Archive for March, 2008

Argue *to* the truth of your position, not *from* it

March 22, 2008

My friend Ryan is currently reading C.S. Lewis’ collected letters, which is interesting in how it shows Lewis’ gradual progress from a die-hard atheist to a believing Christian. Ryan occasionally sends me excerpts from his reading and this one was particularly interesting:

From Letters, Volume 2, p. 150, to his friend and former pupil, a Catholic and now a monk, Dom Bede Griffiths, 26 Dec 1934:

If you are going to argue with me on the point at issue between our churches, it is obvious that you must argue *to* the truth of your position, not *from* it. The opposite procedure only wastes your time and leaves me to reply, moved solely by embarrassment, ‘you are a saint, but you are no philosopher!’.

That whole idea – arguing TO your position’s correctness, not FROM it – seems to me to be the biggest problem people have in discussing religious disagreements. I’ve recently spent a lot of time reading/listening to debates on the subject of “salvation at the point of faith or baptism” and I have to say that in every one of them every person seems to me to be arguing FROM their position’s correctness.

It is a hard thing to fix, or even recognize – look for it in your own arguments the next time you are discussing theology with someone.

Four "rules" for understanding the Bible

March 10, 2008

During a recent Bible study my friend Allen Dvorak mentioned three “rules” that he uses to help him understand the Bible. I had not heard them before and they made a lot of sense to me so I thought I’d share them.

1. Observe context. Interpret verses/passages in light of their immediate and general context.

2. Harmonize. Based on the compatibility of every “part” of truth, our understanding of one verse/passage should harmonize with what is taught in other verses/passages which are equally related to the same subject.

3. Interpret the difficult in light of the easier. If you find one verse that appears to mean X, and twenty others that all clearly mean “not X”, then the one verse probably doesn’t mean X.

I would personally add a fourth, which I believe is by far the hardest:

4. Have an open mind. Ask yourself whether this is really true, or just something that you want to be true. I’ve been guilty of this but now understand that what I want is irrelevant, all that matters is what God wants. I don’t think there is any easy way to counter this; just be aware of it.


March 5, 2008

We’re all so afraid of failure, but it doesn’t have to be bad long term.