Thinking


Materialists will tell you they don’t believe anything other than the material world exists, but seem oblivious to the fact that propositions – such as the proposition that only the material world exists – are not material.  That means materialism is falsified the moment you think about it. Pun intended.

God of GapsI’ve noticed that many nonbelievers (and even believers) misunderstand what constitutes a “God of the gaps” argument.  They tend to think one is guilty of a God of the gaps argument if they offer God as an explanation for some X rather than some natural phenomenon.  The problem with this definition is that it presumes the only valid explanation is a naturalistic explanation.  God is ruled out as a valid explanation for anything a priori, so anyone who offers God as an explanation for X is thought to do so merely because they are ignorant of the proper naturalistic explanation.  This begs the question in favor of naturalism and against theism.  One could only conclude that every effect has a naturalistic explanation, and that God is not a valid explanation, if one has first demonstrated that God does not exist.  So long as it is even possible that God exists, then it is possible that God may be the cause of X, and thus explain X.

What makes an argument a God of the gaps type of argument is when God is invoked to explain X simply because we do not know what else can explain X.  In other words, God is used to plug a gap in our knowledge of naturalistic explanations: “I don’t know how to explain X, so God must have done X.”  This is not at all the same as arguing that God is the best explanation of X, based on what we know regarding X and the explanatory options available to us.  Here, God is being invoked to explain what we know, not what we don’t know.

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overheadIf what’s being taught in church goes over your head, it’s either the fault of the speaker or our own. If the speaker is not communicating complicated concepts in ways that are understandable to the uninitiated, then shame on him. But if he has done his due diligence to make it as understandable as possible, but we give up on the message simply because it is unfamiliar to us, then shame on us.

The solution to the problem of things going over our head may not be for the messenger to dumb down the message, but for us to do our due diligence to raise our heads higher. Let’s raise the bar intellectually. Discipleship requires that we move on from milk to solid meat. We cannot rehearse our spiritual ABCs year after year and think we’ll ever grown in the Lord. We need to challenge ourselves theologically and intellectually to become better disciples of Jesus. So raise your heads high, and so far as it is within your power, do not let another message go over your head.

Like spilled milk, it only takes a few seconds to spew utter nonsense from one’s mouth. Clean up, however, takes much more time.

In a sound bite culture like ours, most people don’t have the patience or interest to listen to the evidence and follow the logic of a rebuttal, and thus nonsense passes for common sense.

Most discussions of religion entail foregone conclusions in search of anything resembling justification.  The goal of the participants is not to discover truth, but to leave the conversation with the same beliefs they came with.  We can do better.  Our beliefs should be properly justified – not just asserted based on what we would like to be true – and our desire for truth must outweigh our desire to be right.

“I don’t think, I know.”  We’ve all heard this, and most of us have probably uttered this phrase ourselves a time or two.  But when you think about it (no pun intended), this phrase represents a misuse of language.  It sets up a contrast between thinking and knowing, wherein “thinking” denotes uncertainty and “knowing” denotes certainty.  While this may reflect a popular connotation of these words, denotatively speaking, neither has anything to do with certainty.

“Think” is a description of what the mind does.  It describes the mind’s activity.  Knowledge is “justified, true belief.”  Certainty is not part of the definition, and thus certainty is not required for knowledge.  To know something only requires that we have adequate justification.

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think more feel lessToo many people in our day think with their feelings.  “Feeling-speak” is so pervasive in our culture that the vast majority of us talk about what we think in terms of what we feel.  For example, one might say “I feel that Christianity is true” rather than “I think Christianity is true.”  Feelings are wholly subjective and have no truth value – they cannot be true or false.  They just describe our psychological dispositions.  Thoughts, however, do have truth value.  They purport to describe reality, and the description is either true or false.

Since our ideas and beliefs have truth value, let’s be intentional about speaking in terms of what we think rather than what we feel.

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