Apologetics Strategies: How to Talk to the Experts, Part 1

man on plane_iStock_000053959068_MediumImagine you’re on an airplane and in the course of casual introductions, you discover the gentleman sitting next to you is a quantum physicist. You share some thoughts about the compatibility between the record of nature and the words of the Bible—but it isn’t long before you realize that you’re in way over your head. The physicist’s questions exceed your ability to offer ready answers. What’s your next move?

This situation highlights a very important point for all would-be apologists: know your audience, know yourself, and have the humility to know the difference. Certainly reading Reasons to Believe (RTB) books and other apologetics materials or even taking courses through Reasons Institute or attending apologetics conferences will provide you with a good foundation—but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re ready to engage with someone who has a PhD in a science field. There are additional factors to consider.

Chances are you fall into one of the following three categories. Knowing which category you belong to is a critical first step in understanding how to engage scientists in an apologetic conversation.

1. An expert in the same academic discipline

Let’s go back to our airplane scenario. If you have the same level of education and technical expertise as the quantum physicist, there is a higher probability that you’ll be able to engage him on equal footing. You have invested significant time, money and energy into educating yourself at the highest levels of academia. Even then, however, a science-faith conversation may be challenging without significant knowledge of the theology and philosophy involved.

Being in conversation with a research scientist takes great discernment, as well as a good deal of practice. So don’t be overly hard on yourself if you stumble. Use it as motivation to dig deeper into the research.

2. An expert in a different academic discipline

The situation with the quantum physicist would be quite different if he were sitting next to me. I might be able to engage with him for a while on some theological questions, since that is my area of training, but when it comes to science, I’m easily outmatched. Even though I am familiar with many scientific ideas because of my experience at RTB, it would only take seconds before I’d be in over my head. Knowing my limitations ahead of time helps me avoid overstepping my area of competence and, thus, keeps my credibility with the physicist.

It’s important for all Christians to understand that our first calling is as missionaries. This is far more important than demonstrating our academic competence. For the sake of the gospel, it’s very important for us to swallow academic pride and repress the desire to “win” the conversation or shame the nonbeliever. We must know our limits and be willing to take a different approach when needed.

3. An “Average Joe”

Now let’s say the quantum physicist is sitting next to an Average Joe. This is the person with little to no technical training in any academic field. Someone like my dear mother comes to mind. She loves the Lord and is fully convinced of her salvation, but she has little in common with the physicist in terms of education and knowledge.

This category might also include the apologetics hobbyist. This person has read apologetics books and attended a conference or two, but doesn’t posses any advanced degrees in science. This category might also include the aspiring science student who is still in the beginning years of his education.

There is, however, one very important point connecting all of these “regular people” with the quantum physicist: a love for truth. And that critical foundation can make all the difference.

By knowing our audience and knowing ourselves and knowing the difference between the two, we can begin to customize our apologetics tactics. This is particularly important when talking with people who have a background in science. So, what’s the next move in the conversation between an expert and an Average Joe? We’ll return to this topic in another post to discuss some practical strategies to help keep the discussion going.

Resource

Dr. Jeff Zweerink outlines his apologetics strategy in RTB Live! vol. 16: 4 C’s of Science Apologetics (DVD). This is one of my favorite RTB messages.

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By Krista Bontrager

Krista Bontrager is the dean of online learning at Reasons to Believe. She is a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching the Bible to all ages. She has an MA in theology and another in Bible exposition from Talbot School of Theology.

Think Again: Keep Your Arguments Clear!

Jewish scholar and radio talk show host Dennis Prager often says, “Clarity is more important than agreement.” And when it comes to reasoning, clarity carries its own persuasive power. Clutter and excessive complexity in an argument frequently stand in the way of the argument’s understandability and credibility.

Since being clear in one’s reasoning is advantageous, keep clarity in mind as you initially construct your argument. A logical argument is really a simple thing; you first make a claim and then seek to support that claim. The claim, or central point, is also called the conclusion of the argument. It is what you are trying to prove and encourage others to accept. The premises, on the other hand, provide the support in the form of facts, evidence, and reasons for accepting the conclusion.

