How to deal with particular sins: Selfishness 

 

Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

“A wealthy farmer in New York, who was known for hoarding his wealth and being a very selfish man, was converted. Soon after his conversion, a poor man came to him and asked for help. He had lost everything and had no provisions. This young convert thought he would be generous and give him a ham from his smokehouse. He started toward the smokehouse, and on the way, the tempter said, “Give him the smallest one you have.” He struggled all the way to the smokehouse as to whether he would give a large or a small one. In order to overcome his selfishness,  he took down the biggest ham he had and gave it to the man. The tempter said, You’re a fool.” But he replied, “If you don’t keep silent, I’ll give him every ham I have in the smokehouse.” (1)

 

 
(1) The Overcoming Life: Updated edition (Moody,D.L.) Location 256-257

How to deal with particular sins: Temper

Temper is controlling your mood/emotions, or at least your reactions to them. Anger may be the chief problem among temper, thus in most need of correction. 

“When you get angry next time and speak unkindly to a person and realise it, go and ask that person to forgive you. You won’t get mad with that person for the next twemty-four hours. You might do it in about forty-eight hours, but go the second time. After you’ve done that about half a dozen times, you’ll change your behaviour, because apologizing makes old flesh burn.” (1)

(1) The Overcoming life, D.L. Moody, Kindle, location 188

Pledging Allegiance: A Critical Examination

Pledging allegiance to the flag is common practice in America. It is so common that many Christian find the idea that we should not pledge allegiance to the flag odd. Now, I first want to say that even though I think pledging allegiance to the flag is wrong as a Christian, I do also believe there are good Christians who disagree with me. To clarify I don’t believe that a Christian must have everything down perfect to be a good Christian and the more something is instilled in us by our society the harder it is for the Lord to remove. I think allegiance to ones country is among on the most ingrained social norms, thus one of the hardest to remove.

First, I want to show that I am not the only Christian who has concern here:

“Today many use their nation as an object of worship, espousing the gospel of nationalism…Failing to find the true God, millions declare their allegiance lesser gods and causes” (1)

“Early Christians were willing to be martyred rather than express allegiance to the Roman Empire, but here I was expressing allegiance to the American empire. This didn’t seem right. I stopped and haven’t said the Pledge since. I love America, but I cannot serve two masters. My allegiance must be pledged to Christ alone” (2)

The first quote is from Billy Graham. I am not sure if he is strictly against saying the pledge, but certain his quote shows a concern. The second quote is from Greg Boyd, who is certainly against saying the pledge. But just because a couple of people agree with me does not mean we are correct. I think the best way to understand Boyd is this way: allegiance has preeminent pull in which allegiance to a country contradicts having an allegiance to the kingdom of heaven. I think he is right, but there are some objections to consider.

Lydia McGrew defends saying the pledge of the allegiance in her blog,

“There is a misunderstanding here of the entire nature of loyalty, which is related to a misunderstanding of love and allegiance. Corey, for example, seems to think that a Christian must not pledge allegiance to anybody but Jesus. Really? I hope Mr. Corey doesn’t apply this principle to a marriage vow. If so, he will have to remain celibate lifelong. In marriage we pledge allegiance to someone other than Jesus–to our spouse. But that doesn’t mean that a wife is bound to obey her husband if he tells her to do something wrong. If a husband tells his wife to help him hide the evidence of a murder, for example, she should not obey. In fact, her truest loyalty to her husband would in that case lie in disobeying the immoral order.” (3)

Her argument can be spelled out as follows:

(A) Assume saying the pledge allegiance is wrong for Christians                                                     (B) Christians pledge allegiance to other things e.g, a spouse                                                           (C) Pledging allegiance to a spouse isn’t wrong                                                                           Therefore,                                                                                                                                                             (D) Pledging allegiance to something other than God, isn’t immoral.
Therefore,                                                                                                                                                             (E) Pledging allegiance to the flag may be permissible.

I think there are grounds on which (B), (C) could be challenged. One could argue that one does not pledge allegiance to their spouse, but rather engages in a commitment to strengthen each other. If that is correct, then (C) loses ground plausibly. But both of those are criticisms are dubious over all. Or unlikely to persuade someone. But I find the analogy between a man/woman to a person/country disanalogous for a couple of reasons.

The first problem is that a man and woman marrying each other is instituted by the Lord while allegiance to ones country seems to go against biblical teaching. Christian were known for their resiliences towards world government in the 1st century.  In response, one could argue that the government at that time was primarily evil and other government is primarily good. I find the notion that our government is primarily good very dubious though. In fact, it seems that though our country is better than many it still has too many faults. The second problem is along the same line as the first. If it may be permissible to pledge allegiance to a spouse it is because they are dedicated to becoming like Christ. No country is dedicated to becoming like Christ, thus no country may have our allegiance.

The next natural step is to argue that there are other things that cannot be like Christ which may have our allegiance such as a sports team. I find this notion to be rather silly. The seriousness in which we are asked to pledge allegiance to our flag, God, or spouse certainly shouldn’t be the same as supporting a team.

