Tag Archives: Terms

Logical Gal and the ‘good’ life

6 Aug

Good Life - Rob Lowe Cigar Aficionado  “Good” – Once again we bump up against the importance of clarity in our language.

Rob Lowe, apparently, exemplifies someone enjoying ‘the good life’.  To wit, ‘Cigar Aficionado‘  even has a regular feature by that name. Just what IS the ‘good life’?   And what is meant by ‘good’?   The word good is one of those equivocal  terms that refer to different concepts.  The differences in meaning and usage range from-

  • the moral good – John always does what is good in the eyes of God
  • the effective good – This device is good for opening cans
  • the expedient good – What good timing, that John arrived in time to take the children home
  • the good player – John is good at tennis – skilled in a sport
  • the pleasing good – Your dinner tastes good;  the photo is a good representation of me
  • the thoughtful good – It was good of you to stop by with my mail

“Yes, well….what’s the big deal?” you say.  Good question!  (in this case, good means ‘appropriate’). The rub is the time one needs to clarify meaning.   Making distinctions takes time. It’s much easier for person A to be sloppy with terms or accuse person B of a contradiction or even portray person B’s view by means of a strawman fallacy.  (Distorting someone’s argument so you can knock it) Strawman Fallacy

I heard such an exchange the other day when a young Christian man announced that God had contradicted himself, citing several places in the Bible where God claims to show NO partiality:

  • For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. (Deut 10:17)
  • ...because God does not show partiality. (Rom 2:11)

Yet, (the young man continued), God also says that He chooses some to love and some to hate.

  • Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. (Rom 9:13)

Perceptive young man, he was, but the key to unraveling a seeming contradiction was to clarify the term PARTIALITY. Fortunately for me (and the young man), the pastor reassuring us that there was NO contradiction was John Piper.  He clearly explained that partiality was discrimination based on irrelevant considerations.

For example, if I am hiring the most qualified person to teach French, but overlook someone’s clear lack of abilities and experience because her mother  is my friend, or due to her skill in baking goodies for the teachers’ lounge or because she and I both happened to be  born in Atlanta, then I am WRONGLY showing partiality.

But if God chooses people on whom to show His favor according to HIS wise and good criteria as opposed to how the world judges what is appropriate, then we can still say with assurance that God does not show favoritism.

Just look at how God saves people from every kind of :

  • social strata and
  • people group and
  • age bracket and
  • income level

..and people with differing levels of education and aptitudes and experiences

…and regardless of the crimes they have committed or societal good they have done

These examples surely point to the FACT that God IS impartial.

What good news for you and me.  All we have to do is act on His encouragement….

  • “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22)

Jesus knocking at the door

Do you see the importance of taking the time to exercise correct thinking?  Deliberately parsing out meaning from the different distinctions is WORTH the energy.

Question: What is a seeming contradiction that the ‘world’ tends to showcase, whether in  the political, spiritual or educational arenas? 

Logical Gal – speaking causes confusion

26 Jul

confused

Words are meant to clarify….often they confuse or divide!

Last time we mentioned that even the name/personage of Jesus was unclear by itself.  Saying you rely on Jesus doesn’t communicate who this Jesus is. Is he the Mormon Jesus or the Muslim Jesus or in fact the Biblical Jesus of Christianity?

This shouldn’t surprise us.  My husband Michael is completely different from any of a number of other Michaels in the world.

So the existence of more than one concept called ‘pray’ should come as no shock.

Early in my logic learning I vowed to practice ASKING questions before MAKING my points.  One afternoon I was enjoying a massage.  The gal who was working out six months worth of knots in my neck mentioned that her mom was undergoing surgery and that she was ‘praying’ for her recovery.  My first thought was:

  • Is she actually a Christian?  After all, she just admitted that she prayed!

Praying gal

When I asked her just what praying entailed, she described:

  • sending loving, healing thoughts through the air all the way to her mom in California

Good thing I asked what she meant!  Her clarification opened up a safe place for me to describe what I do when I pray.  I explained  how I make my request to the One who has created the entire universe and now sustains it.  I ask Him to heal a loved one because I know that He is real, alive and present as well as the powerful God of love.  She didn’t say much in return, but at least she HEARD a description of theistic prayer. I didn’t explain the gospel or say anything about Jesus. My goal was modest: to make the distinction between ‘new-agey’ practices and prayer to a real deity.

