Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How do we know if something true or a lie?

Thanks to Roxanne Richle, who's asked "How do you tell if something is true or a lie. How do you know who to believe?" ... I did some mental gymnastics.

We usually say something is true when a statement or notion corresponds to reality or fact. The difficulty comes from not having a good enough perspective or place to stand to see reality or have insight on "brute facts". And this causes confusion. So many people doubt the knowability of truth. This is an issue of epistemology, (how we know what what we know). So how can we know reality? As Christians, we turn to God to help us understand reality. God's message to us starts by talking about the creation of an objective reality...the visible universe. But he also reveals to us the invisible or unseen reality which because of our faith, we believe is true. And then of course, because God created the objective reality, we believe that observing the universe (the domain of science) can tell us a lot of about truth (of course imperfectly) because God created universe around us and so what we see speaks of a true reality. We postulate that what we see is connected to reality and then spend a life time confirming that postulate. So God's revelation through his word and his revelation through his creation, help us to know and understand reality. And thus we can discern what is true. Now, another rub comes, when we try to communicate to people who don't believe neither in God nor the knowabliltiy or existence of reality or nature of reality. Many people believe that each of us creates our own reality. Thus we each have our own version of the truth. And while this has some validity, we can never be so arrogant to say the we create our own reality. And thus, each person cannot have their private truth. Daniel Patrick Moynahan once said, 'Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Only God is entitled to his own facts. And the more we seek the facts of God, the better we are at determining truth.

Having said all that...knowing what is true and what is not true, takes a lot of sweat and time. Reality (like time and Ogres) is like an onion... it has layers.

Then, once we have a handle on truth, then we can start deciding who to believe. But, again, that takes sweat and time...which most of us don't really want to give. And therefore, we must be content to not always knowing the truth nor who to believe. That is whether living "tentatively" in faith is really helpful.

My father in law once said, "Most people don't know what they're talkng about." A great truth!

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Why Pray if God Knows Best?

“‘Praying for particular things,’ said I, ‘always seems to me like advising God how to run the world. Wouldn’t it be wiser to assume that He knows best?’ ‘On the same principle,’ said he, ‘I suppose you never ask a man next to you to pass the salt, because God knows best whether you ought to have salt or not. And I suppose you never take an umbrella, because God knows best whether you ought to be wet or dry.’ ‘That’s quite different,’ I protested. ‘I don’t see why,’ said he. ‘The odd thing is that He should let us influence the course of events at all. But since He lets us do it in one way I don’t see why He shouldn’t let us do it in the other.’” (C.S. Lewis- God in the Dock, “Scraps,” para. 4.)

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Danger of Being One-sided

One the the things I see widely on Facebook is that people who are passionate about politics and speak out about it, seem to be doing so from a very one-sided perspective. The means that those are are commenting about issues are only reading and listening to people the agree with them.  To be well-informed, one needs to read and listen to people on all sides of the issues as well as all positions in politics be they right, center or left. Only then can we keep the wool from being pulled over our eyes by ideologues (like talk show hosts and syndicated columnists) who make their money by catering to the certain base of people with a certain base of belief.

This is how good biblical exegesis is done. You look at the full-view of writers down through history when seeking views of how a passage should be interpreted. The helps the interpreter deal with his or her own bias. Ultimately of course, good biblical exegesis allows the the text to speak and the meaning is established by the intention of the text (which was inspired by God and therefore we seek God's original intention). But lots of very bad biblical interpretation happens when we don't deal with our own bias. So reading and studying widely is important. It is the same when interpreting the times.

As I continue to read through Eric Metaxas' book "Bonhoeffer" I'm struck by how Hitler used one-sided, single perspective information to to control the hearts and minds of the people he got to follow him. That is the danger of only listening to one side or our favorite commentators. We get very polarized information. Now it's easier to only listen to people who believe like us. But it is ultimately dangerous. That's why I try to read very widely and not let others make my decisions for me. That's why I don't stop with people like Mark Levin (who says some very interesting things) and other radio commentators. He is convinced he is right and he wants you to be convinced he is right. But do we do the hard work of fact checking his pronouncements? Do we try to get to the other side of what he is saying as a check on his own bias?

In interpreting the times and interpreting the Bible, the only way to not have the wool pulled over our eyes is to be vigilant not to be one-sided in our research. Only then can we ask enough questions to arrive at a proper interpretation of both.

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Thursday, September 05, 2013

Our Own Point of View

"Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to 
depend greatly on our own point of view. - 0bi-wan

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Praying for God

Recently a young friend wrote me and asked for my thoughts. Here is what she said...

Hi Paul!

I've been pondering something lately and wanted to hear your thoughts on it. You have a great knowledge of the gospel and I respect, and am interested in, your gospel-related thoughts and ideas.

I was out for a run the other day, and my mind started to wander (running time is great thinking time for me). As I ran I realized that I do something kind of strange. Then I wondered does it even make sense? Am I confused about prayer? Or is it maybe not so strange and abnormal after all?

