Joseph Herrin (04-20-2011)
For years I have been getting e-mails forwarded to me from Christians that attribute all manner of natural disasters to man. Hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes have been declared with much authority to be the work of evil men using technologies such as HAARP, or the Large Hadron Collider. If you do not know what these things are, or only have a vague notion about their design, purpose, and capabilities, you are not alone. Most people have very little comprehension of the physics and design of these installations, including myself, which makes them ideal targets for speculation. Since so few understand these facilities, or the science behind them, even the most outrageous claims can appear plausible.
I am reminded of a statement I came across many years back. It was a quotation from a renowned archaeologist who was the overseer of a museum in Chicago. There were many exhibits in the museum relating to the evolution of man, and life on earth. This man was himself an evolutionist. His statement was surprisingly candid. He said, “The depictions of evolutionary progress are limited only by the imagination of the theorist and the gullibility of the hearers.”
I did quite a bit of research into evolutionary claims when I was in my twenties. I found much deception evident. A classic example is Nebraska Man. In 1922 a single molar tooth was unearthed in Nebraska. Professor Henry Osborn, the head of the Department of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, claimed that the tooth belonged to an early hominid. From this one tooth, an artist’s depiction was drawn up of what this early man looked like. The illustration was published in the Illustrated London News. The reconstruction was described as “the expression of an artist’s brilliant imaginative genius.”
In my research I discovered that the depictions of prehistoric man are based upon very little evidence. A tooth, a fragment of a jawbone, a piece of skull, may be all that the archaeologist discovered. The entire body of the alleged prehistoric man is reconstructed from a fragment. From a tooth, the scientists come up with an idea of what the jaw might have looked like. From the jawbone, they then hypothesize about what the other cranial features might have been. From their conjecture on the skull, they then postulate about what the rest of the bodily frame and structure must have resembled. In the case of Nebraska Man, all this was done from one tooth.
Six years after the tooth was found, it was discovered that it actually belonged to an extinct pig. The reconstruction may have been hailed as “brilliant” and “genius,” but in hindsight it was hardly worthy of such accolades. The drawing that appeared in Illustrated London News does not look like any pig I have ever seen. Truly, much that is passed off as truth, whether originating among the scientific community, or outside of it, is limited only by the imagination of the theorist and the gullibility of the hearers.
These same words apply equally to the multitude of theories today being set forth about the cause of natural disasters. Not surprisingly, a person can find a myriad of voices at this very hour that are declaring that the recent earthquakes in the world, including the 8.8 magnitude quake near Concepcion, Chile; the devastating earthquake in Haiti; the Christchurch, New Zealand quakes; and the Japanese earthquake of March 11th of this year, are caused by various mysterious, and little understood forces. Some of these forces are attributed to man, and some to natural sources such a comets.
HAARP Caused the Earthquakes
The Large Hadron Collider Caused the Earthquakes
Comet Elenin, Nibiru, Planet X Caused the Earthquakes
I’ve provided only one link and one image relating to each theory. Dozens of examples could easily be provided. Naturally, there are variations from one website, or video, to another. Some people write with great conviction and authority, assured that they have the truth, while others allow for the possibility that they may not be seeing things with absolute clarity. They believe, however, the matter is both important and plausible enough to share with others.
There are people from each of these camps who are persuaded that they have discovered the cause for the earthquakes occurring along the Ring of Fire. They support their theories with graphics, videos, data, and what they believe are convincing arguments. Many people who have been exposed to the arguments find them persuasive, and become alarmed. In turn they share their concern with others. In a short amount of time, these theories become viral, and ultimately they end up in my inbox, and perhaps yours as well. In an hour when great confusion and deception abound, how is a Christian to test these matters to tell what is true and what is error?
The Role of Critical Thinking
Many Christians today have denigrated the need to think critically. Some believe that employing logic and reason are in some way antithetical to faith and walking by the Spirit. Consequently, many Christians have never developed the ability to think critically.
God is not opposed to man employing the mental capacity that he was created to possess. It sounds almost ridiculous for me to even have to write such a statement, but it is necessary. More than most Bible teachers today, I have laid much emphasis upon the need of the Christian to be led of the Spirit. I have stressed the need to divide between soul and Spirit, that we might know the source of our thoughts. It is not my contention, however, that the soul has no value, or role to play in the life of the Christian.
God has created man to be a tripartite being. Man consists of body, soul, and, if he has been born again, spirit. The spirit is designed by God to be the most ascendant part of the new creation man. The soul of man is to submit to the spirit, even as the flesh is to submit to the soul. Even though I have been born again of the Spirit of Christ, I still possess a body, and I employ it. Even now as I am sitting here at the computer my body is acting as the servant to my soul, which in turn is the servant to my spirit. God has called me to serve as a teacher to His people. My spirit man delights to do the will of the Father, and has in turn instructed my soul to enter into this work. My soul in turn controls the body. I am an entire man in the service of the King.
Even as it would be ridiculous to think I no longer needed my body since I am now a spiritual creation, it is equally folly to think that I am not to employ the capabilities of my soul in the service of God. The soul is not to rule, or lead, but it is absolutely necessary in carrying out the will of the Father. One of the capacities God has placed in the soul of man is what we call reason.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says Yahweh.
