How We Got Here

November 4, 2011

In a conversation recently with an older friend I mentioned that I had been to a Secular Student Alliance Club at a local high school to talk about my faith, and the name of the club begged the question for her, “What is a Secular Student Alliance Club?”  I gave a brief explanation of the club and the kinds of topics that they discuss.  I made the generalization that most of the students in the club don’t hold a theistic position, most are atheist or skeptical.   The friend of mine, responded with a question  “They actually have a club like that in the high school?”  A man listening to our conversation added that they have the right to do that, if a Christian club has the same right to meet.  I agreed with the man and that led to a discussion about the actual statements in the constitution and other ideas like “the separation of church and state” and what it actually meant.  The point I want to focus the rest of the post on what my friend said in wrapping up the conversation.  Being a senior adult, with a “few” years of experience behind her, she asked the rhetorical question,  “How did we get here?”

There are 3 terms that are central keys to the change that American has gone through over the last 50 years.   Secularization, Pluralism, and Privatization.  Each of these ideas have had a large impact of the beliefs, practices, and actions that play out in America.

Secularization is the process of  removing all aspects of God and religion from the public life through avenues like schools, businesses, courthouses, and monuments.  Groups like the ACLU and others make it their number one goal to wipe God out of  all aspects from American culture and history.   In a nation that is predominantly Christian, the few and small groups that are offended by the idea of God can slowly chip away at the Christian foundations that were set early in our countries history.  With God moving out of the picture in American culture this creates a bold new exercise of morality by people who have no ultimate God to answer to.  If God is out of the picture, they can do whatever they want, after all, no one is watching over us.  Secularization pushes the ceiling on how far is too far, by creating an atmosphere of no shame in our world.  With the absence of shame nothing is too far, nothing is taboo.

Pluralism is where you have a wide variety of choices.  “Only in America” as Ravi Zacharias continues “can you find an Indian man selling kosher tacos in a store in Los Angeles”  Ravi goes on to explain that Pluralism in foods, or styles of clothes, and other areas in not bad, bud pluralism with respect to truth and worldviews is dangerous.   When you begin to look at truth as relative, you are taking truth from the objective reality and it becomes watered-down.  In a recent discussion with some high school students they could not grasp the idea that truth is objective and that there can only be one correct worldview.  I also experienced this past summer with some Christians in an apologetics class during camp.   The idea of relative truth has crept into our culture despite the fact that it doesn’t make sense or it falls apart internally.

Privatization is the idea that you can believe what you want to believe so long as you keep it to yourself and don’t bring your beliefs out into the public or life and share them with others.  In America you are free to believe and practice what you wish, but the new atheists and the secularists will go crazy if you dare insist that you actually live by what you believe and speak about your beliefs in a public way, not to mention if you hold a public office and make decisions based on your beliefs.  I have noticed within privatization there is a bias by which many secular thinkers abide.  They tell you that you cannot express your religious views and opinions, but at the same time they can advance their views and opinions without the same scrutiny.  Think about how it affects a person with a worldview who has to constantly separate their personal and public worldviews and how it creates a schizophrenic life.  Imagine that I tell my wife, I love her with all my heart, but why we are out in public I’m not going to acknowledge her, show any affection towards her, or in any way make any decisions based around her.  I hope you see the problems that would cause in my relationship with her.  The same is true of Christians and their relationship with God.  It is insane to think that Christians should keep their faith private.

Desensitization is the key here with these three aspects.  It happens slowly over time, so slow you don’t notice it until you wake up and see how far things have changed and it’s too late.  I like to use the example of a frog in a pot of water when I talk to teens about slowly falling away from their relationship with God.  Imagine you have a frog and a hot-pot of water.  You drop the frog in the water and he will hop right back out as soon as he lands in the water.  If you take the same from and place it in a pot of water and slowly turn the heat up over time the frog will sit in the pot and not jump out.  The frog will eventually die.  The reason being that the frog’s body will match the temperature of the water and not realize that it is too late.  In the same way we need to be aware of the constant changing temperature of the world around us.  Don’t let the little things go by without noticing how they change the environment around us slowly over time.

