Saturday, December 31, 2005
Friday, December 30, 2005
Thursday, December 29, 2005
- All humans are intelligent.
- Steve is a human.
- Therefore, Steve is intelligent.
If we assume that the two premises are true (some might dispute #1 or, in my case, #2) then the conclusion must follow from the premises. In other words, if the premises are true then it is impossible for the conclusion to be false.
2) This argument is inductive:
- Most humans are intelligent.
- Steve is a human.
- Therefore, Steve is intelligent.
Even if we assume that the premises are true, the conclusion that Steve is intelligent does not necessarily follow. The first premise leaves open the possibility that some humans are not intelligent. The fact that most humans are intelligent means that it is highly probable that Steve is intelligent, but it doesn't necessarily follow that he is. He could be in the minority of humans who are unintelligent. More correctly stated, the argument should be:
- Most humans are intelligent.
- Steve is a human.
- Therefore, Steve is probably intelligent.
In inductive arguments, there is always a degree of uncertainty regarding the conclusion.
Now, here is the question to consider. A doctrine is a statement of a conclusion. For example, the doctrinal statement that 'Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine' is a conclusion based on a whole range of evidence and reasoning. In other words, this doctrinal statement has been arrived at as the result of argument. But what type of argument is it? Deductive or inductive?
If the statement that "Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine" is the result of a valid deductive argument then we can evaluate the conclusion as being absolutely certain. If, however, the statement is the result of an inductive argument, then we can only evaluate the conclusion in terms of how probable it is true. Most doctrinal statements are the result of inductive arguments and, therefore, can only be held to be true in a probabilistic sense. This is why there are so many variations in belief and why it is so difficult to persuade others of what we, ourselves, may believe to be true.
The issue of induction also requires intellectual humility on our part when we make doctrinal claims. If most doctrinal statements are the result of inductive arguments, then it is always possible that we may have it wrong. We always need to be open to the possibility that new evidence might come along that will require a modification in our conclusions (doctrines).
Intellectual humility is one of the key traits of a critical thinker. Paul & Elder (2002) define intellectual humility
as having a consciousness of the limits of one's knowledge, including a sensitivity to circumstances in which one's native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively. This entails being aware of one's biases, one's prejudices, the limitation of one's viewpoint, and the extent of one's ignorance. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than one actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the logical foundations, or lack of such foundations, of one's beliefs.' (p. 22)
Each of the biasing factors identified in the above definition leads to the probability that most of our thinking is inductive. It is very rare to find a deductive argument for the most significant issues we consider. Knowing the difference between a deductive argument and an inductive argument keeps us humble about what we know and keeps us inquiring to further refine what we believe.
Paul, R & Elder, L (2002), Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life, Financial Times/Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Monday, December 26, 2005
You can read a summary of the judge's finding on Intelligent Design here in this article from GeoTimes. Essentially, the judge said that Intelligent Design theory may be true -- but it is not science, it is religion:
To preserve the separation of church and state, Dover Area School District teachers may not "disparage the scientific theory of evolution" and also may not "refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID," Jones wrote in his decision. "We find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science."
Friday, December 23, 2005
You get the idea... Spong wants to radically change the essential nature of Christianity. He wants to throw everything out and build a new religion from the ground up and call it Christianity. This overall agenda, which is evident in most of the books that Spong authors, overshadows his interpretation of the "terrible texts" he considers. Whereas other authors (not all) assume the inspiration and authority of the biblical text and demonstrate a similar conclusion to Spong's (that the Bible has often been used for evil throughout Christian history) they do so by pointing to the readers' misunderstandings, misapplications, and distortions of Scripture and the way that a correct reading of the text removes the justification for many of these "sins of Scripture". The fact that Spong wants to rip the heart out of Christianity means that many Christians will not even read his book. So he essentially ends up "preaching to the converted" - those that already believe what Spong does about Christianity. The very people who need to consider the sinful use made of Scripture - in particular, those who engage in a fundamentalist, literalistic reading of the text without considering issues such as cultural context - are the ones who will reject the good aspects of Spong's argument! For example, one of the reviewers on Amazon.com bought the book but decided, without finishing it, that it was a waste of money and "not for true Christians.' And Spong's poorly justified claims that Paul was gay and Jesus was married, for example, will turn many Christians away. There is no doubt that Spong's Sins of Scripture is a provocative read that has much of relevance to say to contemporary Christianity. However, his solution to the "sins of Scripture" is to change the essential nature of Christianity instead of changing the way that Christians read the text by promoting a more rigorous hermeneutic. Getting rid of Christianity as it now is may be one solution, but it is not going to be the solution for the majority of Christians. So Spong's book will essentially be one which highlights the problems but doesn't offer a practical solution. Another problem with The Sins of Scripture is that the other aim Spong had in mind is not adequately achieved. The subtitle of the book indicates that the author wants to "reveal the God of love". Spong deals with this in a somewhat cursory fashion and even suggests, at