God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

Monday, July 29, 2019

Should Public Schools Promote "In God We Trust"?

Introduction

"In God We Trust" has increasingly become a debated motto for Americans as the country becomes more secularized. However, in recent days, the State of South Dakota passed a law stating that all public schools must prominently display that motto on their campuses. Many will challenge the constitutionality and wisdom of such a law while others will debate the practicality of it (such as money to fund the creation of the displays). Neither of those is the focus of this post, though. Today, I want to discuss the reasonableness of an educational institution recognizing God's existence and its dependence on Him.

Many things that the educational system depends upon actually requires God to find its roots in reality. It is quite common for the distinction between knowing something and justifying something to be confused. We can know that something is true without being able to justify its being true. In philosophy, this is known as the distinction between ontology (what is true) and epistemology (how we know what is true). People can know things to be true, and even act properly according to that knowledge, yet not hold a worldview that can justify its being true (this will be explained more, in the section on morality below). Many of the things that are foundational to education (e.g. knowledge, progress, intrinsic human value, diversitydesign, history, and science) are often known yet cannot be justified by those who know them to be true. Of those many things, knowledge is the most foundational.

Knowledge, The Education System, and God

Knowledge is at the foundation of the entire education system. If we cannot find some way to ground our claims of knowledge to reality, we are merely communicating opinions. Because of this, if knowledge of reality is not even possible, then all knowledge disciplines (the subjects taught in school), are not rightly called "knowledge" but rather "opinion" disciplines. The connection of knowledge to God is required in two ways: first, the justification of what is true must be something that is chiefly concerned with what is true. Second, the agents who are attempting to discover what is true must possess faculties that are concerned with chiefly with what is true. 

We know from evolutionary biology that organisms and all their components are only "concerned" with survival (I place quotes around "concerned" because naturalistic evolution is neither forward-thinking nor purpose-driven). This means that our brains are not programmed by nature to believe what is true but rather to believe what will keep us alive. In a world that is "red in tooth and claw" it is better to be safe than sorry, so our brains register (believe) many false positives about dangers, for instance. This is just one example of "useful fictions" that our brains must believe, according to naturalistic evolution. Because they are chiefly concerned with believing what will keep us safe even if it is false, our brains are not reliable tools for apprehending truth. 

However, if our brains are created by a God who is concerned with our ability to believe what is true, then He would have created our brains (and sense organs, as well) with the ability to not only distinguish between what is true and what is safe, but it will also prefer the former (free will does have an effect on this, though). So, from the very foundation of the educational system, for it to even be called such, God is required. On this ground, alone, it is reasonable that an education system would recognize God's existence and its dependence upon Him for its very purpose in society (to educate).

Without proper justification, there is no objective standard by which to judge what is true or false about not just knowledge, but the things that we will continue to discuss in this post, and what is taught by the system about these things comes at the whim of whoever is currently controlling the system. The education system ultimately reduces to "might makes right," an exercise in epistemology anarchy. If the education system were to affirm any worldview that cannot justify knowledge, it is admitting its uselessness for imparting knowledge to the next generation and admitting that its only purpose is to propagandize our children into blindly believing that their purpose in life is to serve an elite class of people with money and power. 

For more on the necessity of God to justify knowledge, I highly recommend that you read the book "Where The Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism" by philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Also, see this short video explaining his argument:


Conclusion

It is only if God exists that what we believe can be justified. Without God, all claims to knowledge are merely opinions and do not actually reflect reality. If they do not actually reflect reality, then the "education" system is not imparting knowledge of what is true but rather indoctrinating opinions that are preferred by a few people in power. Since the public school system claims to impart knowledge of the world in which we live, it is only reasonable that our schools recognize the foundation and justification of knowledge: God. Students and parents are free to disagree; however, if they wish to do so, they need to defend an alternative justification.

For more on this topic and to see how several other foundations to the education system are justified only by God's existence, see the links throughout this post and these additional ones:



Monday, July 22, 2019

Should Christians Abandon Social Media?

