Category Archives: Blog

Feelings trump truth

“The truth hurts” is an old saying that describes telling someone the truth when the truth is perceived as negative and makes the recipient feel bad. The meaning behind the saying is the truth may hurt, but it does not harm, and it should spur the recipient on to be better or do better so that the truth will no longer hurt. The saying was popular when people wanted to hear the truth. Not so today! Why? Because people do not want to feel bad. Why? Because life is feelings brought on by experiences. People, especially young people, do not want to experience anything that makes them feel bad. They are willing to sacrifice truth and knowledge in order to avoid feeling bad.

An article in the September 2015 issue of The Atlantic magazine titled “The Coddling of the American Mind” shows the extent that young people today want to avoid feeling bad. The article begins: “Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.” The movement is fueled by the “emotional well-being” of the individual. Of course, like so much in the world where bad is called good, the movement to avoid negative feelings in the name of emotional well-being will have the opposite effect. A person who cannot deal responsibly with negative feelings will never have emotional well-being.

The article gives the example of a law professor at Harvard who was asked by law students to not to teach rape law or to use the word “violate” (as in “that violates the law”) fearing that it would cause some students distress. Who knows? Maybe some student might think that they had been violated in some way in the past. That is absurd enough and the article gives some examples that are more absurd.

Mental reasoning has been replaced by emotional reasoning. Emotional reasoning assumes that your negative feelings necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true!” Lord help us! when feelings are the sole basis for interpreting reality. Is this generation being coddled or what? And to think that these young people will someday  be adult babies and will run the institutions of our society. It will indeed be a world of woe.

Here is an excerpt from my book Living Right in a World of Woe which will be released soon:

We have moved from the belief that everyone has an equal right to their own opinions, to the belief that everyone’s opinion is equally right. Everyone determines what is right for them. Everyone is their own god. Everyone is a fool (Ps. 14:1). Evil has become good.

Fifteen years ago we talked in terms of “floating anchors.” The things that held society together and that anchored one’s life to his history and identity were no longer secured to anything. Today the anchor rope has been cut at the boat. There are no anchors wanted. Society is adrift with no destination in mind.

The folly of this twenty-first century culture is that there is no foundation to one’s life. There is only an emotional freefall. There is no family, no love, not even a faithful friend to land on before you reach the total despair of suicide. When the music stops there is silence—nothingness, hopelessness, despair, death. With no music the body has no life because the human spirit has already been killed. It died when God died.

In thirty years the youth of today will be middle-aged. They will have no choice but to continue on with the culture they created and with what they have been doing. They have no traditional family, traditional religion, or traditional culture to return to. The modern church has let them down. Instead of converting youth to be like Jesus Christ, the church is converting Christianity to be like the youth.

I have tried to describe the world we live in here in the twenty-first century, the world that Christians are in but not of; the world and things in it that we are not to love. It is impossible to predict what the world will be like at the end of the twenty-first century, if the Lord tarries. Current culture has no trajectory. What has been described will not apply to, or be the culture of, the small minority who still hold to the Judeo-Christian worldview and who live in obedience to the truths of the Bible. Christians must be prepared to live like a remnant in a culture that has repudiated the foundations of our faith. Living right in a world gone wrong will not be easy.

Modern logic is no longer logical

Before you read this blog post please drop down and read the excerpt on Logic from my Making Disciples in Africa book. The section quoted deals with logic and worldview.

It is only logical to say that if a person’s worldview changes, their view of logic would have to change. That is because worldviews have to be logical to be livable. To change a worldview would require a change of the logic behind it. The West has undergone a major worldview change and its view of logic has been cast out altogether. In moving from a biblical to a secular worldview, logic has to be ignored because it only proves the secular worldview to be illogical and false. Remember that logic can only detect error, or what is not true; it cannot tell you what is true.

So, where is the secular worldview illogical? It begins in its materialistic view of the origin of the universe. Its denial of miracles leaves no explanation for the origin of the material of the universe or for life in the universe. Something coming from nothing is unscientific and illogical. Dead matter coming to life is unscientific and illogical. These two beliefs are the first principals of the secular worldview. Neither can be proven scientifically and both violate at least two of the laws of logic. The logic in believing the secular worldview is that it has to be true because, without a belief in God and miracles, there is no other explanation. That means people with the secular worldview have to be happy living without knowing how and why the world exists and why they exist. Does that sound logical to you?

Logic
 Aristotle wrote a series of essays titled, ‘Logic’ or ‘Organon’ in which he put forth principles of human reason, both valid and invalid. His goal was to establish the steps to be used in logically constructing a body of knowledge. Aristotle showed how every science begins with certain obvious truths that he referred to as first principles, explaining how these first principles form the foundations upon which all knowledge rests. First principles are the fundamental truths from which inferences are made and on which conclusions are based. They are self-evident, and they can be thought of as both the underlying and the governing principles of a worldview.