*

Unfortunately, I am NOT consistent in carrying out my resolve first to ask questions! I still succumb to my desire to make my point before I understand someone’s position.  It’s not only senseless on my part, but often a waste of time. Many times I am wrong in my assumptions drawn from someone’s cursory statement about their position on a topic. Why do I rush to get my ‘voice in edgewise’?  Probably because I’m impressed with my thinking!

Pride goes before a fall!

 

Question: When were you last wrong in your assessment of someone’s view?

 

Logical Gal asks: Will you go to heaven?

22 Jul

Eternal Life

God does NOT want you to be in the dark about whether you will be with Him eternally.

John writes this assurance  to believers :

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Well, is that it? Do you feel better now?

Wait a moment, you say.

John’s statement IS a powerful promise IF….

  • We clarify some key terms – ‘believe’ and ‘the name of the Son of God’
  • We flesh out the promise, by formulating a syllogism

Just the basics of logic, right?

So what does ‘believe’ mean when it comes to Christianity?  If we substitute the word ‘trust and rely on‘ for believe, we come closer to the sense of the concept.  A Christian is someone who trusts what Jesus says, Jesus being in essence God himself. (I and the Father are one – John 10:30)

What did Jesus say?  that He came to suffer the punishment we deserve for our rebellion against God and that He came to live a perfect, obedient life which gets credited to the account of His true followers.  It’s an unbelievable 2-way exchange.  Our guilt for His righteousness. Both sides of that swap ARE the necessary work that enable us to be adopted as children of God.

Name of Son of God

Now what about His name?  That’s easier to understand.  The name represents His character and functions.  Just glance at the image above and you’ll get an idea of just WHOM it is that Christians trust and rely on!  So when someone announces,  “I believe in Jesus!” one should ask this question: Whom actually are you talking about?

Mormons refer to a Jesus who is the spirit-brother of Lucifer and was born the way you and I were born, through a sexual union.

And then there are Muslims who deny that Jesus is the Son of God or that He actually died on the cross.

Those characterizations do not fit the Christian Jesus, the eternal and perfect Son of God. Words, obviously,  can mask a great deal.

*Now for a syllogism to lead us to an assurance of salvation:

Premise 1: All people who trust and rely on the Biblical Jesus for both standing in as deserved punishment bearer AND for living a perfectly righteous life receive eternal life with God

Premise 2: Joe is a person who trusts and relies on the Biblical Jesus for…..

Conclusion: Therefore, Joe knows/is certain that he has eternal life with God

Is that it?  Well, there is a pre-supposition lurking and these are always good to uncover in ANY argument.

Gods word is truth

Yes, one must believe that what is written in the Bible IS truth.  So then the promise as recorded by the apostle John at the beginning of this blog post is reliable and valid.

Just a word of encouragement for you if you are a believer who at times doubts his or her ultimate salvation.  We can’t go by feelings OR our behavior.  The Bible does not say, “If  you FEEL close to God, or if you DO all that God wants you to do, you will go to heaven.”

Remember, there is a spiritual force of darkness whose goal it is to deprive you of  KNOWING you are saved.  He is called the Father of Lies and the Accuser.  We must choose whom to listen to.

Question: If you are a Christian, what is holding you back from resting in the security of belonging to God?

 

 

 

Logical Gal and how contrasts help

3 Jul

contrast

How to understand a new concept – that is the question!

I heard a writer say that drawing CONTRASTS brings CLARITY.

This resonated with me, because intuitively I’ve picked up seeking contrast.  Living with a mathematical and analytical kind of guy exposes me to many new concepts I would probably avoid if I could!  So when Michael attempts to explain something like ‘standard deviation’  I have NO framework at all on which to hang this new idea.  My first question in all these kinds of conversations tends to be like the following:

  • ‘standard’ deviation as opposed to what? non-standard deviation?  and is there standard ‘pattern-following‘ as opposed to standard ‘deviation’?

Those 2 questions probably sound lame, but I’m trying to fill in the blanks and mostly all is blank when I have no idea what he’s talking about.

