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Entries in Apologetics (2)

Friday
Oct102014

Is objectivity real?

Recently, I had the occasion to overhear a conversation among Christians discussing the ethics of medical marijuana. One of the participants made a plea for people to "objective," about it. She wanted to see the statistics, the research, the objective facts, because it was believed there was too much emotion in the discussion. I understand where this person was coming from, but something that was missing entirely from this conversation (aside from any mention of how Christians ought to respond to ethical discussions) was the recognition of presuppositions.

We do need facts. We do need to understand an ethical issue aside from a ten minute Google search. But once we are armed with the facts, the question remains, what do we do with those facts? How do they inform our ideas? How do we respond to those facts?

Humans, by virtue of being created in God's image (that's my presupposition) are moral creatures, and our morality is shaped by our experiences and presuppositions. Even disbelief in something is a moral position. Disbelief in God is a moral position. It says something about how we view the world and our place in it. As a Christian, I presuppose certain things because I believe in a Creator, and that will affect how I respond to the facts of an issue. How I respond to an ethical question such as the issue of medical marijuana will flow from my presuppositions. The same can be said for someone who does not hold to a Christian view of the world.

Is there anything such as pure objectivity? Can anyone be completely divorced from their presuppositions? I wonder about that. We are not automatons (co-incidentally, a moral position). We cannot remove our decision-making from our particular way of looking at the world. We can work hard to understand all sides of the question, but in the end, we cannot be purely objective. Our presuppositions will always affect how we respond to something. 

Christians operate within a biblical framework. The revelation and authority of God shapes our views and our reactions. How "objective" can we be?  When we say we want to be objective, we may actually be saying we want to please all sides of an argument. I don't think that is possible without sacrificing our own positions on a matter. If the matter up for debate is whether or not there is judgment at the end of this life, being objective in order to appear agreeable will mean I may have to avoid being explicit about the truth. Discussing abortion would demand the same thing. To be 100% objective would require not really having a position on an issue, wouldn't it?

I'm no apologist or ethicist, but this has been rolling around in my head lately since I heard that discussion. Objectivity is seen as such a virtue, but how objective is anyone? Considering the difficulty we have in persuading people, I think objectivity isn't all it's cracked up to be. If what people mean by objective is being dispassionate and weighing all sides, then that's good. But at the end of it all, we all have to arrive at a position, or what's the point of debating something?

No, I don't think pure objectivity is possible. We can censor ourselves to appear objective, but how often do we want to do that? Far better to present our arguments through the lens of biblical truth, with clarity, and with love and kindness.

Tuesday
Mar052013

Tired and meandering

This is how I feel after four days away.

I spent four days at the Outer Banks with some dear sisters in Christ.  I'm still processing all of the discussion we had.  Yesterday, I had a five hour layover in Washington, D.C.  It's such a busy place, and I found it hard to concentrate on reading depending on where I was.  At one point, I was at a table, writing in a journal, trying to put some thoughts together.  A a man sat at the table next to mine and began talking rapidly.  He was alone, and he kept looking rather over to his right shoulder.  I don't know what language he was speaking, but at first I thought he must have been talking to his imaginary friend.  I think he had a Bluetooth.  My concentration was shot by that point.

After a 30 minute delay, our plane took off at 9:30 pm, and I didn't get home until close to 1:00.  As I sat in the airport, utilizing the wonders of technology, I texted my husband to see if I am scheduled in the nursery for this morning's young mother's bible study.  I am.  So, soon, after a whopping five hours of sleep, I shall be getting ready to go.  It is also my husband's birthday.  Oh well, it was a full weekend, and I've got so many things racing through my head right now.  I have a seed of a post in my head and I wrestled with it all day yesterday.  I am hoping some silence later this afternoon will give me the necessary words.

While I was in the airport, I did do some reading.  Before I left, I began a book by Mary Jo Sharp, called Defending the Faith, which is about apologetics, and specifically the importance of apologetics in women's ministries.  I plan to share more about it later.  This book (and no offense to Sharp) was much easier to read in a busy airport than Leon Morris's The Atonement.  When I was inevitably distracted, it was easier to pick up where I had left off.

In her second chapter, she discusses the importance of knowing what we believe and why; a good thing.  She comments:

Instead of digging deep into our theological and philosophical questions, we may be living out a bogus belief in Jesus that is all about personal comfort and peace.  It is not the truth about reality. If we want women's ministries to be effectual in aiding the transformation of people's lives, we must address some hard, fundamental issues.  This means we have to stop behaving as though God exists to meet our emotional needs and personal goals, and get serious about nourishing our minds and affirming that we exist to learn the truth about Him so that we can live for His glory.

So far, the book has very valuable encouragements about the need to know what we believe and why.  I'm just getting into the part where she gives some practical solutions about how to dialogue with others.  She refers frequently to generating conversation on airplanes, something I failed at last night for sure, because all I wanted to do when I boarded the plane was just unwind.