If Aristotle was right, then one’s worldview is only as valid as the first assumptions on which it is based and the logical inferences drawn from them. Correct reasoning should enable us to determine if one’s worldview is credible, and correct reasoning is established by the principles of logic. We all use logic in the form of human reason to think about the reality of our existence. The use of reason and the reality of our existence are fundamental assumptions that all people share. They are unavoidable; in order to deny them one would have to use reason to think of a basis for the denial, and one would have to exist to engage in the reasoning process. Once we begin using reason to think about our existence we have begun to philosophically construct a worldview using the principles of logic.

The first principle of logic is the principle of contradiction, also called the principle of non-contradiction, and is the principle that a statement and its negation, or opposite, cannot both be true. This principle is also called the law of noncontradiction (LNC) and asks, can opposite truth claims both be true? Can the Christian claim that evil is real and the Hindu claim that evil is an illusion both be right? According to the LNC if one claim is true, the other claim must be false. The LNC is a self-evident truth and its usage is unavoidable even in its denial. To say that there is no such thing as absolute truth is to affirm a statement as being true that denies what it affirms. By invalidating the statement the LNC is automatically validated.

Two more first principles of logic are important in analyzing the truth claims of a worldview. To communicate properly, we must share a mutual understanding of the meaning of the words communicated. Words are used as symbols to represent certain aspects of reality called referents. This gives rise to another law of logic called the law of identity (LID). This law states that something is what we say it is, the symbol and the referent are one and the same (A is, in fact, A). The third law of logic is called the law of the excluded middle (LEM). It states that something is either A or non-A, but it cannot be both at the same time and in the same context. These principles are absolute and form the basis of all valid thinking. Words vary from language to language, but if they refer to the same reality their meaning is universal.

These three first principles or laws of logic (LNC, LID, LEM) are necessary in analyzing truth claims, but logic’s function is to correct erroneous thinking and is therefore a negative test for truth. Logic by itself will not help us find truth but will only help us detect error because the true must be logical, but the logical does not necessarily have to be true.  Two unicorns plus two unicorns equals four unicorns is a logical statement, but it does not mean that unicorns, of a truth, really exist. How can we discover truth in worldviews if logic, by itself, only detects errors?

The first presupposition that is required of anyone searching for truth is that truth can be found. To say that truth does not exist is to assume that view to be true which violates the LNC and is self-defeating. Truth is a symbol, or statement that matches or corresponds to its object or referent, whether it is an abstract idea or something concrete. To say that true statements can be made about reality is rationally justifiable.

The modern view of history is not historical

Twentieth century philosophy and present-day academia have all but rendered secular history meaningless. U.S. and world history is being rewritten to say what the authors want to say about people and events of the past. Like the news media, the secular writers of history propagate opinion rather than fact. Not only does it save a lot of research time, it also puts modern views in historical situations. Then people can point back in time and say, “It has always been this way.”

We can see this played out in the way historians have rewritten the founding fathers of America to portray them as atheists or agnostics rather that the godly men history books from the 1700s to the late 1900s  portrayed them.  The world now has a new genre of historical literature called “faction” which is a mixture of fact and fiction. The author does not distinguish one from the other so it is left up to the reader to determine what is fact and what is fiction. The only way to do that accurately is to know the facts of history before you read a history book.

Studying history, true history, does have its benefits. Just as knowing our parents and grandparents helps us know where we came from and gives us a sense of identity, knowing the history of Christianity will help us put present-day Christianity in its proper perspective. This is an excerpt from the Introduction to the History volume of my School of Christianity:

In our study of twenty-first century Christianity, the Christian church, and the Christian worldview, it is wise to begin at the beginning, with a study of the history of Christianity (throughout this volume Christian history and church history are used interchangeably). Swiss church historian, Philip Schaff, gives several reasons why the study of Christian history is useful. In history can be found the backbone of theology that keeps it straight, and the storehouse from which the supply of theology is drawn. It reveals the gradual unfolding of God’s plan of redemption in history, tracing the moral and religious development of humanity. A study of its history is the key to understanding the present condition of Christendom. “The present is the fruit of the past, and the germ [seed] of the future.” Finally, Schaff gives the practical value of Christian history for all Christians. From it can be received warnings, encouragement, consolation, and counsel. Christian history gives a coherent philosophy to the facts of history. It is “Christianity in living examples.”

