Sometimes we face real moral dilemmas—doing one thing we ought to do means doing something else we ought not do. What are we to do when we are in these hard spots? Last week I discussed one solution that won’t work. This week I’ll look at a second option that is better than the first, but still not a good solution. Then I’ll offer what I believe to be the best ways to solve these moral dilemmas.
We all want to “do the right thing.” But sometimes that is much easier said than done. What do we do when choosing one right thing also means doing one wrong thing? What do we do when moral duties truly collide? There are three answers offered, but I only think one is realistic in our day-to-day lives.
I’m convinced that pre-evangelism is essential for reaching people with the gospel in postmodern settings today. But perhaps I need to make my case a bit more persuasively. After all, isn’t the gospel self-authenticating and powerful enough on its own? Do we really need to appeal to fallen people’s inadequate reasoning in proclaiming a message about rebirth? Perhaps my quoting of Schaeffer, Moore, and Keller still leave you wanting input from a higher authority.
Fifty years ago, Francis Schaeffer, the one-of-a-kind preacher and evangelist in postmodern Europe (before most people ever heard the term postmodern) told us, “Pre-evangelism is no soft option.” More recently, Russell Moore awakened us to the reality that “we can stop counting on the culture to do pre-evangelism” for us.
From Unlikely Converts, pages 13 to 15:
“Don’t you just love stories? We sit on the edge of our seats to hear them. We download podcasts that feature them. We pay money to hear comedians tell funny ones. We wake up when a longwinded speaker breaks from explanations, elaborations, and emendations and says, “This reminds me of a story.”
“Randy Newman has done it again! His latest book on personal evangelism is so captivating and inspirational that I read it in one sitting.” So says Dr. Lyle Dorsett, Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University Randy’s latest book is Unlikely Converts, the result of his doctoral research on how we can help non-believers come to faith. I’ve asked Randy to write a series of four guest blogs here to share some of what he discovered (and hopefully entice you to buy his book!)
“I Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God”—therefore, the Bible is God’s Word!” This is often heard, and may initially sound good, but it is guilty of circular reasoning—“begging the question.” This logical fallacy is a tricky one, and even gets the most careful thinker from time to time. So, let’s learn to identify and avoid it, in order to have healthy conversations and find truth!
“Everyone knows…” means “What’s wrong with you for not agreeing?” This is an example of the often-heard “bandwagon” fallacy. Last week I explained this ubiquitous derailer of good conversations, and offered a number of examples. This week I’ll suggest ways to get conversations back on track when they are derailed by this error.
“But Mom, all my friends do it!” “Everyone’s switching to Right Guard!” “No one believes that anymore!” You have probably heard a child, advertiser, or friend say these things before. It may have initial appeal, but when you stop and think about it you know something is wrong with this line of thinking. These are all examples of another common logical fallacy: the “bandwagon fallacy” (or the “appeal to common practice” and the “appeal to populace” fallacies). This is a fifth way healthy discussions are shut down.
Two years ago I posted a three-part series on logical fallacies, which has been one of the most popular series to date. In the series, I discussed three ways conversations break down. The Ad Hominem, Genetic, and Red Herring Fallacies all sidetrack conversations. But there are more fallacies to be aware of and avoid. In this series, I’ll discuss three more common ways conversations are sidetracked: the “Straw Man” fallacy, the “Bandwagon” fallacy, and “Begging the Question.”
In addition to a healthy theology of grief (last week), a healthy theology of death is also essential to being able to say “goodbye” well when the time comes. Having a “theology of death” may seem odd, morbid, and even wrong. Ours is such a life-affirming and life-focused culture that we rarely think of death. Therefore, it is not surprising that most of us don’t have a theology of death, much less a well-developed one. But this is exactly what we need in order to be able to say goodbye well.
We continue to search for a reason for the Las Vegas shootings. So far, no “traditional” reason has emerged. Last week I suggested that the reason may be no reason. I outlined a philosophy that is becoming increasingly popular in our culture: nihilism. Is this ringing any bells as we learn more and more about Stephen Paddock? Might it be that he had obtained all which he thought could bring him meaning “under the sun,” and found it was meaningless after all? Might he be someone who so thoroughly embraced the Enlightenment that he lived the nihilistic worldview consistently? And if so, what should we learn from this?
My brother-in-law, sister-in-law, nephew and his friend were on their way to the Life is Beautiful concert in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 1, 2017 when Stephen Paddock began shooting. Had they not been delayed while on their way by just a few minutes, they would have been in the line of fire. Though I am thankful they were running late, I continue to grieve over the 58 who were not so fortunate. In my grief, I ask the same question everyone else is asking: Why? The answer may be right in front of us, but it is not one we want to acknowledge.
What do talk shows, news reports, political debates and many conversations between two people who disagree have in common? Often people are not listening to but rather attacking one another. These are examples of a third way healthy conversations are derailed—though the ad hominem fallacy. In fact, this is so common that it may be the hardest of the three fallacies to spot. But we must learn to identify it and reject it if we want to have healthy conversations and come to agreement on the issues we care most about.
Good conversations can help us understand one another, find truth together, and flourish. Unfortunately, there are three ways healthy and profitable conversations can be derailed. The second wrong turn is the “Genetic Fallacy.” We hear it all the time and must avoid it at all costs. In this post I’ll define the genetic fallacy and illustrate ways it was used against Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights Movement, how I hear it in conversations about the Gospel, and how it underlies the charge of “homophobia.”
Recently a major credit card processor refused to handle further transactions that were gifts directed to a non-profit group. They said the organization’s view of family breakdown and the impact such a view has on children made it a “hate group.” Similarly, a firm that provides information about non-profits labeled one association a “hate group” due to the group’s traditional position on marriage (though the information company quickly retracted this assessment when critics challenged their arbitrary action).
Does the world need North Americans to continue sending missionaries worldwide to finish the task of seeing all people hear the gospel? Or have we done our part, and now it is time for those in other nations to finish the task in their homelands? A recent article taking the first position was criticized in a response in another journal here, highlighting the two opposing views. I just finished a book that charts a helpful “middle course” between the two.
Can we hope to find common ground in “the public square” over the critically important social issues of our day? Over the past seven weeks I’ve illustrated how the three different answers to “What are we” determines our answer to this question. But our view of what we are also determines our view of whether abortion and euthanasia are ever justified, whether the gospel makes sense, how Christians best grow in their faith, what constitutes “ministry,” and so much more. Let me explain…
It either happened this week 1,984* years ago or it didn’t. If it did, God came to earth and can provide the flourishing and eternal life He promised. If it didn’t, anyone who believes the Easter myth is a fool. The past four weeks I’ve responded to six common objections to Jesus’ bodily resurrection that first Easter morning. But there is a seventh objection worth considering…
Easter is fast approaching, so I’m discussing whether it is really worth celebrating. If it is based on a fact of history—Jesus’ resurrection—then everyone worldwide should celebrate it, because it proved Jesus is the One True God. If it is based on a lie—there actually was no resurrection—then Christianity is simply false and Christians are fools to follow this dead “savior”! So which is it? . . .