Lastly, I want to break down plausible definitions of the phrase “allegiance to the flag”:  (1) allegiance to the flag: person supports what the flag stands for at any time t               (2) allegiance to the flag: person supports what the flag originally stood                           (3) allegiance to the flag: person supports what the flag ideally stands for
(4) allegiance to the flag: person supports what the flag currently stand for (as long as it is moral)

I believe each of these definitions have a problem. (1) is clearly problematic while (4) is plausibly ok.  The issue with one is that we could become like Nazi Germany at some point and allegiance to such a country should be seen as problematic by anyone. Definition (2) I think is problematic due to our history with slavery and originally our country only really stood for white men. Definition (3) is problematic because there is no reason to assume our country will ever even come close to the ideal nation under God before judgment. I think people would be incline to support (4). All I can say in response to this is that God asked to love each other by serving one another and not wanting power over each other. And if you are to enter politics you are going to be aiming for power over. Thus, it is unlikely that good men/women are in political world. Lastly, I think pledging allegiance to something is intuitively something more than supporting something as long as it is good or supporting something contingently. Here is believe is where people who disagree will simply disagree and we won’t make much progress. So let us, both you and me, ask the Lord to show us our hearts to reveal if we could be wrong. And hopefully we can both be open to corrections.

 

(1) Graham, Billy. “Can Anyone Tell Me Where to Find God?” How To Be Born Again. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1997. 29-30. Print.

(2) Boyd, Greg. “Should Christians Recite the Pledge of Allegiance?” Http://reknew.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.

(3) McGrew, Lydia. “What’s Wrong with the World.” http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net. N.p., 26 May 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.

Two Solutions to the Gettier Problem

I think the current mind set in philosophy is that there is no progress. That for every one problem possible solved, two new problems emerge. One example is the Gettier Problem. (Here is a link to the original paper: http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu/faculty/rarneson/Courses/gettierphilreading.pdf) For example, Linda Zagzebski argued that the problem is insoluble. (1) I do not know if she still holds that the Gettier Problem is insoluble. But I do believe there is a general feeling that this may be the case. Even if that is wrong, it is certain many epistemologists still wrestle with solving Gettier Problems.

I have taken quite the opposite view from the majority here. I not only believe the Gettier problem is soluble, but that it has at least two solutions. It is possible there are more, but I think there are only two strong contenders once simplicity is taken into consideration. One solution is older than the popularized version of the problem — the infamous Russellian Solution. And the other is a rather new solution; Earnest Sosa’s virtue epistemology. One is an internalist solution and the other is primarily externalist. Interestingly both give primacy to the rational features of the human mind. I believe this shows, contra Plantinga, that the Gettier problem shows the necessity of internalism.

 

(1) Zagzebski, Linda. “The Inescapability of Gettier Problems.” The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-) 44.174 (1994): 65-73. JSTOR. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.

The Principle of Credulity according to Swinburne

  In Mind, Brain, and Free Will, Richard Swinburne states the Principle of Credulity (hereafter, PC) is,

“a fundamental a priori epistemic principle…that any basic belief is probably true on the believer’s evidence that he believes it – in the absence of evidence in the form of other basic beliefs of that believer which makes it probably that he is mistaken.”1

This means that what seems to be true is probably true. Swinburne endorses this a fundamental epistemic principle to avoid extreme skepticism (extreme skepticism meaning that most of our ordinary beliefs are not probably true). However, Swinburne does not motivate PC other than giving a dilemma between endorsing PC or extreme skepticism and does not give any reason to suppose all other solutions fail, strong foundationalism, coherentism, or externalism.2 In part this is because Swinburne believes that the debate between externalism and internalism is simply a dispute about words.3 Most, including myself, believe the externalism/internalism controversies is more than a dispute about words.  Lastly, there seems to be an inexplicit notion that memory belief(s) can only be justified if PC is accepted and that if memory belief(s) are not justified then not many of our ordinary beliefs are. If memory beliefs can only be justified through PC, then this is motivation for accepting it. However, there are a couple of problems with Swinburne’s version of PC.

       Other than the problem already noted that Swinburne does not give explicit reasons why any position would lead to extreme skepticism, he also does not give any good ground to think PC is in fact truth conducive. Most philosophers tend to agree that just because skeptical scenarios could be true, that does not mean they are likely.

If skeptical scenarios are true, then we would not be able to see defeaters from our vantage point. Take this example, if we are really in a matrix pod there is no way of seeing that is so. There could never be any defeaters in such a world and all our perceptual knowledge would be false. More importantly, as epistemologists we should not rule out extreme skepticism simply because it is unappealing, since it may be our current predicament. To respond to the skeptical worry with PC when PC is motivated by avoiding skepticism is question begging.

      Despite Swinburne’s version of PC being unmotivated and unconvincing there is a more suitable version of it, PC*; that what appears to be the case is rational to hold unless there is evidence against the prima fascia belief. I believe this is a common sense version of PC. If I think I see a chair in the corner of my room then I am rational to believe there is a chair there unless I have stronger evidence against the belief. Stronger evidence against the belief would be trying to feel it and see my hand go right through where the chair is supposed to be, thus now it is rational to believe it is a hologram. The strength of PC* is that it allows skepticism to be possibly right, does not claim to be truth conducive, but still gives guidance towards rational inquiry. If we are not in the skeptical position, then PC* is likely to be truth conducive as well.

