Posted in Blogging, Christian Faith

Would You Rather Sweat Your Butt Off When It’s 100 Degrees or Shovel Snow When it’s 30?

OK, still trying to get back into blogging but it’s a rainy day on a holiday week and, let’s face it, I don’t really feel like putting that much effort in so…

Anyway, I ran across that tweet a couple weeks ago and have few thoughts.

Seems like an easy enough question but, is it?

First off, I live in Lousiana where it either being or feeling like it is 100 degrees outside is not all that uncommon. And, here’s the thing, I don’t really mind all that much. Yes, it’s kind of oppressive, and yes, I start breaking a sweat if I do literally anything outside for more than 15 seconds. But the grass still needs to get cut and I have no issue doing it even if it means sweating completely through everything I have on including underwear. Also, and though it seems at this point as if I might chose mowing over shoveling, there is a little too much information missing me to say for sure.

For example. How big is the yard I am mowing? Is there any shade? Is it flat or hilly? Push or riding mower? Are there plenty of drinks? Am I in a rush? Have I worked all day, been to the gym, walked the dog?

As for shoveling. Is it a dry 30 degrees like a typical 30 degree day in Montana? Or is it a damp and cloudy 30 degree day like we get in LA sometimes when everyone feels like they are about to freeze to death? Because, I’ll tell ya, it matters quite a bit. And, is it windy and 30 or calm and sunny? I can walk around naked in 30 degree weather if the sun is shining and the wind isn’t blowing, and it would feel great. That is, as long as the humidity is low. So, what’s the humidity like, where isnrhwbsun, and what is the wind doing in this hypothetical Twitter shoveling situation?

And what about the snow itself? A few inches or a foot and a half? Is it the fo a for nothing dry stuff that just blows around all winter or the wet heavy stuff that’s good for making snowballs? Driveway, sidewalk, or both? Long driveway or short? And, am I shoveling in the dark after working all day or at my leisure on Saturday morning?

All that being said, I would rather shovel a fairly small driveway and sidewalk if there was less than six inches of good snowball snow after a few cups of coffee on a relaxing Saturday morning if it was sunny, exactly 30, with low humidity, and there was no wind. If any of those conditions were not met, I would rather do anything at all in 100 plus weather even if I have to take periodic breaks to wring out my underwear. And that includes stadium runs, burpees, and carrying 5 gallon buckets of cement.

Posted in Blogging, Christian Faith

The internet and epistemic arrogance

A little more on how people think and how the internet affects how people think.

“One way the internet distorts our picture of ourselves is by feeding the human tendency to overestimate our knowledge of how the world works,” writes philosophy professor Michael Patrick Lynch, author of the book The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data, in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “The Internet of Us becomes one big reinforcement mechanism, getting us all the information we are already biased to believe, and encouraging us to regard those in other bubbles as misinformed miscreants. We know it all—the internet tells us so.”

In other words, the internet encourages epistemic arrogance—the belief that one knows much more than one does. The internet’s tailored social media feeds and algorithms have herded us into echo chambers where our own views are cheered and opposing views are mocked. Sheltered from serious challenge, celebrated by our chosen mob, we gradually lose the capacity for accurate self-assessment and begin to believe ourselves vastly more knowledgeable than we actually are.

Big Think

A while back I wrote a post on this subject and the source for that post tracks with the above quote with one difference. While I think there is little doubt algorithms keep social media users in insulated bubbles, it is unclear to me how, exactly, this affects us. I do agree that internet bubbles (or echo chambers as they are often called) do encourage epistemic arrogance and do cause us to think of those in other bubbles as “misinformed miscreants,” I also believe venturing out of our bubbles does not always help, as I noted in the previous post.