Knowing what something is NOT establishes boundaries.  And boundaries help the mind’s eye.

boundary lines

Back to those standard deviations…..I found out that the contrast to ‘standard’ deviation was ‘absolute’ deviation.  And that ‘deviation’ refers to the spread among gathered information in a group or set of data points.

What FURTHER brought clarity was not just this CONTRASTing information, but how standard deviations could be used. Never mind how one calculates it, but the information gained from determining the SD is satisfyingly useful, even to me, Miss Non-Analytical.

One quick example: if you record your daily weight for a month and calculate the standard deviation of all your numbers (or let the spread sheet do it for you!), you  learn that 95 % of your daily recorded weights will fall within the boundary or limits of the average weight (they call it the mean)  plus or minus 2 standard deviations.  That’s the green area under the red curved line below.

standard deviations - 2

So….???  The way this is helpful is that if I step on the scale after a big meal eating out and my weight is NOT within the green area, I can say to myself:

  • Self – don’t worry.  This is just an outlier, not your norm.  Give it a day or 2 and your weight will be back in the green.  No cause to panic!

Who would have thought that an analytical concept could bring some degree of peace of mind?  Now what else have I missed?

Question:  what do you do to begin to understand or grasp a new concept?  What questions do you ask?

 

 

Logical Gal tracks down meaning for ‘immanence’

16 Jun

Talk about confusing!!

Trying to digest different philosophical views of God and suffering, I came across a reference to ‘the immanent frame of our culture’.  And I had NO idea what that meant!

Building Blocks

You know by now the importance of clarifying terms.  So I looked up ‘immanence’. First I learned (or was reminded) that we should NOT be confused with ‘imminence’ with a middle “I” which means impending or immediate.  Second, I read that ’eminence’  with an initial “E” is yet a different concept as found in titles for certain Catholic officials.

But where matters REALLY got loopy was that depending on which metaphysical camp you choose, you could be thinking of two different properties or attributes when claiming ‘God is immanent’ .

If you consider yourself to be ‘spiritual’, you might say: ” Yes, God is immanent” and you would be referring to your personal divine experience of God.  And God would be whatever you describe him/her/it to be, as the below book cover suggests:

Immanence per Humanists

Many ‘modern-day’ thinkers consider God to be immanent.  And they are referring to what retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong of New Jersey writes is just our own experience of God:

I seek to escape the theistic definition of God as an external being, supernatural in power, who invades our world periodically in miraculous ways. That definition of God simply no longer translates to a post- Galilean, post-Newtonian and a post-Darwinian world. Indeed, I think human beings should give up their almost idolatrous attempt to define God at all. We can experience God, but we cannot define God. So most religious God talk is nonsensical. (from his Facebook page , dated 16 May 2013)

And as quoted by recently deceased UVa alum John Morris (Law ’48), Spong allegedly wrote: ” God, to me, is a call to live fully, to love wastefully and to be all that I can be.”

But Biblical Christians mean something entirely different when they extol the immanence of God.

Immanence per Christians

They believe that God, though immaterial by essence, at one time in history DID ‘invade’ our world and walked among us as Jesus from Nazareth.  And God IS present now, inside those who are His followers, in the form of immaterial, invisible Holy Spirit.

Remember – just because something is immaterial (not measurable by our 5 senses) does NOT mean it is UNREAL.  You can’t touch or measure memories or love or covetousness or gravity.  But you can see the effect of these real but invisible ‘things’.

All this underscores how important it is to invest the time to clarify terms.  I’m beginning to realize that the simple question:  What do you mean by X? will do more good in the discussion that might follow, then jumping in to state or question assertions.

Just because someone uses the same term as you does NOT guarantee that they have in mind the exact same concept.

Question: What are some of those equivocal terms you encounter during your reading or discussions? Phrases like ‘saved by grace’  or ‘heaven‘ or ‘prayer‘ or  even ‘homework‘  can refer to entities that are poles apart in the minds of two people.

Logical Gal and featherless bipeds

28 May

Apparently Plato defined man as a ‘featherless biped’. 

Featherless biped

And ever since, philosophers have used his wording as an example of a poor definition.  The photo proves the point!

But there is another consideration. Is the phrase ‘featherless biped’ a description or a definition?  And what is the difference?

