Reason or Experience?

“A man with an argument is at the mercy of a man with experience.” How many of you are convinced that this statement is true? Now, how many of you are like me and think that more work needs to be done in order to show that this is a valid statement? I think this can be rehashed into a conflict between reason and experience. Ultimately, that is what this debate can be reduced to. In my opinion, this is a statement that assumes much more than can be granted. In order to change this into an argument, we might say: Experience is a greater test for truth. Reason is not as strong experience. Therefore, when experience and reason are in conflict, we may reject reason, and accept experience. Since this statement has been restructured to represent an argument (containing two premises and a conclusion), we may now begin judging the validity and truth value of this claim.

Lest you should think that this is a pointless debate, we must realize that there is a lot at stake here. If we accept this statement as true, we are rendering the laws of logic and our reason as slaves to our experience. In other words, we are saying that we don’t filter our experiences through rational inquiry, but rather that, we write the rules of logic based on what we experience. But, how can this be? For example, who among us, is willing to receive medical care or surgical work from someone who has some experience but doesn’t possess the proper training and certification? Or are you going to fly in a plane operated by someone who has claimed to have flown once or twice, but doesn’t possess a licence? Again if you’re anything like me, you would have answered no to those questions. But, of course, I’m not suggesting that experience has no value at all. Experience is an excellent thing that is really important. My point is that we don’t need to choose between reason and experience. Also, each needs to have its proper place. For example, It does you no good having experience teaching if you’re awful at it. No, we need the kind of experience that is informed by reason, rational, and logical. Another reason why I find such a statement ridiculous and false is that it pretends to be a trump card and that it doesn’t need further evidence or proof.

For those of you who are more interested in furthering your understanding about this debate, consider these comments from my friend, Patrick Cronin, who offered some of his own insight: Empiricists (about epistemic justification anyways) think that reason is a helpful tool which sifts through experience. But, there is no such thing as pure reason which in and of itself (without any experience) delivers either true beliefs or justified beliefs. Rationalists (about epistemic justification anyways) agree with empiricists in thinking that reason sifts through experience. But, in addition to that, rationalists also think that pure reason (unaided by experience) can provide us with true beliefs about the world as well as justified beliefs about the world.

Further problems:

1. Not all experiences are equal.

2. Experiences may be contradictory.

3. There is no rule or standard method given to distinguish true experiences from false ones

4. It makes truth subjective and pluralistic.

Please feel free to participate in this discussion and share your opinions. Philosophy in its purest form must be conducted communally. We are all interested in truth.

College in Retrospect

I finished my last undergraduate final at approximately 1 pm on Wednesday.  We live life in short increments awaiting the next checkpoint of progress because of our temporal view of time. How sweet college has been. In this post, I will discuss four critical principles I’ve learned in college.

1. Interpersonal development

College has been a time for experiencing enormous interpersonal growth. As an introvert, I have been challenged to step out of my comfort zone and embrace more public speaking opportunities. Public speaking is scary enough but especially as an introvert. It has been amazing witnessing such a change from horror to eagerness in embracing public speaking. In addition,  I have simply become more attentive and active in capitalizing on opportunities to strengthen my communication with others. I have been able to deepen my sense of personal identity as a regenerated man of God, student, friend, man, son, and brother. I still have my introvert tendencies, to be sure. However, I’m not as adverse nor anxious about engaging in social gatherings and meeting new people. In fact, now I avidly desire more social interaction.

2. Your education matters

Studying didn’t become rewarding nor enjoyable till I discovered what I was really interested in learning. There are two levels to this interest: interest that transcends the learning done in the classroom and learning that has a direct, observable influence in how you live. For me, those interests were political science and philosophy. Both of these subjects have far-reaching implications in how we live. It’s ok to play video-games, listen to music, watch tv, and to do a million other things besides study. But, don’t let this happen at the expense of your education.

3. Invest in relationships

Develop relationships with your peers and faculty. College would not be at all the same without the many people I’ve befriended. All of the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, the advice I’ve been given, the tears and laughs I’ve shared; I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends who have brought me so much joy, wisdom, encouragement, and gratitude. College is such an incredible experience for all of the diversity that you find. I’ve also observed that I’ve had to come to terms with some of my prejudices and biases in college. Forming long lasting relationships with faculty should be pursued because they are awesome and they want to be in your life beyond college! Also, they can have potential connections for your future endeavors.