Should Christians Abandon Social Media?

Introduction

With all of the recent news of various social media platforms purposefully hiding and censoring Christian and politically conservative content in the name of "diversity" and "tolerance," many people have abandoned Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other popular social media outlets in protest. While I have been tempted to do the same, because of their relative popularity (compared to more traditional communication media), I do believe that if we abandon these platforms, we will not only limit our audience but encourage the behavior of limiting reasonable content to and stifling intellectual discussion among the users of these platforms. The new generation of consumers prefers social media for their news, media consumption and discussion of various issues, so it cannot be abandoned by those who hold and can defend the truth with gentleness and respect.

The Liberal View of "Tolerance" and "Diversity"

I recently heard Candace Owens interview Lauren Chen about the modern liberal view of "tolerance" and "diversity." They discuss the deliberate attempt to remove even the slightest (appearance of) disagreement from the public square. This attempted removal is targeting the internet and specifically social media. If you are considering leaving popular social media platforms (or already have), I encourage you to listen to this discussion in full and consider that removing your voice of reason from today's public squares may do more harm than good:




Christians Should Master The Media

The new culture primarily consumes image-driven messages, and social media is the primary avenue to get images before this audience. In his book "Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates The Claims of the Gospels," J. Warner Wallace encourages Christians to not just embrace new media but to master them. Christians must master the content itself, the presentation of the content, and the delivery mechanisms for the content.

Quote from J. Warner Wallace from the book "Cold Case Christianity": "In a culture where image is more important than information, style more important than substance it is not enough to possess the truth. [Christian] case makers must also master the media."

Conclusion

Rather than abandoning popular social media channels, we should embrace them and utilize them to their fullest potential! If a challenge arises that limits our reach, it is not to be met with surrender, but with enthusiasm to reach the goal despite the challenges. I have written several posts and reviewed several books on the importance of discussing political and moral issues in a compassionate yet intellectual manner. I encourage you to read the posts and purchase the recommended books to equip you to "always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have...with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15):

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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Norman Geisler- 10 Quotes on Logic and Christianity

Introduction

Over the years Dr. Norman Geisler has had a profound effect on the way that I think philosophically and theologically. Through his defenses of the Christian worldview (the essentials and nonessentials) in his numerous books and lectures I have been better equipped analyze views, defend the Gospel, and "worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4)

One of the early books that set my path to being able to logically evaluate arguments was "Come, Let Us Reason" (click or tap the title for my full chapter-by-chapter review). In the book, he provides Christians with an introduction to logical thinking that will help them in identifying false claims (that may sound correct on the surface) and in defending true claims. I have compiled a few of my favorite quotes from that excellent book in this post. If you have not picked up a copy yet, I highly recommend that you do.


Why Do Christians Need Logic?- Logic and God

"Logic is a way to think so that we can come to correct conclusions by understanding implications and the mistakes people often make in thinking."

"From the standpoint of reality, we understand that God is the basis of all logic. As the ultimate reality, all truth is ultimately found in him. He has created the reality that we know and in which we have discovered the laws of logic. Even Jesus said, 'I am...the truth' (John 14:6). He has structured the world in such a way that these laws cannot be denied; however, we did not know God first and then learn logic from him. He exists as the basis of all logic (in reality), but we discovered logic first and came to know God through it. This is true even if we came to know God through his revelation, because we understand the revelation through logic. In the order of being. God is first; but in the order of knowing, logic leads us to all knowledge of God. God is the basis of all logic (in the order of being), but logic is the basis of all knowledge of God (in the order of knowing)."

