Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why Do I Need to Know This?

For the first several years of our marriage, my wife was a high school math teacher.  Needless to say, she had her fair share of students for whom math (to put it mildly) was not their favorite subject.  As I am sure is the experience of math teachers throughout the country, one of the most common questions she was asked was inevitably some variation of "Why do I need to know this?"  Oh, I'm certain it comes up in other contexts too.  There is hardly an English teacher who has not fallen victim to incessant whining about what Shakespeare has to do with modern life or why someone with the name Phillip Pirrip would ever go by "Pip."  But for some reason differential equations seem to bring out the worst in people, at least in my limited experience.

For anyone who is now fearful that I am going to start into a long diatribe on the practical lessons we can learn from Pythagoras, never fear.  That is not the point of this blog.  But it is somewhat related to that repetitive question my wife was asked in her classroom.  Back in 2006 I started a ministry called "Ten Minas Ministries."  For the most part it was apologetics oriented, meaning I focused on giving a defense of the Christian faith.  The website for that ministry is now long gone, but you can still find some of the old blog posts at tenminasministries.blogspot.com if you are really interested.  Ever since then, I have been kind of a roadside apologist.  I'm not the guy who has my name on the spine of a million books at Barnes and Noble.  I'm more the guy you meet at the water cooler and (I hope) have a really cool conversation with, then go about your day.

Well, I had some things come up in my life that just made it impossible to maintain the full scope of that ministry.  I was blogging for multiple blogs, writing articles, teaching classes, recording podcasts, etc.  I couldn't keep up with it and had to let it go.  So for the past couple of years, I've kind of fallen off the apologetic radar.

Life still is pretty chock full for me, so I know deep down that I am in no position to start up the whole rigamarole all over again.  But as I walk through life, I've also come to appreciate that in addition to the hours upon hours of studying, writing, teaching, etc. that the old minsitry required of me, it also gave me an outlet.  It gave me a place to express everyday thoughts on things I see on the street.  I've lost that and I miss it.  You see, if I tried to start up a conversation at the water cooler about Norman Geisler's ethical theory of "graded absolutism," most people would give me the same look my wife's students gave her.  Why on Earth do I need to know this?

I still don't have time to write detailed explanations of the support for Pauline authorship of Ephesians as I once did.  But occasionally I would like to answer that all important question.  Why should you even care about all this philosophical mumbo jumbo?  What does it possibly have to do with your life?  So this blog aims to be pretty narrowly tailored on posts directed at answering that question.  And it is going to do it by pointing out inconsistencies.

There are inconsistencies everywhere in day to day life.  You see, one of the biggest problems our society faces today is a lack of critical thinking.  People just don't think through what they are saying.  More and more we tend to make our decisions based on emotion and want, not logic and reason.  As a result, we are living inconsistently.  All that philosophical mumbo jumbo helps us avoid falling into that trap.  Let me explain.

A "worldview" is a collection of beliefs about how reality operates.  For example, some people believe in a personal, active God who intervenes in our lives from time to time.  Other folks don't believe there is any god at all.  Those beliefs are part of their "worldview."  Now the problem comes in when people don't realize that beliefs have consequences.  In other words, if A is true, then B also must be true.  If God exists, then there are other things that follow logically from that which also must be true.  If God does not exist, then that too has consequential ramifications.  But most of the time people don't think this through and they end up claiming to believe several things, many of which actually turn out on closer examination to contradict one another.

Let's say for example that you are visiting a cobbler's shop.  You see all the pieces of leather he is about to use to put together a shoe and every single piece of leather is the exact same shade of green.  Naturally, you come to believe that every piece of leather is green based upon your observations.  But suppose you also believed that once all those pieces were assembled together, the completed shoe would be pink.  That doesn't follow.  If you would simply take a step back and look at your other belief (that all the pieces from which the shoe will be made are green) and follow it through to it's logical conclusion, then you will see that your belief in the pink shoe is inconsistent with your belief in all the green pieces.  When you extrapolate this example out to broader worldview questions, that is what I mean by living life inconsistently.

A consistent life is one in which our most cherished beliefs exist in harmony.  An inconsistent life is one in which we insist on holding to a set of beliefs even though they contradict each other.  Living an inconsistent life is a sign of poor critical thinking or an unwillingness to engage in critical thinking in the first place.  The narrow purpose of this blog is going to be to navigate those waters and use examples of things I come across in daily life to illustrate how people are living inconsistently.  Hopefully you will join me and come along for the ride.