Because you want people to accept your conclusion based upon the premises, the statement that constitutes the conclusion should be very obvious in the overall argument. This can often be achieved by making the specific conclusion the first or last statement in the argument. Another way of clearly identifying one’s conclusion is by using conclusion indicator words, such as “thus,” “therefore,” and “accordingly.” For added clarity, consider beginning your conclusion statement with the words, “In conclusion.”

You can also clarify which sentences in the argument serve as supporting premises. If you have multiple premises you might want to enumerate them so people can distinguish and more easily remember them. There are also premise indicator words, such as “so,” “because,” and “since,” that let listeners know you’re giving support. You never want the conclusion or premises of your argument to be unclear.

People greatly appreciate clarity, especially when it is contrasted by its opposite in a debate. Listeners are usually open to, and even inclined toward accepting, the clearest position. So give them what they want and enjoy the benefits of logical persuasion. However, bear in mind that clear does not mean simplistic or unsophisticated. When presenting your strongest evidence in support of your conclusion, deliver the ideas in the clearest terms possible without compromising the integrity of your argument.Remember that whenever clarity meets with ambiguity, clarity wins—especially when the clear arguments are also substantive. And stay tuned for more articles on logic as we attempt to think again!

See other installments in this series here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Resources

  • My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains a number of episodes given to the topic of logical clarity. It is archived at reasons.org. I recommend in particular that you listen to “Five Point Logic Checklist.”
  • Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. Most formal logic texts (even used ones) are very expensive, but RTB sells my book at a very reasonable price. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.

Think Again: What Is a Genuine Education?

Learning to think for oneself is one of the most important intellectual duties in life. Truth needs to be pursued and apprehended by each individual person. And one of the great benefits of being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27) is that human beings have been given the faculties to hunt and gather the truth.

kids-graduatingAs a logic instructor I seldom, if ever, tell someone what to think (i.e., what position to adopt as the conclusion of their argument). Instead, I attempt to assist others in learning how to think (helping to order a person’s thinking according to principles of logic). Logic can be defined as “ordered thought”—that is, thinking and arguing in a manner that is consistent with the laws of logic and the rules of rational inference.

Genuine education is not indoctrination. Rather, authentic learning takes place when the best arguments for and against a position are presented and students are provided with the tools to fairly evaluate those truth-claims. There is a time and a place to advocate one’s position, but teachers have a sacred duty to help their students discover the truth by being as fair and objective as possible. Teachers need to encourage their students to grow in their intellectual maturity so that they can truly think for themselves.

Studying logic and critical thinking is an ideal discipline for pursuing a genuine education because it empowers the learner to know how to evaluate truth-claims. So, again, logic teaches a person how to think instead of what to think. It is similar to the adage of making people self-sufficient by teaching them how to fish rather than giving them a fish. The best education always provides tools for students to become sufficient in facing life questions and challenges.

I am concerned that much of education today, especially in the social sciences, involves little more than indoctrination. I believe the way to successfully battle this ideological stronghold is to teach people to think for themselves. How about you? Are you ready and willing to hone your critical thinking skills so that you can be empowered to tackle truth and make careful judgments for yourself? If so, stay tuned for more articles on logic as we attempt to think again!

See other installments in this series here: Part 1 and Part 2

Resources

  • My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains many episodes given to the topic of logic and critical thinking. It is archived at reasons.org. Specifically, I recommend that you listen to “Ordered Thinking: The Value of Logic.”
  • Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. Most formal logic texts (even used ones) are very expensive, but RTB sells my book at a very reasonable price. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.

Think Again: Questioning Conspiracy Theories

Are professional sports on the up and up? Do the “better” teams win by genuinely defeating the “lesser” teams?

10 March 2010: UC Irvine vs Cal State Fullerton basketall in Anaheim, California. Photo by Matt A. Brown

With the NBA playoffs having just finished, it’s a good time to mention one of the conspiracy theories that was making the rounds a few years ago. According to many sports fans at the time, the NBA’s league officials were conspiring to get the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics to play in the NBA Finals. Why had they allegedly done this? Big money, of course! The vast TV audience that this marquee NBA matchup would attract would pay great financial dividends to the league. In other words, in the NBA the fix was in!