4. Be involved

My sense of community didn’t really take shape till I became involved. Being involved is good for many reasons. As an active member on campus, I became more acutely aware of the issues, events, and the many contributions being made by students and faculty. Involvement enriches your own experience and gives it more substance. I definitely feel like I’ve had an impact and an important role in influencing the lives of others. But, my own life has benefited from the work and example of others also. This has included working on issues that affect students such as tuition, interest rates on student loans, spiritual matters, getting students politically involved…etc…all

Our Glorification Through Suffering

For this post, I wanted to canvass a subject that is near and dear to our hearts as Christians, and generally, as humans. Specifically, I wanted to address how we can still have hope through suffering and how our suffering is not in vain because of the sovereignty of God. Suffering is very sensitive; it can be very difficult to discuss with it recalling feelings of pain and bitterness, that we might prefer to keep repressed. Despite how unpleasant suffering is as an experience and notion, it is a subject that we would be foolish to ignore. However, no matter the particulars nor intensity of your suffering, it is being used for a beautiful purpose that will bring eternal glory. The issue of suffering is dealt with in sacred scripture (2 Timothy 3:12, John 15:18-19, Ephesians 3:13).

Suffering happens because of the natural consequences of sin and evil. In addition, it happens because of our faith. We can be the cause of our suffering because of our own folly and mistakes. Sometimes it may be the hurtful or sinful acts of others that causes our suffering. We all have experienced pain, heartbreak, loss, sadness, betrayal, etc. As Christians, how should we live and believe in light of these truths?

We can have hope because of Jesus. No. Actually, Jesus is our Hope! For many, suffering means the end of the rope. However, for believers sanctified and elected in Christ, our end is Christ! Christ works as our hope because he didn’t stay in the grave and he says that he went to prepare a place for us! If you are in Christ, your suffering is not in vain and neither is mine. Thank God! (John 14:3, Romans 8:28, John 14:19, 2 Corinthians 4:17)

Personally, I find much comfort, beauty, and inspiration in the words of the Apostle (see here Phillipians 3:7-11).

When I read this passage in Phillipians, I pray that I would have the same mind as Paul. Yes, no one desires nor enjoys suffering. But, I, too, want to know Christ the way Paul speaks of it. There is no glory without the Cross. Furthermore, nothing escapes God. He sees all and knows all; whether it is the hairs on my head, the thoughts in my heart, and even the trials that await me. God promises to be my provision, to be my strength, to be my hope, and to ultimately accomplish the purpose of my salvation-to make me more like Christ! I don’t know about you, but there is no greater hope. To be more like Christ, to be in Christ, and to be with Christ; my brothers and sisters, may that be our prayer and ultimate goal!

To God be all the glory forevermore!

The Power of A Question

Yesterday, I was listening to a lecture given by Dr. Ravi Zacharias (my favorite apologist) which addressed this question: What does it mean to be human? Ravi gave this message at BYU in Utah. It got me thinking on how we define humanness or being human. What have humans historically proposed as possible meanings or definitions for this daunting subject? (If you want answers, you’ll have to check this out for yourself: What do humans collectively attribute their existence to, their cause, destiny, or origin? It is absolutely crucial and vital that we have a firm grasp on how to understand who we are, for from it flow many consequences that will lead to either disaster or human flourishing.

On that note, I will now discuss the relevance of my title. Why did I choose those words particularly? Good questions can do many things. They can invite a deeper investigation of a certain theme or subject, they most certainly reveal blind spots in our thinking, they uncover hidden assumptions, and they can invoke the stark reality of our enormous ignorance on any number of subjects. My challenge to you is to embrace questions more often in your conversations (start with yourself). Ask yourself how certain you really are regarding some issue. Don’t be intimidated with this challenge. Yes, it may be that there are more questions on this side of eternity than answers. Yes, humans will never have absolute knowledge on any particular subject. If that’s the case then, what should we do? We still ask questions, but make sure they are good. God issued the command that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Jesus loves the mind. Matthew 22:37-40 God is a rational being, so we would be doing a disservice and dishonor to Him to neglect the ever so important tasks of studying, thinking, meditating, pondering, etc…Do more than ask questions; also listen and do it very carefully. Sound listening skills are just as crucial as asking good questions. In fact, I would argue that a good listener asks good questions. And this admonition can be applied to any kind of conversation, but especially for conversations with others who have a worldview different from yours. The point of this is not to just accumulate more knowledge than we know what to do with. It’s not to stump or ridicule people with our superior wisdom or understanding (I say this with sarcasm). It’s not to appear smart. I’m not advocating manipulation, or using clever tactics to argue people into a belief. The end of this really is the love of God, to glorify Him, and to enjoy Him forever! In reality, Jesus himself is the wellspring of knowledge and the wisdom of God! (1 Corinthians 1:24)  In this love, we would be so radically moved to join other human beings in their search for wisdom and answers to life’s biggest questions. If we want to take the words of Jesus seriously in John 14:6, then we all need to be more careful to understand the implications of falsity and error, and how knowing truth is a virtue and a freedom that God desires for all people. Ultimately, this freedom and truth is found in the person of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. (John 8:32) Also, a word of advice to all: do everything in love and out of respect for others. 

