Wisdom comes from admitting you can be an idiot (but would like to be less of one)

I can be an idiot, but that doesn’t mean I *am* on every point… and I can learn.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15 ESV)

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 26:12 ESV)

If there’s one mistake that comes from binary thinking, it’s the assumption that the opposite of a particular error is the truth; if X is wrong, then anything that is not X must be right. This is the reason people imagine that because communism is bad, capitalism must be good, and because capitalism is bad, socialism must be good, instead of looking at each of these things critically and seeing that all of them have good points and bad points.

Christians are not immune to binary thinking, especially when it comes to the concept of clarity. Some Christians, in response to questions of the truth of Christianity, retreat into artificial clarity, whereby they imagine that absolutely everything that they believe must be definitionally the truth, and never be questioned. For them, the very question is the same as disbelief. 
On the other side of the equation, and often in reaction to the undoubted dogmatism of the above, some Christians seem to think that because we question things, we must never make a claim to truth. For them, to make any unambiguoius claim that something is “correct” is the same as saying that nothing can be doubted. In both cases, they are mistaking personal conviction for truth. In one case, saying that in order to have truth, you must be unambiguously convinced of it, in the other case, saying that in order to have any ability to question things, you must never make a claim to truth.

A moment’s thought undercuts the false dichotomy. My car keys are in a place whether I have forgotten where I put them or not. The acceleration due to gravity is 9.8 m/s/s whether I know that or know it or not, and murder is wrong, even if I were a psychopath.
Even more to the point, the Bible undercuts the false dichotomies of truth rather clearly. In the two proverbs I quote above, the Word of God explains to us that we must separate our own view of ourselves from wisdom itself. Firstly, we are told that it is foolish to assume that are ways are definitionally right and will brook no dissent; we are fools to be merely right in our own eyes. Rather we should listen to advice, and that to fail to do so makes us worse than fools.
But the opposite error is also avoided. The author of these proverbs doesn’t just give us the bumper sticker “question everything”, but rather lets us know that there is are “right ways” and “hope”, but that they are not found in a lack of questioning, but in truth. We listen to advice so that our ways might be corrected.
Christians are called to have the humility to both accept that there is knowable truth, and that we are not the ultimate arbiters of that truth. That is to say. I can be an idiot, but that doesn’t mean I *am* on every point, and I can learn.

Online Reading (June 24, 2015)

Persecution: A New York Times opinion piece points out why Christians should see the white supremacist habit of picking on Black Churches as persecution of the Church.

Apologetics: While (at staggeringly great length) taking issue with “natural atheology”, Edward Feser argues that Apologetics isn’t just an intellectually dishonest branch of rhetoric.

Media: GetReligion today shows why failing to understand prayer can lead journalists to get stories wrong.

Church Resources: Probably self-serving, but Thom Rainer talks about how churches actually can (In many cases) afford extra staff.

Online Reading (June 23, 2015)

tullian-tchividjian1Avoiding Scandal: Marvin Olasky at World Magazine comments on a rule made by Billy Graham that may have saved Tullian Tchividjian from the present scandal. At some point I’ll need to reflect on grace in light of this.

Intellectualism: An older article at the Atlantic deals with the ongoing odd assumption that intellectual rigor leads inexorably to atheism.

Mass Media: Despite their chronicling of media missing the concept of religion, GetReligion has some optimism after some mainstream media grasp the spirituality of forgiveness.

Apologetics: Is it too intellectual an endeavour to be Christian? Why “It’s intellectual” is not the same thing as saying it isn’t Christian.

(Book Review) Nancy Pearcey trains Christians to think.

Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism and Other God Substitutes, 2015, David C. Cook Publishing

With the cottage industry in Apologetics books coming out after the short-lived “New Atheist” revival of the early 21st century, it has become easy to find books at the local Christian bookstore dealing with “worldviews” and cataloguing the staggering number of “isms” associated with these worldviews.

While there is a great deal of value in being able to quickly label, and thus find information on, a given worldview when talking to people who have a different one, it can also become quickly intimidating for Christians to try and understand the massive number of different idea-systems out there, much less learn to effectively and lovingly talk to people who hold these worldviews without the crass oversimplification that has become endemic in western culture of late.

This is why Nancy Pearcey’s book is so refreshing. While it does include a great many good responses to actual worldviews, they are only as examples in the main point of the book; a system for Christians to deconstruct other worldviews from a Christian perspective. Following in the vein of Greg Koukl’s influential, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, Finding Truth is less a listing of other people’s ideas and why they’re wrong, as it is a practical manual for understanding worldviews accurately and ideally without oversimplification.

Using principles gleaned from Romans 1, Pearcey helps the Christian reader to first look at what other people actually believe, and then to think through what the other worldview finds as central, and finally to positively and negatively critique the worldview. This is done in a way that avoids both the error of identifying so much with non-Christian worldviews as to simply capitulate to them, and the (decidedly unchristian) error of imagining that every non-believer is simply dumb.

Where other books on the topic of worldview throw the answers at you, Pearcey trains the reader to seek the answers in the interaction of the worldview in question, and the truth of the word of God. Instead of giving you fish, she trains you to fish. This book will be very useful, both to the trained apologist, and to the average Christian as we navigate the world around us, whether the fashions of thinking remain secularism, or shift to something else. Very highly recommended.