“Present your case,” says Yahweh. “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob.
The Bible reveals that the human faculty of reason is not to be ignored. Rather, it is to be brought under subjection to the spirit of man, who is in turn subjected to the Spirit of God. Paul serves as an example of a minister who skillfully employed reason in carrying out what is arguably the most effective ministry recorded in the New Testament outside of Christ.
Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded…
And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.
Reason alone is insufficient to lead any man to faith in Christ. Yahshua testified that no man could come to Him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). At the same time, God has chosen the “foolishness of preaching” to save men (I Corinthians 1:21). The apostle Paul in this latter passage declares that the message of the cross is foolishness to the natural mind. There are many things the natural mind would never arrive at, or accept, apart from the intervention of God. Nevertheless, God calls His people to appeal by sound rational arguments to those who do not yet know Christ. Those appointed to salvation will be granted the grace to receive the word.
In these things we see that body, soul and spirit are all involved in carrying out the will of God. Even as a man can be hindered in performing the will of God by not making sure his physical body is as fit as it can possibly be, so too can the saint be hindered if he does not take care to the functioning of his soul.
Let me stress this last point, for it is an extremely important matter. We develop patterns and habits in our souls as surely as we do in regard to our physical bodies. I can tell you from personal experience that if you feed your body junk food, and do not maintain proper discipline over it, or provide it with proper exercise, your body will suffer. It will be hindered in its performance. The same is true regarding our souls.
Consider the effect produced on the soul by watching endless hours of television, reading pulp magazines and filling the mind with romance novels and fiction. The impact upon the soul is no different from the man who feeds his body junk food. If a person has never developed the habit of feeding on truth, whether it be the Bible, or books, magazines and other media that provide knowledge and understanding, they will lack the inner resources needed to think soundly, or to judge correctly. I have encountered numerous Christians who find it difficult, and even unpleasant, to think rationally, or to apply themselves to investigate or understand a matter. It is so much easier to sit in front of the television, for no effort is required, nor any discipline.
If this has been your life, there is yet hope. Even as a person can change their diet, and begin exercising and manifesting discipline over their natural body, experiencing positive improvement, so too can people make much progress in their ability to think rationally, and critically. It will not happen by accident, however. Self-control must be embraced, and daily, habitually, decisions must be made that will promote sound thinking.
The Bible actually has much to say about this subject of applying ourselves to gain wisdom and understanding. Solomon understood the value these things. He declared that they were only attained by focused pursuit. In the book of Proverbs he wrote:
My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of Yahweh, and find the knowledge of God.
Observe the pattern here. At the end of this passage we see the goal. It is understanding and knowledge. Specifically, it is the understanding and knowledge of God. Yet, what is written is true of all areas in which we seek understanding and knowledge. We must pursue it. In these five verses Solomon speaks of listening attentively; applying our heart to understanding; crying out for discernment; seeking it as if we were looking for silver or hidden treasure. All of these things imply activity, and focused effort.
If a person never applies themselves to learning, if they do not practice the disciplines necessary to educate themselves on a subject, they will remain ignorant. Wisdom and understanding do not come through wishing. One thing health professionals will at times recommend to someone with dietary caused problems, such as obesity, or diabetes, is that they keep a food journal. They are instructed to write down everything that they eat throughout the course of a day. This would be a very practical exercise for the saints to do as it relates to what they feed their soul.
How many saints spend hours on Facebook, playing games, watching television, reading novels, or vain magazines, or randomly surfing the Internet? When was the last time you spent time educating yourself about some subject in which you lack understanding? On my shelves I have books on Biblical astronomy, chemistry, physics, ancient Hebrew, butterflies and birds, wild edible plants, and an array of biographies, histories, and Bible study resources. This is a great change from my reading habits in my younger days when I spent hundreds of hours reading science fiction and other forms of escapist entertainment.
I came across a news article the other day on Sarah Palin. It related how she became flustered when a television interviewer asked her what magazines and newspapers she read regularly. The reporter said she was seeking to understand what sources of information helped shape Sarah Palin’s world view. Mrs. Palin was clearly disturbed to be asked the question, and waffled in her reply, not naming a single source of information. It was not an unfair question, however. The ability to think critically is required of one who would be a national leader. You are not going to gain this ability by reading Redbook.
If a similar question were put to you, what would it reveal? Are the things you fill your mind with promoting an apprehension of truth and encouraging critical thinking?
Beyond the type of material we feed upon, we must also learn how to reason properly. We must be able to examine various teachings and claims to discover errors, and inconsistencies that we might arrive at the truth. Christians are called to be lights in the world. Light scatters the darkness and bring illumination to those who are in the dark. We cannot teach others truth until we have comprehended it ourselves.
To advance to a position of leadership among the body of Christ, a man is required to demonstrate an ability to teach.
I Timothy 3:2
An overseer, then, must be… able to teach.
In a broader sense, all who would be bond-servants of Christ must be able to teach.
