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
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
Monday, November 21, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
entertaining, ... [but] a somewhat duplicitous undertaking. Presenting itself as portrait of a neighborhood from which a new art form was created out of frustration and oppression, it is in fact a promotional tool from some of the heaviest hitters in the music industry. Enjoy it for what it is, but don't mistake it for the real thing.The documentary presents itself as a raw look at undiscovered street kids and convinces us that we are seeing thing as they really are. But knowing the information Bill White describes dampens the enthusiasm one can have toward the film. It is hard not to wonder whether the documentary hasn't, as Bill White says, been packaged as a promotional to capitalise on this new dance art form. The documentary ends with the famous 'I have a dream' quote from Martin Luther King. Krumping is considered to be an alternative to gang warfare - a non-violent means of protest and survival. If it has that effect, then it is most likely a good thing. If you are interested in contemporary music and/or dance, you will probably find this documentary of interest. Just remember that what you are seeing may not be exactly the way it is. My Rating: *** (out of 5) Positive Review 'Stunning, explosively moving.' - Ken Tucker/New York Magazine Negative Review 'Although entertaining, Rize is a somewhat duplicitous undertaking.' - Bill White/Seattle Post-Intelligencer Related Links
Sunday, November 13, 2005
- September 11 News.com
- The September 11 Digital Archive
- September 11, 2001 Attacks (Wikipedia)
- September 11 prompts sober mission thinking (Christianity Today)
- Afghanistan before September 11 (Christianity Today)
- The Nightmare of September 11 (Christianity Today)
- Was September 11 the beginning of the End? (Christianity Today)
- 10 Things We Should Have Learned Since September 11, 2001 (Christianity Today)
Friday, November 11, 2005
- What is the destiny of the unevangelised? (Argues for post-mortem evangelisation)
- One Way (1, 2, and 3) (Argues against post-mortem evangelisation and that all unevangelised will be lost)
- An 'Evangelical Inclusivist' Defends Evangelical Inclusivism
- Are There Few That Be Saved? (Argues for 'pessimistic optimism')
- Biblical Universalism (The view I favour)
- Universalism (A survey of universalist views -- not to be confused with 'Biblical Universalism' above)
- Politically Incorrect Salvation (Argues for a form of restrictivism)
- Destiny of the Unevangelized (Surveys the various options/views)
- The Scriptorium: A Wider Hope? (Argues that 'some people who cannot hear the whole Gospel of Jesus may still have saving faith')
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Monday, November 07, 2005
Friday, November 04, 2005
After 10 years, the brilliant NET Bible is available for FREE!!!! This is a historic event. Here's what people are saying about the NET Bible:
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Pastor and Author, Chuck Swindoll
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"...faithful to the original... an excellent resource for pastors, teachers, and students of the Bible... easy to read... Highly recommended!" Professor, Howard G. Hendricks
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To read more about this stunning Bible and find out how you can get a digital copy absolutely free, click here!
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Sunday, October 30, 2005
An interesting article, from a Catholic perspective, which critiques an opinion piece in the New York Times by a Catholic cardinal who was countering the idea that neo-Darwinism precludes the idea of a Creator. In the process of critique, there is some interesting discussion about the relationship between science and revelation. Read The Design of Evolution here.
Key concepts: evolution, randomness, neo-Darwinism, chance, science
- So You Want to be an Anti-Darwinian: Varieties of Opposition to Darwinism
'Many different people oppose some or all aspects of Darwin's thinking, or the views that have arisen since and go by the term "Darwinism". This essay distinguishes and names the major varieties of anti-Darwinism. It does not attempt to defend or reject any views, just to provide a map to the conceptual territory.'
- Evolution: Thinking Clearly About Randomness
- The False Dilemma between Neo-Darwinism and Intelligent Design
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
- As I was browsing the internet to look for related links, I came across this one at Christianity Today reporting on the death of Mike Yaconelli, the author. This book was first published in 2001 and Mike died in 2003. You can read this article about Mike and see for yourself what sort of a man Mike was. I was very sad to read this after reading his book.
British new Labour is attempting to pass a bill called the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. Richard Hart, in this Times Online article entitled God save the heretic, explores some potential consequences of this Bill if it is passed. You may not agree with the specific things he says about specific religions, but it is worth considering his essential point that
... with our dominant ideology of secular materialism (for which read shopping), our fringe religious ideologies either vapid or dangerously fundamentalist, both hostile to outside criticism and incapable of self-criticism, and now new Labours outrageous attempts to frighten us from even discussing such essential matters openly, our chances of shaping some better religion for our modern selves, and consequently learning to love each other a little more than we have hitherto managed, seem remoter than ever.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Here is a remarkable resource - The World Wide Encyclopedia of Christianity. The encyclopedia has links to the contents of:
- Catholic Encyclopedia
- Easton's Bible Dictionary
- Smith's Bible Dictionary
- Torrey's Topical Textbook
- Elwell's Dictionary of Christian Theology
- Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia
The provider is hoping to add more links to other resources in the future. Check it out here.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Friday, October 21, 2005
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Monday, October 10, 2005
'This witty yet highly informed book deals with issues such as the crisis in confidence within western Christianity, the impact of postmodernity on Christianity, and the shift in numerical strength from the west to Africa and Asia. It questions whether traditional Protestant denominations are likely to survive in their present form, and charts the rise of various forms of post-denominational Christianity. It explores the impact of a consumer culture on western Christianity, and the changes this has brought about in approaches to evangelism and church growth. Finally, the work documents the gulf that has opened up between academic theology and the life of the church, and offers a penetration Gramscian analysis of how this situation has arisen, and what can be done to remedy it.' (Back Cover)Despite its deep and important themes, it is easy to read. If you are interested in Christianity and how it might fare in the future, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Quotes '... To learn from the past, it is essential to confront that past.' (p. 3) 'Old habits of thinking die hard. One of the working assumptions underlying most discussion of the future of Christianity in the 21st century is that it represents a western faith, and that its future is predicated upon trends in western society. By 1990 it was perfectly obvious that this was no longer true. Over the century, the centre of gravity of Christianity had moved south, and now lies in the developing world. To its critics in the Third World, western Christianity continues to behave as if the Christian world orbits around it. The reality, however, is rather different.' (p. 40) 'On the basis of present trends, the future development of [mainline Protestant denominations in the West] can only be described in terms of -- at best -- stagnation, and more likely serious erosion of memberships, influence and power.' (p. 99) Related Links