February 27, 2012

The Problem of Normalization

First I want to say what I mean by Normalization:
Normalization is the process by which humans take the history and opinions of their own personal lives, assume them to be normal, and then expect history and opinions of others to be similar.
Normalization is the primary way in which humans make sense of the world. Therefore, it is a very important process, for without it, it would be difficult for us to maintain our sanity.

However, normalization causes a great deal of problems as well. First of all, there is the basic problem of how we communicate. We usually assume that what we are saying is perfectly understandable, but often we completely miss how someone will respond to what we say. The same word can mean something very different to someone else, or someone can have a very different take on a topic.

Then there is the reverse of that, where you assume that they way you received something was what was intended by the speaker. This is especially true if the speaker received something negatively. The most common experience I have had with this is the "big word" problem. I have a decent sized vocabulary, and sometimes I use a word that somebody else doesn't know. Because they assume their vocabulary is "normal" they believe the only reason that I am using a word they don't know is that I am showing off. The truth is I didn't know they didn't know the word.

Probably the biggest problem though is the normalization of one's abilities. We assume that because something is easy or difficult for us, it is therefore the same for others. This causes us to have expectations on their performance which is often very unreasonable. The simple sentence "Well just do..." often demonstrates this principle. If it is obvious to you to do this "simple solution" and somebody else doesn't see it or doesn't want to do it, it often means that solution is tied more to your personal abilities than it is to what's "easy".

Logic is the probably the ability where this happens the most, and it is where it is the most fallacious. One of the things that very few people realize is that all logic is based off of unprovable presuppositions. What is worse is that my basic presuppositions may be very different than yours. So what to you appears to be common sense may appear to me to be completely illogical. Dr. Olson once referred to these different perspectives as bliks (an odd term, yes, but a worthy concept). Often in certain conversation, it seems like you are speaking an entirely different language than someone else. But perhaps the real problem is that you are assuming that your "blik" is normal, and fail to recognize that the other person is common at this from a completely different perspective.

Now it is important to note that I am not a relativist. I believe that there is only one true reality. But I do recognize that once you are interacting with someone else, you need to take the time to consider that you are not the standard of what is normal, and that the other person may be different than you in more ways that you initially realize. All interaction is give and take, and it behooves you to balance it out.

February 13, 2012

Would I Woship A Calvinist God?

This question was posed to Dr. Olson a couple of months ago, and I've been thinking it over: if I became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God really did govern the way that Calvinists claim He governs, would I still worship Him? It is an interesting question.

First of all, I want to state that I agree with Olson that if God governs the way in which Calvinist claim He does, then He would be immoral by His own standards. I recognize that Calvinists don't believe that God is immoral, but they are simply being inconsistent on this point IMO. So my understanding of the question is this: could I worship an immoral God?

The answer is yes and no. It is important to note that worship is not simply giving thanks and showing affection. It is also veneration to a recognized authority. Because God is God, and God is king, He deserves that veneration; that worship.

But I would not worship Him as I worship Him now. Simply put, I wouldn't love Him. I couldn't love someone who would intentionally bring His children to corruption, and then condemn the vast majority of them just to prove to Himself how just He is. That just doesn't fly for me.

So, ignoring that in the Calvinist schema I don't really have a choice, if I became convinced that Calvinism's description of God was accurate, I would submit to His authority and show Him all of the proper respect which I would be responsible to show, but I would do no more. I would simply do my duty to the sovereign. Would I be grateful that I was one of the chosen few? Sure, but salvation at the cost of billions of other lives is a bitter kind of joy. How could I love a being so capricious?

February 6, 2012

Can We Morally Judge God?

From a couple of different sources, I have noticed a new tactic of Calvinists of criticizing Arminians "judging God". The most public source was a post Roger Olson put up a couple of weeks ago, but there has also been others. But is it an appropriate question? Can we judge God?

First of all, we have to ask what in the world it means to judge God. Let's first take it in the broadest sense: Do we have the right to make a judgment about whether God is good or bad? Well, clearly we do, since the Bible declares God to be good, and calls us to recognize His goodness. Declaring God to be good is judging Him; judging Him to be good that is. So clearly we are allowed to do this.

Alright, well perhaps our Calvinist friends mean something different when they say judge. So let us consider the most restrictive/literal sense: a judge presiding over a court of law. However, this doesn't really make sense either since we can't really pass a verdict on God. At least we can't enforce one.

Perhaps this is a statement of capacity. After all, God's ways are above our ways. We cannot see the full spectrum of reality which God does and lack His vantage point. Considering this, it is difficult to argue that we would be capable of ascertaining the appropriateness of something which God does (at least in the particular). However, the tone is accusatory rather than indicative. They are claiming that we are doing something wrong, not something futile.

Fine. Well, perhaps they are accusing us of questioning God. However, isn't that what David did throughout the book of Psalms? And isn't the book of Psalms our proper guide to how we conduct ourselves before God?

I've got it! They must be thinking of Romans 9:20, where Paul is imagining a hypothetical Hebrew complaining about God saving Gentiles. No, that still doesn't make sense, because that is not even close to what we are doing. We are not challenging God; we are merely challenging their description of God.

Or maybe that is simply the key. Maybe the only real problem is people confusing their view of God for God Himself. I can empathize, for I believe that Calvinist insult God, as He truly is, whenever they claim that my description of Him makes Him weak, or less than sovereign. However, I would never accuse them of directly belittling God for I understand that they act out of ignorance. How much more should the Calvinist appreciate that, given their view, we would not only be speaking out of ignorance, but out of an ignorance which was ordained by God for us to have?

It is important that whenever we enter these conversations about God, we should be humble enough to put some distance between our opinions and God Himself. Remember that God is sovereign and can take care of Himself. If I criticize what you say about God, I am criticizing you, not Him. If it bothers Him, he'll take care of me. It is not your job to be God's protector; it is your job to be His herald, and to proclaim truth in love and humility. So proclaim His truth, and let God be in control of what happens with it.