II Timothy 2:24
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach…
To teach, a man must be able to think critically, and reason soundly with others. This is what Paul did in the course of his ministry. Numerous examples could be cited from his life where he presented some well reasoned discourse before his hearers. To be a skillful teacher, a man must understand the subject he is teaching, and know how to present it in a logical manner. As Christians, we must apply ourselves to understanding and to explanation of the truth.
II Timothy 2:15
Study to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
It is a sad fact that many Christians today barely know what is contained in the Scriptures. Having had access to the Bible all their lives, few have studied it with any diligence, or consistency. Fewer yet are able to give a defense of their beliefs, setting forth sound arguments that are well reasoned. This lack of study and the ability to reason soundly is manifested not only in their inability to arrive at the truth of God’s word, but it is revealed in their failure to test and examine worldly matters, such as those mentioned at the beginning of this post.
The previous post ended with a ridiculous argument about the dangers of bread. It contained the following statements:
1. More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread eaters.
2. Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests.
3. In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever and influenza ravaged whole nations.
4. More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread.
If a person were to use such statements to declare bread to be dangerous, they would be laughed at. Yet, statements identical in form to the above are used regularly by those who are proponents of the various conspiracy theories, and doomsday declarations that are being widely broadcast. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe conspiracies exist, and I believe days of great calamity, more severe than the world has ever known, are close at hand. The Bible supports both of these facts. Yet, not every conspiracy theory is true, nor every doomsday forecast accurate. We must test all things.
The above statements are recognizably absurd because bread is something with which we are very familiar. However, if similar statements were made about a matter in which you lack familiarity, would you be able to discern that the facts presented are meaningless statistical babble, or that they do not prove anything? Coincidence does not prove cause. Consider the following argument.
If the animal eats poisoned food it will die.
The animal is dead.
Therefore, the animal ate poisoned food.
Do you perceive the error in the argument above? There are many ways an animal might die. Eating poisoned food is just one cause of death. Because an animal is dead, and poison kills animals, we cannot conclude that a dead animal was poisoned. The animal might have died of old age, or of numerous other causes. The above argument is an example of a false deductive argument. Following is an example of a true deductive argument.
All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
It may seem unusual for me to place any emphasis upon using sound principles of logic in a Blog that is usually devoted to Christian discipleship, but God has given men and women the ability to reason. I am persuaded that He would have us to employ this reason as we seek to walk wisely in a day of confusion and deception. Reason is as necessary in rightly dividing the word of God, as it is in dividing between what is accurate and what is spurious in the daily issues we are confronted with.
Examining Other Views
I cannot conclude this post before addressing one more area of importance as we seek to examine all things carefully in order to arrive at truth. It is necessary as a believer to examine all sides of an issue. If we merely read arguments in support of a particular conclusion we will often find that we have deprived ourselves of key information, or arguments needed to arrive at the truth. The following two Scriptures reveal the importance of patiently examining arguments for and against a matter.
The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.
He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.
Many Christians are biased in their views on a subject. They have a predisposition to believe a certain way, and this clouds their ability to judge rightly. Their bias causes them to favor arguments and facts in support of their adopted view, while ignoring, or rejecting evidence that would refute it, or call it into doubt.
If we are to walk in integrity before God and men, we must lay aside this bias, and judge impartially, desiring only to arrive at truth. There are many things that can lead a person to adopt a particular prejudice on a subject. They may have family members that share a view, and they want to be loyal to them. They may belong to a group, an organization, or a church that espouses a certain view, and they place loyalty to the group above personal integrity to seek truth and walk in it. The person may have publicly supported a view, and are embarrassed to admit they were in error. No matter the motive, intellectual bias is always detrimental to arriving at the truth.
When some new claim is brought before me, I determine to seek out arguments both for and against the claim. I know a matter cannot be judged unless all sides are heard. Many times I have discerned some fatal flaw in what appeared on the surface to be a convincing argument as I have examined opposing arguments.
We must also be quick to confess our error when we find that we have been espousing a wrong point of view. Back around the year 2000 when I discerned that I had erred in forecasting dire things to occur at the change of the century due to the Y2K computer bug, I was brought to consider what I should do. I felt the conviction of the Spirit that the only response God would honor was to confess and repent publicly, without making excuses. Walking in the truth required that I admit that I was wrong when I had misspoken publicly about a matter.
The Father has impressed upon me since then how very important this is. He has revealed to me that those who hide their errors, refusing to admit them publicly, who put reputation before truth, will be given over to greater error. Yet, if we confess our error, God will grant us grace and mercy and lead us in the path of truth.
Having a fear of God is a necessary thing. It has caused me to confess openly when I have erred, and I am convinced that it is because I have done so that the Father has kept me from being swept away by even greater deceptions as they have come forth. We live in an hour of great deception. We all need God to deliver us from lies and error. The more humble we are, proving ourselves to be lovers of the truth, the more He will help us.
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One of the first things I studied in my early walk of faith, along with the Bible, was logical fallacies. I wanted to know first when I was thinking fallaciously, and second, when someone was presenting me with a fallacious argument. It was a very useful endeavor. This skill should be taught in schools along with math, science and history. Then the students might start realizing that the history and science they are being taught are lies and fallacies.