beliefs or actions. How can I say that? Here’s one reason:  from what I’ve READ (I don’t watch TV so I am assuming the accuracy of the reports), Donald Trump has claimed never to have asked God to forgive him.  CNN article  He explains that when he has done something wrong, he has sought to make it right.

Being right with God is a different matter.  There is objective guilt against God when we sin.  Someone has to pay, either Donald Trump or Jesus.  Christians are those who (for one thing) have turned to Jesus and accepted him as the atoning sacrifice for their sins against God.  If Donald Trump has yet to do that, then he is not a Christian by definition.

Yesterday, Al Mohler, brought up and offered a fascinating reason that had a lot of explanatory power when it comes to describing Evangelical Christians.  He shared an important distinction within the broad category of Americans who either label themselves or are called ‘Evangelical Christian’ by pollsters, media and other institutions.

If we don’t begin by clarifying the explicit meaning of a concept (a term) then confusion ensues.  No need to proceed with a discussion if there is not a ‘coming to terms’ with what something means!

So here goes:

According to Mohler’s analysis, the pure sense of the term ‘Evangelical Christian’ revolves around:

  • doctrines (beliefs) held about the Bible  (evangelical has to do with the ‘eu-angelos’ which is Greek for ‘good message’. What is the good news?  the message that Jesus has borne FOR US our deserved punishment for crimes against God AND lived a perfect life, compliant with God’s Law).
  • values held and lived out
  • participation in a church community

Evangelical Christians are those who accept the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, who hold pro-life views and are active members of a body of Christian believers.

Those outside of those boundary lines but  who have been labeled or call themselves Evangelical seem to be loosely affiliated with a church that is:

  • NEITHER Catholic NOR mainline liberal
  • are culturally Christian, but not regularly practicing
  • self-identify as believing in God

Essentially, this finer distinction falls between authentic Christians and nominal Christians, those in name only.

When Mohler described these two groups, I understand better why Trump had so many supporters among this much larger group –  those labeled ‘Evangelical Christians’, but are so in name only.

What puzzles me, now, are those who truly ARE Evangelical Christians and yet still support Donald Trump, like Jerry Falwell, Jr – president of Liberty University.  What accounts for his choice? Any thoughts?

 

 

 

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.

Logic tools employed in real life

10 Feb

Fresh insights and knowledge for the grabbing!

Pick ax

The laws of logic direct our thinking and warn us of pitfalls to faulty reasoning.

But the ASSUMPTION is that one is willing actually to think. And that takes effort.

Reading a passage in the New Testament reminded me of the exhortation Paul gives to ‘think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.  2 Timothy 2:7

The tricky verse that challenged me to apply some careful reasoning finds itself in the middle of a passage from John’s letter, 1 John 5: 1-5. It says:

  1. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. 5. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Whew! There is a lot in those 5 verses but I want to linger and look at verse 3 (in red). Let’s park a while.

Parking

It pays to spend time looking at the words and actually SEEING what they communicate. Firstly I noticed,

  • God’s love = either the love that COMES from God (that He gives) or the love that is part of His nature, that is what I would call ‘God-like love’

Then I asked myself,

  • Which comes first – this love FROM/OF God or that we keep His commandments?

To answer that I went back and started with verse 1. Restating or distilling John’s thoughts, I jotted down some premises,

P1 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Christ are people who have been born of God. (also called ‘children of God’ in verse 2)

P2 – All people who love the Father are people who love the children of God.

P3 – All those who love the children of God are people who love God and obey (also phrased as ‘keep’) his commandments.

P4 – All love for/of/from God is the obeying God’s commands

P5 – No commands of God are burdensome (heavy or grievous in the Greek)

P6 – All people who have been born of God are people who overcome the world

(overcome in Greek = to prevail, get the victory, conquer)

P7 – All world-overcoming victory is our faith

(victory in Greek = means of success, of prevailing)

P8 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are people who overcome the world

Looking at P6 and P8 and relying on the Transitive Property of Equality whereby:

If A = B and B = C, then A = C

I think I can safely equate: All people who have been born of God with

All people who believe that Jesus is Son of God

And also with the first part of P1: All those who believe that Jesus is the Christ

 Going back over these verses, I got stuck on this question:

What causes us to love the Father?

It seems that the Apostle John ASSUMES that all those who believe that Jesus is the Christ/Jesus is the Son of God are ABLE to love both the Father AND other children of God.

What could be underlying that assumption? Looking down at P7, which states that faith is the key to overcome the world, it seems that when one is born of God, one is equipped with faith. Where do I get that?

Here’s P1 again:

P1 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Christ are people who have been born of God.

Look at the verbs I’ve underlined. The tenses are different. It’s clear that ‘being born of God’ comes first. And those who are born of God now can believe, that is they ‘have faith’.

And this ‘faith’ enables them to prevail against the world.

What goes along with ‘having faith’ then seems to imply one can obey or keep God’s commands, to include the VERY IMPORTANT directive to love others in the same family of God. And loving one’s siblings in God’s family = loving God.