Before trusting or denying such a claim, how would one go about thinking through it logically? After all, conspiracies sometimes exist. As a sports example, some point to the Black Sox Scandal in the 1919 World Series. Well, let’s reflect upon a few factors.

First, how many people would have to know about the scheme in order to effectively pull off the subversion? I think the number of conspirators would have to be very large to ensure the right outcome. For example, key members in the NBA league office would undoubtedly have to be involved. Numerous referees would have to be in the know as well in order to make the right (or wrong) call at the critical juncture of decisive games. In addition, several coaches would also have to agree to the scam. Lastly, a considerable number of important players would surely have to be part of the plot in order to affect the end result of the games.

Consequently, if a great number of people are involved in the conspiracy could the silence of all the participants be ensured? Could all the people be sufficiently paid off to guarantee nothing would leak out? There would be the possibility of people having a crisis of conscience. And some may stand to gain a great deal by being a whistleblower on one of the most remarkable sports conspiracies in history. So it seems reasonable to conclude that the more people who know about the conspiracy, the greater chance someone is going to reveal the secret. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

Logical problems like this also apply to all the big government conspiracy theories that require the involvement of many people, like the JFK assassination and the 9/11 (or “truthers”) controversy. But similar questions could legitimately be asked about the alleged conspiracy that the apostles lied about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, the challenge of conspiracy is at times an apologetics issue.

Conspiracy thinking is common in our culture, and that includes Christians who are sometimes taken in by fanciful conspiracy theories. As I’ve demonstrated above, an important starting point when thinking about conspiracy claims is asking the appropriate questions. And the study of logic helps a person learn how to do just that. So stay tuned for more articles on logic as we attempt to think again!

For more in this series, see “Thinking Again about Logic.”

Resources

  • My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains a number of episodes given to the topic of conspiracy thinking. It is archived at reasons.org. I recommend in particular that you listen to “The Big Three: Conspiracy Theories” and “Asking Four Questions: Evaluating Conspiracy Theories.”
  • Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. Most formal logic texts (even used ones) are very expensive, but RTB sells my book at a very reasonable price. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.

Eyes Wide Open: Thinking about Worldview in Movies, Part 2

Group of people at the cinema watching a movie

Christian families are constantly interacting with all sorts of entertainment: books, music, video games, television, and movies. In part 1 of this series, we discussed worldview analysis as a foundational principle of evaluating the media we consume. Now we will examine some additional considerations.

Production Value

When I was a child in the 1970s, Christian filmmaking—films made outside the Hollywood system, financed by Christians, for Christians—was in its infancy. No child of that era can forget being scared sleepless after watching the doomsday horror film A Thief in the Night at Sunday night church.

Films from this era were frequently noted for their good intentions, poor screenwriting, no-name talent, and underfunded production budgets. Many Christians believed that the noble intent of the filmmakers to preach the Gospel was enough to overcome substandard production values. But by the mid- to late-80s (when I was in film school), Christians who worked as professionals in Hollywood began to rethink that strategy. They looked around and started asking why Christian films were so bad? Didn’t Jesus deserve better than this?

The recent efforts of producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey to make The Bible mini-series brought independent Christian production values into near alignment with Hollywood standards. Yet, other Christian filmmakers seem content to settle for mediocre production standards while appealing to the niche evangelical audience by making “preachy” films.

Production value plays a vital role in deciding whether a film ought to be considered “good” in the minds of most consumers, even among Christians. Sure, there are loyal followers who will consume almost any piece of entertainment that’s released with certain branding or headlining performer. But if a film lacks exemplary writing or skillful performances it misses out on potential greatness; and box office numbers generally reflect that.

In my view, there is inherent value in an artful film because our creativity reflects the image of our Creator (Genesis 1:26–27). And, sometimes, it’s perfectly appropriate for Christians to appreciate good art, even if we don’t agree with the worldview it portrays. We can offer comments about a thoughtful script, amazing storytelling, compelling acting, or beautiful cinematography. When we do so, we’re often praising the efforts of the many hard-working believers who labor anonymously within the entertainment business. Quite frankly, I’ve often found that a well-acted, thoughtfully written, small-budget film (such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) or a well-made, sincere, “family friendly” movie (like Babe) can elicit more enjoyment than a poorly scripted summer blockbuster (Armageddon comes to mind) or a moderately okay Christian film (such as Fireproof).