1. Swinburne: Mind, Brain, Free Will,  p. 42 (2013)

2. Ibid., p. 44

3. Ibid., p 40

The Problem of Deduction?

In my under graduate studies Dr. Alspector-Kelly remarked, while studying the problem of induction, there is also a problem of deduction. This problem of induction is infamous, but the problem of deduction has gained little attention in comparison. The problem of induction is the problem of validating the mode of inference.Thus the problem of deduction is the same. How can we validate that deduction actually works? Couldn’t an descartian devil fool us into believing deduction works when it doesn’t? If a devil could do such a thing, how can we trust deduction? These question appear very disturbing. Deduction is often considered the bedrock of good reasoning. The bring it into question is to question all we hold dear, epistemically speaking.

One of my thoughtful friends responded that we know deduction is valid because that inference works in every possible world. The problem with this line of thinking is that we have no reason to trust deductive reasoning in fact works in every possible world. If we are willing to grant that problem of deduction could be a problem, then that inference appearing to work in every possible world is also suspect. 

The real issue with this problem is that once it is granted as a problem, there is no solution. Take this inference: 

1. A

2. If A then B

Therefore,

3. B

If this can truly be questioned there is no saving argument.Thankfully, there is no way to undermine deduction.  We can be asked to think about a devil fooling us. But when we ask for specifics, we see this question holds no force. How is a devil suppose to trick into deduction working when it doesn’t. It is clear that deduction work. Perhaps this can only be seen for those who have “the light of reason”. But it does not matter that only can see this as long those who do see it are not fooled. If an advocate of the problem of deduction can be more specific on how we can be fooled, perhaps there would be a problem. However, since no specificity exists (to my knowledge)  there is no problem of deduction

Doubling down the Humean Argument against Miracles

Elizabeth Cornman, Keith Lehrer, and George Pappas wrote an introduction book to major philosophical problems. Among these problems is the problem of justifying the belief in God. I am pleased with their discussion on the characteristics of God; omnipotents, omniscients, and all-loving. I believe they wisely argue that these terms do not ultimately face any serious objections. Then I came to their discussion about miracles. It started out very promising. Here is a quote from the first page of section that gave me hope, “the strongest proof for the existence of God would be one based on someone’s experience of God. Let us, therefore, consider whether or not there are good reasons to think that someone has experienced God, because if there are, then we have excellent reason to believe that God exists.” (1) Here they have in mind both one’s personal experience and/or the testimony of a person who claims to have an experience with God.I believe that this quote is spot on. If we have good reason to believe someone has experience God or a miracle, then there is good reason to believe in God. Sadly, later they retract from this promising start by falling for the Humean trap. They conclude that no miracle can ever be believed because of testimony because there is a uniform experience of nature against miracles. There are plenty of problems with that line of thinking, but I do not wish to cover them now. Later, they double down on the Humean trap by arguing it applies for personal experiences as well,

“In the case of  miracles, however, there is a great deal of evidence against the claim a violation has occurred. Thus,  not only is there not sufficient reason to justify a claim that a violation-miracle occurred, but there is surely a question of whether one should trust one’s own testimony in the face of the overwhelming evidence against the violation he seems to have witnessed. In short, the reasonable conclusion is that what was experienced is the result of natural causes in spite of the way it may seem.” (1)

The only reason they could make such an audacious claim as one could not trust one’s own experience is that they did not give this topic a proper amount of reflection. Take for example, a woman who was born with only one arm. She prays day and night for fifteen years that she may have two arms. Then one night, as she does her routine prayers, she hears a voice say, “Your prayers and persistence have not gone unnoticed, you shall have two arms. And in that instance she watches a left arm grow out of her limb. She is so ecstatic she instantly goes to visits her friends and family who all inquire to how she has two arms now. In such a case, whether the friends and family have sufficient evidence to believe in God, surely the woman does. It would be absurd to assume that this was a normal course of nature and would in fact probably be irrational for her to believe so.

Now, I am going to briefly cover why there is not overwhelming evidence against miracles as the authors suppose. (This retracts my previous statement that I wouldn’t critique Hume’s argument) While it is true that most of us have no seen any laws of nature broken, that does mean we have evidence that the law of nature always holds, we simply have evidence that it holds most of the time. Now, a miracle, is by definition something that would happen only if some supreme being willed it. We can only rationally believe miracles never happen only if we presuppose that God could not exist or that the laws of nature hold 100% of the time. As long as there is possibility that God could exists, even if it lower than 10%, miracles if they occur do count as strong evidence for his existence. Since, there is no way to know or justifiably believe that God cannot exist or that the laws of nature always hold, there is no good a priori argument against miracles.

(1) Cornman, James W., Keith Lehrer, and George Sotiros Pappas. Philosophical Problems and Arguments: An Introduction. 4th ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992. 205,216. Print.