Most surprisingly, I learned that what I thought about internet echo chambers is not entirely accurate. I, like most people I think, believed that people are stuck in their views because they are never exposed to information that challenges their beliefs from outside their digital bubble. People only watch Fox News, only watch CNN, only read liberal or conservative websites…While my beliefs were intuitive and seemed logical, leaving our echo chambers often causes us to dig in deeper and become more extreme.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the loudest voices online are the most extreme, rude, and obnoxious therefore it makes sense that reading what they write can cause those with opposing views to dig in harder to what they already believe and become more polarized. I am not going to name names but there are people I fundamentally agree with who are doing nothing to make friends with anyone on the other side of the political or religious isles. Good and salient points can be and are sometimes made online but what gets more clicks, likes, retweets, and comments are hot takes and put downs from angry hyper-partisans.

Another interesting point from the Big Think is this.

“Here’s another way that Twitter may harm democratic debate,” New York University Stern School of Business professor Jonathan Haidt tweeted in January 2020, attaching a couple pages from Robert Cialdini’s seminal marketing book Influence. “Publicly committing to an answer makes people less receptive to info suggesting they were wrong.”

The problem with people not wanting to admit they are wrong once their opinion is made public has reached ridiculous proportions. This is because we no longer distinguish the phrase “you’re wrong” from the phrase “you’re stupid.” To disagree is to insult. To correct anyone is to be a hater. And to refuse to acknowledge alternative views, no matter how fantastic or inane, is to be closed-minded.

While the internet has made life easier in many ways it has also dumbed us down as a society and made it easier for us to be rude, prideful, and hateful jerks.

Posted in Blogging, Christian Faith

Words have real power

Words are not simply sounds caused by air passing through our larynx. Words have real power. God spoke the world into being by the power of His words (Hebrews 11:3), and we are in His image in part because of the power we have with words. Words do more than convey information. The power of our words can actually destroy one’s spirit, even stir up hatred and violence. They not only exacerbate wounds but inflict them directly. Of all the creatures on this planet, only man has the ability to communicate through the spoken word. The power to use words is a unique and powerful gift from God.

Posted in Blogging, Christian Faith, devotional

How Does God Speak to People?

I have to admit that I cringe a little whenever someone begins a sentence with “God told me . . .” Unless, that is, the phrase is followed by a verse of Scripture. I know that many people sincerely believe that if they truly are in fellowship with God they will be able to sense Him speaking to them in a recognizable voice. But I’m not so sure. And it’s not because I think God is incapable of or uninterested in speaking to his people today. He could, I suppose, if He wanted to.

Mostly, I cringe at “God told me . . .” because God speaks to his people today primarily through the Scriptures, rather than verbally.

As Christians, we all know that God speaks to us through His Word but on some level, I think, many of us want something more, something different, something a little more personal. We read the biblical accounts of God speaking to individuals in amazing ways and we want some of that for ourselves.

Job heard God speaking from the whirlwind. Moses heard him calling from the fiery bush. Samuel heard him calling in the dark. David heard him speak through the prophet Nathan. Isaiah felt the burning coal and heard assurance that his guilt was taken away and sin atoned for. Saul and those traveling with him on the road to Damascus heard Jesus asking why Saul was persecuting him…

Many of us read these accounts and assume that the Bible is presenting the normal experience of all who follow God. But is it? Graeme Goldsworthy speaks to this question in his book Gospel and Wisdom. He writes, “Every case of special guidance given to individuals in the Bible has to do with that person’s place in the outworking of God’s saving purposes.” He adds, “There are no instances in the Bible in which God gives special and specific guidance to the ordinary believing Israelite or Christian in the details of their personal existence.”

That last part is hard in a faith where we are told from a very young age that we must have a personal relationship with God.  And, really, what can be more personally than hearing directly from God himself?

If most Christians were honest I think they would admit that much if not all of their “God told me . . .” stories are somewhat, if not entirely, embellished to make themselves appear much more spiritual than they really are.

I am hesitant to call these people liars because they aren’t out to deceive anyone, necessarily, but they are a little confused about what hearing from God means.

Fact is, we don’t need God to tell us in an audible voice from a burning bush that He wants us to lead this ministry, teach that Sunday School class, or to leave a certain job and take another.