Moral Content

Many Christians have a tendency to make immediate judgments about what constitutes “good” entertainment based solely on moral content, specifically, language, sexual content (both on-screen and implied), violence, and substance abuse. These are important considerations, especially for parents; however other factors need consideration, too.

It’s important to understand that films and books are often multilayered. So it’s valuable for Christians to learn a little about how to discern the layers. It helps to begin by looking at a film or book’s themes from a “big picture” perspective and avoid quick judgments based on the moral content alone, such as foul language, sexual acts, violence, or drug abuse.

Let me explain what I mean. Consider Schindler’s List. This Oscar-winner contains many difficult, even horrific, scenes. In isolation and without context, it seems the morally objectionable content (e.g., genocide, child abuse) would preclude Christians from viewing or appreciating the film. However, the film presents a powerful message of individual repentance and redemption. I think this is why Schindler’s List resonates with so many believers. This deeper thematic purpose provides a larger context from which to interpret the inclusion of more objectionable elements.

In another example, Cobb (which perhaps only 10 other people on the planet actually saw) includes many scenes showing baseball legend Ty Cobb engaging in drug abuse and other unflattering behavior. It was a very hard film for me to watch. In the end, however, I was struck by the film’s very accurate picture of the futility of life without God. Money and fame failed to bring peace and satisfaction.

Now, would I recommend Cobb to my mother or teenage daughters? No way—but if I was engaged in some water-cooler conversation, it might come in handy as a bit of a morality play. In this way, individual Christians ought to weigh out these issues in coordination with their interpretation of Scripture, their conscience, and their personal sensitivity.

One final thought: remember to pray for all of those Christian brothers and sisters who work within the entertainment business. They often face difficult and discouraging environments and situations as they attempt to be salt and light in a dark place.

Resource: In 2012, Kenneth Samples and I recorded two podcast episodes featuring tips for watching movies from a Christian point of view: “How to Watch a Movie, Part 1” and “How to Watch a Movie, Part 2.”

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By Krista Bontrager

Krista Bontrager is the dean of online learning at Reasons to Believe. She is a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching the Bible to all ages. She has an MA in theology and another in Bible exposition from Talbot School of Theology.

Eyes Wide Open: Thinking about Worldview in Movies, Part 1

Group of people at the cinema watching a movie

When I was in seminary, I had a side job as a movie reviewer for a major Christian periodical. For two years I spent nearly every Friday night sitting in arthouse theaters watching a lot of really bad films. Then, I’d quickly cobble together a review for which I was paid an astounding $25, plus the cost of a theater ticket and mileage. I reviewed such “blockbusters” as Romeo Is Bleeding and Cobb. Some films were laced with over 80 f-words. How do I know this? I had to count them!

It wasn’t a very glamorous life, but it did teach me how to write quickly and how to express a focused opinion on virtually any topic. (I also learned how to take notes in the dark, which hasn’t proven to be a very useful skill.)

This process did, however, get me to reflect deeply on what makes a movie “good.” By what criteria would I recommend that others go see a particular film? Why do some movies with lousy scripts make hundreds of millions of dollars? Why do some movies strike us as having redemptive qualities in spite of a dark storyline (e.g., Schindler’s List)? Questions like these can apply to other entertainment media as well, such as music and books.

At times, Christians can come across as rather unreflective about their entertainment choices. On one end of the spectrum, some believers give little, if any, thought to what they consume; on the other end are those who avoid entertainment altogether because they view it as opposed to Christian values. What I’d like to propose, however, is that Christians can actually use entertainment trends as a bridge for engaging others, especially unbelievers, in deeper conversations. Over the years, I’ve found some foundational issues useful to consider.

Worldview Analysis

Just like every person has a worldview, so does every piece of entertainment. Why? Because books, movies, and music are written by people! So, whenever I am consuming media, the first thing I do is watch for clues about the worldview it’s promoting. I look for dialogue or situations that connect to issues such as:

  • the existence and nature of God (Does God exist? What is He like?);
  • the nature of humans (What is man?);
  • the origin and nature of evil; and
  • the source and nature of morality (What is good?).