Quote from book "Come Let Us Reason" by Norman Geisler: "From the standpoint of reality, we understand that God is the basis of all logic. As the ultimate reality, all truth is ultimately found in him. He has created the reality that we know and in which we have discovered the laws of logic. Even Jesus said, 'I am...the truth' (John 14:6). He has structured the world in such a way that these laws cannot be denied; however, we did not know God first and then learn logic from him. He exists as the basis of all logic (in reality), but we discovered logic first and came to know God through it. This is true even if we came to know God through his revelation, because we understand the revelation through logic. In the order of being. God is first; but in the order of knowing, logic leads us to all knowledge of God. God is the basis of all logic (in the order of being), but logic is the basis of all knowledge of God (in the order of knowing)." #Logic #Reason #Epistemology #Philosophy


"We use logic in the process of knowing God, but that does not mean that God came after logic in reality. without God, nothing could have existence. God is the basis of all logic in reality and he is in no way inferior to logic. Logic comes from God, not God from logic. But when it comes to how we know things, logic is the basis of all thought, and it must come before any thought about anything, including God. For example, I need a map before I can get to Washington, D.C. But Washington must exist before the map can help me get there. Even so, we use logic first to come to know God, but God exists first before we can know him."

"Unless valid inferences can be made from what is known to what is unknown, there can be no theological argumentation. Whether in a discussion between Christians on a matter of interpretation or in a debate with a non-Christian, no one could prove any point without the laws of rational inference."

How Do You Think Correctly?- Using Logic

"Using syllogisms is called deductive logic because it involves deducing particular conclusions from general statements. In inductive logic, we start with the particulars and reason to general principles. Deductive logic starts with the cause and reasons to the effect, while inductive logic starts with the effects and attempts to find the cause. That is why deductive reasoning is called a prior (prior to looking at the facts) and inductive reasoning is called a posteriori (after seeing the evidence). Syllogisms are more philosophical, and inductive arguments are more scientific. The biggest difference, though, is that deductive arguments yield necessary conclusions (that is, the conclusions are necessarily true if the premises are true and the inferences are valid), but inductive reasoning yields only probable conclusions. The conclusions might have a high degree of probability, but they are still not as certain as deductive conclusions."

"You may not know what the significance of some piece of information is, but you must note it in case it becomes important later. Even the smallest clue may change the whole direction of your understanding."

"Analogies can be used to present very strong and effective arguments, but analogies are good only when there are strong similarities and only nonessential differences between the things being compared."

Quote from "Come Let Us Reason" by Norman Geisler: "Analogies can be used to present very strong and effective arguments, but analogies are good only when there are strong similarities and only nonessential differences between the things being compared." #Logic #Reason #Analogy #Philosophy


How Can Thinking Go Wrong?- Fallacies In Logic

"Whenever there is controversy over an issue, the appeal to authority is weakened in direct proportion to the strength of the controversy...All appeals to authority ultimately rest on the evidence that the authority has. The only reason to quote an authority is that he knows the evidence better than we do. The letters after his name don't mean a thing without the evidence to back up his position."

"[Special pleading] is [a] way to make certain the opposing view doesn't get a fair shake. Here only the evidence that supports one view is cited, and the rest is left out...If there are ten studies that show your view to be false, ignore them and make a big point about the one that confirms your conclusion. Really, this argument counts on the listener to be ignorant of the facts. That way anything can be claimed, and no objection can be raised. However, if someone knows about the other ten studies, you're in trouble. This kind of argument can be torn apart easily if all the facts are made known."

Quote from "Come Let Us Reason" by Norman Geisler: "[Special pleading] is [a] way to make certain the opposing view doesn't get a fair shake. Here only the evidence that supports one view is cited, and the rest is left out...If there are ten studies that show your view to be false, ignore them and make a big point about the one that confirms your conclusion. Really, this argument counts on the listener to be ignorant of the facts. That way anything can be claimed, and no objection can be raised. However, if someone knows about the other ten studies, you're in trouble. This kind of argument can be torn apart easily if all the facts are made known." #Logic #Fallacy #SpecialPleading #Philosophy #Reason


"[No] view should be accepted on the basis of ignorance. That is no way to find truth! Let positive evidence be presented and evaluated for both sides, and the truth can be known...If a conclusion is false, it is only a matter of finding the fallacy or the untrue premises (or both)."

For more great quotes from Dr. Geisler on various other topics, see these posts:


Here are my chapter-by-chapter reviews of other books he (co)authored: