My heart goes out to the people in Oklahoma at this moment so many of whom have suffered great loss. From the loss of homes and property to physical injuries they've received to, worst of all, the loss of the lives of loved ones. As a husband and “daddy” to 3 little kids, I can't even imagine the pain that parents who lost their kids in the elementary school that was hit by the tornado are feeling right now. My prayers are with you and your families right now.
When tragedy like this occurs there is never far behind it an outcry by some against God or belief in Him. One atheist, in response to this awful happening remarked “Tsunamis and hurricanes are consistent with the view that no god exists. If there really is a dude up there in the sky - what's he playing at? I mean if this God is responsible for all the good things in life - who is responsible for bad things? Oh yeah, That's the Devil up to his tricks - right? C'mon please. It's much more sensible to assume there's nobody up there.” So is this atheist correct? In light of events like the tornado in Oklahoma and Hurricane Katrina and so many other natural disasters around the world should we simply conclude that there is no God?
I would submit that although natural disasters raise some good and important questions as it relates to God, that they are far from sufficient to lead us to the conclusion “Therefore there is no God.” An event like this could reasonably lead us to ask “Why would God let this happen?”, but it is doesn't lead with any kind of logical necessity to the conclusion the Atheist often tells us that it does. The underlying assumption of the atheist is that the idea that God is both completely good and unlimited in power is inconsistent with the notion that bad or evil things occur. But this is clearly not a formal contradiction that disproves God, but merely one they mean to imply.
Here is a way to state the problem of evil (and this is what most atheists are really trying to get at) that would present a formal contradiction with the idea of God’s existence and evil.
P1: If God were real then he would never let anything bad happen.
P2: Bad things do happen.
C: Therefore God is not real.
The above syllogism is valid in form, meaning that the premises correlate properly with one another and the conclusion follows from the premise, which in turn means if both the premises are true then the conclusion is also necessarily true. But are both the premises true? Well no one will argue with P2 because we’d be blind in light of recent events (or even daily experience) if we denied it. But P1 is not obviously true at all and this is where we take issue with the argument.
Is it really the case that if God is real he would never let anything bad happen? There would seem to be an awful lot of assumptions built into such a premise as this. For instance what do we mean by “bad” or “evil” and what qualifies? Is a paper cut proof that there is no God? Or is it only large scale events like tornadoes that prove there is no God? On that note, is all pain and suffering intrinsically evil? When weight lifters work out they are actually tearing their muscles so that they grow back stronger, and this can be painful, but is it bad? Furthermore, could it be the case that God might have morally sufficient reasons for allowing some bad things to happen? From the vantage point of God who sees all things and the full panorama of history and future, could it be that God knows something we don’t that justifies allowing something bad to occur?
From a human vantage point it is easy to say “If God were real he wouldn’t have ______” or “If God were real he would have ________.” But we who say such things are speaking from a very limited perspective, a perspective of ignorance of the big picture that only God sees. At any rate, when calamity strikes, it’s completely natural to ask “Why?” I wouldn’t fault anyone who in their deepest moment of loss who struggles with the question of “Where was God in this?” Even so, here are some things worth considering as we battle with the concept of tragedy and how it relates to God.
First, as we have said, while tragedies such as these lead us to struggle with real questions of why God allowed this to happen, it doesn’t lead to the logical conclusion that God necessarily does not exist. Our perspective is limited as those in the midst of the here and now, but an eternal God who sees the whole spectrum of history and future may have sufficient reasons for allowing such tragedies to occur.
Second, it’s easy in the midst of grief and shock to lose sight of the positive case for God’s existence and Christianity as a whole, but we shouldn’t. The fact that tragedies of this sort occur don’t in any way undermine things like the cosmological, teleological and moral arguments for God’s existence, nor the evidence the supports the reliability of the Bible and the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. So while such events might leave us reeling and searching for answers to help us make sense of things, they don’t erase the very strong positive case for Christianity.
Third, the Scripture tells us why things like this occur. Ultimately the reason natural disasters occur is due to the fact that mankind’s rebellion against God has brought a curse upon the world. Sin not only affected people (there relationship with God and one another) but it also affected the created order according to Genesis 3. So then ultimately the answer to why tornadoes, hurricanes, cancer and even death itself occurs is because mankind rejected God and brought a curse on the world because of sin. This is not to say that God sent the tornadoes to Oklahoma to punish specific people for specific sins as if “they got what they were asking for”, but only to say that we now live in a fallen world system that is not functioning right and if we want to know why that is it is ultimately because the human race rejected the creator.
Finally, because Christianity is true, and Jesus really is the God-man and savior of the world, we can look forward to the future with hope. The Scripture teaches that not only will those who trust in Christ be resurrected and renewed into a perfect incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15), but also the entire created realm will be redeemed and freed from the curse of sin (Romans 8:18-25). For those of us in Christ death is not the end but only the beginning of life and we will see our loved ones who are in-Christ once again. We will then enjoy never ending days with our God and will never deal with pain or suffering again and if we even need to know “Why?” at that point we will be with the one who can tell us. Let tragedies like this one, then, spur us on to share the good news of forgiveness of sin and eternal life in Christ Jesus so that when tragedy strikes people are able to deal with it as those who have hope in God, a northern star in the midst of an otherwise directionless world.
This will be the first in an ongoing series of posts where I will share simple, practical, apologetics related tips. These are all about basic things you, as an ambassador of the Christian faith, can do to represent Jesus well. As I have no felt need to reinvent a perfectly functioning wheel I will borrow Stand To Reason's definition of an effective Christian Ambassador as one who has Knowledge, Wisdomand Character. All of the tips that I will share in the future will fall under one or more of these categories to help you grow as a Christian ambassador.
An ambassador of a foreign nation has a mission to represent their country and its leader(s) well. As Christian ambassadors our job is the same for we know that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20) and that Jesus is our King.
Knowledge: Imagine an ambassador at the U.N. who knew hardly anything about his own country let alone the affairs of others outside of his own country, his lack of knowledge would be a disgrace to his country. It is essential that as an ambassador of Christ we know our own King well, his laws and commands and policies towards those who are not currently citizens. Furthermore it is important that as an ambassador we are familiar with the beliefs and cultural customs of those whom we are interacting with on behalf of our king. The more we know about where we are from, and those whom we are talking to, the more effective we can begin to build bridges.
Wisdom: Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. Even a knowledgeable ambassador can still be ineffective if he doesn't use what he knows in the appropriate way. This includes basic things like when to speak up and when to be quiet and listen. What information is relevant to share at this juncture and which would be superfluous. A wise ambassador knows not only what to say but also when and how to say it, what information is helpful or harmful, and they have learned to communicate their message effectively so that the target audience understands what is being said and they are not getting lost in jargon. Also good ambassador will be able to communicate knowledge without being unnecessarily offensive to those whom he is speaking to.Character: A good ambassador lives his life in a way that doesn't bring shame on the one they represent. They should be viewed as respectful, law abiding, honest, friendly and approachable. In other words, an ambassador should be a winsome sort of person who doesn't give anyone a reason to dislike him. Not that people won't hate an ambassador for who and what he represents, but if they do slander him it is they who will be put to shame because he is a person of upright character.As it says in 1 Peter 3:15-17 "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil."So, this is the first of our Practical Apologetics Tips, learn to be a good ambassador for Christ by acquiring these three basic things: Knowledge, Wisdom and Character. When representing Jesus as an apologist it pays to know what you're talking about, how to communicate your message effectively and to be the kind of person to which no one can speak ill of without lying. If we work to master these three things we will be like our King whom we are representing and we will attract many people to him.
I would like to encourage you to consider participating in this survey and to share your thoughts about Assisted Reproductive Technologies. It will only take you about 10 minutes and it asks your opinion on crucial matters such as "When does life begin?" "Is it permissible to use a third party's sperm or egg to conceive?" "What about enlisting a surrogate?" Lots of issues that Christians need think deeply and biblically about.
Your participation will help further research on Christian's perspectives on important bioethical issues. It might just challenge you think about things you haven't considered before as well.
Click Here to take the survey.
This is our third post in a three part series on various forms of logical reasoning. Today we will discuss Abductive Logic and how it can be used in Christian apologetics.
Abductive: A form of logic which reasons from a known outcome to its most likely means.
Finally we come to the lesser known/discussed abductive form for logic. This form essentially works backwards from an obvious conclusion to ask “what caused it?” There are some obvious similarities to inductive logic and they really usually go hand in hand. This form of logic will also be utilized in the investigation of many crimes. A famous maxim of abductive reasoning is “Occam’s Razor” which states that when there are competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions is most likely to be true. This principle was used in our discussion of inductive reasoning when we had two competing hypothesis about what had happened at our friend’s house (e.g. he was either murdered or fought off a huge, vicious dog).
Suppose you walk outside your front door and the tree in your front yard has fallen over. You could hypothesize that either 1) The wind knocked it over. 2) It was struck by lightning. 3) The neighbors cut down your tree. Or 4) an alien spaceship crashed into it and knocked it over.
In this case, there isn’t doubt about the outcome, your tree hasindeed fallen over, but you don’t know the facts to conclude why. Among these four hypotheses which seems most likely? Probably #4 should be ruled out without significant evidence to support it. #3 may or may not be likely depending on the character of your neighbors but in most cases this sounds less probable than #1 or #2. #1 or #2 seem plausible, but because it was very windy last night and you don’t recall hearing any thunder and the ground is dry, you conclude that #1 is the most probable cause of your tree being knocked over in your front yard.
How might this apply to the realm of Christian apologetics? One example might be that if a person comes to accept as a brute fact that the evidence suggests that Jesus did indeed raise from the dead, they have to explain why. Perhaps Jesus was 1) and alien with advanced technology (you know like on Star Trek) and was able to be regenerated / reanimated after he died. Or 2) he came back to life by natural causes. Or 3) God raised Jesus from the dead. Which one of these seems most likely? Well, again, since there is no credible evidence that suggests there is an advanced race of alien beings who could do such a thing, #1 seems highly improbable. As for #2, everything we know about science and the natural realm tells us that this simply doesn’t happen, when you die, you die and you don’t come back to life by natural means. Which leaves us #3 that God raised Jesus from the dead. Given that Jesus proclaimed his imminent death and subsequent resurrection, and that the events surrounding his resurrection were in a highly contextualized scenario where Jesus was claiming to speak for and, indeed, actually be the Son of God, the last of our three theories seems to be the most probable.
In light of #3 being the most probable, we ought to conclude that God raised Jesus from the dead which in turn has implications like “God exists” and “Christianity is true.” So abductive logic works in relationship with inductive logic but usually in a reverse order. Given what we know to be a matter of fact, what best accounts for the given scenario.
We've are discussing 3 forms of Logic, Deductive, Inductive and Abductive, and how they differ from one another and how each of them are used in Christian apologetics. Yesterday we discussed Deductive logic and you can see that post HERE.
Today we will be discussing the Inductive form of logical reasoning.
Inductive: A form of logic which reasons from known facts to a probable conclusion.
Inductive logic is not as strong as deduction, but that shouldn't come across as meaning it is less valuable. In fact induction is critical to everyday life and, in reality, it is how we make most of our decisions. Most things in life are not as certain as we might like them to be. We make decisions constantly throughout our day based upon probabilities rather than certainties and we often do this completely subconsciously.
For instance, when you get into your car to go to school, work or wherever, you do not have absolute certainty that you will arrive at your destination as you intend. It could happen that you have a flat tire and won’t make it to where you were going that day or, heaven forbid, that you get into a car accident and die. However, based on what you know about your car’s condition, your own driving ability, and the road conditions that day and a whole host of other factors you decide that your chances of making it to your destination are reasonable and the risk of your being wrong is acceptable to you. You therefore conclude that it is more likely to be true that it is safe to get into your car and drive to your destination than it is not true.
This is, essentially, inductive logic. Reasoning from the data you have available to the most likely conclusion. Let’s give a practical example of induction.
You arrive at your friend’s house to find the door wide open which you find a little strange. As you get closer you notice that the door jamb is splintered and it appears the door has been kicked in. You enter the house to see pictures have fallen to the floor from the wall, tables and chairs are knocked over, and there is a large amount of blood pooled on the floor with streaks like someone has been dragged out the back door. You go out the back door and see the blood trail stop suddenly but find tire tracks that trail away into the back alley. Your friend is nowhere to be found.
Here we have a list of brute facts:
1. Front door left wide open.
2. Door jamb splintered.
3. Pictures fallen from the walls.
4. Turned over tables and chairs.
5. A large amount of blood pooled on the floor.
6. Blood streaks leading out the back door.
7. Tire tracks leading to the alley that start where the bloody streaks stop.
8. Your friend is nowhere to be found.
Given these 8 brute facts what do you conclude? Inductive logic seeks to take as many facts as it can get its hand upon in order to form hypothesis that best fit all the facts. You who walk into your friend’s house to find these facts will probably form a theory pretty quick that is grim because a reasonable conclusion from the facts might be that your friend’s house was broken into, a fight ensued and your friend was badly wounded or killed and then hauled away in a vehicle. This conclusion seems very reasonable with all of the given facts, although one could perhaps come up with other hypothesis that fit all the facts as well.
For instance, you could hypothesize that your friend was out front when a tremendously large and viciously ferocious dog began to chase him. Your friend ran into his house and slammed the door shut but the huge dog was large enough to knock the door in. Your friend then wrestled and struggled with the dog knocking pictures off the wall, knocking over tables and chairs until finally he managed to grab a kitchen knife and stab the dog to death. After doing so your friend dragged the big dog out back to his pickup and went to the police station to tell them what happened.
Now between the two scenarios you have formed which one seems more likely? Unfortunately the first one seems much more probable. Of course if while you are taking all of this in your friend comes in the door and exclaims “Oh my goodness! What happened!!” then both of your theories go out the window, but thankfully your friend is alive!
So inductive reasoning uses the data at hand to try and reason to the most likely conclusion but it never achieves absolute certainty because a new piece of data could come into play later that changes the whole unifying theory that is attempting to make sense of all the facts. As you probably have realized by now, induction is what police investigators use and what lawyers use in prosecuting or defending in criminal cases. And the language of court that is used when asking a jury to convict a defendant is that they be found guilty “beyond any reasonable doubt.” And as you know there have been people who are convicted who are later set free in light of new evidence that clears their guilt.
How does inductive reasoning come into play for apologetics? There are at least two very useful ways induction is used in apologetics.
1. Induction can be used to support deduction.
The cosmological argument in its deductive form is as follows:
Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore the universe has a cause.
Let’s say that someone challneges this argument by denying premise two “the universe began to exists” and they argue for a static universe with no beginning and no end. We could then switch to inductive arguments to support our second premise. In Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist they use five lines of evidence to support the premise that the universe began to exist. The five lines of evidence are given the acronym S.U.R.G.E.
Second Law of Thermodynamics
Universe is expanding
Radiation after glow from the Big Bang
Great galaxy seeds
Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity
Without expounding on these five lines of evidence here (as that goes well beyond the purpose of this post) they make a strong case for the necessity of the universe being finite and having a beginning. These list of facts are an inductive case for the probability of the second premise of our cosmological argument being true. So induction can be very valuable in supporting deductive arguments. This also highlights that in most cases even though deductive arguments are seeking to prove a conclusion with certainty that as long as one of the premises is challengeable there is always some uncertainty as to its conclusion and we have to rely on inductive reasoning to inform us as to whether a deductive argument is probably true or probably false.
2. Induction can be used independently of deductive arguments to contend for the truth of the Christian worldview.
In Gary Habermas and Michael Licona’s book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus they use what has been coined “the minimal facts approach” to defending the historicity of the resurrection. This method seeks to establish widely believed historical facts about the events surrounding the life, death and purported resurrection of Jesus to ascertain what really occurred. They surveyed the literature of New Testament historians from ultra-conservative to ultra-skeptical and compiled a list of facts that historians almost universally agreed upon. Here are just a few:
1. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and died on a cross.
2. Jesus’ tomb was found empty.
3. The followers of Jesus went from terrified for their lives to boldly proclaiming the gospel.
4. The apostles believed that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead.
5. Saul of Tarsus believed he saw Jesus risen from the dead.
6. Saul went from persecuting the church to being its greatest proponent.
7. James, Jesus’ brother, went from being a skeptic to proclaiming Jesus with the apostles.
Taking these 7 facts inductive reasoning seeks to come to a conclusion about what best accounts for all the data. The Christian apologist will argue that the resurrection of Jesus is the best theory that accounts for all the data without forcing anything to fit unnaturally whereas opposing theories either don’t account for all the data or fail to be more reasonable than the resurrection (such as Jesus was an alien). They will point out that none of these things happened in a vacuum but in a religious context where Jesus had been proclaiming his eminent death and subsequent coming resurrection. (For a longer post on the minimal facts approach goHERE).
So you can see how inductive reasoning can be very useful in Christian apologetics in more ways than one. Next post we will discuss Abductive logic and its use in Christian apologetics.
Within the realm of logic there are three main categories of reasoning, namely, Deductive, Inductive and Abductive. Here we will discuss the differences between them, how each form is used, and how they can be applied to Christian apologetics. Today we will start with Deductive logic.
Deductive: A form of logic which reasons from certainties to certainties.
Deduction is a strong form of logical reasoning that seeks to prove things with certainty. This form of logical reasoning often uses syllogisms which are three point arguments with a major premise, a minor premise and a conclusion. Here is the formula of what is known as a “categorical syllogism”:
All A is C
All C’s have B’s
Therefore all A’s have B’s
To clarify we will not leave the categorical syllogism to symbolic logic (using just letters to represent real things or concepts), rather, let’s assign actual things to our syllogism so you can better see how it works. The following syllogism is actually the same as the one above.
All cats are felines.
All felines have whiskers.
Therefore all cats have whiskers.
Hopefully now you can clearly see that our syllogisms are actually the same. Here are a couple more understand as it relates to syllogisms.
Valid/Invalid: When we refer to the validity or invalidity of a syllogism it is important to understand this says nothing about whether or not the conclusions is true, only that the form of the syllogism is correct. A syllogism is valid when, and only when, the premises relate properly to one another and the conclusion follows logically from the premises. Our syllogism above is valid and also true. Here is an example of an invalid syllogism.
When it rains outside the driveway gets wet.
The driveway is wet.
Therefore it is raining outside.
Now at first blush this might sound right to you but it is actually invalid. The problem here is that the conclusion does not logically follow from the two premises. Even though premise 1 is presumably true and even if premise 2 is true, it doesn’t follow that it is raining outside. The driveway could be wet because the lawn sprinkler is on, or because someone just washed their car in the driveway. This is actually a categorical error called affirming the consequent and it is a logical fallacy. To make this syllogism valid this is how it ought to read:
When it rains outside the driveway gets wet.
It is raining outside.
Therefore the driveway is getting wet.
Do you see the difference now? In the previous invalid syllogism we had switched things around and affirmed the consequent which invalidated out syllogism and make our conclusion less than logically necessary. Done properly a syllogism ought to lead to logical certainty.
Deductive reasoning, then, is the strongest form of reasoning we can use because it demand precision and leads to irrefutable conclusions if you can establish a valid syllogism and all of your premises are true. It is possible for there to be valid syllogisms that are still false. Here is an example.
Jacob loves every flavor of ice cream.
Chocolate is a flavor of ice cream.
Therefore Jacob loves chocolate ice cream.
Now this is a valid syllogism because the premises correspond to one another properly and the conclusion follows from the premises, however, it is not necessarily true. For instance if I can demonstrate that Jacob actually does not love every flavor of ice cream (perhaps he can’t stand chocolate flavored ice cream) then I can show that this valid syllogism is nonetheless false. So validity is essential in forming a syllogism, but it is necessary to be able to demonstrate (if need be) that the premises are also factually true.
So how does this relate to Christian apologetics? Most (if not all) of the traditional classical “proofs” for God’s existence have utilized Deductive logic. The moral argument, the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, etc., have all used this form of argumentation to argue for the necessity of God’s existence. Take the Moral Argument for example:
If objective moral values exist then God exists.
Objective moral values exist.
Therefore God exists.
No philosopher would deny the validity of this syllogism, but there are plenty of Atheist and agnostic philosophers who would not agree with the conclusion of the syllogism. So what options do they have? They must then offer reasonable evidence to suggest that either premise 1 or premise 2 (or both) is false. Indeed both of our premises have come under assault by various philosophers. So what do we do when we have a valid syllogism that we either want to defend or defeat? Well, we can use inductive logic to demonstrate the truth or falsity of a given premise, and we will discuss that in tomorrow's post.
In defending the Christian faith it is crucial that we use good logic so that we may clearly and persuasively present the truth of the Christian worldview to people of other religions and philosophies. Even so, we live in a day when logical thinking is far from fashionable and people do not abound in clear thinking. But this is exactly why you as a believer in Christ must be logical, because people need to be taught to think clearly about issues that matter so they may come to see the world as it really is and accept what is true, not merely what is comfortable for them.
As such this post is for those of you who are novices to formal logic so that you may get a taste of the beauty of clear thinking. My hope is that it poisons you towards bad thinking and will launch you into a further pursuit of learning to think with clarity so that you may in turn winsomely represent the Christian faith.
There are many laws of logic but here are three of the most fundamental laws which you use everyday whether you realize it or not:
1. The Law of Identity: "A is A and not B"
This most basic of logical laws simply states a thing is what it is. While this may seem like a no brainer to you let's look at an example of why it is so important. Let's take the following statement for instance: "I am trusting in Jesus as my savior." Let's say that I make that statement and then you also make that exact same statement. Are we saying the same thing? Grammatically perhaps, but we may not necessarily intend the same thing. Although we have used the same words it depends on who we are identifying as "Jesus." You may mean Jesus of Nazareth as revealed in the Scriptures whereas I meant my neighbor's dog whom he named "Jesus." So you can see that your reference to Jesus is not the same as my reference to Jesus, they don't share the same identity. You were saying "A is A" but I was saying that "B is B."
Let's run this through another example. You ask me if I know Todd Johnson and I say "Yes, I know Tod Johnson." And then you say, "Todd Johnson who works at Microsoft and is about 5'10'', 200 lbs. with brown hair an blue eyes?" And I say "No, Todd Johnson who works at Subway and is about 5'4', 300 lbs with blonde hair and blue eyes." Clearly we are not talking about the same Todd Johnson even though we are using the same name. This is relevant in Christian apologetics when we talk about Jesus because we may be using the same name and much of the same terminology but if the Jesus I am referring to is the eternal God of the universe and part of the Trinity but the Jesus my friend is talking about was the first and greatest creation of God who is not triune, then we are not talking about the same person.
Again, the law of identity states that a thing (or person) is what it is and is not something else.
2. The Law of Non-Contradiction: "A is A and it cannot be both A and not A at the same time or in the same way."
This is another one of the most basic laws in logic. It's like saying "An apple is an apple and it cannot be both an apple and a banana at the same time or in the same way." If I hold up a fruit and say "this is an apple" it either is or it is not but it can't be both an apple and not an apple. Here we can see how the law of identity is built into the law of non-contradiction. But notice there is an addendum to the statement that notes "at the same time or in the same way." For instance, let's suppose that I hold up a fruit and say "this is an apple" and you say "no it's not, it's a banana." Now one of us is right and the other is wrong (unless I'm holding grapes and then we're both wrong), however there could potentially be a way that we are both right. For instance if you come from a culture that, unbeknownst to me, calls what we call apples, "bananas," then we are merely disagreeing about what to call the fruit, not what the fruit actually is.
This can come into play when we are talking about Jesus, and we describe Jesus of Nazareth and the person we are talking to says "Oh, you mean Isa!" Now, I don't call Jesus "Isa" but if I were from the Middle East I probably would. So in this case Jesus is both Jesus and not Jesus, but only because we are not talking about Jesus in the same way. The law of identity has not been affected by calling the same person by a different name and the law of non-contradiction is not violated because we are simply talking about the same person in two different ways.
This law is helpful to understand because when you make a statement like "Faith in Jesus is the only way anyone can gain eternal life" it is an exclusive claim that is either true or false. A person cannot in turn respond to your claim by saying "Faith in Jesus is the only way anyone can gain eternal life for you, but that's not true for me." A person is not free to say this because it is essentially saying "A is both A and not A at the same time or in the same way." Jesus can't be the only way for everyone for me but not the only way for everyone for you. The statement is a universal statement and has to be either right or wrong. Another such statement is "God exists." He either does exist or he doesn't but he doesn't merely exist for me and not for you.
3. The Law of the Excluded Middle: Either A or B not C.
Again this law is related to the previous one pretty obviously but what this is saying is that in some circumstances there is no middle, or third option. For instance, when I say "God exists" he either does or he doesn't, but there isn't a third option. Statements that are universal in depth like "God exists" or "Jesus rose from the dead" are either true or false and equally so for all people. On the other hand, statements like "vanilla ice cream is great" doesn't leave you with only the option of saying "Yeah it is!" or "No it's terrible", but you could also say "It is really good but I like Chocolate just as much!" This is a case where there is a third or middle option.
If you can learn and understand the importance of these three fundamental laws of logic it will help you a lot as you listen to the kinds of things people say, the claims they make and how often they completely fail to make sense or be consistent. Lovingly pointing out these kind of logical errors in people's thinking such as when they say "Christianity is true for you but not for me" will force them to reconsider their position and not allow them to try and ride the fence.
When we talk about God or Jesus we are referring to a specific being or person who has certain attributes or properties and even if someone uses the same words if they have different properties or attributes in mind then we are not talking about the same person (law of identity). We say "God exists and that Christianity is true." It cannot both be the case that God does and does not exist at the same time or in the same way, and the same goes for whether Christianity is true, it can't merely be true for me but not for someone else (law of non-contradiction). Finally, when we make a universal claim like "God exists" there is no middle ground or third option, he either does or doesn't exist, unlike statements such as "vanilla ice cream is great!" (law of the excluded middle).
I realize that what I am about to say here is nothing short of offensive to some, foolish to others, and without any doubt completely counter-cultural, however, my wife and I have recently come to the conclusion that God's intention was not for people to use birth control in their marriage. And, by the way, we are far from being Roman Catholic, trust me. Automatically someone reading this is upset because they have been using birth control and I am insinuating that they are wrong for doing so. Well, everyone gets a bit upset when someone suggests to them their current practices in regard to anything they are doing in life falls short of God’s will for them, no doubt. But let me clarify a few things.
First, this belief that my wife and I have come to is recent for us, so I am not saying that you are guilty of anything that my wife and I haven’t also been guilty of for the last 9 years of our marriage. Second, I want to give some nuances to my position so please read all the way through before telling me how wrong and horrible I am. Third, if you disagree with me when it is all over I simply hope you can do so for biblical reasons rather than reasons that are a product of our culture.
Consider a couple Scripture passages to set the tone of this conversation:
Genesis 1:26-28 “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
It’s axiomatic to say that God’s ideal is reflected in the creation before the fall. In the very first chapter of the Bible God commands us, not only the animals, but people as well to “be fruitful and multiply.” This, at the least, suggests that children are intended as a part of the normal course of marriage. And while the Scripture clearly does not say “have as many children as is physically possible” it’s hard to read “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” and think that what God had in mind was the average American concept of a family with 2.1 children. Now, I don’t mean to shame anyone who doesn’t have twelve kids, isn’t physically healthy enough for more children, or who is unable to bear children, or anything like that. What I am talking about is the ideal under normal circumstances. The Scripture seems to suggest that in marriage we are to have lots of kids.
Psalm 127:4-5 says "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."
Now here is a passage that speaks rather forthrightly about the matter, wouldn’t you say? “Blessed it the man who fills his quiver with them!” When we envision a warrior with his bow and arrow do we envision a “quiver full” as being only two or three? It seems to me Legolas from Lord of the Rings, or Hawkeye from the Avengers would be up a creek without a paddle if they only had two arrows on them. Clearly the Scripture is flat out stating here that children are a blessing from God, and the more you have the more blessed you are! Why then would we want to take measures against God blessing us more?
In fact everywhere we turn in Scripture children are highlighted as blessing from God! Never are children looked down upon in Scripture, but often they are a cause for joy, celebration and blessing and Jesus said “let them come unto me.” God loves children and he sees them as a great blessing that he gives to us, so why have we decided that we need to limit God’s ability to bless us by using birth control?
If you are like my wife and I then you probably just never really thought much about it or questioned it. When Susan and I were engaged she went to the doctor to get a prescription for birth control pills and it never even once occurred to us that we ought not to do just that! It’s what our culture does. As a young engaged couple you hear things like “The first couple years are so precious and you’ll never get that time back, there is plenty of time for kids later.” And “You need to get to know each other before you start having kids.” And “Once you have kids then there is no more time for just the two of you.” Our culture is obsessed with the “me centered” view of life and marriage and we so rarely ask “What does God want?”
One of the most profound thoughts that I had that got me thinking about this issue (and indeed it’s not all that profound at all) is that birth control is a relatively new concept. I mean I know that there has always been things that people have done to try an avoid having children, but modern birth control is really a recent innovation. Especially as it related to hormone based birth controls like the pill, the shot, IUD’s, etc. And what struck me when I thought about this was the question “What has this freedom from responsibility in sex done to our culture?” Which led to my next question “Did God really ever intend for me to have sex with my wife free of the responsibility and possibility of children?”
As to the first question we can all see that our society thrives on freedom from responsibility. The idea of having casual sex and taking away the risk of children has undoubtedly caused unprecedented promiscuity. I remember talking to a girl in middle school who was on the pill and talked about how she could now have sex without worrying about getting pregnant…In MIDDLE SCHOOL! Not that there hasn’t always been occasion for sexual sin and infidelity, but how much has this increased with at least the perceived notion that I can have sex with little to no risk of getting pregnant?
As to the second question, it seems obvious to me now that I have thought about it for any time at all that God did not mean for us to have sex without the responsibility and possibility of children. This is one of the sacred things about sex that with every time spouses give themselves to each other we leave to God the possibility that he might bless us with another child. Indeed if we consider the way God has made the human reproductive system, especially that of women, we see that God has built in a natural starting and stopping point for reproductive capabilities so that he can decide when to cease to give us more children. Also if a woman breast feeds her children then it drastically reduces the chance of getting pregnant during that time as it usually keeps ovulation from occurring so that there is a natural spacer built into the process to help keep children from coming too back to back (under normal circumstances). And it is also the case that there is only a relatively short window of time that a woman can get pregnant during the month so not every encounter is going to cause definite pregnancy.
It seems like God knew what he was doing when he made us. It seems like sex was always supposed to carry the responsibility of the possibility of Children. It’s clear that God wants Christian families under normal circumstances to have children, and it seems to be clear that the more you have the more God has blessed you. So why, Christians, have we bought into what the culture tells us rather that what God tells us in Scripture and in how he made our bodies? Probably because we too often don’t question things biblically.