So what can you do as a Christian?  How can you fight back against the Secularization, Privatization, and Pluralistic world?  Here are a few ideas.  First, do your best to represent God and your Christian values in both private and public.  Your consistency will help yourself and encourage others.  Secondly, get a good grasp on truth and why it matters.  Don’t let the wave of relativism knock you down.  Be ready to defend object moral truths with examples and logical reasons.  Lastly, get involved in a social issue of the day.  It should be something you feel strong about and support from your worldview.  Items like defending traditional marriage, educating people on abortion and supporting groups that hold the Christian worldview.   The worst thing you could do is nothing, being silent when others speak up allows them to get their way without a fight.

As always questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.

Classification of Knowledge

October 26, 2011

If you have had apologetic conversation with others that disagree with your Christian worldview you may have come across a someone who rejects your  Christian worldview solely on the premise that your knowledge is not empirical knowledge.  Empirical knowledge is knowledge that comes  through experience with the 5 senses or the scientific method.  Perhaps it is the strongest level of knowledge, but it is not the only type of knowledge.  In fact, it makes up a very small percentage of a persons total  knowledge in whole.  Before you disagree with my last sentence, think about all you know and how you came to “know it” especially in the realm of science and biology.  You most likely have read several books on the subject rather than done the empirical experiments and experienced it yourself.   Empirical knowledge is not absolute either, there is no way to be able to claim total absolute knowledge unless we had total transcendence in life.

What are the different classifications (types) of knowledge that we have at our disposal?  Below are some of the different classifications and some examples of knowledge.  I want to note that these are my classifications, ones that I have seen in use by people and in the general ways that most people use the terms today.  I am not attempting to give a breakdown of proper Epistemology.

Ideological – This relates to knowledge that is a priori (before experience) that usually comes as concepts or ideas from the human mind and is philosophical.  Reason is often the center of ideology.

Empirical –   This relates to knowledge that is a posteriori (after experience) through the 5 senses or the scientific method.  An example might be that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.

Experiential – This relates to knowledge gained through the 5 senses.  It does not have to be in a scientific method.  It can relate to an individual or a group of people.  i.e. personal experience or say human experience.  An example might be that it gets colder at night when the sun is not up.

Logical – This type of knowledge is often used with in  philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science.  It often looks at the arguments that are being made and looks for fallacies in what is inferred by statements to determine truth.  An example of logical knowledge would be that a woman is either pregnant or not pregnant, because she cannot be both at the same time.

Rational – This type of knowledge is a combination of Ideology and Empirical knowledge in that knowledge can be rationalized by past prior empirical knowledge or experience.   An example might be that if I had wings I might be able to fly like a bird.

Historical –  This type of knowledge is a combination of some of the types of knowledge listed above.  It can no longer  be proven through the scientific method or through repeat experience.  It may be based on physical evidence that we have knowledge of by writings, audio and video recordings, or other people’s experience.  An example might be that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States.

These types of knowledge above are often used in debates and discussions between different worldviews.   The Christian worldview is unique in that it can be a part of all these different types of areas of knowledge and does not fall apart unlike some of the other worldviews when you attempt to debate in one of these areas of knowledge above.  Over time I will cover the specifics of that statement.

Occasionally I have found that when a religious discussion gets to the point of not accepting knowledge outside of empirical knowledge it is because they do not want to deal with the other logical and rational explanations that are being brought forth in an argument.  This is a flawed approach to knowledge that is impossible to live out in life.   If you feel like this is being used on you to avoid responding to your statements, here is how you can show them that there statement is flawed.

When someone says that “Empirical knowledge is only knowledge that counts as knowledge” ask them for the empirical evidence that backs up their statement of belief about empirical knowledge.  There is none.  Therefore you don’t have to accept their statement of belief about empirical knowledge.  Ask, them, “If you don’t have any empirical evidence, then why should I believe you?”  They make a deadly flaw by stepping outside of empiricism trading on reason and philosophy while claiming only empiricism.

Many people put their guard up during a discussion, and will not be intellectually honest with you about what they accept as knowledge.  If you have built a relationship with the person, you can listen to them make statements that don’t agree with their own ideology about knowledge.  You should take advantage of the opportunity to ask them to explain themselves or to clarify what they just said against their own understanding related to knowledge.  For example, Your friend says that they believe that Green Bay is going to when the Super Bowl this year.  You can ask them what empirical knowledge that they have to assure then of that statement.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.