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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
The growth is also reflected in the most popular blog posts, all of which were published in the second half of the year. Some posts are straight apologetic while others, such as the Ann Coulter piece or the Hillsong article, focus on topical events. But every one was enthusiastically shared across social media.
Without further adieu, here are the ten most popular blog posts of 2014:
Monday, December 29, 2014
As many have noted, we live in an age of distraction. Our world is a noisy one, with video screens and always-connected capabilities robbing us of any time alone with our thoughts. We have become more and more dependent on such distractions, as one study found "Ninety five percent of American adults reported that they did at least one leisure activity in the past 24 hours, such as watching television, socializing, or reading for pleasure, but 83% reported they spent no time whatsoever 'relaxing or thinking.'" 1 So it's no wonder that the researchers found that most people found sitting in a chair and thinking for ten to fifteen minutes was not an enjoyable experience and a significant number chose to administer small, painful electric shocks to themselves rather than simply think about something. 2,3
Deep Thinking Versus Distracted ThinkingYou may jump to the conclusion that it's the younger generations that are more incapable of uninterrupted thinking, but in "Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind", Timothy Wilson and his co-authors found that the age of the participant (ranging from 18 to 77) or whether they performed the test at home or in a lab setting made no difference. The only real difference in helping people "gain better control of their thoughts with meditation and other techniques, with clear benefits."4
I agree that deeply thinking about a particular problem or issue is a lost skill and one that every believer should seek to cultivate. The Psalms are replete with commands for us to meditate on the Scriptures and the works of God5 to help us better understand Him and our place in the world. Therefore, I want to offer some tips on ways you can practice thinking about an issue more deeply. These are just ways I try to approach certain problems I mull over as I work through them.
1. Ensure You're Exposed to Rich IdeasThe first step in thinking well requires you to get in the habit of taking in ideas that you may not have previously been exposed to. The best way to do this is to develop a habit of reading. You don't have to read for huge chunks of time, but simply read regularly. Plan in getting ready for bed and spend the last 30 minutes every evening reading. This will help you wind down from the day and it will also improve your sleep. You should read actively, with a pencil in hand and marking up your books. If you disagree with the author, write it in the margin. If you think a point is confusing, note that too. You don't have to look up a word or reference at this point, just read. Choose some classic works of fiction and choose some non-fiction. Mix it up. You'll find that there are many different ways people approach certain issues. All of this helps you to think about ideas in different contexts.
2. Mull over the ideas to which you've been exposed.Next, pick a particularly intriguing or difficult idea and start thinking through it. You should do this at a different time than your reading. Morning is always good. In my devotional time, I try to meditate on a different aspect of God's character each morning. I've taken a list of the different names of God and use it to contemplate that aspect of his character. I really try to think about what it means for God to be the Lord Our Banner. What aspects of God does such a title reflect? How do those aspect impact me in my walk? This is my very first action in my morning prayer time.
With other ideas, I usually try to find a time where I will have limited distractions to think over an issue. The key is to focus on one thing. How does that idea fit in with your understanding of the world? Does it have implications for other beliefs that you hold? What are three reasons to reject such an idea? Would such a concept be true under any circumstance? Can you outline an argument in your head for or against that view? Who else would be considered an expert in that topic and have you looked at what they would say? All of these questions will help you explore that topic much more deeply than simply taking the author's word for a particular point of view.
3. See how your previous ideas work with your new thoughts.Lastly, as you take in new ideas, you'll want to see how well those mesh with previous ideas you have. Are there any points of connection? Sometimes, new insight will be gained by taking two ideas that seem disparate and trying to connect them in some way. For example, I was once reading an opinion piece lamenting the fact that the candidates for the various offices in the city of Los Angeles were almost exclusively male. The pundits were decrying this as a travesty, making the point that women add a voice and an influence that men cannot replicate. I was also working on some questions about same-sex marriage and it really struck me how if each sex offers unique views that are necessary to the well-being of governance, then it should be more true that two parents of different sexes offer unique views that are necessary to the well-being of any children that are raised, which prompted this post. However, that's just one example of how new ideas can form when you think about an issue more deeply and carefully.
2. Wilson, 2014, 76.
3. Pomeroy, Ross. "Some People Prefer Electric Shocks to Thinking Quietly by Themselves" RealClearScience. RealClearScience, 13 July 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2014. http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/07/some_people_prefer_electric_shocks_to_thinking_quietly_by_themselves.html.
4. Wilson, 2014. 77.
5. For examples, see Joshua 1:8, Psalm, 1:2, Psa. 4:4, Psalm 77:6, Psalm. 119:23-27, Psalm. 145:5.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Saturday, December 27, 2014
From Ganssle, Gregory E. Thinking about God: First Steps in Philosophy. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004. Print. 16.
There are other reasons to think about God besides trying to figure out if there is such a person. What you believe and think about God affects nearly every area of your life. Many of the big and deep questions that shape how each of us sees the world are very closely related to questions about God. For example, it is a big and important question whether life has any meaning or purpose other than whatever meaning we give it ourselves. If we push this question very far, we will wind up thinking about God. If there is a God who created us and knows us, then whatever purpose we have will probably be related to whatever purpose he has for us. Another big and important question has to do with the nature of moral reality. Are there things that are right or wrong regardless of the opinions of others? Again, if God has a purpose for us, it might be that his purpose involves our living up to or reflecting moral reality. You can see that the question of God is a central question. If we want to think well about our lives, we will want to do some of our best thinking about God.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Of the popular topics for 2014, two of them ("Tools for the God-Fearing Mind" and "Science, God, and Knowing") deal with some complicated issues. Yet, these made it into our top five. Some others deal with questions that you hear from skeptics and the top podcast topic is one we've approached before: how to understand and witness to Muslims.
Here, in reverse order of popularity, are the top five podcast topics of 2014.
- Would the World be Better Without Religion?
Skeptics such as Richard Dawkins often claim that the biggest evils in the world are perpetrated because of religious beliefs. Does religion cause more wars, more hatred and prejudice than other views? What would a world free of religion look like? Join Lenny as he shows why such objections have no grounding in reality.
- What's the Conflict between Faith and Reason?
We constantly hear that faith and reason are opposites; if you have faith in something, you’ve left reason behind. Do Christians follow a "blind" faith? Is reason the enemy of faith? Listen in as Lenny shows why Christianity is an inherently reasonable faith.
- Tools for the God-fearing Mind
Jesus commanded us that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, but many Christians simply don't know how to love God with their minds. Before we can think rightly about God, we need to learn to think rightly, to think logically. In this talk, Lenny teaches you how you can tell the difference between good arguments and bad ones and how you can offer unbelievers rational, persuasive arguments for your faith.
- Science, God, and Knowing
Today, people look to scientists to find the answers to our problems in the world. But does science have limits? Are there other ways to know something as fact? And how are questions about God and religion tested scientifically? In this class, Lenny shows why scientific objections to God fail.
- The Challenge of Islam
Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, but is still a mystery to most Christians. Is it a religion of peace and a breeding ground for terrorists? Join us as we examine Muslim beliefs and discuss how to effectively witness to Muslims.
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