Resources / Stories on the importance of how to think / "argue" clearly?

(SeanO) #1

When I took apologetics in seminary we were assigned the book “A Rulebook for Arguments” to help us learn to avoid common logical fallacies and to express our opinions more clearly. I also really like J. P. Moreland’s book on loving God with our mind. As we share our faith, it is critical to argue rationally (and of course in love) so that we can not only avoid error ourselves, but also lead others to the truth. The longer I am in the Church, the more imperative I think it is that people learn to reason clearly - it is the key to being able not only to share our faith convincingly, but also to interpret the Bible accurately.

What are some other resources you have found helpful for thinking clearly? Do you have any stories you want to share about why it is important to think clearly?

Typically we learn to “argue” by assertion. That is, we tend to start with our conclusions - our desires and opinions - without a whole lot to back them up. And it works, sometimes, at least when we’re very young. What could be better?

Real argument, by contrast, takes time and practice. Marshaling our reasons, proportioning our conclusions to the actual evidence, considering objections, and all the rest - these are acquired skills. We have to grow up a little. We have to put aside our desires and our opinions for a while and actually think…School may help…or not. Reasons can be given for different answers. In the end, ideally, you will not only learn some of those reasons, but also learn how to weigh them up - and how to seek out more yourself.

(Preston Blake Powell) #2

I agree one hundred percent that sound reasoning is absolutely critical to our ability to communicate clearly and effectively with others. I do at times however struggle with finding ways to help people understand the basic fundamentals of how logic works and the necessity of the use of first principles such as the law of noncontradiction, the law of identity, and the law of the excluded middle that make thinking possible and discourse meaningful. I can explain it all thoroughly and simplify it by use of illustrations etc… but the common response is “well that’s way over my head”. But it’s not! It is in their head! They just don’t know that they already know it and use it every day! How can we make people interested in thinking about their thinking when they are terrified to even have to think deeply about anything at all? Jesus was Master at getting people to ask questions and he often did it by posing a counter question to the questioners original question that would send the one inquiring into a deeper realm of thought. I am glad to be a part of RZIM Connect now because I feel like I can learn a lot from people all over the world and some of the greatest minds on the planet are right here serving our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! If truth is what we are attempting to help people find in a postmodern, relativistic, and pluralistic society then this is the place where we train and equip ourselves for that mission.

(SeanO) #3

@Prestonp1985 That is a great point! People very often may be intimidated by the thought of critiquing their own beliefs or feel that logic is for academics and not normal people. The Bereans in Acts 17:11 searched the Scriptures to verify that what they were being taught was true and that is such a vital skill.

What are everyone’s thoughts on ways that we can help people be more willing to learn how to reason clearly? Is there a way that we can make it less intimidating / more accessible?

(Andrew Bulin) #4

I struggle most with being mindful of connecting with the heart of the other person. My wife and I have very analytical, logical ways of thinking and a clearly proven fact is good enough to act upon. Our son is somewhat the opposite. Clear logic by itself is often not good enough to make for a connection and a satisfying answer. We have to tie in something he can relate to that’s more feeling, personal, and experiential in nature to relate to the facts. The exercise of patient humility could help one to be more regularly open in connecting with others rather than being an informational fact delivery machine. I’m very glad these are key, foundational principles in RZIM as I need the constant reminder. :blush:

(SeanO) #5

@andrew.bulin Do you believe that rational thinking is nurture or nature? Personally, I tend to think it is something that can be learned by anyone because I grew up as a very emotionally driven person because my family was that way. I had to learn the hard way that theology rooted in emotions is not necessarily true to reality and I taught myself to be more rational over the course of years. Now, I was always analytical by nature, but I still leaned into my emotions when trying to discern spiritual things and it did not always lead to truth.

I think part of my concern is that if you do not teach someone to think and always spoon feed them via emotions, how will they defend themselves when someone with bad intentions deceives them via their emotions? Perhaps that is where the wise should help guard the simple within the Church Body? There is so much false teaching it almost seems perilous not to have these skills.

