The Art of Reasoning Well
By Patty Houser
Sharing our faith is both exhilarating and frustrating. It is exhilarating because when we talk about the reasons why Jesus is the only name by which we are saved, we know lives can be changed and souls redeemed. However, it is frustrating because when people flee from God, they resort to all sorts of folly. And when they do, many of us feel inept as ambassadors of Christ because so many of us know what they are saying is off base, but cannot pinpoint why because we have not been taught to think critically. But if we are to effectively share and defend our faith, it is very helpful if we know something about the art of reasoning well. Here are three simple steps to assist us on our way.
Clearly define all terms. Meaningful conversations cannot take place if the terms being used have different meanings to the different parties involved. For instance, a Christian using the term “God” means a personal, spiritual being, who is immanent and transcendent, infinite, unchangeable and perfect. However, others may mean an impersonal force, an unfolding flower or the physical-material world. Therefore, to ensure people are not talking past each other, simply ask, “What do you mean by that?” when ambiguous or vague terms are used.
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Become familiar with the three laws of thought. In order for intelligible exchanges to occur, basic rules must be employed to help guide our thinking and eliminate vague, contradictory or ambiguous ideas.
The Law of Identity says that if a statement is true, then it is true. The statement “Christianity might be true for you, but it’s not true for me” defies this law. If Christianity is true, then it is true for me and it is true for you.The Law of Non-Contradiction says that a statement cannot be true and false simultaneously. This means Jesus cannot be Lord and not Lord at the same time and in the same sense. The Law of the Excluded Middle says that a statement must be either true or false and therefore excludes the possibility of the truth falling somewhere in the middle. Thus, the statement “Jesus is Lord” is either true or false. Jesus is Lord or he is not. There is no middle option.
When having spiritual conversations, if the person with whom you are speaking ignores any of these laws, gently point out the problem. Politely tell the person why it is important that everybody plays by the same rules when trying to discover the truth about a matter…
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