How America Thinks


This blog may seem untimely, but it really is not.  I’ve been mulling over this for some time and recent events just served to highlight what I’ve been thinking.  As I have stated before in this forum, Americans do not know how to formulate a logical argument.  This is a sad state of affairs for our country; but even worse is the fact that American Christians are no better at it.  Americans of all religions, races, and educational levels seem to believe that personal opinions and feelings are arguments in and of themselves.   I am certainly not saying that having opinions is wrong or that I don’t care about anyone’s feelings!  I am saying that unsubstantiated opinions and emotions have no place in public debate.  Give the public proven facts and cite authoritative texts!

The problem with stating personal opinion or feeling as proof of any stance on any given issue is that opinions can be wrong and feelings can be manipulated.  They can be based on misinformation or even based on no information at all.  Even opinions based upon past personal experiences can be wrong, because experiences can be misinterpreted.  Before stating an opinion in a public forum, one should do one’s homework.  Read authoritative texts; talk with people who have some expertise in the field in which  you wish to comment; do some research! I may, for example, have an opinion about what BP should have done to stop the oil spill.  But I have no engineering knowledge whatsoever; therefore I have nothing on which to base my opinion.  I can read the opinions of engineers and other experts in the field and then cite their opinions in a public debate on the subject, but I have no business trying to formulate an opinion based on my own personal feelings in the matter.  Feelings cannot change facts and emotions do not constitute knowledge.

Christians are as bad at this as any other American.  The recent controversy concerning the nut-case “preacher” in Florida who was threatening to burn the Koran brought this to my attention on no uncertain terms.  Plenty of Christians were denouncing the lunatic, and so they should have.  But no one, (except my own husband!) in all the articles and comments I read about the subject, cited any other authority than his own opinion or feelings.  “It’s not nice.”  “It’ll get people killed.”  “Jesus wouldn’t have done it.”  These things are all true, but why?  Because I say so?  Because you say so?  As People of the Book, we should never enter a public forum and cite our own opinions.  If we cannot back our statements up with Scripture, we should keep silent until we can.

In keeping with that assertion, I will now cite Scripture to back up my opinion on this matter!  Jesus says in John 8:28, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”  Reading through the Gospels proves that He is speaking the truth:  Jesus constantly quotes Scripture as proof of what He is saying.  In John 5:31-40, and again in John 8: 13-18, Jesus acknowledges that if He only testifies about Himself, His testimony is invalid.  The Law requires at least two witnesses to validate any truth (Deuteronomy 19:15-19).  Jesus claims John the Baptist and the Scriptures themselves as two of the witnesses that validate the authority of His teachings.  If Jesus acknowledges the need to cite authority other than Himself to validate what He says, how can we do otherwise?  Are we better than He is?

Read through the epistles and you will find that Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude also constantly quote Scripture to back up what they are writing.  If  they need outside authority to validate their teachings, so does everyone!  They were, after all, writing Scripture themselves; and yet, they cited previous Scripture to give authority to their own writings.

Psalm 119:130 says, “the unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”  I could go on and on, but I hope my point has been made.  We are the People of the Book.  We should know that Book well enough to quote it as our authority on all spiritually-related (and many other) subjects, just as I would quote the Dictionary to defend my spelling of a word.  Here is what I would have liked to have seen in an argument against the lunatic preacher in Florida:  in Acts 17, Paul preaches to the pagans in Athens.  Actually, before he speaks, he does his homework.  He studies their religious beliefs, memorizes their poetry and acquaints himself with their philosophers so thoroughly that he can use their own words as his authoritative text to back up what he says.  He begins addressing these heathen unbelievers by complimenting them on their great spiritual interest.  He then uses the spiritual knowledge they already possess and builds on it, adding the truth of the Gospel to the truth they already had.  He never spoke down to them; he never insulted them.  He never trashed their temples or burned their religious texts.  In fact, later in Ephesus (Acts 19), when the silversmiths start a riot against Paul because he is converting enough people to cut into their idol-making trade, the mayor of the city defends Paul by saying that Paul has never blasphemed their goddess Diana.  By citing Paul’s example, we could have defended the Christian faith in an authoritative manner. We could have started an enlightening discussion about how to approach persons of other faiths with the truth. Instead, the whole sorry incident turned into a “nice versus not-nice” slug-fest.  It’s true that the “preacher” in Florida was “not nice”.  But what kind of argument is that?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “How America Thinks

  1. Ray Taylor

    Since no one responded, I will.