It isn’t wrong to genuinely long for God to guide us or to genuinely long for a personal word from God, or to deeply desire a supernatural experience with God. Yet we too often fail to grasp that as we read, study, and hear the Word of God taught and preached, we are hearing a personal word from God.

Because the Scriptures are “living and active,” God’s speaking to us through them is a personal, supernatural experience.

If I’m being honest, I would love to have God speak directly to me in a clear, direct, and unambiguous manner, as a friend or family member might, in many ways it would make my life a lot easier. 

It just doesn’t work that way.

Posted in Blogging, Christian Faith

My Enneagram journey and being wrong about everything

A few people I am close to at church have been on an enneagram kick for the past several months. In all honesty, my gut feeling when all the talk began was that the whole thing was a bunch of nonsense that is best to be ignored. If I am being honest, I considered the Enneagram hokum on par with astrology. Maybe it is a fun diversion but, beyond that, pretty much a waste of time.

But my opinion changed when I attended a function and all everyone at my table talked about was the Enneagram.   

“Classic One.” 

“I’m a Nine living with a Two.” 

“My wife is an Eight.” 

And on and on and on. Not saying the talk made me uncomfortable, per se, but I did not necessarily like being the only person at the table who had no idea what everyone else was talking about. I had to know more.

So I bought a book called The Road Back to You, took an Enneagram test online, listened to a few podcasts, and did some more reading. Not an expert in the Enneagram by any stretch of the imagination and still think it is a bit hokum-ish, generally. But I also think there is something there, kind of. In other words, I agree with the author of The Road Back to You who wrote. “To borrow a quote from British mathematician George Box, ‘All models are wrong but some are useful.’ That’s how I see the Enneagram. It is not infallible or inerrant. It is not the be-all end-all of Christian spirituality. At best, it is an imprecise model of personality…but it is useful.”

Anyway, I had a felt need to dig into this and learn more.  And I learned that I am a Type Five.  Here is something from The Enneagram Institute that explains fives, a little.  

“We have named personality type Five The Investigator because, more than any other type, Fives want to find out why things are the way they areThey want to understand how the world works, whether it is the cosmos, the microscopic world, the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdoms—or the inner world of their imaginations. They are always searching, asking questions, and delving into things in depth. They do not accept received opinions and doctrines, feeling a strong need to test the truth of most assumptions for themselves.” 

Still thinking this is a bit hokum-ish, that actually tracks with everything I believe to be true about myself.  I have never considered myself to be more intelligent than most people but I do have a deep curiosity about how the world actually works and I am slow to accept received opinions and doctrines.  In other words, I question everything, and always have.  And through years of questioning everything, the biggest lesson I have learned is that there is a lot I don’t know and I find that incredibly frustrating.  The website linked above goes on, emphasis added. 

“The intense focus of Fives can thus lead to remarkable discoveries and innovations, but when the personality is more fixated, it can also create self-defeating problems. This is because their focus of attention unwittingly serves to distract them from their most pressing practical problems. Whatever the sources of their anxieties may be—relationships, lack of physical strength, inability to gain employment, and so forth—average Fives tend not to deal with these issues. Rather, they find something else to do that will make them feel more competent. The irony is that no matter what degree of mastery they develop in their area of expertise, this cannot solve their more basic insecurities about functioning in the world. For example, as a marine biologist, a Five could learn everything there is to know about a type of shellfish, but if her fear is that she is never going to be able to run her own household adequately, she will not have solved her underlying anxiety.”

I wouldn’t consider myself insecure, necessarily, but I do feel sometimes like it is impossible to function in the world today mostly because the world is literally impossible to understand. Of course I can wrap my brain around basic mechanics, physics, economics, and biology so understanding how the world works at least in layman’s terms is not a fool’s errand. For me, it’s people and their emotions that I have no capacity to understand. Not that I lack empathy or that I don’t feel, even deeply at times, it’s just that I can’t even reverse engineer the thinking of people who are emotionally led.