In my experience, nearly every film, book, and song addresses one or more of these worldview questions. As we consider them, we can also begin to compare and contrast the answers with our own Christian worldview. This provides a critical foundation for any conversation with other people. (My colleague Kenneth Samples has done a lot of very fine work on this issue of worldviews. I highly recommend checking out some of his web articles, including this great introduction to the topic: “What in the World Is a Worldview?”)

During my time as a movie reviewer, I noticed that most American films operate from within what I call the worldview of practical naturalism. In these stories, no supernatural reality is presented. All solutions to humanity’s problems are explored within the context of the natural world. Occasionally, a film will present spiritual themes or characters. Christians are rarely portrayed in a positive fashion. We’re often depicted as abusers, hypocrites, and criminals, but even this observation can offer Christians insight into how nonbelievers see us.

Discussions about worldview issues can act as a practical bridge with nonbelievers. I’ve found that even in casual relationships a worldview issue from a recent book or film can be a good way to strike up a conversation. My husband and I frequently find that the most enjoyable part of our movie-going experience is when we engage in a vigorous conversation once the film is over.

It is also important that parents and youth leaders teach the emerging generation how to be wise consumers. Many teens give little, if any, thought to the worldview messages contained in the media they consume; so, parents might need to be a little creative and persistent in their engagement. Yet even if without a family conversation about how to thoughtfully engage entertainment choices, children will learn by watching the choices their parents make.

Next week, we’ll continue this conversation and explore additional ways to evaluate entertainment.

Resource: In 2012, Kenneth Samples and I recorded two podcast episodes featuring tips for watching movies from a Christian point of view: “How to Watch a Movie, Part 1” and “How to Watch a Movie, Part 2.”

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By Krista Bontrager

Krista Bontrager is the dean of online learning at Reasons to Believe. She is a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching the Bible to all ages. She has an MA in theology and another in Bible exposition from Talbot School of Theology.

Getting to Know Our Emotions from the Inside Out

Pixar Post - Inside Out characters closeupDisney-Pixar’s Inside Out opens this week. The film’s fanciful premise invites moviegoers to “meet the little voices in your head”—specifically, our emotions, personified as Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. RTB editor Maureen Moser and I sat down to talk about emotions, their importance, and the role they play in our minds and hearts. (This article might contain spoilers.)

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Maureen: On Reflections you talk a lot about critical thinking. How should critical thinking balance out with emotion?

Ken: God gave us the capacity to think and analyze. These are critical tools in discovering truth. John Calvin said that because God made us in his image, we are able to hunt and gather the truth. At the same time, God also made us with robust emotions. We are capable of feeling things very deeply.

It’s the combination of both things that make us who we are, so to speak. If you go too far in one direction, you can crash and burn. For example, overly analytical people are sometimes perceived as lacking empathy and concern for others. And, of course, people who let their emotions run away with them run a greater risk of making very unwise choices.

People often play with our emotions. Television, movies, and maybe especially commercials stir up emotional reactions. Logic and critical thinking, on the other hand, help us to reflect on the way we feel. When it comes to keeping it together and thinking about a situation in a Christian way, our initial response can be feeling driven, but then critical thinking needs to help us step back and analyze. Why did we react that way? Was it the best way to react?

That being said, I don’t think logicians—and I’m certainly a logician myself—should refuse to accept the fact that we’re emotional people. We just want to reign it in every once in a while when we think it goes too far in the emotional direction. We need to recognize that we have the capacity to feel deeply and to think critically.

Culturally speaking, it seems emotions tend to run high these days, especially with social media allowing instant reactions to a constant news stream.

Yes, I think what adds to the problem, especially when it comes to social media, is that whatever we post on online is going to be out there for a long time. So, if you do post an instant reaction to something and later wish you hadn’t, it’s too late.

Emotions are very good; they reflect who we are. However, they need to be guided and directed by proper parameters. Is there too much emotion in society? I tend to think that we do allow our emotions to lead us in ways that need more analysis. There are hot points in all of us. It’s good to identify those points.