(Andrew Bulin) #6

I believe that rational thinking needs to be taught, almost as much as I need to learn how it relate to the heart with all its feelings and emotions. For the practical application with my son, we teach him why reason and logic is relatable and applicable for the right experiences in life. Things can be explained and that communication requires connecting on some rational level, so if you want your feelings understood, you may need to outline your case and explain your views. I do not automatically feel as he does, and vice versa. These little exercises in patience help us respect the feelings, while not letting them rule over reason. We do our best to practice both, and he has surprised us with the logical things he comes up with when we least think he’s actually paying attention! >_<

(SeanO) #7

@andrew.bulin I’m sure it is a blessing to watch him grow in wisdom and maturity :slight_smile: I always enjoyed teaching kids because it seems like they’re not paying attention and then out of the blue they share a thought that takes what you were trying to teach them to the next level or they apply it in their interaction with the other kids. It is interesting that some people need to learn to emphasize the rational side and others the emotional side and that those are both skills - wisely harnessing both the mind’s capacity to reason and its capacity to relate to the world emotively.

(Preston Blake Powell) #8

I was also heavily influenced by my emotions when I was growing up and it controlled me to the point of self destruction. I tend to go from one extreme to the other and the last few years have crossed over to the intellectual side of things and have over compensated at times. I think it’s important to find a healthy balance. Emotions are important. They are an integral part of what it means to be human. However it’s important to recognize that just because we “feel something” that doesn’t necessarily make what we are feeling true. It may be true that we feel it. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that that particular thing we are feeling is in fact true. For example, in my life I have struggled with depression and all of the self defeating emotions that come along with that. If I feel like I’m worthless or hopeless that doesn’t make me worthless or hopeless in actuality. The feelings themselves are valid but the truth of the particular assertions in reality don’t necessarily follow. Its important to make this distinction. Its helped me tremendously. Reason plays a role in every area of our lives. Your reasoning skills are diminished when your consumed by your emotions because you are then drowning in a sea of emotions that may or may not actually be true. Just because we believe something doesn’t make it true. It’s TRUE regardless of if we believe it or not. Finding the balance between emotion and reason is critical because the two are intricately connected. We can’t just appeal to a persons intellectual needs by ignoring their emotional needs because that can become very dry and more informational than relational. On the other hand we can’t just play to one’s emotions either because we may be leading them deeper into falsehood. If emotional experience is what dictates what’s real and true then every world religion on the planet is true and everybody’s own particular truth is “The Truth”. But if everybody’s truth is “The Truth” then everybody’s right even when they are wrong! “Right” and “Wrong” actually become meaningless concepts at that point without any distinction. Language itself becomes useless and the ability to effectively communicate in a way that’s meaningful becomes impossible. We must find a balance. We cannot sacrifice one for the other. Both are essential elements to the human experience. It is the way God has created us.

(SeanO) #9

@Prestonp1985 I can relate to the importance of reason in ruling our emotions. That distinction between who we are and what we feel is critical to make wise decisions in the midst of powerful emotions and to maintain a meaningful definition of truth. At the same time, as you said, we must recognize that our emotions are valid and learn to process them wisely. When I read the Psalms I often sense that David is seeking to take hold of his emotions by preaching to his own soul so that he can realign them with what he knows to be true. He acknowledges the current state of his heart and then forces its gaze back upon God to try to realign himself. When his emotions are especially overwhelming he will end his Psalm with a statement of endurance - “Wait upon the Lord, be strong and courageous, wait upon the Lord” (Psalms 27:14). Even if sorrow comes with the night, joy comes with the morning - every winter gives way to spring, death to resurrection in the Kingdom of God.

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #10

i really enjoyed this video by Stuart McAllister that calls us to use our minds, to think. Before we can “argue” clearly, we need to know how to think clearly.