A definition is actually the technical evaluation of a term  (called the definiendum) that includes the definiens or the cluster of words used to set out clearly what the speaker or writer means.  An adequate definition :

  • will refrain from using the term being defined  – as in  ‘a human is an animal which has a human parents’
  • will employ a genus and a differentia  – a fork is an eating utensil (genus) that has prongs to spear food (differentia)  Think of genus as the family of items and the differentia as the distinguishing characteristics of each member.  So a spoon would belong to the genus of  eating utensil, and its differentia could be this- bowl-shaped on one side to scoop up liquids or soft food.
  • will be mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive – both considerations work to PIN DOWN PRECISELY what is meant, thereby avoiding both a situation where ‘family members’ could be assigned to more than one group (NOT mutually exclusive) OR a situation where a ‘family member’ has been left out (in this case the definition would NOT meet the requirement of being jointly exhaustive)

 

  • Precision
  • will avoid negative language,  metaphors and  vague or cumbersome language meant to obfuscate the meaning
  • will focus on what is essential to the concept

So a human being as defined by one on-line dictionary offers this:

Thinking and Talking Humans

“A man, woman or child of the species Homo Sapiens distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.”

In assessing what makes for a good definition, the attribute that comes to mind is ‘functional’, as in What’s THAT for? 

So how do descriptions differ from definitions?

A simple way to look at a description is to see it as merely one aspect or representation of a concept.  Attention is NOT given to meeting all the above requirements of a ‘good’ definition:   Think SINGLE-orbed v. FULLY-orbed.

For example, one might ‘DESCRIBE’  a musician as someone who enjoys performing  vocal or instrumental sounds.  That is just one venue for musicians.

musicians

 

So why are definitions and descriptions important? Because they can either further, facilitate or hinder understanding.  I witnessed this Saturday during a debate between an atheist and a Christian.  They were at odds with each other over the definition or description of the term FAITH!

  • The atheist, Peter Boghossian, advanced a definition of faith as believing something for which you have no evidence.
  • The Christian, Tim McGrew, pushed back and said that the Oxford English Dictionary describes/defines faith as trust warranted by a certain degree of evidence.

Evidence

I want all you Logical Joes and Janes to know that these 2 men spent about 20 minutes going round and round arguing over which definition the majority of people subscribe to.  Definition of terms IS the beginning of all debate and discussion.  And if no agreement is reached, the discussion that might ensue will be very frustrating!

Question:  Where have you encountered such confusion or disagreement over terms?

 

 

Logical Gal and what is ‘necessarily true’

20 May

Have you ever heard of a proposition or definition of a term being ‘necessarily true‘?

That, my dear logical friend, is what we call an analytical definition.

True

Here are a few terms that HAVE to be this way in order to avoid a contradiction within themselves.

  • All bachelors are unmarried
  • All husbands are married
  • All squares are 4-sided figures

Immanuel Kant named the kind of proposition that does not have to be true  – SYNTHETIC.

His example was:  All husbands are unhappy

Unhappy husband

Jokes aside, by definition a husband doesn’t have to be unhappy!

**

When I heard analytical propositions being discussed recently, I called to mind one of the arguments for the existence of God.  It’s referred to as the Ontological argument, or one about necessary being.

Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas was one of the earliest thinkers to talk about God ‘necessarily’ existing:

From a primer on Philosophy

Boiling it down he asserts that by definition (like our analytical statements), God is that supernatural being that HAS to exist.  It would be impossible for him NOT to exist, if He/It is God.  Imagine a being beyond which you cannot fathom, one that is:

  • all powerful
  • all good
  • all knowing
  • all loving
  • all giving
  • present everywhere at all times

That, my friends, is God by definition.  If he/it is not all those attributes, then we’re not talking about ‘God’.

Kinda blows your mind, doesn’t it!

Mind Boggling

This ‘ontological’ argument for God is one of 4 current ways of arguing for the existence of God.  We’ll look at the others later on this week!

 

But for now:  What OTHER proposition can you share that is by definition NECESSARY?

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal – who’s to judge?

16 May

Beware of facile slogans that slip off the tongue!

They say that the most oft-quoted Bible verse in America is “Judge not, lest ye be judged!” (Matt 7:1)

judge not

 

But is that ALL the Bible says?  How does a Logical Gal or Guy think about this?  What questions would he or she ask?

First of all, we need to look at not just ONE Bible verse, but others, to see if one or more concepts might be in question.  If the term is the same but the concept is different, then a fallacy might be lurking!