At the time of this writing, fairly early in the twenty-first century, the discipline of history itself is under the attack of ever-changing philosophers and higher critics of ancient literature. Beginning with the philosopher, Hegel (1770–1831), the interpretation of history and the actual way it is recorded has become a matter of philosophical interpretation, rather than a recording of facts from the past. Philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911) argued that we can only interpret the past through the concepts and concerns of the present. In other words, the present helps us interpret the past. This idea evolved into the postmodern doctrine of the discontinuity, or fragmentation, of historical events, in which there is no pattern of relationship, or all-embracing theory, that can explain history. If this were true, it would render the Bible to be useless as a historical record, and the study of Christian history to be a study of the ideas of the historian rather than the actual events taking place in the history of the church.

The Christian view of history is the opposite of the secular philosophical view. The attack on the truthfulness of written history is an attack on the Bible as God’s written history. In the words of Francis Schaeffer, “God is a verbalizer and He made us to be verbalizers so that He could communicate with us.” If that communication was not “good” and did not transmit the thoughts of the Source to the thoughts of the respondent it would be a failure. God is not a failure or He would not be God. God has not failed to communicate truth to His prophets and apostles whom He used to write the Bible. The Christian understanding of life comes from historical events, the acts of God in history. Christian revelation is made up of these events, plus their biblical interpretation.

History is His story. It is the story of God’s direct dealing with humanity through the Israelites, through Jesus Christ, and through His church, all culminating in the establishment of the Kingdom of God in this world. The rising and falling of civilizations, nations, governments, and rulers are significant only as they fit into that story. The Christian view is that (1) God controls history; (2) God personally acts in history; (3) God has a purpose and goal for all the events of history; and (4) God will bring history to its end, when, in the words of Philip Schaff, “the stream of time comes to rest in the ocean of eternity.” This view applies to all of history, even though this volume concentrates on church history. Church history is the living out in world history of the Lord’s twin parables of the mustard-seed and the yeast (Matt. 13: 31–33).  It records how Christianity began from the small seed of a few believers in Jerusalem, and grew until its branches were spread all over the world. It also records how being a Christian works all through the individual believer, to change everything within, and thereby, affecting things without.

For the Christian, there is much to be gained by studying Church history. It gives an understanding of the context in which we live out our Christianity in the present. The “why?” questions of today, gets answered by studying the past. Why is there a Roman Catholic Church and a Protestant Church? Why are there so many denominations in the Protestant Church? With the present being the harvest of the past and the seed of the future, church history can be a guide to the future.

In 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 we are told to take warning from the past so that we can avoid the same errors in the future. It is so often the case that new heresies in the church are really old heresies in a new form. Studying church history can be a source of hope, encouragement, and motivation for the Christian. In Romans 15:4 we read, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” The Scriptures tell us the early church was persecuted, subsequent history tells us the true church is still persecuted in many parts of the world, but Christians should not be fearful for the future of the church, because history shows us the indestructible character of the church.

Being old comes with age

The youth of every generation think they will never be old. But all will be if they live long enough. Very few give any thought to the kind of old person they want to be. This is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Kind of Old Man I Want to Be:

You and I are witnessing something that is unprecedented in the history of the United States. The number of people getting old is at record rates. And I am helping. Yes, I am one of the 76 million babies born after World War II during the years 1946 to 1964. We are called the Baby Boomers. We are the largest generation of older people ever assembled in the US and we started turning 65 in 2011. And I, being born in 1946, was in the first class of Boomers to turn 65. But when I had my 65th birthday I was not alone. On my birthday 9,999 other Boomers had their 65th birthday. That’s right, 10,000 Baby Boomers per day are turning 65 and they are joining the 45 million people who are already there. Folks, that is a lot of old folks.

Look at it this way. There are a whole flock of people age 50 and above who are being herded toward the gate marked “65” and 10,000 per day are going through it. What does that gate lead to? For the minority it will lead to a pasture of green grass, financial security, comfort and years of good health. For others, it will open on to a rocky pasture with an oasis only now and then to sustain them. And for others, what lies beyond the 65 gate is a desert of poor relations, lack of finances, and poor health—a life full of emptiness. Statistics show that not many of us are prepared for what is on the other side of the gate. Many do not have a plan, a map or a blueprint for being 65 and beyond. Wise counsel for contentment in old age is needed.

How many old people are content with being old? We are human beings and not human doings so maybe contentment hinges more on being (the kind of person we are) than on doing (what we fill our time with). Many old people are finding things to kill time while they are waiting for time to kill them. That is not the kind of old man I want to be.

Old people pass through the gate and enter the pasture. On the other side of the pasture, opposite the gate, is a door—death’s door. We don’t know how long we get to stay in the pasture, but we do know that everyone who enters the gate will leave by the door. Are we prepared for that door to open for us? Are we prepared to die? I certainly want to be the kind of old man who is content to live and content to die. That is real contentment. I will have more to say about contentment throughout the book. I just want you to know that we can learn a lesson about contentment from Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company. He retired a millionaire but he was content to live and to die never having owned a Cadillac.