On the other hand, looking at both sides of this issue, I think there are also a lot of people who think that if you show no response to something, then you must be unfeeling and uncaring, when really you’re just trying to think it through.

Coming back to Inside Out, two of the emotions, Joy and Sadness, get stuck together for a little while. Joy has never understood why Riley (the girl they inhabit) needs Sadness. She tries to contain Sadness or make sure most of Riley’s memories are happy ones. Eventually, she’ll realize that people need to feel sorrow. So, let’s talk about sadness; why is it important?

Inside-Out-10mech_IO_Sadness_5x8Our worldview tells us that God’s good creation has gone terribly wrong because of the fall. Our relationships—with God, other people, nature, even ourselves—have been negatively impacted by the fall. There is a time to take stock of one’s life and to reflect on pain and suffering.

I was thinking just recently that people who really struggle with mental health and emotion issues, such as depression, often have a profound awareness of circumstances that lead to sadness. I’m trying to make a positive statement here. I think the people I’ve known who have hurt a lot in life emotionally have a unique story to tell because of this awareness. (Obviously, brain chemistry challenges and other mental health issues do need to be addressed properly.)

Perhaps some of us who don’t struggle in those ways are oblivious to the sorrow that goes around. We might run through life and insulate ourselves and not allow sadness in—but it’s good to take it in. There is a time to grieve, to feel sorrow.

Suffering and challenges are sometimes the greatest teachers in life. Yet it does seem that we live at a time when we’d rather speed past all the difficulties. We tell ourselves to “think positive.” Certainly optimism and positive thinking are good things, but I wonder if avoiding reflection on sorrow, pain, and hurt doesn’t hold us back from personal growth. And, of course, neglecting grief or failing to reflect on difficult things doesn’t mean those things go away. They stay in your mind and your soul—and they may make a come back when you least expect it. It’s healthier to address issues of very relevant sadness. C. S. Lewis said it well:

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

So, I would hope that in everyone’s life there would be time and reflection given to challenges and sorrows. God made us with this wide range of ability to feel different things. In a Christian sense, you can have joy even when you’re not terribly happy. For example, I’m joyful about the Trinity even when I’m struggling with something of great severity.

How about the emotion of anger? We are told to not sin in our anger. How can Christians handle this volatile feeling?

“INSIDE OUT” (Pictured) ANGER. ©2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Well, Jesus certainly experienced anger. We have the scene where he goes into the temple and overturns the tables. Anger can be a good thing. There are times when anger is appropriate. But as you point out, Paul tells us, “In your anger do not sin.” That’s hard! I know within myself when I reach a certain level of anger, it’s very difficult to stay in control and act in subtle ways. It just goes!

Some people feel a lot of guilt over their anger or think they can never be angry about anything. Repressing it is no better than letting it explode; it’s best to learn how to use anger in a productive way.

I wish I had more insight to offer you about how to be angry. As we talked about earlier, when we’re feeling deep emotion, it’s hard to stay balanced. Perhaps we sometimes have to experience the emotion and then step back to evaluate. When I get negative comments from people online, I try not to act on my first impulse. I think about how I can respond in a courteous way—but it’s not always easy.

Reading recommendations: Mental Health: A Christian Approach by Mark P. Cosgrove and James D. Mallory Jr. and Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? Insights into Personal Growth By John Powell.

Thinking Again about Logic

If you want your thoughts on any given subject to be clear and careful, it usually requires engaging the topic more than once. To think again about something means that you want to get it right.

brain-smart-on-blackboardBefore I came on staff at Reasons to Believe (RTB), I spent almost ten years teaching courses in logic, philosophy, and world religions at public colleges in Southern California. The logic courses were definitely some of my favorites to teach. Students often felt wary of taking such an abstract course, but by the end of the semester most of them felt empowered by learning to think carefully and critically about life’s most important issues. Logic is a course that can actually change lives.

I’ve also had many Christian students who have taken logic and have found it to be extremely helpful to them in their life and in their faith journey. RTB’s dean of online education, Krista Bontrager, took a logic course with me, and it had a big influence in her educational and vocational pursuits. Harry Edwards, founder, chairman, and CEO of Apologetics.com, was a student in one of my logic classes at Biola University several years ago. He also has told me that the class motivated him to grow in his thinking skills.