Sometimes when I pray I don't just pray *to* God, but I pray *for* Him. As I ran I wondered if others do this, or if it's a silly act to pray for an omnipotent God. I need Him, and I know that he loves having a relationship with me, and is happy to hear my prayers and worship, but does he need me to pray for him? I highly doubt it. I mean, I know that he doesn't *need* it, but does it make a difference?

I don't feel that I'm wasting my time. No time spent praying is wasted time, but I wonder if he just smiles and thinks "what a silly girl!" I've decided to assume that he just sees it as an act of love (like how I'd pray for my earthly father). I'm curious to hear what you think though.

(name withheld)

And here is what I said back...

Dear ...

I really enjoyed reading your story about running and praying for God. I got a good chuckle out of it. I'll admit that you are the first person that ever told me that they prayed for God. It's funny because if God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent (everywhere at once) as well is, love, good, changeless, perfect, holy and more, then it would seem that God doesn't need praying for. As well, who do you pray to when you're praying for God. But since we pray for others whom we love, I'm pretty sure that God takes your prayer for him as a high compliment.

No, God doesn't need us to pray for him. God doesn't need or lack anything. Since God is Father, Son and Spirit loving each other, then they have each other's love. I think God probably has a chuckle when he hears you praying for him. But if you love God, that is what counts. I don't think he'll hold it against you.

The only think that I would caution you on, is that if you happen to be praying for God because you think he needs it or he is lacking something or is somehow imperfect, then, I would examine who I though God was.

Thanks so much for making my day with you story of praying for God! Catch you again.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Science And Scripture

Recently I saw some posts on Facebook where two people where vigorously debated the age of the Earth. One, evidently a (young-earth, Creation Science) Christian, contended that the Earth was 10,000 years old while the other, a science teacher, 4.3 million.  I decided to add my two cents worth.  "John," the science teacher said, "Did time begin when it was first invented and recorded by man? I would still say the cave paintings prove modern man is 50,000 years old, evolved over 250,000 years...Time being the same as is used today. And the planet is 4.3 billion years old in this theory that I would teach in a classroom, what you consider in a church is your faith."  This is where I jumped in with what follows, it because I wanted to address John's contention that science and faith are different and can't be reconciled.  Here is what I said...

John, you're on safe ground.  As Gallileo quoted, "The Bible is about how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."  The Bible was written before "science" existed.  God in his providence let Christians like Copernicus, Bacon, Kepler, Gallileo, Newton, etc, who believed that God created the universe, be at the forefront of modern western science.  They believed that through observing the visible universe, they could comprehend and understand what they observed.  They were under the conviction that a good God created it in an orderly way as evidenced by Genesis and therefore it is understandable and coherent.  It is this empirical method that has guided scientists ever since.  So the results we have today in modern science are not at various with how God's intends us to understand his creation.  Rather they are descriptive.  Of course, some of the findings of Science do need to be held tentatively, just like Marty's convictions and understanding of astro-physics. Unfortunately there are many well-meaning Christians who demand a literal reading of Genesis, and make it correspond directly to what it describes.  Instead of the literary account that it is, they make it a direct historical account. But a close reading of Genesis shows that it has subtle literary features that tip us off to its real nature. 

I contend that the very reason we can understand what we see around us, and that there is even the possibility of a “grand unified theory” is because "In the beginning, God created..."  That the processes are so uniform and enduring, speak of a God who brought order out of "chaos."  I suspect that if "chaos" were the primary “orderer” of the universe, there would only be chaos.  Even those who do "chaos theory" try to show that order comes from chaos. But they've not really figured out how, but just that is does. 

Faith is not in conflict reason or science.  We just need to bring together God's General Revelation (the created universe) and God's Special Revelation (God's Word, the Bible) and let each inform the other.  This is what Gallileo did and he got it right.  It was the medieval church of the time that got it wrong because they did not let what was being discovered about the universe, inform their reading of the Bible.  That is why they could not accept that the Sun and not the Earth was the center of the solar system.  Gallileo believed in two great books, the book of nature and the book of the Bible. That is why he got it right when he challenged the accepted wisdom of his day that the Earth was the center of the universe.  Unfortunately, many well-meaning Christians do the same thing that the medieval church did in not letting science inform their reading of the Bible and vice versa. 

Science has a bright future in spite of the frustrations, and dead-ends, seeming inconsistencies, particles that can exist in two places at once, etc .  Christians have nothing to worry about from good honest scientists, because what they discover- ultimately, when all is said and done, will not be in contradiction to the God that made the universe. Scientists should never lose heart and give up, because a good God made the universe in a coherent way that we can ultimately understand!  

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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Problem with Blasphemy Laws

Morsi’s Sharia Justice: Death Penalties for Expatriate “Innocence of Muslims”

Blasphemy Laws that are being called for by some Muslims are not a good idea. Non-muslims blaspheme Mohamed by denying he's a true prophet. Non-Christians, blaspheme Jesus by denying that he is truly God. A better plan is for us to love one another, respect each other and agree to disagree.