**

Okay, so maybe I lost you in all that. But here is what I, Maria, gain from thinking through and wrestling with these verses in an orderly fashion, applying logical clear thinking:

Jesus said that the most important commands were

  1. Love God
  2. Love Others

Knowing me by nature, I can’t ‘gin’ up that kind of love on my own, based on my human nature.

What is reassuring is that knowing that I DO in fact believe that Jesus is God’s son guarantees that I have been born of God and that I am now equipped (it was a gift) with powerful faith that allows me to prevail over the lure of the world which preaches messages like:

  • You only live once, so carpe diem!
  • Complete your bucket list.
  • Pursue your passion
  • You deserve it

And instead of putting MY interests first, with the God’s gifts of strength and desire, I can love others, starting with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Without the faith that came as a gift, then I am sucked into that worldly, self-centered rat race.

I find this VERY good news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Do beliefs and knowledge differ?

23 Dec

Non-theistic person: – “Belief is different from knowledge.  Beliefs deal in faith and feelings and knowledge deals in facts and truth.”

 

Facts

Is this categorization by a typical atheist correct?  One often hears about the Fact/Feeling divide.  The assertion postulates that there are objective facts like:

  • Most climate change is man-made
  • Life begins when a fetus is viable outside of the womb

and there are subjective feelings like:

  • Parenting is my most important job

Some assumptions that often are embedded in this description of the way of the world are:

  1. Only facts are universals and can be determined to be true or false
  2. One shouldn’t argue over the subjective, for that lies in the realm of personal opinion and preference
  3. Beliefs and values are part of the subjective feeling realm
  4. Faith is a belief and needs to be private
  5. Facts are measurable and therefore indisputable

But those assumptions don’t always hold water.  Values and beliefs are wedded to facts and together the two undergird and guide ALL of our actions.  There is no clean divide or separation so that one can say, “These people’s actions are guided solely by facts, whereas those folks over there base their actions solely on beliefs.”

  • Let’s take origins.  If one starts from the position that only the material realm exists, that there is nothing transcendent, that is a statement of belief.  It takes FAITH to hold onto that viewpoint. It’s accepted a priori, not proven.
  • Consider climate change. For projections about the future, one must place faith in one’s assumptions that go into the computer model.
  • Turning to the belief in a personal, transcendent God. One must trust the reliability of the eyewitness accounts written in the Torah, that is the Old Testament if one is Jewish or the entire Bible if one is Christian or the Koran if one is Muslim.
  • Implementing an exercise program. A committed man or woman must value a more fit body AND place their faith in the specific details of the regimen to lead them to the promised results.

Logical Joes and Janes must not accept this False Dichotomy or separation. Reasonable (that is, supported by reasons) faith and values are based on facts that one holds to be true and reliable.  I put my faith in Jesus’ claims because I hold as a proven fact that His death and resurrection did take place in time and history.  Thus, the historical events prove His claim to be God is to be trusted.

Explanations and discussions take time.  Our sound-byte culture often doesn’t allow for more than quick assertive jabs.  Logical and careful argument building take time to craft and digest.  How about a campaign for SLOW THINKING à la organic and whole foods movement?

slow food

 

 

 

 

Trotting out the Credential

4 Nov

Sometimes when a person has no solid argument to back his viewpoint, he’ll invoke his status as member of a privileged elite.  Such credentials might be based on education or experience or one’s lofty position in an organization.

But those considerations should carry no weight, as they are irrelevant to one’s position or reasoning.

Here’s a comical example taken from the Book of John in the New Testament.  The set up is this:

  • consider the Pharisees, those ruling religious leaders trying to hold on to limited power granted them by the Roman occupiers
  • then there is Jesus, threatening the status quo with his unorthodox teaching and miracles
  • add to the mix the masses, growing more and more intrigued and swayed by this new rabbi

The Pharisees dispatch a posse of soldiers to arrest Jesus and bring him back to them for questioning.

Let’s pick up with the dialogue upon their return, empty-handed:

pharisees

The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?”  The officers answered,“No one ever spoke like this man!”  The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?  Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?  John 7: 45 -48

John doesn’t add their response, but I would have loved to be a fly on the wall back at army headquarters!

If we formulate a syllogism based on the Pharisees’ last question, we get this:

  • Premise 1 –  All (only) beliefs held by the Pharisees are valid and officially sanctioned beliefs
  • Premise 2 –  The belief that Jesus is special is not held by the Pharisees
  • Conclusion – Therefore, the belief that Jesus is special is NOT a valid, officially sanctioned belief

We need to be able to spot quickly, to sniff out the misuse of a credential to bolster a weak or non-existent argument

One clue that never fails to tip us off is when someone sidesteps the issue completely.  Of course there are many ways to do that, all of them Fallacies of Relevance.  Sometimes they work, however, as many a parent will attest.

(Why, Daddy?  Because I said so!)

Logical Gal asks: What ‘grounds’ or provides a rational basis for what we do?