Many will object, but who can afford that many kids in this day? Answer: You probably can. Most of the time it’s merely about lifestyle choices. We don’t need brand new cars or the nicest houses or the big cable packages, or to eat out all the time, etc. Those are not essentials, so for most people it’s not about “I can’t” it’s about “I won’t.”
Others may have legitimate health concerns or infertility issues. Certainly you are not judged for that, in this fallen world with sickness and disease and medical problems of all sorts it may be a reality that you’re not able. God loves you and there is no condemnation.
Some may say, “Should all sex be birth control free? What about those who are promiscuous and sleep around are you saying they should have unprotected sex?” We are talking about the idea her, what God intended for people who are supposed to be following him. The person who is in total rebellion against God has lots of problems. Anytime we walk away from the ideal of sex only in marriage between one man and one woman for life there will be problems. This however it a red herring, I am talking to you as a committed married Christian (or those who intend to be someday) what is God’s will for you who are trying to follow him? That’s the case I am making.
Finally, I concede the point that the Scripture don’t flat out say “You have to have as many kids as possible” but I think they do imply the more the better and that you are blessed by God. So why hinder God from blessing you under normal healthy circumstances?
I want to encourage you to think carefully and biblically about this matter. If you come to a different conclusion I just ask that you do so for biblical reasons and not reasons of convenience of cultural expectations. It’s true that a family in our country that has more than 2 or 3 kids is looked upon as abnormal and weird, but Christians are called to be abnormal and weird to our culture in so many ways. Perhaps not using birth control ought to be one of them.
*Additional Note: Christians, if you decide to continue to use birth control let me urge you to avoid using hormone manipulating birth controls such as the pill, shot, patch, ring, etc., because they can cause an embryo (a newly conceived human person) to spontaneously abort because that is there back up system if they fail to prevent conception itself. These methods thicken the wall of the uterus making it inhospitable for implantation. Also any Inter-Uterine Devices are also to be avoided because their express intent is to stop an embryo from implanting in the uterus and thereby kill a new baby. If you decide you think God is okay with you using birth control I urge you to use barrier methods like Condoms because they pose no threat to a newly conceived baby if for some reason they fail, unlike hormone based birth control and IUD’s.
This objection is all too common. When Christians share their faith and insist that Jesus is the one and only way to God and that Christianity is the truth, people of all sorts often respond with “You’re only a Christian because of how and where you were raised! If you’d been raised in the Middle East you’d be a Muslim, or if you were raised in Asia you might be a Buddhist. You’re only Christian because your parents are or that’s what is so common in your culture!” So how might we respond to this?
At first encounter with this objection it may seem like it has some tread on it and that maybe there is some truth to it. And indeed, there is “some” truth to it. After all, if you look at religions geographically it is undeniable that Christianity is big in Western culture, Europe and America, whereas Islam is predominant in the Middle East and Buddhism and Hinduism, aren’t called “Eastern Religions” for no reason, right? So is this objection valid? Not entirely.
Certainly where and how we are raised is a major factor in our life decisions. Our culture and our parents affect all of us in ways that we are often not even conscious of. These are indeed major influences in our lives and it follows that, as such, we are in some ways very much a product of our culture and our parents. But, even so, should we look at parents and cultures in such deterministic terms so as to say that you or I couldn’t be anything other than what we are? It doesn’t take long to think of some examples that seem to stop this objection dead in its tracks.
For instance, consider China which is steeped in thousands of years eastern philosophy, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and even Islam, not to mention a whole host of other small religions full of ancestral worship. Even though today the government is officially communist these religions persist. And Christianity, which is hotly persecuted, is booming there now. Even in places like Iran where conversion to Christianity may mean losing your life, people are still placing their faith in Christ! Could we say to an Iranian Christian ”You’re only a Christian because your parents and culture are!” Not in most cases we couldn't!
It doesn't follow that just because our parents and culture strongly lean one direction that we are therefore determined by them and cannot choose another way. Certainly there are those who go with the flow and never have thought deeply about their faith in Christ or are simply nominally Christian or Muslim, etc. But there are enough counter examples to suggest that this objection isn't all that strong when one thinks about it.
After all, we could respond to the one making this objection in kind and say, "You’re just an Atheist or (Fill in the blank) because of how and where you were raised!" And if that’s true then whatever they believe is just as invalid as what we believe. Perhaps it’s more reasonable to realize that many people of all stripes haven’t thought deeply about what they believe and why, but that some have. Indeed some have changed their beliefs under threat of death and persecution. Atheists have become Christians, Muslims have become Christians, Hindu’s have become Christians and all of this despite their culture and parents. Some of us believe what we do because we have thought through it. Have you thought through what you believe?