The C.S. Lewis you never knew


Interesting. My hero is not perfect after all; what a surprise!

Originally posted on CNN Belief Blog:

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) – He looked like a “red-faced pork butcher in shabby tweeds,” lived secretly with a woman for years and was so turned on by S&M that he once asked people at a party whether he could spank them.

We’re talking, of course, about C.S. Lewis, the Christian icon and author of classics such as “Mere Christianity” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

It’s tempting to remember Lewis only as the self-assured defender of Christianity who never met an argument he couldn’t demolish. His death 50 years ago, on November 22, 1963, was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He has since become a patron saint of American evangelicals.

But the actual man whom friends called “Jack” had a “horrible” personal life, thought he had failed as a defender of Christianity and spent so much time in pubs that his publishers initially struggled…

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Why I Love C.S. Lewis (Jack)

If you didn’t know already, today marks the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death. Why should you care? I have plenty of reasons. C.S. Lewis is one of the most influential people of the 20th century. He is most famous for writing children’s books; the Chronicles of Narnia series, many of which have been made, or have yet to become films. Although, he wasn’t a theologian (he taught Medieval and Renaissance English), he produced writings in the area of apologetics; publishing Mere Christianity (my personal favorite), Miracles, the Problem of Pain, etc. He also wrote science fiction. Jack taught at Oxford University alongside J.R. Tolkien. He was such an excellent student that he won the Triple First, the most prestigious academic honor awarded. Jack has been described as the Romantic Rationalist, by John Piper, another man I deeply admire. As the Romantic Rationalist, Jack had the ability to communicate profound Truths in a way that appealed to the layman; also, he had the natural gift to speak in imaginatively compelling and soul-moving prose. By the way, forgive me for the miserably elusive and nearly impossible task I have assumed; having attempted to describe the powers and abilities of a literary genius. Jack inspires me. He has been one of the main reasons that I have taken such a great interest in preserving and sharpening the life of the mind, with intense vigor. I was first introduced to C.S. Lewis by an old college buddy. He had picked up Mere Christianity at a Christian bookstore while he was at home in the cities. After he read it, he could not stop raving about how great it was! Since I had to know for myself, I ordered the book, and the rest is history. Jack opened my eyes to the strong intellectual case that could be made for God’s existence; he was able to flesh out and unveil intriguing truths in such a way that I never was aware of. It has not only strengthened my confidence in the existence of God, it has drawn me much closer to him in intimate relationship. If you haven’t read C.S. Lewis, you have robbed yourself of many pleasures and joys.

Christians and Politics

Politics…Have I lost you yet? No? Good…My inspiration for writing this post is not to persuade you to agree with my opinion on any particular political issue. Even as a Political Science major, I don’t think that qualifies me minimally in doing such a task..Last night, I was rolling around in my bed, unable to sleep, and I stumbled upon this insight: Christians should not get so entangled in politics that we forget God is sovereign. It was always intuitive that God was in control. But, it hadn’t become so tangible and clear up until this moment. This insight emerged after several conversations I’ve had with fellow classmates and friends. These conversations entailed observing the process by which the government is apparently stripping away our freedoms. There were also times that we discussed conspiracy theories, but that’s besides the point. I have some really intelligent, observant, and thoughtful friends. We talk often about how history, in recent generations, has undergone radical changes morally, culturally, and intellectually. Essentially, we think the collective result of these radical changes has brought our country to where it is now. Yes, God is sovereign. I found that to have had so much profundity and comforting truth. I’m not advocating that we become silent regarding controversial issues that violate our moral conscience, or that we passively comply with whatever policy is thrown our way. I’m merely suggesting that you can be at peace and comfortable knowing that God has history in his hands. He knows the ultimate plan that will unfold. The people in Washington are not in control finally. For those Christians who have a biblical worldview, we can rest assured that God will administer justice, whether or not that takes place in our lifetime. So stop worrying and being overtaken by anxiety and fear, the Affordable Health Care Act will not spell doom, and the lameduck Congress won’t destroy us. No, because God is in control. Be encouraged.


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