Just a few verses further along from that famous one-liner is this instruction about judging: ” You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and THEN you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:5)  That sure sounds like we ARE to judge, once we get ourselves squared away.

Not only is there an appropriate time to judge, we are actually exhorted TO judge and given a standard.  Consider THIS verse, also from the Bible –Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. (John 7:24) 

There is also this command: The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” (1 Cor 2:15) 

Judge righteously

There is one group of people whom God commends for being skeptical and judging BY the standards of the Bible.  They practiced discernment, a form of judgment.  They did not take what they heard at face value, but ‘judged’ rightly.  These men and women were the Bereans. (Acts 17:11) They listened to  new teachings and judged or filtered them by God’s grid of righteousness.  They WERE judgmental and were held up as an example for us to emulate.  They would have told Paul to his face, courteously but directly, that he was WRONG had his teaching NOT lined up with the Bible.  That’s being pretty ‘judgmental’ by today’s shallow standards.

Bereans

So the next time someone tosses in your face that bit of trite bumper sticker ‘wisdom’ about judging, just ask them politely: Why?   and then wait for them to fill the airspace.  And if they say, “Because it’s WRONG to judge!”  Ask them “Who says?”  and then be prepared to show them what Jesus taught!

Logical Gal and Smoke and Mirrors

14 May

confusing words

 

I was listening to a civil discussion between two  Christian pastors on opposite ends of the Evangelical camp.  Here was what was puzzling:

Both men used the following terms:

  • Biblical
  • Authoritative
  • Christ-centered

Yet…there was a mile-wide divide between their positions. Wouldn’t you think that Christians, or any group for that matter , would employ terms to refer to the same concepts?  Well, you cannot assume that.  If the terms (words) are the same, but point to concepts that are completely different, that is called the Fallacy of Equivocation.

It’s like one person using the word ‘pitcher’ to indicate a beverage container and another person thinking of the player who lobs a baseball.

Pitcher - baseball Pitcher of lemonade

**

Another area of discussion that offers plenty of room for confusion is in the arena of denominational doctrine:

When certain Christians assert that one is saved by grace, other groups will agree.  Only by shining light on the shadowy areas, can you see that the method of being saved is different for each.  The one group will mean grace alone and the other group will intend grace as the initial factor leading to one’s ability to choose God or accomplish necessary works to be worthy of salvation.

 

grace alone

Logical Joes and Janes are committed to clarity of terms and asking clarifying questions with gentleness and respect.

 

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal & the ‘stuff’ of luck and chance

28 Apr

luck

In French, to wish someone good luck, one says, “Bonne chance!”

But what ARE luck or chance?  They are actually descriptive words of what we think are uncontrolled, random outcomes. When we view the circumstances as favorable, we call that GOOD LUCK.  Contrariwise, awful events are considered BAD LUCK.

I used to wish student athletes headed off to a baseball or soccer game a cheery “Good luck!”   And they would reply with an enthusiastic ‘thanks’ and head out the door, or down the hall.  But once I became a Logical Gal, I began to think about my words in a more careful manner.  Just what was I hoping would guide the outcome of this player and his or her efforts? What WAS chance /luck, after all?  When students are about to sit for the SAT exam or semester finals, what do we mean by wishing them ‘good luck’?  Is it just a way of SEEMING to care?

Good luck on your exams

As it turns out, they are NO THING!  Chance and luck are just descriptive words.  They have NO ontological being-ness. They are truly nothing at all!  They have no power, no abilities, no force they can exert.  It is easy to see that they have no material properties.  And in a similar manner, they have no immaterial characteristics, either!  On the other hand, my immaterial mind CAN exert an immaterial influence over my fingers to press on the computer keys in a certain way.  Can chance do that?

This idea of luck being what determines outcomes is pervasive in our Western Society.  But don’t think the East is exempt from fantasy thinking!  They play with the idea of Karma. You get what you deserve!  What a horrid and frightening thought!  I deserve a whole hell of a lot of bad stuff.  God forbid He should repay me what I owe!

Question:  If you have already advanced past this superstitious social courtesy from pagan days of yore, what have you found to substitute as a way of send off before a trying event?  I’m using the French exhortation: Bon Courage!

bon courage