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Archive for February, 2008

My Passion for Logic

I have a passion for seeing conditional statements (IF…THEN) applied properly.

Far too often, people mistakenly assume that the converse is logically equivalent to the original statement. For example, let’s describe me as I walk from my car into my place of employment each morning:

“If it is raining, then I get wet.”

This is a true statement, because I don’t own an umbrella. You may be thinking, “Then go get an umbrella!” But logic is not about giving advice. It’s about stating reality as it exists.

A common mistake is for people to think that the following statement, known as the “Converse,” must also be true:

“If I am wet, then it is raining.”

This is deceptively appealing. It feels right. But it’s not logically equivalent. I could have become wet for a whole host of other reasons. Maybe I bought a coffee and spilled it on myself on the drive in. Or maybe it’s done raining, but I fell in a puddle.

Another common error is illustrated in the following example. Let’s assume the following statement is true:

“If it is sunny outside, then I am happy.”

I live in one of the cloudiest cities in the U.S., so this time of year, just seeing the sun warms my heart!

However, the “Inverse” is not logically equivalent:

“If it is not sunny outside, then I am not happy.”

Even if I don’t see the sun, there are plenty of times during the long winter months that I’m happy anyway. Maybe one of my kids just gave me a big hug. Maybe I just finished reading a good book. It might be cloudy outside, but I’m still happy.

The key to evaluating logical statements is to use what’s called the contrapositive. This combines the converse and inverse together.

Let’s take a look at the first “IF…THEN” conditional statement in 1 John.

John writes, in 1:6, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

In conditional form, this may be written:

IF we say that we have fellowship with Jesus and walk in darkness, THEN we lie and do not practice the truth.

The contrapositive of this conditional statement is:

IF we are truthful, THEN we don’t say we have fellowship with Jesus while we walk in darkness.

In my mind, the contrapositive feels a bit simpler, and it’s logically equivalent to John’s original statement.

If I am a truthful follower of Jesus, then I won’t claim to be in fellowship with Jesus when I’m walking in darkness. This is a clear call to repentance. Get right with God, and then share your walk publicly.

This is not a perfectionistic command, but a firm reminder to get our private walk with Jesus right before proclaiming our faith to the masses. This is one reason Billy Graham has been such an effective evangelist. He has avoided the wrath of the public because he lived his life in such a way that he avoided scandal.

Do I have my private walk in order? I’d better before I proclaim my faith to others. Otherwise, my example may become a stumbling block on their pathway to faith.

Categories: bible

Good v. Evil

One thing that stands out to me is how simply John separates things. There is light and dark. God is love. In 3:10 (CEV), John writes, “You can tell God’s children from the devil’s children, because those who belong to the devil refuse to do right or to love each other.”

I wonder if this helps explain John’s popularity among Christians today.

Categories: bible

Teachers Passé?

In 2:27, John unexpectedly writes that with the Holy Spirit, a teacher is no longer necessary. This is a scary thought for me, since I work full-time as a teacher.

And James writes that teachers will be judged more harshly (3:1).

Maybe what John means is that with the Holy Spirit, we don’t need a personal, human “tutor of truth” with us 24/7. We simply need to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance living within us.

Categories: bible

Purpose of 1 John

Most commentators agree that the theme verse of this letter is 5:13

John writes, “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.”

This means that John’s target audience in this letter is members of the established church, not unbelievers.

Categories: bible

Who Wrote 1 John?

I was surprised to learn that there is no internal proof that the apostle John wrote this epistle.

Then again, John refers to himself not by name, but by the phrase “The disciple whom Jesus loved” in his gospel. There is a humility and an element of mystery in this practice.

I wonder why John refers to himself by name in Revelation but not in his other four books?

The following early church historians name John the author of 1 John, according to the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible:

Polycarp
Eusebius
Irenaeus
Clement of Alexandria
Tertullian
Cyprian

Just digging more deeply into the primary sources written by these authors could become a lifetime of work.

In the same way that a good scientist accepts the conclusions of peer review as authoritative until proven otherwise, it is reasonable to accept John’s authorship of this letter.

Additionally, there are many parallels between the gospel of John and this letter. The EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary is just one place that outlines these similarities clearly and thoroughly.

Categories: bible

Introduction to 1 John

John writes this letter in response to an early heresy, a belief in gnosticism.

“Gnostics do not look to salvation from sin (original or other), but rather from the ignorance of which sin is a consequence. Ignorance — whereby is meant ignorance of spiritual realities — is dispelled only by Gnosis, and the decisive revelation of Gnosis is brought by the Messengers of Light, especially by Christ, the Logos of the True God. It is not by His suffering and death but by His life of teaching and His establishing of mysteries that Christ has performed His work of salvation.” [quoted from The Gnostic World View: A Brief Summary of Gnosticism]

John focuses much of his attention to dispelling the myth that Jesus’ death and resurrection were either an illusion or unnecessary.

The letter may be broken down as follows:

I. I Saw Jesus
II. Live Without Sinning
III. antichrists Are All Around
IV. We’re Children of God
V. God = Love, Therefore My Life Ought to Reflect This Love
VI. Testimony of Spirit, Water, Blood
VII. Conclusion

Key Verse: 5:13

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (NIV).

Categories: bible

"Pick ’em" in Phys Ed: I Hate Being Last!

In 5:23-24, Paul reminds us that our call to holy living is not dependent upon our own efforts. We will always fail! God knows this.

That’s why, as I leave the study of 1 Thessalonians, I’m not overwhelmed by the responsibilities Paul has outlined here.

Jesus chose me, and he’s trustworthy.

Wow, I’d never thought of this before.

I always hated “Pick ’em” time in phys ed class, because I was always one of the last people chosen. What would it be like to go through life not being picked by God? What does the Bible say to people like Pharaoh and Esau, people who were set aside for God’s wrath?

As always, intense study has allowed me to draw out some new insights and highlighted some even deeper questions.

How do you answer this question, dear Reader? What do you say to people who aren’t on God’s team? Being picked last is better than not being picked at all…

Categories: bible
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