Logic doesn’t teach you to think. You think naturally and intuitively as a human being who is already capable of careful thinking. What logic can do is bring order, consistency, and carefulness to your thinking. My college students had bright minds and were eager to think carefully, but their thinking was often scattered, disordered, and somewhat careless. The study of logic builds ordered minds that are capable of clear, careful, and cogent thinking.

Logic also teaches people how to construct a reasonable argument—a claim (conclusion) that is genuinely supported by facts, reasons, or evidence (premises)—and how to recognize when the reasoning process breaks down (often in form of specific fallacies). Knowing how to reason properly and being aware of common mistakes is invaluable in life and in the pursuit of truth.

Because people continue to return to my previous “Logic 101” article series, I have decided to follow up with further discussion of this important topic. In a profound sense, as I like to say, we are what we think. I hope you will consider challenging yourself to study a subject that can truly empower you. Stay tuned for more articles on logic as we attempt to think again!

Resources

  • My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains many episodes given to the topic of logic and critical thinking. It is archived at reasons.org.
  • Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. Most formal logic texts (even used ones) are very expensive, but RTB sells my book at a very reasonable price. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.

In the Works: Upcoming Book Compares Jesus and Other Religious Leaders

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve reposted several archived articles that compare Jesus Christ to other major religious leaders, specifically Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), Krishna, Confucius, and Muhammad. My recently completed book manuscript fleshes out and expands on what these articles started. The book (working title Jesus Alongside the Spiritual Sages) still has a long way to go—through peer review, rigorous editing, and design—before hitting shelves in 2017. In the meantime, here’s a sample from the manuscript.

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jesus-hands-piercedI have a critical question for you, the reader. If God were to make an appearance on Earth, what would you expect him to be like? Moreover, would the Buddha, Krishna, Confucius, or Muhammad have the qualities and characteristics you would expect of God? I suspect your answer, like mine, is no. These amazing men were all quite aware of their own weaknesses and brokenness in life. So, even the greatest leaders of the world’s religions, while extraordinary in many respects, seem far from divine.

But how would you go about evaluating Jesus? When you look at his life of unique moral purity, is that what you would expect from God? Jesus seems unlike all other people in his moral perfection.

Jesus taught people in a masterful style about the big questions of life. Could you see God instructing people in this manner? Most of the content of Jesus’ teaching was not original to him (except his extraordinary statements in which he called Yahweh “Abba”), but his presentation in parabolic form was deeply engaging.

Christ also engaged in an extensive series of miraculous healings from day one of his ministry. The number of people healed by Jesus is amazing. If God were to come in the flesh and live among human beings, would you expect him to engage in compassionate healing?

Jesus was crucified on the cross at Calvary. What do you think of his death? Has any man’s death been that dramatic and moving? If God were to become a man, could you imagine him dying the same way? Christ’s atoning death sets him apart from all other religious leaders.

Death stalks humanity. Dying is a matter of when, not if. The resurrection of Jesus is the great evidence for the truth of historic Christianity. If God visited the planet, would he address man’s greatest fear? If Jesus rose from the dead, then it is the most important truth for all people to hear and consider. Would God raise the dead?

So, did Jesus do the sort of things you would expect God incarnate to do? Did he say the things you would expect to hear from God? We’re putting Jesus’ résumé to the test and attempting to discover whether he has the qualities and characteristics of the divine. Does his resume stand?

The answer to these incredible questions is a resounding yes. Jesus Christ seems to be exactly what a reasonable person would expect God to be like if he were to appear among us. One of the reasons for believing that Jesus Christ was a real historical person is that no one could invent or make up such an incredible, one-of-a-kind person.

Interviews with Apologetics Difference Makers

104254961Over the lifetime of my former podcast, Straight Thinking, I had the opportunity to interview a plethora of scholars and scientists. Topics of discussion included science-faith issues, Christian apologetics and theology, and Islam. Below is a partial list of the interviews housed in the Straight Thinking archives. I hope you find them helpful as evangelistic resources.

RTB has recently launched a new family of equipping podcasts, including my new one, Imago Dei, under the banner Apologia. You can check them out here.