For me the struggle started when I was teaching a freshman class at a university on business law where I spent a significant amount of my time talking to students who did not agree with what I was teaching because the law didn’t seem fair to them. This was years before Ben Shapiro coined the phrase, “Facts don’t care about your feelings” but the sentiment was the same for me then. What in a person causes them to arrive at the conclusion that objective truth is required to bend a knee to their personal whims, preferences, and emotions?

And where is it written in all that has been written about the Enneagram that fives have the market cornered on discernment?  Actually, who does have the market cornered on discernment in an electronic age where anyone can read a blog post or two, watch a YouTube video, and consider themselves an expert? 

Case in point, I just read something posted by someone I actually know who incessantly claims that they love books, knowledge, science, history, and critical thought that went like this. 

“Off again to learn about an unwed teenage mother who was dealing with a crisis pregnancy?  Let’s all make it easier for those who struggle.  Let’s love one another in this season of light and change.” 

It’s this kind of profound ignorance from self-proclaimed smart critical thinkers (type fives I would venture to guess) that makes the world a difficult place to live. To make matters worse, this same person considers herself to be a very, very devout Christian who has a solid understanding of the faith. Yet her statement lacks any form of logic or deep thought of any kind.

Joseph soon became aware of Mary’s pregnancy, and this no doubt was cause for consternation on his part: “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19). Jewish custom allowed that they be considered as husband and wife, though the marriage had not yet been consummated. The point is being made that Joseph and Mary had experienced no sexual contact with each other, as verse 18 “before they came together” points out. So, Joseph was in a quandary. Jewish law provided that his betrothed, because of her unfaithfulness, could be placed before the elders for judgment and stoned to death. But he was thinking to just put her away quietly without public knowledge. Betrothals or marriage engagements in those ancient times were binding and could only be terminated by an official divorce decree.

It was then that the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:20-25) and explained to him that all this was bringing about the fulfillment of prophecy that a virgin would bear a child who was to be the Savior (Isaiah 7:14), and “he [Joseph] did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

Although Joseph did have some consternation when he first got the news, his mind was put at ease by the angel of the Lord, he took Mary home as his wife, and she gave birth.  Simply put there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that this was a crisis pregnancy or that Mary or Joseph struggled as someone in a supposed crisis pregnancy situation might today. 

I get that the pro-life versus pro-choice debate is emotionally charged but using arguments that are illogical and academically bankrupt makes no sense to me at all. And nonsensical hot takes like this are a fundamental aspect of every debate in every topic that can be debated these days.

What prompted this post was reading in the Enneagram Type 5 group I belong to posted this question. 

“Does anyone feel a sense of accomplishment when they win an argument using facts?” 

My answer to that is this. Who is using facts these days? What are these facts this person is referring to and where do people get them when the vast majority of the information people have access to today is garbage? Is it even possible to reach the person who posted about Mary’s ‘crisis pregnancy’ with facts? No, it isn’t. I would go so far as to suggest that she shouldn’t be debated ever.

The problem with online debates is that too many people no longer distinguish the phrase “you’re wrong” from “you’re stupid.”  To disagree is now an insult and to refuse to give even inane and ridiculous alternative views their due is to be a hater. This is why most conversations these days are exhausting and something I strive to avoid.  Critics of my line of thinking here might argue that everyone deserves a seat at the debate table but that is simply not so.  Because debated must take place within constraints of logic and above a basic level of competence in the topic.  If someone has the basic tenants of the Christian faith wrong and demonstrates a blatant ignorance of Scripture, what is the point in engaging?  

Anyway, learning about the Enneagram has made me think about people, how they think, how they are different, and how they process information. All of it might be wrong but it most certainly is useful and fascinating. The one thing it reinforces to me, though, is that people who talk the most about how much they love books, science, critical thought, logic, and reason are often wrong the most. And I think the good majority of these same people are fives like me which does not make me very happy I embarked on this Enneagram journey I am currently on.