19 Aug

I often argue with myself.  I split into two contrary views and dialogue back and forth in my thoughts.  Al Mohler prompted a recent mental workout.

Besides serving as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, this thinking and articulate man offers a daily worldview analysis about leading news headlines and cultural conversations.

The topic he picked up last week dealt with assisted suicide and euthanasia.  Turns out that the assumptions of secular society and those of Christians are completely different.  More and more countries are basing their policy decisions on the presupposition that we are in essence just ‘autonomous accidents’, whose dignity derives from this autonomy and the freedom to choose what WE decide is good for our human flourishing.

As I listened and discoursed internally, I asked this question: So what if a non-Christian government decides to permit suicide with dignity?  Should Christians ‘impose’ their Biblically based views on the wider culture?  Drawing a blank about how to begin thinking through this crucial issue, I recalled that the Apostle Paul explicitly addressed this matter in a letter to the Corinthian church:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church  whom you are to judge? 13 God judges  those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”  1 Corinthians 5:9-13

With his argument in view, my other side answered this ‘So what’ question:

William Wilburforce

  • What about Wilberforce?  This 19th-century Christian parliamentarian worked years in that British legislative body to end the slave trade.  Should he not have tried to influence government and society?
  • What about the issue of slavery in the US?  or 20th and 21st century legalized abortion? Should citizens not petition their representatives and try to work within the system to change laws?

But where do we look for grounding or fundamental guidance on how to interact with society outside of our church family? God evidently wanted to guide His children, so He provided the inspired Bible.  And in the book of Jeremiah, God through His prophet, specifically calls us to work for the good of those in our community:

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7

And lest we think that God only addresses Christians’ interactions with the wider society in the Old Testament, the New Testament ‘boils down’ the Christian’s ‘marching orders’ to two: Love God and Neighbor.

Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

So, after only a few minutes of rational debate within myself, I concluded that as Christian citizens and neighbors, God does call us to work for what honors God and helps our neighbor flourish as His image-bearer.

Martin Luther’s Beer Argument – Final Test

22 Jul

Martin Luther and beer

Last week we extrapolated and analyzed Luther’s premises to see if he had aligned them correctly into a valid chain argument or syllogism.

“Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”

 You can check out that ‘step one’ explanation and follow our reasoning on the post dated 15 July 2015.  We showed that indeed, this church reformer applied his logic equally well to the merits of beer.

With the validity of the argument confirmed, we turn next to verifying the truth of each premise.  For if an argument is both valid AND true, then we can admire the reasoning and say with some degree of awe, “That’s one ‘sound’, airtight argument!” (or, ‘I’ll drink to that!’)

Toasting Beer Glasses

In order to see more easily whether a premise is true or false, it’s best to write or ‘translate’ informal statements into their logical form.  A crucial step is to decide whether the subject pertains to ALL ‘members’ or just SOME.  Luther has used the pronoun ‘whoever‘.  That is a universal pronoun, so we replace it with ‘ALL’ without changing our former monk’s intentions.

P1 – All those who drink beer are those who are quick to sleep

P2 – All those who sleep long are those who do not sin

P3 – All those who do not sin are those who enter Heaven

C – Therefore, all people who drink beer are those who enter Heaven. 

Logical Joes and Janes know that if any of the premises of the syllogism are false, then there is a problem.  So let’s just start at the beginning with Premise 1.  Is it true that ‘all those who drink beer are quick to sleep’?  What do we have to do to test that statement?

Quite simply, if we can find ONE counterexample where that is not the case, where a beer drinker is not someone quick to sleep, then Premise 1 is false the way it is written. (to ‘fix’ it, changing it into a true statement, Luther would simply substitute the ‘particular’ quantifier of SOME for the ‘universal’ quantifier of ALL.)

I, for one, can drink one beer and not fall asleep quickly. The premise does not mention HOW MUCH beer Luther had in mind.  And there’s no point second-guessing him.  All we can go by is the premise as Martin Luther allegedly uttered or wrote it.

Therefore, just by a quick glance of the first premise, the syllogism breaks down.

We could have started with any of the premises, testing their truthfulness. Take, for example, Premise 3 that ‘all those who do not sin are those who enter heaven.‘ From everything else Martin Luther wrote, I know for a fact that he did not believe that statement himself.  For he was a Biblically-based theologian.  And the Bible does not teach that one must be perfect to enter heaven.  No one is perfect. Those who are welcomed into heaven are those for whom Jesus died as a substitute, who have renounced their rebellion and gratefully accepted the gift of forgiveness.

Surrender to Jesus

That’s it! We have finished our analysis – quickly, too. Do you see how easy it is to determine the truthfulness of an argument just by taking a careful look at one premise? Looking over this exercise of taking seriously what Luther surely meant in jest, we have reviewed that a sound argument has two parts.  It must be correctly formed (that is: ‘VALID’) as well as formulated with true premises.

Practice yourself, especially in this season of much political and cultural rhetoric, where little clear and reasoned thinking is evident.