    Based on your reasoning, where in “Genesis to Malachi” (the authoritative text) does Paul get the instruction to do what he did?

    I remember God causing the pagan (any other religion) idols to fall over and be cracked or crushed. God also told the Jews to destroy the pagan things. I don’t know, does Genesis to Malachi ever tell him to go reason with the pagans and honor there idols.

    So how does the first person start reasoning and stop destroying?

    If both are Gensisis fo Malachi, how does a person decided which to do?

    Does a person have to ask God which to do?

    If God changed from Destoying to Reasoning at a point in time, could God change back to Destoying at a future point in time. If He can, when does the future begin?

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  2. Dear Ray,

    Good to see you again! I love comments! It makes me think no one reads my blog when no one responds.

    To give you a succinct answer to your question: God does not change. He says Himself in Hebrews that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Since He does not change, we must look to other explanations for supposed differences in dealing with idols.

    The difference is this: the idols God commanded the Israelites to destroy in the Old Testament were the idols they themselves were worshiping instead of the true God. We must destroy any idol that stands in the way between us and God. We are the people of God and should know better. The Jews are the people of God and should have known better. It took a long time and a lot of destroying, but they finally learned their lesson!

    On the other hand, they are not told to destroy the idols of the pagans in the nations into which they were absorbed. God, not the Jews, destroyed the gods of Egypt in order to affect the release of the people from slavery. The gods of the Assyrians and the Babylonians were not to be worshiped, but the Jews did not destroy these idols either. They were not theirs to destroy.

    The exception to these “rule” was the gods of the Canaanites. But these idols were on the land promised to Abraham and therefor had to be removed when the Jews took the land.

    Conclusion: idols on our own “land”, in our own lives as the people of God, must be destroyed. Idols belonging to others are out of our jurisdiction. Athens was pagan territory. Paul was out of his jurisdiction when preaching there. He certainly was not worshiping the idols in Athens himself, and so had nothing to destroy. If the Athenians had come to know the true God, they would have been responsible for destroying their own idols.

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  3. I have been struggling for a while now at the changes that seem to happen daily concerning peoples reaction to one another. The air around is thick with hatred. I love someone that loves the news, constant news, everyday….ugh! I do not now nor have I ever been an avid news watcher. Fault me if you will but thats me. Its depressing!! Each and every news channel and or news person, both right and left is acting awful! I don’t support any of them now. I have also struggled with just being mad at nothing. Its toxic and I am better than that. Mari lynn how do you do you feel about news show host that spread apocolyptic rhetoric about people Ive never heard of? Because frankly, I don’t…….. well never mind lol. But I also think that Christianity and its “demonominations” are pushing away far more people than any other thing. We worry about someone looking different, speaking different, belonging to the wrong church etc. I know I’m rambling but I just think its time to look at these things for what they are.

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    • I really think that what I wrote in that blog entry and a couple of others expresses what I believe is wrong in both the news media and in the church. Americans are not taught logical thinking skills anymore and no longer are capable of formulating a line of reasoning or conducting a meaningful dialogue. They can only argue and tear at one another with their words. I despise watching news shows. and refuse to do so. Whether I agree with the commentators’ basic premises or not, the vitriol behind their words frustrates and dismays my soul. We should be able to speak of controversial matters without name-calling and emotionalism. But, unfortunately today in America, it’s the name-calling and emotionalism that sells! It’s what people want! I am, of course, speaking generally. Obviously everyone in America is not unreasonable. But it seems the ones who get the most publicity are.
      There are many Christian churches who are overly-paranoid and judgemental, I agree. But there are also many that are not. The church we attend has people from many different denominations. Everyone is welcome in our church. Instead of emphasizing differences, we celebrate those things that we have in common. The only thing that matters, the only thing that makes a Christian church Christian, is belief in Jesus Christ–His deity, His death and resurrection, and the infallibility of His Word. Everything else we can differ about and still be brothers and sisters. Those who differ with us about who Christ is and what He did for us are also loved and welcomed, although they are not, by definition, Christian and probably would resent being called such. We love each other well in our church. And ours is not the only example of such a gathering of believers. There is a great movement of the Spirit, bringing like-minded and reasonable believers together in grouups like ours. Most of these churches also emphasize the arts, incidentally, which I believe is one reason they ARE reasonable. Art and literature help expand one’s experience and knowledge in a way that encourages logic and reason.

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  4. Very well spoken My Friend. I hope that maybe we start considering each other as human beings. that would be a start. But I do think its time to turn away from the news alittle bit..take a break anyway lol.

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