one point, that an in-depth treatment of the God of love will need to wait for another book. I have heard Spong speak on a number of occasions. His "mantra", which appears on p. 25 of this book, is that '[w]e are to build a world in which every person can live more fully, love more wastefully and be all that God intends for each person to be.' There is nothing wrong with these biblical aims for humanity. The problem with Spong's approach is that, despite his mention of God, he is looking for the human race to pull itself up by its bootstraps as it continues to evolve toward whatever we discover is actual human nature. So Spong wants to discard the biblical understanding of human nature on the presumption that we know better than the biblical authors, implement his own process for change, and hope we evolve to the place where 'we will oppose everything that diminishes the life of a single human being, whether it is race, ethnicity, tribe, gender, sexual orientation or religion itself.' The very best of Christianity has demonstrated that genuine equality is at the heart of the Christian gospel. It has also acknowledged the "sins of Scripture" outlined by Spong. But, in my view, Christians must reject Spong's solution to the problem and, rather than discard the inspiration and authority of Scripture, we must draw a sharp distinction between Scripture and our interpretation of Scripture (something fundamentalism fails to do and, ironically, Spong also fails to do). By humbly acknowledging the fact that Christianity has often perpetrated great evil on others by its misreading of Scripture and by ruthlessly returning to the heart of the gospel - God's persistent love of God's creation - change will certainly take place. To do that, however, humanity needs the God of Scripture who is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, and all-wise to empower humanity to achieve God's vision of a redeemed creation. So read Spong's book. Just make sure you grab on to the baby as it flies past you with the bath water that Spong wants to discard. Related Links
The deconstruction [of Christianity] begins with the dismissal of the story with which the Bible opens. It has already moved from being thought of as literal history to being viewed as interpretive myth. The next step is to dismiss it as not even an accurate interpreter of life. It is a bad myth, a false myth, a misleading myth. There never was a time, either literally or metaphorically, when there was a perfect and finished creation. That biblical idea is simply wrong. It is not even symbolically valid. It is an inaccurate idea that has helped to set the stage for the development of a guilt-producing, dependency-seeking neurotic religion. Nothing more! Whatever else we know about creation, we are now certain that it is an ongoing, evolving and sill-incomplete process. A further insight follows quickly from this: we can no longer properly conceive of God as resting from the divine labors of creation and pronouncing good all that God has made.
Since there was no perfect beginning, no Garden of Eden and no first man and woman who walked with God in perfect communion, there can also be no fall into sin and thus no act of disobedience that destroyed the perfection of God's world. These details cannot be true even as symbols. They constitute, rather, an inaccurate perception of human origins. We were created neither in the original goodness that Matthew Fox has proclaimed, nor in the original sin that has been established as the primary understanding of human life inside which the Christians have traditionally told their story, at least from Augustine on. Since these understandings are basic to the whole superstructure of Christian creeds, doctrine, dogma and theology, this realization means that they will all eventually come crashing down... Our humanity is not flawed by some real or mythical act of disobedience that resulted in our expulsion from some fanciful Garden of Eden. It is rather distorted by the unfinished nature of our humanity. The fact is we do not yet know what it means to be human, since that is a status we have not fully achieved. What human life needs, therefore, is to be called and empowered to enter a new being. We do not need some divine rescue accomplished by an invasive deity to lift us from a fall that never happened and to restore us to a status we have never possessed. The idea that Jesus had to pay the price of our sinfulness is an idea that is bankrupt. When that idea collapses, so do all of those violent, controlling and guilt-producing tactics that are so deeply part of traditional Christianity.
- John Shelby Spong's web site
- The Diocese of Newark's information page on John Shelby Spong
- John Shelby Spong (BeliefNet entry with links to Spong articles)
- John Shelby Spong: A Revolutionary, Rational Anti-Religionist (a good overview of Spong's overall agenda)
- John Shelby Spong: Anglican Nightmare (a critical article on Spong)
- What's Wrong with Bishop Spong: Laymen Rethink the Scholarship of Bishop Spong (an in-depth critical analysis of Spong's ideology)
- John Shelby Spong (Wikipedia article)
- Spong Kong Phooey: Why Spong's "Christianity" is already dead
- Some quotations from John Shelby Spong's books
Monday, December 19, 2005
If we in spiritual formation intend to lead people into ever-increasing unity and conformity with the living God revealed in Jesus Christ, we are at our best and generally safest when we lead Christians with teaching and practices that are distinctive to the Christian tradition: Christian spiritual formation...
The blessings of spirituality have arrived, and resources to pursue the spiritual life abound. But therein lies a caution. When we are more interested in the fascinating resources than in pursuing relationship with God, when we use the right words to avoid the real Spirit, or when we pursue the experience of God more than the God of the experience, we are not yet practicing Christian spiritual formation.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Johnathon V Last, the online editor of the Weekly Standard, has written an interesting article about God on the Internet. Almost every imaginable belief is promoted online but, as Last concludes,
... even at its best, the Internet is a weakening of reality, and with its consumer satisfactions, politicizing impulses, and substitutions for the body, it constantly lures us up into thinner and thinner air. Isnt religion supposed to enrich the world around us instead? Shut off your computer. Take a deep breath. Go to church.
You can read the whole article here.
Key concepts: Internet, church, blog, priest, communities